Posts in Category "eLearning"

April 16, 2010

Digital Learning Event, Washington, D.C.

A feeling of anticipation was in the air on the morning of April 14, 2010 in Northern Virginia as participants at the HP/Intel Digital Learning Environments conference ate their breakfast and sipped their coffee. They listened to how HP and Intel have invested millions of dollars into education all over the world, as have their partnered-sponsors including Adobe, Microsoft and Vernier. Participants were just a keynote address away from seeing how these investments could affect them, their schools and, most importantly, their students.
The keynote was given by Dr. Elizabeth Hoover, the Executive Director of Technology Services for the Alexandria Schools System. Ms. Hoover has had classroom (K12 and higher ed) and technology-administration experience, a desirable combination! She focused her presentation, entitled Journey to 1:1, on the story of how the Alexandria Cite Public Schools developed and implemented a 1 computer to 1 student initiative. The initiative had its challenges but has since grown into a successful program, which can serve as a model for others.
There are 12,000 students in the high-needs Alexandria school system. Due to the large number of international families in the D.C. area, there is a large percentage of English Language Learners (22%). Many students (54%) are on a free or reduced lunch program and they have their fair share (15%) of special needs students. Despite these challenges, they, over a 7-year period, have had experienced a lot of success. The schools have secured a filtered student network, new infrastructure, online testing, student help desks at EVERY school…etc.
These successes, however, did not come without trials and tribulations. Of course there were financial difficulties – building a new school that was “smart” was costly. Financial burdens were to be expected, but other issues were overlooked in the beginning. Early on in the initiative, in 2003, students frequently brought their laptops to lunch in order to download music (Napster, anyone?). Students would use laptops in class, but rather than taking notes or staying on task, they would covertly be playing games. Students often forget their laptops, and of course, battery life was an issue. A lack of projectors was a sore spot for teachers, as was the lack of in-class, laptop management. Moreover, community neighbors would “borrow” the unsecured wireless network, thereby significantly diminishing the available bandwidth.
Changes were needed, and eventually made, but simply instituting new rules would not be the answer. A change in culture would be critical for success. Otherwise, existing problems would continue and, eventually, the novelty of having the technology would wear off.
To ensure the laptops and other hardware was not simply acting as a dust collector, instructional technologists were brought in to help the teachers use the technology in effective ways. Later, they developed a high school technology integration project, and subsequent to that, they bolstered their strategic plan for ACPS. In my opinion, this is a point that should be stressed. They did not rest on their piles of technology laurels; instead, they strived to continue to look forward, develop and implement new ideas via input from teacher-based and student-based focus groups. Perhaps most importantly was the decision to provide ample opportunities for professional development.
The professional development for teachers sounded like it ought to – it was job-embedded, needs-driven, differentiated, was comprised of year-long-strands, it was instructionally focused, and was rooted in literacy and technology. Professional development, in their eyes, was critical; if the teachers were unable to model the technology, student impact would fall short.
One of the most exciting things, in my opinion, is that, due to a continuous lack of communication between the Information Technology and Instructional Technology divisions, ACPS decided to merge the two. Are you envious yet? This merging has resulted in a much smoother operation and teachers appreciate it, as you can most certainly imagine.
Success stories that have arisen from the program are plentiful: 84% pass rate on the state reading test; 77% for Algebra 1 and 2, & Geometry tests; and 84% of ACPS’ 2009 graduates went to college. Their success has been somewhat attributed to the technology, but it’s truly the planning and dedication of the teachers and administration. They kept their collective eye on the prize; they fought through the mishaps and hardships, resisted contentment, continuously sought improvement, and provided opportunities for teachers and students to be successful!
Adobe Training Sessions
It’s difficult to label the 4 50-minute sessions I gave as “training” considering I presented both Photoshop Elements AND Premiere Elements in that short time period. I find that I can barely teach Photoshop Elements, alone, in a 3-hour session!
Therefore, given the time constraints, I was only able to give an overview of each program, showing the some 120 participants several low-threshold, high-impact ways in which each program could be used in the classroom. The majority of participants, comprised mainly of teachers and technology specialists, were excited to see how easily effective products could be created.
A few noteworthy things I noticed during my sessions were:

  1. The participants were happy to receive the Digital School Collection trials
  2. The participants’ interest in the various cloud computing tools that Adobe offers, especially Lots of note-taking during this part in the session.
  3. The genuine excitement about the Guided Edit component within PS Elements.
  4. Many of the participants had used either Movie Maker or iMovie and they all nodded in agreement when I said “if you know either of those programs, you can surely transfer your knowledge if you move to Premiere Elements and, what’s more, gain much more power in doing so.”

All in all, a great event! I look forward to my next DLE event in Minneapolis!

10:10 AM Permalink
March 23, 2010

F2F Combined without Travel

I get a lot of requests for Face to Face training, often in situations where we already have an online course. Sometimes it is because a department or school wants it fast and all at once, but most often it is because of a comfort level they get having someone to answer their questions as they think of them. This is all well and good, but in today’s economy our district is pushing more and more to have training online. Most courses are asynchronous, taking away that personal contact that you get in the face to face classroom.
So, I am running an experiment the next couple months. I am meeting with my participants face to face, but online. The course will be training the use of Adobe Connect Professional. All delivery will be done using Adobe Connect Professional. This will immerse the participants in the product they are learning and remove the need for travel for both the participants and the instructor. My curiosity is whether online face to face will meet that personal need of participants that typically want to be in the same room as the instructor.
Let me know what feedback you have from participants on face to face versus online versus blended versus asynchronous training and professional development programs. I will add comments to this posting in late May after I get feedback from my participants.

11:37 AM Permalink
March 3, 2010

Adobe Captivate – Branching Slides

Adobe Captivate – How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
This tutorial will demonstrate how to create a slick interactive photo slide presentation using Adobe Captivate’s branching tools.
Learn how to:

  • Create a Photo Slide Show
  • Set up branching
  • Add buttons
  • Insert an image
  • Set up slide transitions
  • change slide backgrounds

View the tutorial

9:19 AM Permalink
December 11, 2009

The more I know, the more I realise I don’t know.

learning.jpgI remember the first time I saw Photoshop. I think it must have been about 1993 or so, when I got a free copy that came with a scanner purchased by my school. It must have been a “lite” version of Photoshop because I seem to recall that it didn’t support layers. Even so, I really enjoyed playing with it, and I ended up installing it on all the computers in the school computer lab (license? what license?) and I started teaching the kids how to create stuff with it. They just blew me away with what they could do with it, even without layers!
It was around the same time that I stumbled across an unused copy of Aldus Pagemaker in an out-of-the-way cupboard, and I convinced the school principal that we should use it to do the school yearbook; his agreement to my suggestion saw me suddenly escalated to head of the yearbook committee, a job that rolled on for many years and many issues beyond that. Of course, once you start working in Pagemaker (and now InDesign) there is a fairly fundamental expectation that Photoshop is a key part of that workflow.
From these accidental beginnings, I developed a long standing relationship with Photoshop. In the late 90s I was working with students to build collaborative websites, and of course all the graphics were done with Photoshop. We discovered all sorts of interesting features like batch processing, we learned to do decent colour corrections, to crop and manipulate images so that they fitted our needs. We discovered, often the hard way, about important concepts like pixel depth, image resolution, colour gamut, and of course the one that catches every self-taught Photoshop user out at some stage, RGB vs CMYK. We made images for the web and for print, we built graphics from scratch and we did weird things to existing photos. I’m just a teacher, not a graphic designer, but I’ve lost track of the hours and hours and hours I’ve spent inside Photoshop over the last 15+ years.
And here’s the thing about Photoshop. Heck, here’s the thing about pretty much all of Adobe’s products… the more I know, the more I realise I don’t know. Every time I learn some new technique or skill, the self-satisfied smug feeling of cleverness lasts about five seconds before I realise that there is just so much more I could know about it, that I could do with it. Whenever I taught kids a unit of work on Photoshop I used to conclude it with an in-class practical test, where I’d give them some images and a problem to solve – it might be to produce some CD cover artwork or a magazine cover, usually with a few constraints or requirements to make them have to think about it a little – and they’d just astound me at what they’d come up with. “Creative Suite” is a good name for these products, because they really do force you into creativity mode. Most of the time after one of these class tests, I’d spend the next few lessons getting the kids to deconstruct what they’d done, to teach me how they got certain effects. In my Photoshop classes I may have been the teacher, but we were all learners.
When I was offered a place in the Adobe Education Leaders program, I was thrilled to be part of it, and felt relatively well qualified to be part of it given that I’d spent over 15 years teaching Photoshop, Indesign, Dreamweaver and Flash to students. Of course, mixing with other AELs and seeing the fantastic things they do is a great way to reinforce just how little I do actually know, but it’s still been an incredibly valuable association for me.
I got thinking about this lately because I’ve been checking out the tutorials on the newly redesigned Adobe TV. It’s an awesome resource, with every application now having a Learn series, a set of basic tutorials that teach the essential skills required to get up to speed quickly… I wish this had been around when i started playing with Photoshop! As well as the Learn tutorials, there are a bunch of more advanced tutorials that delve into some of the trickier and more esoteric concepts.
And Adobe TV is not the only resource I turn to when I want to know more. There seems to be plenty of other places to learn the how-to stuff for Adobe’s products. Some of my favourites are the Layers TV podcast with Corey Barker and RC, the Creative Suite Podcast with Terry White, Creative Sweet TV with Mike McHugh, Instant Indesign with Gabriel Powell, The Russell Brown Show… the list goes on. I subscribe to all of these through iTunes and they just drop onto my iPhone for later watching. It’s a great way to learn. I’m sure there are many other fantastic resources for learning this stuff… perhaps you could leave a note in the comments about some of the resources you have found useful for learning.
Finally, I just wanted to mention a book I bought recently about Photoshop that is quite simply one of the most amazing Photoshop guides I’ve ever seen. It’s simply called Creative Photoshop CS4 by Derek Lea, and I’m just stunned at how incredible this guy is when it comes to Photoshop. I’ve been working my way through some of his exercises and have been discovering something new on almost every page. When you can use a product for over 15 years, and still constantly discover new things, it says a lot about the depth of the product and the open-ended nature of what it lets you do with it.
I realise more than ever that there is so much I don’t know about Photoshop (and most of the other Adobe products!) But I love that feeling of learning, of discovering, of digging deeper and just discovering that there really is no “bottom” to hit.
Image Attribution: ‘04.28.09 [#118] Feet Week – On the+Backs+of+Others’

5:56 PM Permalink
August 25, 2009

CourseMedia™ Interview with Dr. Devin K. Joshi

Dr. Devin K. Joshi is an Assistant Professor in the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver. This interview was conducted by Alex Karklins of the DU Center for Teaching and Learning regarding his use of CourseMedia™ as a faculty member.

DU CourseMedia™ is a course media management system that helps instructors organize and present media materials (images, video and audio). Instructors have access to large collection of art and world history images, library reserve videos and audio works.

2:24 PM Permalink
March 6, 2009

Supporting Cell Phones in Schools

Bill Gates has been quoted as saying (before iPhone) “The computer of the future will be the cellphone.” The implications for educators is profound, and should have us re-thinking our attitudes and acceptance of cell phones in the school. I am not blind to the fact that there are sometimes problems associated with the cellphone in the schools, but we should address those by addressing the behavior, not the object. We don’t take away a pencil the student is tapping, we address the tapping behavior.
As an administrator for highly at-risk students in a Cincinnati charter high school, I found it much easier to have students use Google SMS to look up words and definitions when they were struggling with reading than using a book. Very few of these students would be caught carrying books home, but they would use their cell phone to help complete assignments.
As we look at HOW cellphones may be implemented today, we also look at Adobe and their role. Captivate lets us easily create micro-content with quizzes, saved in Flash. Flash itself let’s students see, create and engage with interactive simulations and games that can have a profound effect on learning. Many Web 2.0 sites are built in Flash, and extend the capabilities of the cellphone beyond what we would have thought possible a few years ago.
The typical smartphone has camera, video, keyboard and voice inputs. It has, through Web 2.0 apps, text (Jott), voice (gabcast) and picture (Flickr) outputs. Starts sounding a lot like a computer doesn’t it? Where will that lead us?
To read more, see an article I wrote for the Florida Education Leadership magazine.
Mark Geary

2:45 PM Permalink
December 10, 2008

Ask Mr. Z Video Blog for Adobe Visual Communicator

The all new Ask Mr. Z Blog on is intended for educational users of Adobe Visual Communicator. Hosted by Adobe Education Leader & Community Expert Rob Zdrojewski, the video episodes and blog articles are based on user questions about creating school TV newscasts and class video projects across the curriculum. New episodes are released each month. Take a look and see if you have a question to Ask Mr. Z!
Episode 4- Preparing The Morning Newscast
Have a question or show suggestion? Ask Mr. Z HERE

9:53 AM Permalink
August 19, 2008

Electronic portfolios, digital assessment, and lesson planning with Adobe Acrobat

Today I received the August 2008, Volume 9 edition of the Adobe Education Campus e-newsletter (delivered via email). The newsletter contained links to some great instructional resources, including a link to a handful of resources for creating rich PDF student portfolios.
Topics include:

  • Creating electronic portfolios with Adobe Acrobat
  • Digital assessment with Adobe Acrobat
  • Generating lesson plans with Adobe Acrobat

Each topic includes nicely written directions with plenty of screen shots.
Resource Link

11:11 AM Permalink
August 6, 2008

Adobe Education eSeminar Series

The Adobe Education eSeminar Series begins August 14, 2008.
These free of charge online events will cover topics such as distance and eLearning projects using Acrobat 9, creating interactive PDF files, electronic portfolios for students and educators and much more.
The presentations will be conducted by Adobe education product experts and/or Adobe Education Leaders.
This is a great opportunity to learn from the experts right from your computer.
Details and registration

11:18 PM Permalink
July 27, 2007

Top Ten Tools for eLearning Practitioners

We had an awesome session yesterday with Silke Fleisher, Product Marketing Manager for Captivate, on the newest release of that particular eLearning application. Silke is always a terrific presenter and it was cool to see some of the new tools available in Captivate 3.
I suppose that has me thinking a bit about the entire topic of how eLearning content is developed and why a posting at Centre for Learning & Performance Technologies caught my eye. Top 10 Personal Favourite Tools provides a list from a number of eLearning practitioners from around the world and may reveal some new tools that you weren’t aware of. It’s interesting to see the many ways that different software and services are used to accomplish the same goals. Definitely worth a look!

9:43 AM Permalink