Judy Durkin spent 23 years as an award-‐winning graphic designer when she realized what she loved was teaching her teenage interns how to be designers. Thirteen years ago Judy entered the classroom and is now an award-‐winning educator, an Adobe Education Leader, and a trendsetter on the Adobe Education Exchange. She is passionate about using technology to transform education by engaging young minds. Through more than 225 resources on the Adobe Education Exchange and her LearnDurkin website, you can see how Judy weaves reading and writing into all her lessons while teaching digital arts skills in a visually rich format that reaches, engages, and inspires her students.
Where, and in what school, do you teach?
I teach 16 different classes at the International Bilingual School at Tainan Science Park in Tainan, Taiwan. The school is a separate bilingual school within Taiwan’s #2 ranked public K-‐12 school. Most of the students are children of diplomats or college professors, which makes for a student body that takes its studies very seriously and is a joy to teach. Of course, there are some of the usual childhood antics but less classroom management problems than I experienced in my 10 years of teaching in the United States.
What is your teaching background?
I was a freelance graphic designer in the Seattle area for over 30 years. I hired high school students to help in my freelance work from time to time. I decided to become a teacher when I realized I enjoyed teaching my high school employees the ropes of design work more than I liked freelancing. Teaching meant a huge cut in my income, but it has been worth it seeing several of my students go on to forge successful careers in commercial art.
What is your greatest challenge as an educator? How do you work to overcome that challenge?
Teaching in a computer lab has challenges. It is a real battle to get students to do preliminary sketches BEFORE they get on the computer. Students try to add every font, pattern, drop shadow, and manipulation to a project thinking that design is nothing more than software tricks. In my curriculum, students must master the design foundations of layout, color, and typography. Each lesson weaves a foundational skill into the thrill of learning powerful Adobe software. Students enjoy the great learning games that have been posted on EdEx, such as “Learn to Use the Pen Tool” posted by Kimberly Larson, “Serif Training Interactive Website” posted by Clint Balsar, “Type Connection: A Typographic Dating Game” posted by Mike Skocko, and “Photoshop Ninja Moves 4: Blend Modes” posted by Pete Episcopo. I usually follow the 20minute game playing with a relevant project where the students creatively demonstrate their understanding of the day’s design rules.
Tell us a story about a case where you used creativity in your teaching practice? What student outcomes did you see?
Although I have taught high school-‐age students for most of my teaching career, for the last three years I have made a change and have been teaching Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop,
InDesign, Premiere Pro, and Muse to grades 4 – 8. At first I didn’t think the 8 year-‐old students in grade 4 would be able to grasp the concepts and software skills, but I was wrong. I found some excellent lessons on the Education Exchange and have been surprised at how quickly the children gobble-‐up the skills. By the time my students reach 8th grade, I will have some excellent young designers with which to contend.
Once students catch the “Adobe fever”, it is hard to get them out of the computer lab. I build on that enthusiasm by increasing the challenges. Ultimately, students work on projects for nonprofit organizations so that students understand the need to meet client needs and expectations. One of my favorite places to find “real world” projects that students can work on is: http://www.artheroes.org — check it out.
By the time the semester is over, my students have skills that will help them achieve their creative dreams. Their designs are communicated clearly and powerfully. With some students, we talk about art schools, technical schools, and entry-‐level jobs. If a student shows aptitude, I help them get small freelance jobs with former clients and friends in the industry.
What is your experience with the Adobe Education Exchange?
A quick tour of the Education Exchange rejuvenates me after a long day of teaching. There is no other place on the Internet where I can find so many opportunities to connect with other teachers and find inspiration to pass on to my students. The professional development is second-‐to-‐none. The collaborative classes are a fun way to try new things and exchange new teaching/lesson ideas with teachers of all ages and skill levels. I think I have only missed one of the classes. While I wait to see what new classes will be offered, I have done quite a few of the self-‐paced workshops. They are quick refreshers; I always come away with a new idea to try.
The Adobe Education Exchange has made a big difference in my teaching, my professional connections, and my software skills. The only thing that comes close is Adobe TV, but that’s another story.
I have shared 225 posts so far on the Education Exchange. I gladly share everything I do in the classroom because I believe that teaching is not about coveting personal success but about spreading success to every student everywhere. By sharing and collaborating, teachers can bring more to the classroom and help students realize their dreams.