Author Archive: Jim Babbage

Creating Static and Interactive Infographics with Illustrator and Muse

This week, the team I work on at Adobe was given a special task; to create new education-based assets to use in demonstrations, tutorials and to share with educators and other education colleagues. The main idea being to produce content that could be considered usable from a “non-designer/arts” perspective. Continue reading…

AEL Summer Institute – Inspiring teachers globally

For the fifth year in a row, I was privileged to recently attend and participate in a truly awesome Adobe-sponsored education event; The AEL Summer Institute.

What is an AEL, you ask?

Well here’s a bit of info (admittedly not in my own words):

The Adobe Education Leaders Program highlights the contributions of innovative educators in higher ed and K–12 who are effectively using Adobe tools and applications to promote excellence in the classroom.

Adobe Education Leaders are dedicated to enhancing creativity and collaboration and improving the teaching and learning experience. They share their expertise through workshops and conferences and help develop standards-based curriculums that are used worldwide.

As Adobe updates it products and develops new ones, Education Leaders provide valuable input through beta programs and focus groups. They are among the first to use new technologies in the classroom and establish learning objectives around them.

Through the Education Leaders Program, a network of outstanding educators inspire each other, share ideas, and collaborate. The program provides the leadership and professional development to help administrators and faculty think in new and creative ways.

Now, having been an AEL for several years before joining Adobe,  I can say this: This group of teachers is passionate, innovative, and dedicated to educating both their students and their peers. They thrive on learning as much as teaching and are incredibly talented at what they do. They are inspiring, because they inspire and energize each other. And they are just plain wonderful people. Continue reading…

My Life in 20 Pictures – a research project

A few months ago, I was approached by Neil Ward, photojournalism instructor at Centennial College, and Debbie Gordon, Director of the Kids Media Centre for help on a very exciting project.

This project, “My Life in 20 Pictures,” aimed to address the perceptions of First Nations’ life by empowering children and youth from the Sakatcheway Anishinabe First Nation School in Grassy Narrows to tell their own stories through the camera’s lens. The goal was to remove any possible media bias and let children do the storytelling. In essence, they asked children to become journalists and documentarians, giving them the opportunity to share the images and stories that frame their daily lives. Continue reading…

Tablets and Teaching

While doing some research today about technology in education, I came across a cool infographic.

My research trip started – as it often does these days – with a post on Twitter:

eudemic_tweet Continue reading…

My new Adobe Muse title just released!

Recently, Video2Brain released my newest training title, Getting started with Muse. I’m very pleased, through this blog post, to talk a bit about Muse, the title itself and share some video excerpts from the training (just to whet your whistle).

Continue reading…

Adobe Fireworks CS6 Classroom in a Book is now available!

I’m so excited! I just received copies of my latest book on Adobe Fireworks. Hard to describe the feeling of seeing your words in print. But after months of conceptualizing, writing, re-writing, editing and revising, it’s finally here! Continue reading…

Learning with a Reason

Like many students, I learn best when I understand the reason for what I’m learning, or am really engaged and curious about how I can achieve a vision of my own. This goes back as far as I can remember, but one example has always stuck in my mind, is my grade 10 math class.

I’ve never been a math whiz. Yes, when Charles Babbage passed away, he took the math gene with him, I think. So generally my math grades were average and my commitment to learning more about math was average. In previous math classes, it seemed every time I asked WHY, a teacher’s answer came in one of two flavors:

a) Because that’s how it’s done

or

b) Because that’s the answer at the back of the book

Neither were satisfactory responses to me then – or now. In retrospect, I think that’s one of the things that made me a good teacher later in life. I wouldn’t settle for those lame responses. I wouldn’t give them to students.

Then one day in Grade 10 math, we were doing a lesson on statistics. I didn’t see much use for them or the lesson and was probably getting ready to tune out. Something however, made me ask my teacher (Mr. Geoff Kavanaugh. Yes I still remember his name), “What’s the point? How will this be useful to me? Why are we learning this?”

And a magical thing happened.

He answered my question.

Not with “because” or by pointing to the answer section of the text book. He answered it by telling me what could be done with statistics, the kinds of jobs and information and understanding that could be gained by using statistics. And he did this without being defensive, or preachy, or talking down to me, or by being vaguely dismissive (as many math teachers had been to me in the past).

Now I’ll be honest; I did not suddenly become a math whiz. To this day, I still struggle with higher math concepts. But I certainly retained more about statistics than I would have. The fact that this teacher took the time to explain the why, made a huge impact to my attentiveness in class. I respected him for truly taking the time to respond intelligently to my questions. I wanted to listen more closely, even if I didn’t “get it” at the time. And I knew that if I had an honest beef with the topic, I could ask him a question and get a solid, useful answer. He is one of a select few teachers that made a difference to me as a life-long learner, and as a teacher.

As teachers, we’re often tasked with trying to communicate intricate or complex concepts to novices. This is just as true in Higher Ed as it is in K-12. And it’s more pervasive now than it was back when I was in Grade 10, or even when I was in college!

Another technique I would use in class is what I call the “Ripple Effect”. In an attempt to keep students on task, open-minded and motivated to learn, I’d tell them a couple short anecdotes about my life, and how I got to where I was, professionally. I would use this in my first year photojournalism courses a couple times. There’s nothing more challenging than trying to teach photography to a room full of prospective “writers”. They didn’t sign on to be photogs; they enrolled so they could be writers, after all.

Well, the route to being a writer, or reporter, (or author or teacher or photographer or pick a career) can be a pretty twisty path. And I take a few minutes and explain the chain of events that led me to becoming a professional photographer – a career I loved but never planned on. Without that career as a commercial photographer, I would never have been asked by my former college photography instructor to be a guest speaker in his classes. This later led to a part time teaching position at Centennial, which lasted for 20+ years.

Later in the semester, when the topic of social media came up, I’d give an example of  the importance of online branding, using myself as the case study. I am 100% positive that had I not started writing online articles, for example, I would never have been approached by Lynda.com or Peachpit Press or Adobe to do work for them.

In short, you often can’t predict what skill you will need, and hence what niche you can fill to get yourself in the door. My layout skills from J-School led me to my first job in a photo studio. And I never actually did any layout work in that job. I became one of the company’s staff photographers! But that skill in layout was what got me the job interview.

I’m sure that many teachers do this already, but in case you’re not, take those few minutes early in a lesson to explain the why. Do your best (as tempting as it is sometimes, considering the massive amount of material we are expected to teach), to avoid the “because” answer. Students will respect the time you take to do so.

It doesn’t take long and it doesn’t have to happen with every lesson, but take it from me, it can truly be life-changing, when we know “why” we’re learning something.

Digital literacy = employment readiness

In mid-December, just before I headed out to the Adobe World Wide Sales Conference, I was invited by my ad students and the coordinator of the Centennial College Advertising program to their portfolio review day. I accepted right away; I really wanted to see how much they had grown as digital professionals. Continue reading…

Kids Media Centre engages kids in the technology conversation

I dropped by my former stomping (er, teaching) grounds last week to say hi to my many friends at Centennial College’s School of Communication, Media and Design. And while chatting with the Dean, Nate Horowitz, about my role here at Adobe, he suggested I call on Debbie Gordon, the Director of the KidsMediaCentre at Centennial College. Debbie and I had a great chat about digital readiness in public schools and she shared with me the KMC’s new blog, just hot off the digital press last week.

The kidsmediacentre is an industry and creative content think tank at Centennial College’s Centre for Creative Communications.  Working alongside Centennial’s Children’s Entertainment Program, they research kids’ relationships with 21st century media and connect their students with industry partners to help incubate and produce the next generation of children’s entertainment and media. Their hope is to engage kids in assessing the worth and contribution of a media product or idea: what works for kids and what constitutes a good idea and value proposition for the industry. One of the kidsmediacentre’s main goals is to help bridge that gap.

Based on what I read on their site, it’s working.

The kids aren’t just listening and learning; they’re involved in the conversation. You’ll see some of their contributions on the KMC site, in a section called the Kid’s Panel. Broken into three age categories, 4-8, 9-15 and 16-19, these kids test out a review a wide variety of media and technology, from games to music, books to eBook readers, iPhone Apps to software reviews on products like Adobe Photoshop. And the reviews are remarkably on point, honest and act as a window into how kids see certain aspects of the world. I found the Kids Panel blog posts refreshing.

For example, the review on Photoshop  (Bella checks out Photoshop) examines some pretty savvy points about self image and our culture – from a 15 year old!

In the 4-8 category, 6 year old Salmah checks out the book, The Missing Piece, which was read to her class by her teacher (Gosh, I still remember those days…), and summarizes that “… it is good to keep going. When you keep going, you can learn more things.”

There are reviews of music and politics, among other things, in the 16 – 19 category. 16 year old Ian gives a very knowledgeable review of the Miles Davis album, On Green Dolphin Street.

I was impressed by the insight provided by these young people. And I think you will be, too. These are not kids who are just blindly using technology; they’re engaged, aware and see technology for what it is – a tool to help extend creativity or productivity or personal growth, not a replacement for the passion that makes those things possible in each of us.

Now Available: New eBook on Fireworks’ CSS and jQuery Mobile features

Using the CSS3 Mobile Pack for Adobe Fireworks CS5

Using the CSS3 Mobile Pack for Adobe Fireworks CS5

If you’ve found yourself wondering how Adobe Fireworks can fit into your web and mobile design workflows, or how you can introduce students to a visual method of designing for mobile, I may have just the thing for you.

Today, my new eBook, Using the CSS3 Mobile Pack for Adobe Fireworks CS5, went live at http://www.peachpit.com/.

While there are already a couple good how-to tutorials available at the Fireworks Developer Center, I wanted to take a deeper, more practical approach to this new extension. I wanted to go beyond the how and hopefully address the why. I walk you through the basics, but then I move you to a realistic application of the extension. You will learn about both parts of the CSS3 Mobile Pack:

  • CSS Properties Panel
  • jQuery Mobile Theme Builder

CSS Properties Panel

In the chapter on the CSS Properties panel, for example, you’ll be doing more than simply exporting a rounded corner rectangle as CSS3 mark up; you will be taking a completed web page design and – using Fireworks and a Dreamweaver HTML5 starter page layout – building a standards-based web page, complete with navigation, semi-transparent content areas and stylized text.

Final web page design that matches the original Fireworks mock up

Final web page design that matches the original Fireworks mock up

The only bitmap in the page is the background image. And it was all done with a minimum of coding. Maybe it’s just me, but I think that’s pretty cool.

jQuery Mobile design, mocked up in Fireworks, then exported to Dreamweaver and previewed in Device Central.

jQuery Mobile design, mocked up in Fireworks, then exported to Dreamweaver and previewed in Device Central.

jQuery Mobile Theme builder

In the chapter on the jQuery Mobile Skinning, you will study and work with the jQuery Mobile template file, also part of the CSS3 Mobile Pack, and learn how to customize an existing skin and export that new mark up over to Dreamweaver to quickly create a simple, customized mobile web site.

Time-saver in production and in the classroom

Whether you are comfortable with code or not, the new tools in this extension can be a creative and time-saving boon.

A designer  can export out standards based mark up, which can be further edited and tweaked by a developer in their preferred web page editing environment. Or if the designer wears both hat, he or she can move quickly from a visual design to realizing that design in HTML and CSS. I think this is a great example of Fireworks bridging the gap between designers and developers.

And for students learning the craft of web and mobile design, it gives them the opportunity to create their design first, and then see how that design becomes converted to code. Or, depending on the design itself, learn about the limitations to be aware of when building a standards-based design that targets multiple devices.

Either way, it’s a win-win.

Final thoughts

The fact that the extension is also FREE is another bonus. I think it’s pretty cool that Adobe released this extension now, rather than making anyone wait for the next version of Fireworks.

If you’re interested in the ebook, it’s available for less than $6.50 USD at http://www.peachpit.com/. Feel free to follow me on twitter @JimBabbage. If you’ve got questions, that’s a great place to find me.