Posts in Category "Cross Curricular Integration"

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 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 31, 2007

Cross Curricular Excitement in Singapore

Another excellent and engaging Adobe Educational Solutions Seminar in Asia happened yesterday 31/10/07. Everyone really firing on all cylinders about empowering our learners through digital media and creating learning experiences throughout the curriculum not just the “expected” educational or vocational tracks…..
With over 100 attendee’s we spoke for hours about cross curricular examples, and examples of best practices from UK, USA and Singapore. With so many examples coming from fellow AEL’s and educators here in Singapore the event shows a need to know more about integration of suites into traditional and academic subjects prevalent this side of the pond.
The need to enhance understanding and allow for reflection through project based learning is provided through the CS3 Suite and beyond. The biggest buzz was around Visual Communicator 3. :-D

11:42 PM Permalink