Archive for February, 2011

February 24, 2011

Digital Publishing Suite for Education

Digital Publishing Suite for Education

 

I had a snow day from school today and I listened to the webinar, CQ/CRX –  Adobe Day Software Solutions. I realized as a new AEL that I have lots to learn. Daniela described it as trying to drink from a fire hydrant. I felt like the guy who walked in to a movie half way through and can’t find a spot to sit! Then I realized that I was not asked to be here to find a place to sit, but to make a place to sit. So I am making a place for myself to sit, maybe I am way off on this post or maybe I am right on. Either way I am putting my chair down and getting to work so let me know how I did for my first time.

 

History:

 

I Watched a podcast from Terry White, Adobe Evangelist, a while ago and it was all about this great publishing tool Adobe Labs was working on. The idea was that you take an InDesign File and you can use this suite to bundle it and publish for the ipad. I was intrigued instantly and spent a lot of hours understanding it starting in about October. So I figured it out and got a document to work, it was so cool to see content I created on my ipad. The next thing I did then is obvious to anyone in education. I showed my students! We made fake magazines for Mega Mountain Resort (That’s a fictional place) It was the spring catalog and we integrated Multiple state objects, animation, hyperlinks and all. We used it to look at the new features of InDesign CS5. That all happened in early January. I had a student who enjoyed it so much that she offered to do an independent study to create a student handbook to be put into an app made to host materials from our school on itunes.

 

I am really not a programmer  so the app thing scared me a lot. I was able to get in on the prerelease for The new Digital Publishing Suite and found that the documentation was easy stuff! They laid out every tool I would need to take my file from InDesign to the ipad, including a piece of software to make the app! But as it makes sense there is also a cost to using such great tools.

 

Current situation:

 

I have my student building the handbook and I am doing the research about the app when I find out that Apple is charging $99 a year to be a developer, they have a solution for free for universities offering degrees but not high schools. The new suite from Adobe has some pretty competitive pricing for the publishing tools, however if you are an educator, commercial business pricing is too much because you have no revenue stream to fund the endeavor. If you are making a magazine every month and selling thousands of issues then yes I think that the pricing is right on. However if you are only publishing say 5-10 issues a year with a subscription base of public education well the money isn’t very good, you do it cause it is what is best for kids and education.

 

I have a tendency to want to do things other people don’t think of. A lot of you have probably experienced that. I see the Digital Publishing Suite as an opportunity to teach students to create for mobile devices. For example our school newspaper only gets printed like every 2 months because it is expensive to print. But what if we could take that same newspaper already developed in InDesign and send the new issue out to an app that was installed on the kids mobile devices? What if they could access the student handbook and their teachers could post updates to classes all from the app. This could all be accomplished through the Digital Publishing Suite.

 

There is a lot of possibility there, however for now I only am worried about getting an opportunity to use the Digital Publishing Suite in my classroom. With the current price structure I see a major difficulty to offer this to my students. We are already planning to export to SWF and Interactive PDF for the school but an app that could be had in the Mobile World, that is what my kids are craving to learn. They want to carry their design with them and share it with their friends. They want to show of and let everyone know how cool this is. They’ll go home and pressure mom and dad to buy the software. Big props to Adobe for coming up with such a great tool.

 

Proposed solution:

 

I think the current pricing model has been thought out very well and is practically a bargain for big business especially if you only need one issue, in that case Adobe will build the app for you. But even if you need multiple issues they will provide the software to allow you to do so. Who knows maybe in the future we call it Appweaver! Just saying that would be very cool! For educators however the pricing model needs to be adjusted very slightly. I understand that business costs money and that your own app for your high school should not be free. so my suggestion is this. Instead of a monthly fee perhaps it gets changed to a yearly fee so that the educator can process one purchase order instead of 12. Perhaps that yearly fee is around $100-$300, myself I would pay $500 from my own class budget for the publishing and then it makes sense to pay for software as well. I think the rest of it all makes sense. At .30 cents an issue it seems fair.

 

So to wrap up I am totally excited about the new Digital Publishing Suite and I think it is going to fill a major need in the publishing world. The look on my students faces when they saw their magazines rotate with the ipad was priceless. Any thoughts about bringing the Digital Publishing Suite to Education would be greatly appreciated. I am doing a workshop for about 60 people or more at the Business Professionals of America National Leadership Conference and I could use any input that can be provided about Digital Publishing.

 

Dan Armstrong

Director of T-Wolf Productions

Lake City High School

Coeur d’alene ID

Adobe Education Leader

 

10:16 PM Permalink
February 23, 2011

Adobe Forms Central

We all know the implications of illiteracy as students move into the workforce. Too many students cannot write a coherent paragraph or comprehend basic reading passages. Students who have demonstrated grade level literacy skills have recently produced formal essays that consist of texting-gibberish infused with a few multisyllabic words that they got from a quick word search. You know all ofthis because the battle over reading and writing is fought in every classroom, every day.

I pursue literacy with zeal in my graphic design, art, and yearbook classes. Students read and write two times per week about every aspect of art and design that is relevant to their field of study . Years ago, I created reading passages with InDesign and printed them off for students to finish in class. I added photographs, diagrams and illustrations to reading/writing worksheets to make content comprehensible for English learners, but I had to print them out in B&W. Occasionally I would print out worksheets in color and laminate them so that they could be used for following semesters.

I create lessons with Captivate but I wanted an easier solution to create successful reading/writing lessons. In March 2010 I started the move to computer-based literacy activities. I now create interactive .pdfs that make it possible for students to engage with lessons that reach all levels of literacy. But what about the dilemma of collecting, reading, grading and giving feedback on all of those scribbled sheets of paper? I attempted to use Acrobat Forms with my lessons, but had difficulty doing so because of cyber blocks from the IT department. Then, I found GoogleDocs and used Acrobat worksheets with a link to online Google Forms.

As a solid advocate of Adobe products, I kept my use of Google Docs/Forms quiet hoping for an Adobe solution and it is here: Adobe Forms Central. It integrates perfectly with the lessons that I create.

  • More engaging lessons. No more predictable B&W paper worksheets.
  • Less time reading essays. I don’t have to lug home piles of papers with illegible handwriting
  • Better teacher feedback. Students don’t have to try and read my scribbled, hasty “red-ink” corrections and comments

For each lesson, I develop an InDesign document that is loaded with audio, video, images, captions, and diagrams. The finished interactive .pdf file has links to Adobe Forms that (unlike Google Forms) have the same .pdf images to further aid understanding. I make the .pdfs available online for students to download. ELL students can translate the interactive .pdfs and more easily capture the gist of the lesson from the visuals ; I can sort the students’ answers and essays (for easier grade input); and using Acrobat, I can convert the answers to a .pdf file , mark them up, and “stamp” grades on each essay (How to use Acrobat Custom Stamps: http://www.adobe.com/designcenter/acrobat/articles/acr8at_stamptools.html).

But the best news is: students’ are writing more than they were before. Their essays are longer and the writing has improved because the feedback they get is more consistent and thorough than the old “red pen” approach. At first I thought it was the novelty of the new approach, but as this school year progresses, I am finding that 21st century student learning and engagement happens best when students use the tools they’re excited about.

3:08 AM Permalink
February 15, 2011

WHAT DO EDUCATORS WANT?

The ideas for this article came out of my reviewing the whole Rome process and the resulting software. What I could not stop thinking about was the question, what exactly do educators want… in software, in the digital world in general, in any way?

I was immediately struck by the huge assumption, and therefore the huge error, built into the whole question right from the get go – “educators” are not a homogeneous group. You can ask what we want any way you wish, but, unless you are prepared to understand just how diverse and downright different we are, your question will never really be answered. That is why any good designer / engineer / problem solver will start by asking, who are we… not, what do we want. There are dozens of books out now that discuss the value of the design process and design thinking which places the target or audience of a product ahead of the product itself. First understand your clientele, then build the product.

Let’s start by looking at a typical high school. Our school has approximately 1500 students and 100 teachers. Of those 100 teachers we have about 20 teachers who are already immersed in various aspects of digital technology, another 15-ish who are wading into the waters in varying degrees and the rest. The “rest “ represent widely varying perspectives. At one end there are those who would venture forth with lots of support and mentoring (hand holding is required). At the opposite end are those who are angry and or afraid… it really doesn’t matter which because the end result is the dismissal of digital technology and all that is has to offer. I cannot give you numbers or percentages for these two groups at this point. I can only tell you they definitely exist and that those against are vehement about their anti-technology point of view. I strongly suspect, based on the war stories I hear from other schools, that we are pretty typical of most high schools. To put this into perspective – if you are building software that appeals to somewhat experienced users then you are building for about 35% of our teachers. That means you are not appealing to 65% of them. It is that simple, and these figures may be overly optimistic.

I offer this insight into our mix of teachers because what the most involved would want in their software is quite different from what the others would prefer. And you are going to tell me you are going to create one software product that appeals to everyone equally? And serves them equally? Interesting…  (I am told it’s good to have dreams. )

I suggest we start with the most basic aspect of any technology – the names of the tools themselves. As I saw with Rome, applying very technical names to these tools may be perfectly logical for the engineers and for those who are very well versed in the technology but even those of us who consider ourselves immersed in this digital world do not know all of these terms. How, then, will new users ever figure them out? More to the point, don’t you want to make every aspect of the technology inviting, easy to access and use? Calling a tool by a technical name is a quick way to push a new user away, while using a term from common language makes the tool more accessible and appealing. Oh – one more note – do not make the names cute. That is worse than technical – at least technical assumes we will figure it out (rightly or wrongly). Cute is just insulting. Straightforward works well, it assumes normal intelligence and is accessible to most folks.

When planning the software, think like a new user. Keep the operations simple, the result clear and the process direct and easy to use. For example – explaining how to adjust, add or subtract keyframes will not make a new user happy – too many concepts at work here, and way too much to know right from the get go. Instead, think…   the story opens with ______; then this happens_____, then this ______. Finally, it ends when this happens ______________. End of story. The sounds will be _____, and so on until its built. Make it simple. All of that will work wonders for the teachers and for any users in fact, that want as close to drag-and –drop story telling as possible. Now – to add an underlying power to this software, you would need to make the resulting timeline fully accessible to those of us who play with such things… but not up front. Tell us how to lift the hood, so to speak, so we can access these details. I liken the whole thing to operating a car. Most folks do not want to know the details. They want the car to start, go and stop easily with simple instructions, not complex technical explanations and controls. Assume that the new users know virtually nothing and want to know only a bit more in order to make it work, at least in the beginning.

Now – if you are able to create software that works like this, go one step further – make it so it runs on old and new systems equally. Our school is running Windows XP on a variety of machines. The old machines have slow processors and about 512 Mb of RAM. The new machines also run XP and have 1 Gb of RAM. Our best machines in the school have fairly fast processors and 2 Gb of RAM… and nowhere are there any signs that point to better machines running Windows 7. Having said that, I know there are schools running brand new computers with tons of RAM and Windows 7… makes it quite a challenge, doesn’t it? We are never on the same page digitally, and you must assume the worst scenario possible. That is our reality and since there are no programs anywhere that are stepping forward with the billions of dollars necessary to not only equip schools with better computers but to also maintain those labs at that level indefinitely, this situation is not about to improve. I suppose you could go one step further and add that certain governments have education budgets on their radar screens – they consider them excellent sources of revenue. How they manage to also sleep at night is quite beyond my comprehension. I always thought that it was society’s job to invest in its own future, but apparently I was wrong on that point.

So – building new software for touch-pad technology? Great – schools may have that by 2020… if all goes well. Schools, which should be so much closer to the cutting edge of technology, are still fighting the belief that buying good computers is a luxury, not a necessity. And you want to create software that serves all educators equally? As is said at the outset, it’s good to dream. Therein lies all of our hopes for the future.

The picture shows us looking down – is that where we are headed, or is that where we have come from? I prefer the latter – you?

2:29 PM Permalink
February 14, 2011

Why does K-12 Education and Higher Education need Adobe Systems Incorporated?

We have been living with the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (No Child Left Behind Act) since May 23, 2001 and now the Obama Administration is supporting Race to the Top to bring about education reform and improvement to our overall education system.  I believe the Department of Education needs to reach out to more companies like Adobe Systems Incorporated to find innovative, creative and sustainable solutions to help all students to become successful.  I think many of these educational reform policies have been focusing on only half the child, their left brains.  I am tired of watching our education system repackage interventions through an academic scope.  I hear we need great teachers by developing growth models and stronger evaluation systems, increase our academic standards, strengthen our math and science programs, develop better ways to test kids, and develop longitudinal data systems.  I have been in education for about fifteen years now.  I have worked in both a Career and Technical Center and a Comprehensive High School.  There are millions of kids out there that don’t respond to their education system by only using half their brain.  Adobe has created a toolset for teachers  and students to help kids who like learning with the other half of their brain, the creative and intuitive side.   I want to thank Adobe Systems Incorporated by developing tools, building professional learning communities, creating educational programs, and taking leadership by supporting all educators.  I believe we need more electives for students in music, art, media productions, computer science, and photography.  We should not be taking these away for more math and science.  I think we need more Career and Technical Programs and CTE Teachers for kids.  The Adobe Education Leadership Program has many of the best in the country and around the world.  I believe we need to develop funding sources and education policies which build Career and Technical Education across the country.  I think developing Media Productions, Commercial Graphic Design, and Web Development Programs as equal to developing STEM programs in middle and high school.  I believe we should be working together (education and industry)  to help support the whole child.  Adobe Systems Incorporated and a group of CTE teachers and students can provide more solutions to close the achievement gap, curb the dropout problem and reduce emotional/mental health issues with students who are forced to use their left brain most of their time at school.

Dave Forrester

3:53 AM Permalink
February 11, 2011

Rich Media Tools for Educators Equals Increased Retention of Scientific and Technological Concepts

Today we take for granted ways of communication that were considered technically advanced just 20 years ago.  An understanding of word processed documents, spread sheets and basic presentation software  is considered baseline knowledge for a productive workforce and is currently utilized by K-12 educators. The current challenge is communicating effectively and  in a way that encourages retention.

Increasingly complex computational science and engineering concepts need to be communicated to those we are educating in a  rich multi sensory manner in an effort to  engage and inspire  further learning activities in these disciplines. The challenge today is that teaching materials have not kept up with current cultural approaches to gaining attention that are evident in the commercial and entertainment world.

Getting attention in today’s incredibly information rich world is akin to a competitive event. Educators need to develop media rich ways of presenting information in an effort to stimulate further interest in the areas of science and technology.

I am working on a summer seminar for K-12 educators to teach them new rich media ways to reach their students. We will focus on InDesign, Photoshop and Acrobat. We will create documents that contain  audio, video, images and forms as a way to leverage current technology to connect with their students. I look forward to sharing my results with all the AEL’s – perhaps in San Jose? : )

4:26 AM Permalink
February 3, 2011

University of Denver Students Participate in Global Game Jam 2011

X-Defender

X-Defender: Gameplay

The 2011 Global Game Jam took place January 28th through the 30th; a single 48 hour period in which teams would have to come up with and develop a game using the platform of their choosing.

48 hours, 44 countries, 170 locations, 6500 participants, almost 1500 games, one weekend, one theme (“Extinction”).

At the University of Denver, students David Fogle, Daniel Kjellerson, and Stephen Rice formed one such team in an attempt to develop a game using the Adobe Flash Platform. The three students are all dual majors studying in the Animation and Game Development and Digital Media Studies programs at DU. The idea for their game is an interesting concept as it immediately appears to be a regular 2D shooter, but is actually a little more complex than that… if you start shooting at the approaching aliens out the gate, they will retaliate- but if you choose not to start a fight, a peaceful outcome will occur.

Why Flash?

Taking into consideration the rich visual history behind Flash, the ubiquity of the platform, and some prior ActionScript experience, the team decided that the Flash Platform would be a good choice for their project, X-Defender.

X-Defender: ActionScript Class

X-Defender: ActionScript Class

“We participated in the Global Game Jam in order to further develop and practice our game development skills in an amazing environment. We found ourselves using ActionScript and Flash due to our prior experience as well its accessibility and ability to meet our needs.”

The two classes that were most influential in their decision had been Topics: Introduction to Game Design which is focused on game development theory and creation, and Programming for Play which deals with game and toy development which is taught using ActionScript as the development language.

Software used by the team included Flash Professional, FlashDevelop, Photoshop, SumoPaint, and Acid for sound composition.

Results

All of the games created during Global Game Jam are in various states of completion due to the rushed nature of the competition. X Defender though, is actually playable with animated cut scenes, full player control, enemy attack patterns, a boss battle, and background score.

It is certainly a testament to rapid game development enabled by the Flash Platform, and is a stand-out project from a conceptual standpoint as well.

X Defender : Cut Scene

X-Defender: Cut Scene


Meet the Students

David Fogle:
Designer, In-Game Artist, Programmer, Music Development

Daniel Kjellerson:
Concept Artist, Cutscene Artist, Code Consultant

Stephen Rice:
Designer, Programmer

The University of Denver team was coordinated by Rafael Fajardo.


Resources

3:00 PM Permalink