Author Archive

July 25, 2012

Do we have an inspiration gap?

Imagine a situation where you finally have something you and others have yearned for for years and yet it has now become common and people have become blasé about it. You struggle to get everyone excited about it, to find it relevant to their work and daily lives, to take advantage of it. No, I’m not talking about the right to vote in the US. I’m talking about Adobe’s great tools and technologies.

After years of conversations and negotiations my institution, Indiana University (IU), signed an Enterprise License Agreement (ELA) with Adobe giving our students, faculty and staff access to Creative Suite, Captivate, Lightroom and others. At first they melted the wires downloading it, but now it’s become commonplace. Sure the Fine Arts, Journalism and IST students are still in hog heaven, but what about the Business or Chemistry students? How can we make it relevant to them? Think of how well Mendeleev could have presented the Periodic Table if he’d been able to throw together a mock-up in Fireworks. And imagine how much more accessible E=mc2 would have been to the average reader if Einstein could have added an Edge animation to his landmark “On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies” paper.

How can we broaden the conversation about Adobe tools? How do we get our entire school populations to think outside of the creativity box? This software is not just about makin’ thangs purty. This software helps us express ideas – sometime simple, sometimes complex. It should be an arrow in our communications quiver. We need to help our communities screw in and turn on the lightbulbs of inspiration. These tools are for everyone.

How. Do. We. Do. This?

First, we need be sure the tools are up to it. Are they simple enough to use? DW has a nice drop-down list to change the layouts. Can you make a “for dummies” layout that gives you just the essentials and removes the finery? if Adobe can simplify the UI for the touch apps, why can’t they give us an option for a simplified UI in the desktop apps. Sure, we want to power, but only when we need it. The rest of the time we want simplicity. Imagine Steve Jobs designing an SUV. It would be able to 4-wheel up the mountain when necessary, but the rest of the time it would be a car simple enough for anyone to drive to the grocery store. Can we get reach those heights of UI simplicity for PS or IA?

Second, we need someone – the community? Adobe? – to examine the WHOLE education space, not just when the teacher is in the classroom with the students, and develop relevant examples to seemingly mundane activities for all to see. Adobe Connect for office hours? Not really flexing the muscles of the product, but it is simple, relevant and gets people using the tool. A time-lapse profit chart in a Business student’s company case-study report? It will not only blow away his professor, but it will give the student a deeper understanding of the content. It might even be their gateway drug to other CS apps… The list goes on.

I have the greatest respect for those who work and teach in the visual and creative arts. I am envious of their talents. However it is far too easy for the Adobe Creative Wow Factor, exemplified by their work and the praise it justifiably receives, to so dominate the conversation. It can seem unattainable to and shut down the imaginations of those who exercise less artistic pursuits.

We need inspiration. We need examples. We need to show a broad spectrum of use cases from across the academic spectrum. Adobe tools for the poets and scientists! Adobe tools for music and pre-med! Adobe tools for the researchers! Adobe tools for the secretaries! If the tools can be used by everyone (jury is still out on that question), then lets show everyone using them.

This may not seem relevant to you. You may be in a school where getting the software is a struggle. It was a struggle for us too. That’s why keeping it, by showing its ROI, is so important.

Stand up and be counted! Share your thoughts.

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