Archive for July, 2009

July 29, 2009

LiveCycle Designer ES – Adobe Acrobat Pro’s Cinderella

Many educators have heard about the wonderful ways you can use Adobe Acrobat to create classroom materials like worksheets, forms and portfolios. Don’t get me wrong. This is really cool stuff. But today I want to talk about a hidden gem. Bundled with your Windows version of Acrobat Pro or Acrobat Pro Extended is a lesser known, elegant and robust application called LiveCycle Designer ES. LC Designer is a full-featured form design application that enables you to create electronic forms using a WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) interface. I will be honest here. LC Designer is not for the novice user. If all you want to do is take an MS Word document, convert it and make a nifty form, then by all means use the Form Wizard in Acrobat. But if you want more form options, a more flexible layout, and the ability to easily edit your form design, then you really should give LC Designer a test drive.
Last year, I was asked to make changes to our school’s progress report card. I had previously created the progress report card in MS Word and then used Acrobat’s Form Wizard to create a pdf form. This seemed to be a great solution until I had to make changes to the content in the progress report card. Of course, I couldn’t edit the text in the pdf document. To make the necessary changes I had to revise the original MS Word document, convert it to pdf and then create all of the form fields again. I had close to 80 form fields in the progress report card and I wasn’t happy about having to create them again. Clearly, I needed a different product to tackle this job. Out of desperation I scoured my hard drive for something else and stumbled across LC Designer. With LC Designer I was able to create all the elements I needed in my form from scratch, including static text, design elements and a wide variety of form fields. I had more control over the layout and functionality of the form, and best of all, it was a breeze to edit when I needed to make changes after publishing the form. The following screenshots show the LiveCycle interface and what the final progress report card looks like in Adobe Reader.
progress report card in Live Cycle.jpg progress report card in reader.jpg

7:37 AM Permalink
July 27, 2009

InDesign to Flash

At this year’s Adobe Summer Institute I experienced a jaw-dropping-moment when I witnessed an Adobe trainer demonstrate InDesign’s export-to-swf feature. I have been using InDesign CS4 since its release, but had no idea this gem-of-a-feature was tucked into InDesign’s export command.
Check out this short tutorial and prepare to pick up your mandible!
Scott Trudeau

2:24 PM Permalink
July 25, 2009

Reflections on the 2009 Adobe Education Leader Summer Institute

The 2009 Adobe Education Leader Summer Institute in now over and my intention is to document a few thoughts here while everything is still fresh in my mind.
About 80 Adobe Education Leaders from both K-12 and Higher Education institutions from around the world gathered at Adobe HQ in San Jose, CA for 5 days of networking, presentations, training, and corporate roadmaps. I’ve only been involved in this group since November of last year, so this was the first time I had personally attended this event. This is also the first year that Higher Education was formally represented.
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, so tried not to have any sort of pre-conceived notions of how the week would play out. One of the most beneficial aspects of the event was the constant networking going on – a perpetual idea mill and information interchange center. I’m sure that if I had passed up on the 4 hours of sleep I got most nights, those 4 hours would also be spent engaged in intense discussion with my peers.
Most days allowed us to explore San Jose, Adobe HQ (the less secure portions, anyway), and interface with a great number of Adobe employees through presentations, round-tables, Q+A sessions, and some very nice dinner receptions. I found a lot of these individuals to be surprisingly frank and quite receptive to any of the ideas and thoughts that were proposed to them.
Wednesday provided everyone with an opportunity to make presentations to the group. I gave a presentation on what the University of Denver is doing in regard to the Flash Platform focusing on our work on the CourseMedia™ project and received a ton of positive feedback from both Adobe and other AELs. A really great experience although I had to cut the demo portion short due to time constraints. The slides can be downloaded as a PDF and the recording should be available on AdobeTV later on along with 25+ other extraordinary sessions.
I was delighted to find that everyone was very amiable and even though I was one of the new people in the group- was treated with the utmost respect whether conversing with other AELs, product managers, evangelists, or anyone on the education team at Adobe. What a wonderful group of people to be a part of – I cannot wait to begin some of the many collaborations seeded at this event.
Many thanks to Adobe and everyone that was a part of the planning and execution of the institute this year. It will not be soon forgotten and I look forward to future events and hopefully seeing everyone again in 2010.

3:02 PM Permalink
July 14, 2009

MEADOWVALE SAYS “NO!” TO VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN and Photoshop Elements helps bring it all to life

Sometimes an after-school project grows and takes on a life of its own. This project was one of those. For the past few years two teachers on Meadowvale’s Family Studies department have encouraged their students to speak out against violence against women. It is an issue that has engaged them and their students, and this year it went even further. One teacher has a drama background, including fabulous skills in makeup, and she proposed to the students that she would use makeup to make volunteers look as if they had been beaten, abused…. and they would be photographed and the pictures displayed in the school. The goal was to bring the issue to life in the immediacy of the school. These issues are often seen as being somewhere else. The teachers and students wanted to bring them right into our neighbourhood. They quickly secured the willing volunteers, they had the permission of the principal to display these images in the school, but they needed photographers. I run a photography club and we agreed to do the photo shoot. The idea of cross-club activities had never occurred to me before. After school clubs tend to run as independent entities, but this time we collaborated and the results were spectacular.
Five girls agreed to model, and five of our student photographers came out to shoot. The setup I created was intentionally dramatic and yet very simple. Using a large black cloth as a backdrop and a single light source at 45 degrees to the model (see the diagram to see how this worked), we were able to create dramatic images.
The cameras used ranged from two DSLR’s to little point and shoots with some exposure controls. The shooting started at 3:30, and it just didn’t stop. The models and the shooters worked nonstop for over two hours. Although I cannot show you the images of the students, I can show you images of Brenda MacKenzie, one of the teachers who also agreed to be a model. The photographers were encouraged to get very close to the models and the models did a superb job of holding still while the photographers composed their pictures and made their exposures. Having digital cameras is also so helpful because we were able to show the models some of the images as soon as they were taken, which helped to feed their understanding of what the photographers were trying to accomplish. We talk about engaging our students – THIS was one of the best examples I have ever seen in my ten years of teaching. The other teachers and I were blown away by the students and their deep desire to simply keep on going.
Eventually the makeup and the cameras were put away and the images were downloaded. Time for the fun to begin. This is when having at least one decent computer and a solid version of Photoshop makes such a difference. We used my lab which has good computers and Photoshop Elements 5.0, because that is what our province has licensed. Why more jurisdictions don’t do this type of licensing is beyond me. Instead of every community trying to negotiate separate licenses our province negotiates on our collective behalf, and everybody wins. We talk about the benefits and perils of standardized testing. We should also be talking about the benefits of standardized resources.
Photoshop Elements 5.0 (and this year the province has upgraded to Photoshop Elements 7.0 and included Premier Elements 7.0 to go along with the existing CS3 Web Standard licensing) is a powerful tool ready to do a lot of what a high school student needs. While it will never equal the full blown versions of Photoshop it was a very capable tool for our student photographers in this project. Cropping and adjusting brightness/contrast were the adjustments made immediately and then one of the students started playing with converting the images to black and white. b%26wprocesssmall.jpgNOW the images were literally jumping off the page. By delicately adjusting the red/green/blue balance we were able to convert many of the images and make them even more powerful than they had been in colour. In the end approximately fifty images were printed – about half were black and white. Printing, by the way, was not done on proper photo paper – much too expensive. We used a cover weight matte finish brochure paper from a local business supply box store – 150 sheets 8.5 x 11 for $35.00 – and adjusted our little HP bubble jet to high quality prints and went from there. Some images printed beautifully immediately, while others required some additional work to get high quality results. The processing and printing took an entire Sunday afternoon, but the results were worth every minute. When the teachers and students mounted the exhibit they filled an entire wall of our front lobby with posters they had created, all of our prints, and many explanatory pieces that talked about date rape, domestic abuse and similar violent issues.
The display was an incredible success. Hundreds of students stopped to read, examine and take in the message. A couple of teachers (who were not involved in the project) brought their classes down to experience the display. And most telling of all – there was no vandalism. None of the prints were damaged in any way. The principal also agreed to leave the display up for the grade eight parent orientation night when the soon-to-be-grade nines and their parents visit our school for an open house. The display spoke clearly of our students’ involvement and concern and of our school’s willingness to publicly tackle difficult, important issues. A job well done, and Photoshop Elements helped to bring it all to life.
A special thanks goes out to our teacher, Brenda MacKenzie, for her permission to use her pictures.

5:08 AM Permalink