Archive for October, 2008

October 29, 2008

2008 Web Pro Challenge-Calling all technical and creative students and teachers!

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Calling all technical and creative students and teachers!
The World Organization of Webmasters (WOW) in collaboration with the Adobe Systems Inc. is announcing the second annual Web Professional Challenge to benefit an internationally recognized charity providing humanitarian aide with a website design and or application.
Why is WOW conducting this Web Pro challenge?
The Web Pro Community Challenge is an opportunity for the international Web professional community including students and teachers to:
– Allows practitioners to showcase their skills and earn industry recognition
– Allows the aspiring and those that teach them to showcase their skills, earn industry recognition and learn best practices within the Web profession from the pro’s
– An opportunity to win prizes
– Contributes something back to the global community by designing and developing a website for designated non-profit organizations .Supports Web professional education, team building and professionalism .Promote the tools and resources available to our trade
The Web Pro Challenge will be announced at Adobe Max San Francisco and will run through March 19, 2009. Participants will can use a wide range of technologies, including those from Adobe, such as Adobe Flex, Adobe Flash and Adobe AIR to build enhanced web capabilities for both of these deserving organizations.
The Web Pro Community Challenge is designed to test and teach the artistic, creative, technical and business knowledge and skills of aspiring and practicing Web professionals while utilizing some of the best tools available, all in a peer environment and for a great educational cause,” said Bill Cullifer, WOW’s Executive Director and Challenge organizer.
Eligibility and Cost:
It’s FREE to participate and anyone around the world is eligible to participate as judges, team leads, mentors and or participates in the contest.
Participants can compete in the following categories:
– High School
– Community College or University
– Industry Professionals
“Adobe is excited to work with WOW to provide a way for the passionate community of web professionals to showcase their skills while helping non-profit organizations,” said Sumi Lim Developer Relations Manager, EMEA (Europe, Middle East & Africa) at Adobe.
Web professional community including students and teachers are invited to get involved and to participate!

To participate follow these steps:

Step 1: Review the Web Pro Challenge material and the Official Rules and Terms of Conditions on the challenge website.
Step 2: Assemble a team (minimum of two) with the appropriate level of Web design and development skills and together review the challenge details and discuss your roles, responsibilities and participation strategies.
Step 3: Establish a name for your team and designate the roles and responsibilities of each team member(s).
Step 4: Identify and recruit a Team Lead (teacher and or industry mentor) and ask the Team Lead or Mentor to review and agree to the Official Rules and Terms of Conditions on the Web Pro Challenge website at:
Step 5: Submit your team name, member names, and team lead and complete the contact information on the sign up form.
Step 6: Within 48 hours the Web Pro Community Challenge committee will verify that your entry has been received and that your entry has been accepted.
Step 7: The Web Pro Community Challenge committee will release the contest specification and “work order” outlining the work requested by the charity (colors, fonts and wish list) within days of the Web Pro Community Challenge announcement at Adobe Max taking place in San Francisco, CA the week of November 17, 2008.

11:47 AM Permalink
October 28, 2008

Geek Squad Project: Teaching Teachers to Use Technology

The Clemson University Geek Squad: Teaching Teachers to Use Technology is a project designed to provide undergraduate education majors with opportunities to learn fundamental and advanced concepts of instructional technology, engage in authentic classroom teaching experiences, and train and assist classroom teachers to effectively integrate technology into their classrooms.
The ten undergraduate students participating in the Geek Squad project during the 2007-8 school year were either early childhood or elementary education majors. Each demonstrated a genuine interest in instructional technology even though they were not considered “experts” when they joined the squad. The Geeks were willing and able to learn and practice using technology with minimal guidance and then use their newfound knowledge to teach each other, K-12 students, other pre-service teachers, as well as classroom teachers how to effectively utilize instructional technology.
During the spring 2008 semester the Geeks chose to focus on learning two Adobe products: Photoshop Elements and Visual Communicator. They chose Photoshop Elements mainly because they were excited about its potential to help K-12 students learn and write creatively. The Geeks participated in a 3-hour PS Elements workshop developed by two Adobe Education Leaders, Ryan Visser and Chris Peters. Their skill-set and their sense of classroom integration was enhanced by the tutorials and lessons found on Adobe’s Digital Kids Club site.
Once the Geeks felt comfortable with their knowledge of PS Elements, they were able to hone their teaching and newfound PS Elements skills with students enrolled in Club 2:45. Club 2:45, an after-school program at a Title I elementary school, stresses cross-curricular technology integration to provide underprivileged students with opportunities that they would not otherwise have. At the same time, the Geeks were provided an opportunity that they would not otherwise have – teaching experience.
The first Geek-led project at Club 2:45 integrated Photoshop Elements 6.0 into a lesson on outer space. The Geeks demonstrated the process of selecting oneself from one image and then copying and pasting the selection into an image of outer space. They then asked the students to try it for themselves.
The Geeks were pleasantly surprised at how well the lesson was received, considering that none of the students, nor their classroom teachers, had ever seen this technique. The students loved the activity. Even more satisfying was that the classroom teachers who observed and enjoyed the activity asked theGeeks to train them so they could replicate the activity in their classes. It was at this point that the Geeks realized their impact. Not only could they engage students in a meaningful learning activity, but their enthusiasm rubbed off on teachers who were not known for incorporating technology. Since this PS Elements experience, the Geeks have trained many more classroom teachers and have even been asked to train some of the local districts’ technology coaches and coordinators.
The second Geek-led project at Club 2:45 took place toward the end of the semester and focused on Visual Communicator 3.0. Visual Communicator is a program that was wholly unfamiliar to them until they saw it demonstrated. However, once they saw it, their excitement and interest could not be denied. What especially appealed to the Geeks was that Visual Communicator offered a host of roles that could engage almost any personality: producer, director, script-writer, actor, technical director, among others. In order to learn the basics of Visual Communicator, the Geeks used an instructional DVD developed by another Adobe Education Leader, Rob Zdrojewski.
The Geeks decided to develop a “My Favorite Place” activity that could be carried out in three 45-minute sessions that would provide opportunities to develop a script, rehearse, and record. In the first session, the Geeks explained the project to the students and showed some examples of the end result. The students were asked to type a paragraph that described their favorite place. Then, once they finished writing, they were asked to exchange papers for peer editing. Once their paragraphs were edited, students were asked to find from the Web an image that depicted their favorite place. The Geeks then loaded all of the student-written paragraphs and the corresponding images into Visual Communicator.
On the second day, the students took advantage of Visual Communicator’s rehearsal feature and were able to see themselves on screen, become familiar with the built-in teleprompter, and get accustomed to projecting their voice.
The third session was spent recording the students, showing their movies, and documenting their reactions. Statements such as, “I love seeing myself on the screen!” “I love the green screen because I can be anywhere!” and “Can I do another one?” conveyed the students’ overwhelming enthusiasm.
This enthusiasm was not restricted to the K-12 students. Here is an excerpt from a reflection written by the Geeks:

It can definitely be very intimidating to use a program that you know nothing about. It is almost a guarantee that you will run across a few bumps in the road here or there. We did. But every problem that gets in your way ends up helping you learn something new about the program. Visual Communicator creates projects where everyone involved can feel very proud.

The Clemson Geeks Squad is a fabulous project for many reasons, not the least of which is the genuine enthusiasm that the Geeks bring to instructional technology training. They were able to teach each other, their pre-service peers, elementary students, classroom teachers, and even the project directors, lending a real-life example to the old adage that cash can buy, but it takes enthusiasm to sell.

Ryan Visser, an Adobe Education Leader, is a clinical faculty member in the School of Education at Clemson University. A member of the South Carolina Center of Excellence for Instructional Technology Training, Ryan teaches pre-service and classroom teachers how to use technology and researches instructional learning environments.

Wanda L. Calvert earned her Ph.D. in Elementary Education with an emphasis in literacy and technology at the University of South Carolina. Currently, she is the Professional Development Schools Coordinator and a clinical faculty member in the School of Education at Clemson University.

4:09 AM Permalink
October 26, 2008

Using Photoshop for Remembrance Day Posters

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By Peter French
Welcome to the good, old poster project—21st century style. Remember the curled piece of Bristol board? It’s been replaced with state of the art graphics exploring and expressing a cross curricular topic through creative writing and visual design that puts the left and right sides of the brain to work in the best way possible—together.
This is a modern interpretation of the traditional assignment—the poster project. The version I created is called the Remembrance Day poster in honor of Canada’s national day of remembrance of all of the Canadian soldiers killed in battle. But this time there was an additional challenge. The students were to research, write and create posters that honored the Remembrance Day tradition while also being more accessible to anyone without any background knowledge of this special day. The topic is inherently cross curricular requiring research into:

  • Remembrance Day itself

  • the cultural traditions of many of our students
  • the traditions of posters in general and the power they have as vehicles of communications especially in terms of social awareness and change
  • the dynamics of graphic design including an introduction to the elements and principals of design to better understand how to properly design a poster
  • writing for posters, where text must be brief, compelling and, in this particular case, highly accessible.

Cross curricular topics are a personal favorite. As a high school teacher with a background in industry I believe in trying to make assignments authentic—as close as possible to projects in real life within the safe confines of the classroom. Cross curricular topics are inherently more authentic because school “subjects” never exist in isolation in real life. This makes cross curricular topics more realistic which tends to make these assignments more motivating.
We have all heard the discussions about the powers of the textual, sequential left brain and the holistic, visual right brain. This poster project puts both sides to work equally. By utilizing the power of Photoshop or Photoshop Elements you get around many of the restrictions that non-artistic students typically pose—they cannot draw or print and so on. Now they don’t have to. The software does some of that for them and gives them graphic tools which the old cut and paste cannot match. It can be accessed simply, at a beginner level or at a full blown professional level. The choice is yours, and the students. As their skills and comfort level evolve, so too will their desire to push just a little farther.
The structure of the project is flexible enough to allow it to be rewritten for any grade level capable of using Photoshop or Photoshop Elements. If a single poster does not offer enough space or opportunity for textual information, then have the students work as small groups, with each student creating a single poster as part of a group series.
As a teacher of digital design I automatically include lessons about the elements and principals of design in my classes. For other teachers this may be a step too far. However, I believe that it would be productive for the teacher to do a brief introduction to the history of posters, complete with samples that are especially compelling. This could quickly cover simple aspects of effective layout and provide the students with an introductory vocabulary of design solutions. The problem I see daily is that students have very limited knowledge of things like graphic design. They see posters and layouts constantly but have no grasp of how to create their own. Samples solve that. Put them up in your room. Discuss how they are designed—where the emphasis goes, and so on. Talk about the text—talk about the different approaches possible. Build a working vocabulary of these things together. Oh—by the way… want a twist on this poster business? Get them to create old fashioned posters. Suddenly there is another perspective to research and the opportunity for a completely different type of fun and challenge.
What is the work flow for all of this? I suggest that the whole project starts by having the teacher create their own poster first. This serves two distinct needs. The teacher must establish their own sense of what an “A” is, versus a “B” or a “C”, and that can only happen, I believe, once the teacher has discovered what the software does easily and what takes a lot more effort and skill. The students need to know what good versus better versus best looks like, before they start, and this allows the teacher to create samples of the different levels, to the best of their ability. It takes a little time and effort but the quantum leap forward in confidence that the teacher experiences by learning more about the software is worth every minute invested. Speaking of teachers—your classroom is full of Photoshop teachers right now. They are your students, many of whom have had some experience with this software and would love the chance to demonstrate their skills. Put them to work—set limitations beforehand, keep the demos simple and focused, but do let them show their stuff. My students have taught me a great deal, as I have taught them. It is a wonderful dynamic—put it to work for you.
In conclusion, I heartily recommend this newer, updated variation on the poster project. Make the topic(s) cross-curricular—this makes the assignment more authentic. Suggest that the posters are for a television station, to offer print information about a news topic. Perhaps they could be for a local charitable group wanting to inform their audience about a specific topic or problem. Get the students involved by exploring posters as powerful vehicles of communication. Do invest the time to build your own posters. And last but not least, put your students to work as teachers / demonstrators. Let them be the real proof that kids can use these digital tools effectively, as beginners or as more skilled practitioners. Oh yes—one final note—best clear your bulletin boards now. You are about to have a lot of wonderful work to display!
Possible resources for you to try – and this is just a small warm-up compared to the full extent available on the internet:
power of posters as teaching tools
http://www.newhorizons.org/strategies/literacy/bear.htm
http://www.ursidaeenterprises.com/history.html
the history of posters
http://www.internationalposter.com/about-poster-art/a-brief-history-of.aspx
http://www.wetcanvas.com/Museum/Posters/History/index.html
http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/britain_wwtwo/war_adverts_gallery.shtml
http://www.art.com/asp/display-asp/_/id–11370/Black_History.htm
http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/wpaposters/wpahome.html
sample posters
http://www.fly.net/~kiki/kruger.html
http://www.gggrafik.de/content/posters/index_ger.html
http://www.state.sc.us/forest/posters.htm
intro to composition / the elements and principals of design
http://makingamark.blogspot.com/2008/01/composition-elements-of-design.html
http://www.nhsdesigns.com/graphic/principles/index.php
http://www.usask.ca/education/coursework/skaalid/theory/cgdt/designtheory.htm
http://www.nhsdesigns.com/graphic/principles/index.php
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10:12 PM Permalink
October 24, 2008

Zombies in Plain English

Halloween is the perfect time for the high school, junior high, and middle school masses to rise up and demand the death of the good ol’ “how-to” paper!
If I read another “how to prepare the perfect cup of coffee” or “how to brush your teeth” or “how to make the perfect peanut butter and jelly sandwich” I’m going to let out a gut wrenching, Nightmare on Elm Street, horror movie- styled scream (perhaps a yell…scream sounds a bit girly).
But there is hope! “Zombies in Plain English,” is a 3-minute video short that describes how to survive the Halloween season with your “brain intact.” It is also a prime example of an engaging and creative how-to paper.
Oh yeah, there is only one thing cooler than a zombie how-to paper. A zombie how-to paper followed with a zombie technology project. After the students have penned their how-to master piece, let them turn it into a video!
“Zombies in Plain English” doesn’t use fancy Hollywood special effects. It uses simple drawings and a good narration. Armed with a computer and some inexpensive video editing software (think Adobe Premiere Elements) students could easily create an exciting and engaging DIGITAL how-to PROJECT.
So rise up, and drive a stake through the heart of the traditional how-to paper!

7:35 AM Permalink
October 23, 2008

Changing Lives through Web Design

Sawyer.jpgSimmons Career Center is a little different than most traditional high schools. Simmons is for students who want to learn a trade and get out of school as quickly as possible. Eligible students are at least a year behind and in jeopardy of dropping out of school. Unfortunately, for a majority of our students, poor success in school has also led to other destructive behavior outside of school. Like many other schools, we have gang members, students with criminal records, and students who struggle with poverty. Students who are able to manage their personal challenges and reach the Web Design IV class are required to do a project based exit activity to complete the program. The students act as a web design firm and work with a real client from start to finish. The guidance counselor referred a woman from a non‐profit agency called Advocates for a Safer Community to be our real life example. Before long, we found ourselves learning a lot about choices in life.
A tall slender woman came into the conference room where the students were all seated. We all stood and introduced ourselves and began by discussing how the web site should look and feel. Mrs. Saunders began to pull out news articles and pictures from her bag and spread them across the table. Each article and photo represented a young person who was murdered within the city limits of Tampa, Florida. Case by case, the students, by their own accord, began reading the articles and looking at the pictures. The students very quickly realized their project would have a significant impact on others’ lives. From that very first meeting, our students began to feel really needed.
Mrs. Saunders pulled out a picture and began to tell us how “he didn’t like getting his picture taken, so that was the best she could find”. One student asked, “Who is he?” She replied, “My son”. Mrs. Saunders started the organization after her son was murdered while waiting outside for a friend to come out and play. Mrs. Saunders pulled out another photo of her son. She said,” I like this one because he was not wearing a hat.” I could actually see and feel a change as my students empathized with this complete stranger and accepted her burden as their own.
The meeting was over and the students brought the notes back to the classroom. We began to discuss and build low level storyboards on roll paper. A couple of the students began to get nervous about doing such an important project, but we kept them on it anyway. Everyone agreed the pictures of the victims needed to be improved in Photoshop to make the faces larger and easier to see. We decided to create a Flash file that would have the mission and information in a center box with thumbnail images of all the victims presented. The students wanted every victim to be equally as important on the home page. As the user moved the mouse over the thumbnails, the center would change to a larger picture of the victim. We also included the name, the date of their death, and whenever possible, a word that family and friends used to describe the victim. There were links included to get more information about each case.
Now the hard part, there were nearly three hundred cases. Students began the tedious task of scanning pictures and recreating articles to build the Flash file and sub‐pages. One might think, or at least I did, that the students would eventually return to being unmotivated and lazy, with poor attendance and off task behavior. The opposite was true; the students were giving up their lunch, coming in early, and
finishing work in their other classes so they could work on the website. The seniors’ last day was fast approaching and the students were feeling the crunch. I offered to finish the project so they could enjoy some of the senior events and the last couple of days with their friends and none of my students would accept my offer. The last day for seniors came and there were still some finishing touches we needed to do. The seniors showed up to school as volunteers and worked on the project. When we sat with Mrs. Saunders to review and get her feedback, she was very surprised. One of our students even used Photoshop to edit the picture of Mrs. Saunders’ son. The student removed the hat and re‐created her son’s hair and features from the other photo where he was not wearing a hat.
In nine years of teaching, I have never seen dedication like my students gave to this project. What made the outcome even better were the conversations the students had with each other while working. These students discussed choices, their future and options for themselves. Nine weeks earlier, these same students were talking about who fought whom and their crazy weekends. No one could have predicted that a project used to teach Dreamweaver, Flash and Photoshop could actually change my students’ lives.
Michael Sawyer
Technology Resource Teacher
Simmons Career Center

5:46 PM Permalink
October 22, 2008

MindRap: Real Local Media

by Melanie West
Integrating culture and life has always been a part of my informal learning work experience. About thirty years ago I worked as a math tutor for a local community science center in Plainfield, New Jersey. That center—conceived by a group of Bell Laboratory scientists and housed in an abandoned rundown candy store—was a bold, grassroots effort that opened up the world of science to urban youth and delivered this knowledge to the students’ own neighborhood.
Bell Labs scientists, including world-renowned physicist, Dr. James E. West, co-founder and board member of Tiz Media Foundation, dedicated their brilliance and time to the center teaching on topics such as the mechanics of go-carts and the physics behind bicycle riding. Many students in that neighborhood survived very rough lives, but the science center was always packed with enthusiastic students who were eager to learn.
In 2003 that science center experience inspired a vision of a multimedia educational program. The program would be a technical showground where enthusiasm for learning math and science would be cultivated in urban students. It would be located in the students’ own neighborhoods. It would be a place where they could be exposed to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) role models who looked like them, using a culture to which they were connected. The vision included a physical space with a recording studio, multimedia workstations, and a performance space that worked in conjunction with a virtual space, resulting in a math and science community rooted in hip-hop culture and made widely available to urban students.
That vision resulted in an organization I helped co-found, Tiz Media Foundation, developing a program called MindRap.
MindRap
MindRap is a circular learning process consisting of an intensive, interdisciplinary program where math and science concepts are learned and transformed into digital media. High school students articulate specific math and science concepts, such as solving algebraic equations or detailing the fundamentals of the ozone layer, by relating them to their own lives through story-telling, music, poetry, visual arts, and animation. During a cooperative, step-by-step design process facilitated by STEM role models as well as experienced educators, artists, poets, and musicians, the high school students create content for animated multimedia modules. These modules can then be used by the students to teach basic math and science lessons to their peers. Students’ imagination and enthusiasm for hip-hop culture drive the design process and inspire their creativity.
In order for students to really apply their creativity, it is necessary for them to have a clear understanding of the content. The students know that their content will be published, so they tend to think more deeply about these math and science concepts. Thus it is a more potent learning experience than the traditional dry classroom approach. When students acquire this deeper understanding, they can then have fun with the arts integration part of MindRap. These student instructors utilize their creativity to communicate this deeper understanding to their peers.
Adobe products are used to make the student content come alive. Students choose and arrange the music that accompanies their hip-hop lessons. Supportive images are drawn then scanned into Adobe Flash where their content is transformed into hip-hop multimedia modules. The resulting creations are published on a website portal.
Although the initial vision for MindRap contemplated one physical space working in conjunction with a website portal, throughout these initial years Tiz Media Foundation has found that MindRap programs must meet the specific needs of client students and educators. A customized grassroots approach has been necessary in order for the program to be effective.
For example, in 2007 we worked with a Chicago charter school in which a culture of peace was being promoted by the administration after an outburst of student violence. Our goal was to work with students to create a MindRap module based on neuroscience and designed to help promote a culture of peace for incoming freshman. Students studied the basics of neuroscience as it relates to emotions. They learned about the relationship between the amygdala and the frontal cortex–specifically that a human’s ability to reason is diminished when the mind is in an emotional state. Students acquired skills that helped them regain control of their ability to reason when they became upset. Using that information and the MindRap experience, students developed content for a multimedia module to promote a culture of peace. The module was then used during a school assembly for incoming freshman. The process proved rewarding. I remember that a student approached me during the MindRap sessions explaining that he had used the technique for regaining control the night before and it had worked for him.

Fig. 1a. On the left, students performing their rap. On the right, a screen shot from the lesson promoting a culture of peace for incoming freshman. .jpgFig. 1b. On the left, students performing their rap. On the right, a screen shot from the lesson promoting a culture of peace for incoming freshman. .jpg

An informal evaluation was conducted during this project. An excerpt from the evaluation report conducted by Tiz Media Foundation’s educational expert, Barbara Moss, states that

“…the MindRap Workshop promoted the social and emotional skills that students needed to effectively work together to complete a task. Additionally the data suggested that the MindRap activities which required students to think critically and creatively about Science content in order to transfer what was learned into a creative response was effective in promoting academic achievement for underachieving minority students. Finally, the data showed that MindRap is a program that students enjoy.”


In addition to building the website portal for MindRap, we are consistently morphing the MindRap process. The goal is to deploy an effective program based in culturally relevant media that engages urban youth and promotes enthusiasm for learning math and science.
Current Work:

  • Flagway™ multimedia with The Young People’s Project, (YPP) Chicago Illinois. Funded in part by National Science Foundation grants, it is part of Dr. Robert Moses’ Algebra Project. YPP is a math literacy program that recruits, trains, and deploys high school and college math literacy workers to mentor middle and elementary students in math. Tiz Media is working with YPP to create a multimedia module targeting 3rd – 6th graders that includes a story and several games that will be integrated into math literacy workshops. MindRap methodology is used to create the content for this multimedia module and an iterative approach to design driven by student input has been utilized in the development. Students have shown a very positive reaction to the game, and are very enthusiastic about the project.

  • African-American Distributed Multiple Learning Styles System (AADMLSS). Dr. Juan Gilbert of Auburn University and Dr. Stafford Hood of Arizona State University run a project called AADMLSS, an interactive game-like environment that uses culturally relevant cues, gestures, sounds, and lyrics to teach students algebra. AADMLSS City Stroll consists of three individual components; Instruction, Practice, and Assessment. Tiz Media contributes to this project by creating MindRap instruction modules on solving algebraic equations used in the AADMLSS system. http://www.aadmlss.com. Interviews with students at a Chicago public school illustrate that students find AADMLSS engaging and that they are particularly excited about the MindRap modules.
  • The Pacific Institute for Mathematical Sciences (PIMS). At the Pacific Institute for the Mathematical Sciences conference in Vancouver, Canada, TMF conducted an abbreviated MindRap session on the ozone layer. The chorus was created by Tiz Media staff but students who attended the conference created the verses in a brief one hour MindRap session. To view an excerpt from this session please visit: http://www.mindrap.org/mrpims.htm. This was an unusual project for us. The Canadian students were not familiar with hip-hop, but embraced the project and enjoyed the process of creating a rap about the ozone layer.
  • North Lawndale College Prep (NLCP) High School: In Chicago, Illinois approximately 30 NLCP students worked in teams to create a MindRap module promoting a culture of peace for incoming freshman. The focus of the module was emotional intelligence and neuroscience. The initial evaluation indicates that this project has been very successful. Students showed great interest in the project and acquired emotional intelligence skills that will help them through their lives. See: http://www.tizmedia.org/nlcs/myamygdala.swf.
  • Northwestern Institute on Complex Science (NICO), Northwestern University. In the summer of 2008, Tiz Media will work with NICO to sponsor Speech and the Cell Phone, a summer science program for high school students and college science majors. This program will use MindRap workshops to take students on a journey that begins with the talking drums of Africa and ends with speech waves traveling through the cell phone. This program is being funded by the Motorola Foundation. We’re excited about this program and looking forward to writing an article on it when it is completed.
4:22 PM Permalink
October 15, 2008

Adobe Education Technologies Blog

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So…what do you get when you mix together a slew of super-smart Adobe technology team members, educational related topics, and a blog? You get great reading material!
The contributors of this new blog have a wide variety of expertise and their articles reflect a cornucopia of talent. The “Adobe Education Technologies Blog” offers certification news, upcoming eSeminar schedules, technology integration tips and tricks, and a wealth of product information.
Make sure to visit the Adobe Education Technologies Blog

7:30 AM Permalink
October 13, 2008

Building an Accessible Online Curriculum with Captivate 3 & the Creative Suite

by Katherine St. Amant
Now that students have discovered the benefits of completing classes and degrees online, schools are faced with a growing number of students demanding course access via the internet. Since most online students do not have access to campus and student services, online disabled students are often at a disadvantage. For example, English is a second language for deaf and hard of hearing students. On campus, they are provided with an American Sign Language (ASL) translator. Blind students are provided with CD recordings of their books and direct interaction with their instructors. Challenged learners have tutors, and English as a second language students have on-campus communities for support.
Because Santa Monica College strives to provide the highest quality of education for all, our Workforce Development and the Computer Science and Information Systems departments combined to develop and build the college’s first course providing value-added class material for global accessibility. For this course—CIS 1, Computer Concepts with Applications—the user interface encapsulating the material achieved our goal of global access and mutual understanding of the curriculum in our professional development and college credit courses.
Utilizing the seamless integration of Adobe tools allowed us to build this dynamic globally accessible online college course, which our disabled students can control at their own pace. Targeting the deaf and hard of hearing may have been the original intended audience in the original class design, but as we built the class, we realized the powerful results empowered students with other disabilities and situations as well.
The team included specialists from our disabled student center to test our course and ensure we were attentive to the needs of all of our centers’ students. Incorporating keyboard shortcuts designed to work with JAWS, a screen reader, the blind user is able to navigate through the course. The user may choose to listen to the streaming audio or they may access the full script and image description to be read by JAWS. The course was also tested with a head control mouse with success.
The captioning has proven to be extremely helpful for English as a second language students and the ability to control the pace of the course has been popular with our slower learning students.

RESEARCH AND CURRICULUM DESIGN

We began by working with a few organizations dedicated to providing workforce training for the deaf and hard of hearing. From our meetings we came to understand the needs of our targeted audience. The key issue: to provide clarity to the large amount of technical terminologies.
Flash Streaming Video
Our team decided that video of ASL translators, fully captioned, would be the best method for instilling clarity into our online lectures. Our decision was based in part on the ease of building and deploying Flash Streaming Video.
Lecture Design
The team devised a curriculum design that incorporated individual slides including a title, an image, a content summary, a video of an ASL translator with audio and captioning, and a full script for screen readers. The slides were grouped into various lecture topics. Students are able to control the video and the navigation between the individual slides independently with a mouse and/or keyboard.
Course Building – Captivate CS3
Captivate CS3 was chosen as our main development tool for its ease of creating and customizing the user interface combined with the ability to embed Flash Videos containing a separate navigation set. The small.swf file would embed in our course management system, eCollege, without complication. The Flash video would stream from our Flash streaming servers. Captivate CS3 comes with a very strong set of audio and captioning tools that relate to each slide in the project. Our audio narration and captions had to be incorporated in each Flash Video to synchronize with the ASL translator, so we did not utilize Captivate’s captioning tools for this project.
The Course
CIS 1 – Computer Concepts with Applications is one of Santa Monica College Computer Science and Information Systems Department’s most popular computer courses, covering the broad use of personal computer concepts, beginning word processing, an introduction to Windows, and internet concepts. We refer to this class as CIS1 Hi-Tech reflecting the new technologies used to produce it.

PROJECT PROCESS

Script Writing
We started by writing the scripts for the audio and American Sign Language translators’ videotaping. We planned to cover the material in four books. Utilizing a voice to text program made this job a bit easier for the professors writing the scripts, and gave the scripts a more natural feel. The books were broken down into lectures, each containing from one to 12 slides. There are a total of 385 scripts, one script per slide.
The scope of the project showed itself when we completed this phase. The production of 385 slides required: 385 scripts, 385 images, 385 raw and edited audio files, 385 raw and compressed videos, and 385 captioning files, etc. The huge number of files required a comprehensive file management system. Figure 1 shows the folder and file structure for one slide, from one of the computer concepts books. The Stream folder contains files for the caption program MAGpie.
Figure 1. File structure of the project .png
Graphics – Photoshop CS3
We created all of the images necessary for the project in Photoshop CS3. They include three background images, book names, the custom navigation button set, and all slide figures. The items that remain static throughout the project, the Santa Monica College logo and CIS 1, were designed into the background images. The main content template page (Figure 2) includes a placeholder for the video, a space to include the book name graphic, title, and content.
Figure 2. Photoshop with the content background design  .jpg
Templates
Captivate CS3 templates were built utilizing our assets. We created one main template, and from there built templates relating to each book, section, chapter, topic, etc. So, each “lecture” had its’ own topic built on the chapter template, which was built on the section template, and so forth. The design allows the student to know exactly which book, chapter, and topic is being reviewed on every slide (Figure 3).
Figure 3. Template for the Computer Concepts book  .jpg
Constructing Custom Course Navigation
Figure 4. Constructing Custom Course Navigation.tiff
Figure 5. Captivate CS3 Button Properties dialog box.jpg
Figure 6. Kathryn recording scripts .jpg
Audio Recording – Soundbooth CS3
Kathryn was the voice and audio editor and Fariba was the producer. The recordings were performed in an empty classroom. Soundbooth CS3’s extensive toolset allowed the audio process to proceed smoothly. The audio for each video was recorded then immediately edited and processed.
Video Shoot – Capture – Premiere Pro CS3
Another commandeered classroom served as our video studio. Careful logging of all shots on site allowed a quick capture in Premiere Pro CS3 with appropriate naming conventions.
Figure 7. Shooting ASL Translator  .jpg
Video Editing, Compiling, and Rendering – Premiere Pro CS3 + Adobe Media Encoder
Figure 8. Editing team and flowchart  .jpg
In Figure 8, some of our Premiere Pro editing team members are working on our 20 laptops. The complexity of keeping track of the output when you have eight editors concurrently compiling 385 ASL videos, text/audio caption files, and the final Flash Video output, is shown on the whiteboard flowchart in the background.

CLASS DEPLOYMENT

Flash Streaming Server
With the video uploaded to our Flash Streaming Server, the end product was encapsulated in the course management system, eCollege (Figure 9), flawlessly. The first two sections of this course were offered in our spring 2008 semester. Student feedback has been extremely favorable and encouraging. All the students, even those who are not disabled, benefited from the extra materials. Having so much value added content is helping to transform the virtual classroom into one that is much closer to the live on campus with a professor experience for everyone.
Figure 9. eCollege shell and one slide of the course  .jpg
Figure 10. Accessible Curriculum Project Flow Chart.jpg

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October 5, 2008

Technology tool helps counselors publish professional web presentations

olympia_high_school_workshop_1.jpg
School counseling teams face similar challenges across the K-12 education system when it comes to communicating with students and parents: How do we develop and distribute information to large audiences in our school community on an annual basis? A solution to this question is to use a simple tool that converts a PowerPoint presentation with recorded audio to a professional web presentation. Presenter 7 is the tool of choice for our school counseling team when we want to create a professional web presentation to parents, students, and the community. The beauty of creating a presentation with Presenter 7 is the challenges of distribution and access to information are solved immediately. The content that was once accessed one time during an evening parent night can now be viewed twenty-four hours a day and seven days a week.
Links:
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Olympia High School Website – Presentations
Dave Forrester
Adobe Education Leader

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