Author Archive

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


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
the history of posters–11370/Black_History.htm
sample posters
intro to composition / the elements and principals of design

10:12 PM 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 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. 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: 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:
  • 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 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.


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.


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
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.


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

2:19 PM Permalink
June 30, 2008

Illinois’ World Wide Web of Spiders on the Collaboratory

By Roxana Hadad
Roxana Hadad is a Project and Instructional Designer at Northwestern University’s Collaboratory Project in Evanston, iIlinois.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources’ (IDNR) Division of Education has traditionally conducted on site workshops throughout Illinois in order to enhance teacher awareness of biodiversity in the state. IDNR’s goal has been to share information about specific species of plants and animals to supplement existing curriculum. Ultimately though, it proved difficult to reach teachers in many sections of Illinois due to the distribution of the state’s population and the teachers’ crowded schedules. IDNR approached the Collaboratory Project with the objective of conducting its workshops online, thus connecting with teachers and students who were previously unable to access all of IDNR’s Illinois-specific resources.
The Collaboratory Project is a Northwestern University Information Technology initiative that provides project consulting, training, technical advice, and internet- based resources and services to educational and cultural nonprofit organizations who plan to utilize internet technologies. The Collaboratory’s internet-based collaborative environment enables teachers to develop curricular projects in an engaged learning framework that is activity-based, linked to Illinois Learning Standards and Goals, and provides for assessment. See:
Valerie Keener from IDNR approached the Collaboratory about providing teachers with a chance to earn Continuing Professional Development Units through online versions of the workshops they only offered in person. However, IDNR wanted to do more. They wanted to transform the workshops to do what the Collaboratory was best at doing: offering students the opportunity to create and share their work in engaging real-world projects.
The Collaboratory wanted to design a program that would instruct students to collect data, reflect on it, and then report it to scientists. The first workshop we were given to transform was a creepy one: spiders. Spiders are not very well studied in Illinois (or anywhere else) because of the lack of full-time arachnologists. We approached Dr. Petra Sierwald of the Field Museum of Natural History and Dr. Michael Draney of the University of Wisconsin at Green Bay with an offer to provide them with a large statewide team of motivated and low-cost future arachnologists (4th-6th graders) willing to collect data. Our idea appealed to the scientists. We found six species that would be relatively easy for the students to monitor and collect data on.

Putting the Project Together

Next came the hard part, how to put the project together, promote it, and have participants within just a couple of months all without a lot of staff. We definitely needed the help of Adobe’s Illustrator, Flash Paper, Contribute, and Connect to get the project done effectively and on time.
The students needed to learn quite a bit about spiders before being asked to monitor them. So we needed to create a set of “SpiderDocs” that would make identifying the seven spider species easy. We did not have a lot of time to create these documents; also, we needed illustrations that would clearly demonstrate the difference between the spiders. Because of Adobe Illustrator, we were able to create a wireframe of an average spider and adjust it in shape and color for each species in a short amount of time. The illustrations were placed alongside information about the spiders’ anatomy and habitats and then exported as Flash Paper, allowing us to create printable documents without requiring students to download them onto school or library computers. For an example see:
We then linked these documents from a Cybrary, which is the Collaboratory’s social bookmarking tool for students and teachers. For an example see:
The students were able to study the species remotely that they would later find and monitor. After locating the target spiders, they used the Collaboratory’s Survey Studio to record data on the spiders and their habitats. See:
At the end of each month, students looked at the results and created reports in the Collaboratory’s Nexus. The Nexus is a document-based collaboration space for students to share writing, graphics, audio and text and exchange comments and peer review. In their reports, students reflected on what the data meant and compared it to other classrooms across the state engaged in the same data collection program. The scientists looked at their reports, commented on them and answered questions For an example see:
Because the Collaboratory is a secure community for students and the educational community, we needed to promote the project to the public on a web site that was outside of our Collaboratory community. We wanted newcomers to understand the activities and resources that made up the project. This task also needed to be done quickly and in a way that everyone working on the project could easily edit. Contribute allowed us to create a promotional site that looked good and was informative in a short amount of time. With an Illustrator-created logo, we had the site up and running in little more than a day. See:
Ms. Van Hoveln’s class in Milford Grade School did an excellent job of collecting data, creating reports, and interacting with Dr. Draney. So Dr. Draney offered to visit the class on a trip to the Chicago area while doing research at the Field Museum. It was a generous offer because Milford is a two-hour drive from Chicago, so the trip would have taken up a lot of Dr. Draney’s research time. Instead we took a laptop to the Field Museum and set up a Connect conference between the students, Dr. Draney, and Dr. Sierwald. The students had access to the Field’s spider lab and were able to ask questions and speak to actual spider scientists. By using Adobe Connect, we avoided four hours of travel time, and the session was recorded for future participating classrooms. See:
The IDNR Illinois Biodiversity Study is being expanded to include a project offering students the opportunity to collect data on frogs and toads and another project on squirrels. We hope to continue adding species, allowing students to gain a better understanding of the scientific process and to interact with the natural world around them. The added benefit students receive from communicating with professional scientists in the field has greatly expanded the original scope and rewards of the initial IDNR workshops, while Illinois students have gained the satisfaction of knowing that the work they have done could contribute to our understanding of the biodiversity in our communities. Thankfully, we have Adobe products like Illustrator, FlashPaper, Contribute, and Connect to help create engaging, real-world projects that help students learn science by doing science.

7:13 AM Permalink
June 23, 2008

Create ePortfolios with the Amazing Acrobat 9

by Steve Adler
Steve Adler is Learning Systems Integrator for Northern Valley Regional High School District in Demarest, New Jersey. You can get more resources and contact him at his website
When we think of a traditional portfolio used in education, we may think of a collection of related papers, photos, pamphlets, or brochures organized in a folder or binder. Perhaps it’s a collection of materials that we compile over time to reflect progress and achievement. Now imagine if we add an electronic spin to the traditional definition and focus on the idea of a PDF portfolio; one that you could use to easily weave content together in a portable file format to use, share, and print whatever you need when you need it. That is the essence of the Acrobat portfolio.
Electronic portfolios have gained popularity in education as a means of presenting collections of documents and resources. Electronic portfolios can assist in recording and archiving an individual’s projects, interests, and accomplishments over a period of time. They can also be used to compliment professional development and career advancement.
Electronic portfolios also demonstrate one’s competency in technology integration and effective communication by illustrating the author’s ability to create a customized experience for readers. In traditional electronic portfolios an author is usually restricted to a one-size-fits all approach. This may be an HTML, PowerPoint, or MS Word style portfolio, each with its own features and limitations.
The New Acrobat 9 ePortfolio
Think of the PDF portfolio as an electronic wrapper that can house all types of files. Acrobat 8 introduced this concept with PDF Packages. Now with the introduction of powerful rich media support and Flash, Adobe has renamed these packages portfolios to reflect their unique capabilities. Files can be organized into logical collections and linked together in a way that makes it easy to navigate, find, and interact with the contents in a variety of useful and creative ways. What’s even better is that all of this can be shared with anyone using the free Adobe Reader 9. Anyone on any platform can interact, participate, and save changes. (I would clarify what “participate” means here.)
How do I get started developing my ePortfolios?
To begin this process, you need a plan. You will gather and organize your portfolio materials (assets). These assets probably fall into one or more of categories: digital, paper, web, or rich media. You want to prepare and organize them prior to assembly.
Collect as many source files as you can. You can combine and customize your course materials later. You will use these files in your portfolio either in their original format or by converting them into the convenient PDF format. You may want to include legacy documents for your portfolio—(add in a dash instead)paper documents that do not exist in any other form. You will scan these documents and convert them to a PDF right within Acrobat.
Collect and bookmark useful web pages in your browser ahead of time so you can use Acrobat to link to them live or capture them and convert them into a PDF for viewing offline. Each page will be complete with links, graphics, and Flash animations.
Pictures, sounds and videos speak volumes and really enhance your written materials. Collect your movie and audio files and place them in a separate folder for use in your PDF portfolio. You can integrate these media files into your lesson in a number of useful ways. For best interoperability with your rich media files, save them as an FLV (Flash Video) or H264 Video. There are many ways to do this.
Acrobat 9 Pro Extended includes encoders that will allow you to convert your files into these formats. Acrobat 9 Pro allows you to add these directly. For playback of your rich media portfolio, all Acrobat 9 applications, including the Adobe Reader include a Flash Runtime Player, which means a smoother media experience for everyone without the need for additional software.
How do I create my Acrobat ePortfolio?
Choose a portfolio layout and develop a welcome page
How do you want to present your portfolio? Do you want a basic layout or one that is more artistic? Acrobat 9 offers some cool new Flash-based portfolio templates. Choose from a variety of portfolio layouts or create your own using Flash’s Action Script, giving you even more control over your viewer’s experience.
You will want to decide on a welcome page layout that introduces your portfolio and its contents in a way that makes sense to your audience while reflecting your own style. You may want to add pictures, video, sounds, as well as a header with detailed information to your welcome page. Acrobat 9 gives you the flexibility to decide.
What can I do with my content in a PDF ePortfolio?
Lets look at some of the new and improved features that Acrobat 9 brings to the education community and how these enhance, elearning, and communication:
Add, trim, and control rich media
Easily add video, audio, and Flash media (including SWF content from Captivate and Presenter), creating powerful eLearning instruments for instruction and assessment. Imagine being able to include and control your media so that it’s just right for your audience.
Capture web pages and snippets
Websites are increasing in complexity and content. Acrobat 9’s web capture engine has been upgraded to capture modern web layouts more accurately. Entire pages as well as individual portions can be linked or converted directly into a PDF complete with links and media. Web page PDFs save time and reduce the requirements needed to provide web content in the classroom.
Scan and OCR paper documents
Acrobat 9’s Portfolios incorporate scanned source materials that are searchable and crisp using advanced OCR scanning techniques. These scans can easily be re-purposed for use in other projects and are perfect for including primary source examples or artifacts for assessment, archival, and the tracking of performance outcomes used in a variety of educational settings.
Trim and add comments to your videos
With Acrobat 9 Professional, you can add video to existing PDF documents or convert them into separate PDF files right within Acrobat. Assign comments to a specific frame in your video, allowing participants to jump to specific points for efficient discussion, analysis, and collaboration.
Include interactive worksheets and forms and collaborate online
If your portfolios contain eLearning units or administrative meeting packets, then integrating interactive worksheets and forms add real functionality. Acrobat 9 has powerful form recognition and workflow tools that make creating, distributing, and collecting data simple. You can use the free service to host your forms and data or you can choose to manage your data in-house using shared folders or FTP. You can collaborate in real time or asynchronously. Either way, all participants and users can interact with your portfolios in the way you design. The possibilities are enormous. Here are a few ideas:

  • New teacher orientation and welcome portfolios
  • Board of Education meeting portfolios
  • Professional development portfolios
  • Teacher lesson unit portfolios
  • Student eLearning portfolios
  • Student end-of–year archival portfolios
  • Club activity portfolios
  • Instructional portfolios
  • Lesson plan portfolios
  • Best practices archive portfolios
  • Evaluative portfolios for staff
  • Reflective professional portfolios
  • CV and resume portfolios
  • Student growth portfolios
  • Presentation portfolios
  • Assessment portfolios

In this article I have only scratched the surface describing the potential of Acrobat 9 in education and eLearning for schools, colleges, and professionals. From pre-service preparation at schools of education to development of effective communications skills for learners of all ages, Acrobat 9 delivers a unmatched set of versatile tools.

8:20 AM Permalink
June 17, 2008

Virtual Travelers

By Johanna Riddle
Johanna Riddle is Media Specialist at Samsula Elementary School in Smyrna Beach, Florida

I was thrilled when I received a Fulbright Scholarship enabling me to travel to China. Once the reality of the award set in I began to reflect on the most meaningful ways to include my learning community in this upcoming adventure.
Students in our school were accustomed to working with technology. They began learning in kindergarten by matching digital photographs with text from a particular work of literature. Their familiarity and comfort levels grew steadily through their years in elementary school. They learned the use of filters, created digital stories, and responded to literature in textual and visual formats.
I established a structure for problem-based learning. With a work of literature at the center of the process, students read, researched, and wrote; photographed, and digitally manipulated visual information in the context of problem based learning. Adobe Photoshop Elements, with its capacity to digitally manipulate visual information, enabled students to develop and synthesize layers of textual, visual, and iconic information. It was the software centerpiece of our particular brand of dimensional learning.
State curriculum mandated studies of Asia in the social studies standards, so the tie in benchmarks was obvious. A Single Shard by author Linda Sue Parks was the foundation of our spring semester study of Asian geography, culture, and history. Since third graders had learned the rudiments of Internet research, they applied their fledgling skills to the subject of Chinese dynasties, posted their findings and reader reviews of A Single Shard to our newly established weblog.
Outfitted with a newly acquired lightweight laptop computer and a digital camera, I left for several days of orientation and training in Menlo Park, California. While in California, I created and posted a few entries. I was successful! I received some student responses. We were connected, and cooking.
Once in China, I took advantage of a few user-friendly tools to keep my readers informed and engaged. made it easy to embed links, enabling my students to learn independently. I used a few web tools, such as Picture Trail to build slide displays of experiences and locations. Google Maps provided link friendly maps that allowed me to track my journey through ten cities and upwards of 21,000 miles, to add place markers, comments, and a travel log, and to refine my students map skills as they followed my journey.
The following school year, we drew from the information posted on the weblog and continued our shared journey of learning. We revisited the blog as a class, about fifty percent of the students had visited the site over the summer.
Further study and student interest catapulted a research and technology project that we christened “Time Tunnel”. Using the weblog as a springboard for further research, students chose a particular place or site to investigate from information on the weblog Google Map. I asked my pupils to consider their location from two perspectives—the past and the present.
Each student developed a first person narrative reflecting the changes of that location over time. Creative play, multiple literacies, and digital photography skills integrated as they used the artifacts and souvenirs I collected in China to take photos of each other in (none too authentic) Chinese garb.
Adobe Photoshop Elements provided the tools for the next piece of our project. Students selected photos from digital albums of my travels and developed layered photos. Photos from their research site formed the first layer of the image. Student portraits comprised the second layer. The third layer paired the photos on a background, and a fourth added their original texts as well as a graphic timeline.
Some students captured additional images from educational sites and added them to their timeline. The resulting pieces served as a demonstration of mastery in the areas of research, writing, and technology. Students used weblog technologies as they uploaded their finished projects and written summaries to the site.
Our weblog continues to play a role as a learning and communicative tool for our current third graders as they begin their studies of ancient China. Photos, entries, and links allow students to learn independently, while student projects serve as models for peer teaching. Children in our community, and in others, may log on at any time to relive the journey, cultivating reading, writing, research, and technology skills as they embark on their own virtual travels through the fascinating land of China.
Check it out for yourself! Log onto

9:16 AM Permalink
June 11, 2008

School News Shows Made Easy with Adobe Visual Communicator

By Sara Martin
Sara Martin is technology coordinator for the Hart-Ransom School District in Modesto, California
A few years ago I attended a session at a conference on school news shows. The presenters did a great job explaining the benefits of these programs. They stepped us through how they started their show and the processes they used to produce it.
The idea of a news show was intriguing, but I was intimidated by a number of factors. How could I raise the money to invest in cameras, closed circuitry and all that stuff? And that “stuff” was equipment I didn’t even know I needed, let alone know how to use. I reminded myself that even though I was our school’s computer literacy teach and the district technology coordinator, I still had to think carefully when I connected the cables to my DVD player. It sounded good, but how could I find the time to learn, raise school awareness and funds, plus implement the project? Not only that, but when could I schedule the actual time to write and tape the show? It was a good idea, and I really understood the value of providing this type of experience to my students, but at the time I had to dismiss the idea.
All this changed when I was introduced to Adobe’s video production software, Visual Communicator. I took one look at the interface and I was hooked. I knew immediately that I could use this with my middle school students. Everything I needed to produce a professional looking news show was included in this easy-to-use, affordable and amazing product. There were several factors that jumped out at me right away.
First of all, the software integrates a teleprompter that runs on your monitor, so you sit in front of your computer screen and read your copy with a camera mounted right above it. You can use a green screen and the program automatically replaces that green with a background that you select from the animated and still backgrounds available from the program’s libraries. Or you can use a still picture to place behind you. Visual Communicator makes it look like you are in a professional video. When you read from the teleprompter the camera is very close to your eye level so it looks like you are looking directly into the camera, even though you are reading from the teleprompter. The result looks like a professional TV show!
The program allows you to alternate between the camera view, which records what the camera captures, and other media that you place in the timeline that corresponds to the teleprompter. For example, if you are talking in your video about a visitor to your campus, you can cut to a still picture of that person. Or better yet, you can drop in a video clip of that person’s visit and then cut back to you in the camera view. You can even create graphics in programs such as PowerPoint and Photoshop. When you cut from camera view to other media you can even chose from several transitions, like page peels and picture in a picture or over-the-shoulder views, just like professional TV shows. It’s all very slick and best of all, it’s easy to do!
I knew immediately I could do this! This program would enable me to produce a news show without investing lots of time learning all the technical details of producing a traditional news show or the expense of the electronic gadgets needed to produce and transmit closed circuit TV.
Purchasing the Equipment
To get started I enlisted the help of one of my fellow Adobe Education Leaders, and Visual Communicator expert extraordinaire, Rob Zdrojewski. Rob provided me with a list of exactly what I needed to get started. He even provided me with a few sources where I could purchase what I needed. I put together a budget and an implementation plan and took the idea to our superintendent. He has always been a supporter of technology, so I was not surprised that he loved the idea and arranged for the initial funding. I was able to get what I needed to start for under $2000.00.
This is what I purchased to get started for the news show:

  • Panasonic PV-GS500 3CCD min DV camcorder (about $700). You need an external mic port, firewire capabilities and a camera that uses tape media. Webcams are not recommended because the resulting video is choppy.
  • Mic adapter by Beachtek DXA-2S (about $180). So two mics can be used during the news show. You only need this if you are going to use two news anchors.
  • 2 external mics and cables (about $150). The wireless ones are good but a little too pricey.
  • Tripod I suggest investing in a good tripod.
  • Green screen and stand. You don’t have to have a green screen. You can paint a wall green or use green paper stapled to the wall.
  • Lighting, We got a kit with two lights and umbrellas and one spotlight. All three have adjustable stands. You don’t have to have a lightkit, you can use inexpensive lights from the hardware store, but you should have some lighting.

All the above ran about $1700.00 and was purchased through B&H Photo-Video-Pro Audio. I called the 800 number and the sales staff were extremely helpful in steering me to the right products for our specific needs. Of course you will also need the software, Adobe Visual Communicator 3.0, which runs approximately $175 for educators and $400 for non-educators.
Producing the News Show
With equipment in place, we were ready to start our news show. We started in the fall of 2007, with one newscast each week. I introduced the concept to my seventh and eighth grade students and invited them to apply for the news team. One obstacle we faced was that the show had to be produced before school, and almost all our students ride the bus to school. Students applying for the news team had to be able to get to school by 7:30 am on Thursdays and Fridays. For most of them that meant they needed to be able to get a ride to school from their parents.
Interested students completed an application, got parental permission, and three teacher recommendations. Only eight students applied (six boys and two girls). They all were qualified, and I was able to accept them all. I suspect that many more students will apply for the news team next year, now that they know just how much fun working on the team is.
The Hart-Ransom newsroom team
Since the first of November our team has been meeting before school every Thursday and Friday and in a flurry of activity we write the news copy for the show, edit any video we have taken during the week for our special features, create any additional title slides or graphics to add to the program, set up the equipment, rehearse, film the show and save it. Our last step is to output, or publish the show to a format that meets the viewing needs of our audience.
Visual Communicator gives you several options, including exporting via closed circuit TV. Since our school does not have closed circuits, we publish our shows in the Windows Media format and then upload them to the Internet. We link them to our school website and also to a great free web resource called Students and parents view the show at their leisure since it is always available online. We were surprised and delighted when our school news show was recognized right away and we were the featured school in the February edition of the website school-video-news! See:
Looking Ahead
Now that our news show is rolling right along, I am ready to use Visual Communicator to create videos that are not in news show format. I’m planning other projects that integrate the curriculum in exciting ways. For example, 5th grade students could virtually “broadcast” from their own state capital for state reports, with pictures from their state behind them as if there were really there.
Other video ideas using Visual Communicator include: public service announcements and other informational videos wrapped around virtually any curricular subject, teachers providing video lectures and video broadcasts for distance learning and other needs, and training videos, The possibilities are endless!
It’s now been about four months since we aired our first show. The nine students on our news team have learned so much and so have I! With Visual Communicator we feel like professional broadcasters because our show is so professional looking. Of course none of our shows are perfect, but we are improving all the time. The effort has definitely been worth it, for both the students and for me!
You can check out some of our broadcasts on // And check out “Ask Mr. Z.” hosted by Rob Zdrojewski on for answers to questions you can post yourself as well as instructional videos.
In the past, producing a school news show was a huge undertaking, requiring closed circuit television capabilities and thousands of dollars of video and electrical equipment, plus video expertise beyond the reach of most educators. Today, video equipment is better and more reasonable all the time, and with the advantage of being able to upload your projects to the internet to sites such as SchoolTube for free, more schools than ever can provide this opportunity for students to produce and view their own school news show. For these reasons and more, now is the time to start your school news show!

4:17 PM Permalink