Posts in Category "General"

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.

10:13 PM Permalink
March 11, 2012

Extraordinary work from NSW Art students

In New South Wales, Australia; students who study art in their senior high school years have the opportunity to have their assessment submissions displayed at a number of prestigious galleries, notably the New South Wales Art Gallery and other galleries such as the Armory at Newington, Hazelhurst Gallery, Newcastle Art Gallery, University of Western Sydney, Wollongong City Gallery to name a few. The exhibitions are chosen from selections of works that were at the top range of the marking scale. Students whose works were pre-selected are then placed into a pool of works from which gallery curators make their selections. The Arts, and in this case Visual Arts are a valued part of the educational curriculum in NSW. Out of the approximately 80,000 students that sat for this years HSC (Higher School Certificate) 10,000 or so chose Visual Art as one of their HSC subjects and submitted Bodies of Work as part of their assessment. Of those 10,000 about 200 were chosen to have their works exhibited across a number of Galleries and exhibition spaces in Metropolitan Sydney and regional NSW. There isn’t anything comparable to it anywhere else in Australia or on the planet. This is certainly a model for Art education that should be looked at seriously by any country that wants to give their high school students a rich and immersive experience in Visual Art. As an art educator and an AEL it’s so pleasing to be a part of this extraordinary process and; last but not least, spot where Photoshop and Illustrator feature in the student works.

“ARTEXPRESS is an exhibition of bodies of work by secondary school students submitted for the Higher School Certificate examination in Visual Arts in New South Wales, Australia” @Board of Studies NSW.

View my post at R.E.W.I.R.E.D

Images courtesy of ArtExpress @ Art Gallery of NSW

8:41 AM Permalink
January 5, 2012

Self expression is healing

Self expression is healing . I know this because my students show me how true this is every year when they make their films.

For the record, not all of their pieces are like this, thank you! But every year there are students who come forward to tell me about their Adobe Youth Voices projects and I am frequently moved to tears by the hardships they are experiencing. There is the young lady whose aunt is an alcoholic – with unpleasant consequences, and the student wants to talk about this in an audio podcast and poster. There are the two students who discovered they had both been subjected to emotional abuse for years and they want to make a film about this. Then there is the student who cannot live at home – mom is a “bit of an addict” and dad – well, living with dad is simply not possible. She lives with a friend.  She is considering doing a piece about this experience. I am moved in ways that reach deep into my soul. I am overwhelmed that so much hardship goes on around us, in good old middle class Canada. And then I am honoured to be trusted such that they would want to talk about these issues with me and that leaves me feeling overwhelmed with the responsibility of seeing these projects through to fruition while also asking constantly… “Are you comfortable sharing all of this with the world?” because the students must also be protected.

I think about the software we use – Adobe Photoshop Elements 9 and Adobe Premier Elements 9 and I wonder if the software engineers ever think about what their programs address and create. If they were to see what goes on in my class as these projects gently unfold and grow, I suspect they would be amazed and perhaps, overwhelmed. It is truly awesome to watch and to nurture and mentor this whole process. I bet they never talked about this in engineering class. But this is what they are helping to create through their software. Thank you to all the engineers – you make great things possible. And out of some of that, comes healing. The healing that can only emerge from the release from some of your troubles and issues. It is a very neat journey. If any engineers read this, please be sure to pass it along to your comrades. And smile at what you help make possible. As for me – I am delighted that all of this is going on. I can’t change their pasts but I can certainly help to change their futures, and isn’t that what education is all about?

10:04 PM Permalink
December 28, 2011

Introduction and ponderings on James’ Tar Pit

Hello James et al.  A very interesting and thought provoking commentary on our ever changing quest for knowledge, albeit Canadian.  I suspect that most teachers in western countries feel much the same. I pondered responding directly to your Tar Pit piece James but thought that an introduction was in order.

Before commenting, I would like to first introduce myself, mainly to contextualise my response.

My name is Deb Whittington and I am a Lecturer in vocational studies in the Printing & Graphic Arts Training Package at Central Institute of Technology in Western Australia.  Training Packages have been created for all core industry groups at a National level in Australia in a partnership between Learning Providers, Industry and the Federal Government, and constitute minimum knowledge and skills required by industry.

They are at once both simpler and harder than traditional curriculum, and contain units of competence, each with their own elements of competence with criteria.  Students are assessed both on-the-job and/or in a simulated workplace, as competent or not yet competent.  There is no pass mark.  Pure and simple – you can either do it, or you can’t.  You either have the knowledge, or you don’t.  The acquisition of knowledge, understanding and competence is overseen by workplace trainers and assessors with significant, high level experience and knowledge.  I occupy that position with tenure.

Training Packages do not replace traditional high school, though many schools are now opting to deliver simulated workplace training and assessment as a vocational alternative to traditional, academic studies.

I must first say that I am by no means a traditional academic!

People talk about life long learning.  I have been blessed with a moderately high intellect, and have been greedily learning all that I could on subjects that have fascinated me since I was 3 years old.  I am now 57 and I still feel that I am in a lolly shop full of knowledge and there is not enough time to explore and learn all that I would like.  But like many young people today, I need a better reason to learn than that it is “what is required”.

I’m fascinated by Jungian type theory and it’s role as a potential tool to understanding and nurturing aptitude and talent, with particular regard to left-brain/right-brain balance skills such as graphic technologies.  In terms of MBTI and Keirsey’s Temperament Theory, my own preferences are towards INTP with balanced I/E, moderate preferences for T over F and P over J, and very strong preferences for N over S.  I have no S preferences on testing.

With your indulgence I will later post some of my observations, hypotheses and discussions over the past 10 years relating to learning, technologies, design and type (as in typology) preferences.  I believe there are some very interesting correlations between the epidemic, modern diagnosis of AD/HD and Dyslexia, and aptitude for learning, technology and creativity.  This has been supported in discussion with a number of learning gurus.

In response to your piece James, there is a plethora of information available as a result of the technologies of today, BUT I believe our role as educators and trainers is to provide guidance through that minefield of often insufficient or inaccurate information, to teach students to question everything, have faith in themselves, to have the joy of curiosity (or as noted Nobel physicist, Richard Feynman’s book suggests – “The Pleasure of Finding Things Out”), and to synthesise and provide context for their learning rather than pursue the old rote learning those of my age were often subjected to at school.  We need to teach them to make informed decisions from a sound understanding.

At the beginning of each semester I ask my students who is there for the piece of paper, and who is there for the knowledge and understanding.  Interestingly, to me at least, those who say they want the piece of paper, frequently do not achieve it.  Those, however, who aspire to the knowledge and understanding, are often their own worst taskmasters, and rarely fail at achieving the piece of paper.

We must return I believe to where knowledge and understanding, and provision of sound reason for methodology, are again the prime target of we educators and trainers.  The other will follow.

10:22 AM Permalink
December 5, 2011

Lens Correction and more in Lightroom 3.5

One of my favourite features in the current version of Lightroom is the ability to apply automatically detected lens profiles to make corrections to images. After years of manually correcting barrel distortion in Photoshop, I can now make these corrections with one click. An incredible time saver for myself and my students.

Each year our photography students produce a photo book using Blurb Books as part of their final year portfolio. The workflow between Lightroom and Blurb’s desktop software is now tighter than ever. Some while ago, Blurb released a plugin for Lightroom that allows you export directly to your book template from within Lightroom. You can also re-edit your images directly from Lightroom and see the updated changes in your Blurb template. Added to this you can customise your layout, change your image order, edit text, and make two-page photo spreads from inside Lightroom. For our students this makes Lightroom the ideal companion for their book projects. Combining this with soft proofing using Blurb’s ICC profile in Photoshop, (whilst a round trip out of the workflow) can yield good results on calibrated monitors.

See lens correction samples  here

1:08 AM Permalink
July 11, 2011

THE DARK SIDE AND THE BRIGHT SIDE OF WHAT WE DO

THE DARK SIDE AND THE BRIGHT SIDE OF OUR DIGITAL WORLD

There is a dark side to our digital world and it is called cyber-bullying. Our intervention is required.

Cyber-bullying is lethal but I did not appreciate the depths of this reality until I looked it in the face and saw the upset and nightmares it creates. I had read the articles about cyber-bullying. I had watched a video. I thought I was aware but I was wrong. It was only when it faced me directly, when one of my students was taken down that horrible path, that I fully understood what it is and why it must be addressed. It is the dark side of our digital world.

The student in question is a very quiet, intelligent, accomplished person, with wonderful friends and a bright clear future. When this student was away for many classes, I worried. The Guidance department then sent out a note to the student’s teachers explaining that medical issues prevented this young person from attending school and since it was near the end of the year would we each please contact mom and help the student to complete the year successfully, understanding that the student was not capable of doing everything normally at least for the time being.

I called mom – and learned the horrible truth. Her child had been the victim of a vicious cyber-bullying attack. This wonderful, quiet, young person was talking about suicide. Not as a “drama queen/king”, but quietly, intelligently… and that is when mom and dad sought emergency counselling and started round-the-clock care so their child would never be alone. When I was on the phone with mom she completely broke down. She was in tears, I had tears running down my face, and it suddenly was all too real. When I suggest that “lethal” is the only word to describe cyber-bullying, I truly mean it.

When I called mom I had a game plan in mind. I do house calls. I don’t do them very often, and I always have parental permission before I “drop in” and it occurred to me that this was the time for one of those visits – if the student could not come to me then I would go to them and the family agreed to this. It is very difficult to explain what it is like to see a warm, caring young person who used to look so good now looking like they were in Hell, but that’s what faced me. I said I was there to provide support and to show that their child meant the world to me. I didn’t care about the academics – they had a fabulous track record in my class and further work was not needed. I had taken the time to come over to prove that this teenager was a very important person and had every reason to live. That was why mom allowed me to come over. That was my whole message. The visit lasted about an hour. There were warm hugs all round, many tears were wept, some anger was vented, some details were shared. And I learned at point blank range just how destructive and horrible cyber-bullying is. Not “can be”, not “could be”… “is.” Period.

Teens don’t have a lot of inner resources with which to deal with life’s challenges and their executive function – well – it’s just not at an “executive” level yet. They depend heavily on their friends and peers for their identities and the internet is a large part of this. Watch some teens on their phones and you’ll see how distraught they become when they miss part of an online texting conversation. Not all teens do this at this level, but many do, and cyber-bullying preys on that vulnerability and dependence.
We do amazing things with amazing kids and it is a privilege and an honour to be a part of their world. Being allowed into someone’s home is an even greater honour and for that I offer a heartfelt thanks to that family. Thank you for letting me in. I am glad I could help in some small way. Like the title says, there is a dark side to our digital world and we must address it directly. It is time to create a curriculum that helps to undo the dark side. Please send your thoughts and comments – I would like to hear what you are doing in this regard.

Fortunately, there is also a bright side to our digital world. It is called student success. Here are a few examples from my past year of teaching.

Working in multimedia is wonderful and each year there are moments when we see kids succeed in ways that only these media allow. One young fellow has many learning challenges. Doing academic work is difficult for him. He tries but it’s not usually very successful. He was bailing on all of his classes, including mine… and then he completed his music video. What a breakthrough! He worked with a few friends and put together a movie using Premier Elements 9.0 and suddenly the storyteller that is locked away inside this young man was revealed. The video was far from perfect but it was a fabulous statement from him. I love Premier Elements because it does so much and is so accessible. Another student worked with her partner to tell the story of a monster that stole people’s dreams. Hours and hours of filming and scripting and editing (again in Premier Elements 9.0) finally came together in their labour of love. They were justifiably proud of their accomplishment. Over and over again I watched students tell stories and comment on their lives through the videos and posters they were making. The power of multimedia was very much in evidence all around my classroom lab. It was a joy to see the tools of our trade being used to create healthy, productive projects. As I look back on the year I was reminded that most kids in most situations do indeed do the right thing. When I was dealing with the cyber-bullying situation I needed to remember this.

My year ended on a strong up note when the bullied student showed up at school on report card day (they were back!!!) to say a very warm and deeply felt, thank you. It doesn’t get any better than that. I hope your year has been as warm and nurturing.

6:37 PM Permalink
June 30, 2011

AN ULTIMATE EXAM, PHOTOSHOP ELEMENTS 9 AND SUCCESS

An ultimate exam – can there be such a thing? If it is in a high school senior design class is the Adobe Digital School Collection up to the task? ABSOLUTELY – on both counts. My classes did it and the results were fabulous.

Our principal explained she needed a favour. She was the volunteer chair of our school board’s United Way campaign for 2011-2012 and she needed new posters for the campaign. The posters would be printed and distributed throughout the board (no small deal – we are one of the largest school boards in Canada) . I love authentic tasks. Having spent 20 years in ad agencies and design firms before moving into teaching I know the difference between textbook work and “real” assignments and this opportunity was incredibly real. Each year I have several students who are move into the design field in post secondary programs and for them to have first class published work in their portfolios would be fantastic.

To make it interesting I chose to do the posters as the final exam project in my senior design classes. Our provincial ministry of education allows us the freedom to create our final exams in whatever form best suits our courses and students and for me that always involves a practical design assignment. After all, we are a project driven, student centered creating, solving, building, testing and evaluating class so why not get the students to do exactly that as part of their exam. The challenge built in to this, however, is that because the poster assignment was being presented as an exam I would not be able to offer all of the feedback and assistance I would normally offer in a regular assignment. But – I had promised fabulous posters for my principal to use for the campaign. Would I be able to deliver as promised?

The software we use is the Photoshop Elements 9.0 (with Premier Elements 9.0, and Web Standard CS4 – Dreamweaver, Fireworks and Flash Pro). My senior students have repeatedly confirmed that this version of Photoshop is more than up to the task. So many tools and functionalities have been carried over from the CS4 version that it has become a powerhouse of its own. A full slate of layers functions – layer blends, clipping masks, layer masks – plus a broad range of colour functions and selection functions as well as a full range of filters means that there isn’t much you can’t do in this version. Obviously it is not the same as Photoshop CS4 or CS5, but it isn’t a pale junior version either – it holds its own and produces wonderful results. For high school classes getting into digital design I find it is a very accessible and accomplished tool.

A quick side note, should you chose to do this type of assignment – I helped many of the students with the words for the posters. We are not a creative writing class, we’re a design class, so helping them with the text really eased their concerns and allowed them to focus on what was important – their designs. Photos came from www.morguefile.com only – it allows users to use the images in almost any way imaginable and that was important to me since the school board was printing and distributing the posters and copyright issues could not interfere with this process. As part of this assignment the students also had to learn and meet the requirements of logo use for both the United Way and for our school board – yet another authentic element built into the project.

So – how did it all work out? My grade 11 classes created two posters each – one for an adult audience and one for a student audience (their choice of age range – elementary, middle school or high school). The grade 12’s did a similar assignment but had three posters to do – they also had to create a poster using typography (no illustration or photo). In all 200 posters were created – and I was delighted by the results! I presented the top 21 designs to our principal and she was totally blown away. She wanted to use all of them! Our superintendant was equally impressed and I was delighted. It had worked. A real task with a real client and a real deadline and real requirements. THIS was an ultimate exam – and in a few weeks I will learn which posters the committee has chosen so they can be prepped and printed.

One last important note. Like every other teacher I have students who bail part way through a course. It happens and sometimes you can try to overcome this but…. Well – apparently word got out to all of the students, including those who had not attended regularly, because every single student participated in the exam assignment. AND I am very pleased to say that included in that group of the top 21 designs were designs from the peripheral students. A couple of them had really come through and their work was exemplary. And isn’t that why we do what we do in our classrooms every day?

10:52 AM Permalink
April 24, 2011

CodeBass Radio: Runtime Expectations Interview with Joseph Labrecque

Adrian Pomilio interviews Joseph Labrecque at 360|Flex in Denver, CO – April 2011.

I was interviewed for the Runtime Expectations internet radio show while at 360|Flex in Denver. It was great chatting with Adrian and we touched upon many subjects over the course of the interview. Quite a bit of the discussion focuses on education and the challenges that come with teaching technical subjects and the complications that come with teaching online classes. Jump to around 19:50 in the recording to listen to that portion, specifically.

Also discussed during the interview: music composition, book and tutorial authoring, the AEL and ACP programs with Adobe, mobile development, and the sad state of tech journalism.

I encourage anyone interested to  check out the other interviews from 360|Flex including John Wilker, the Nielsen Company, and Mollie Rusher of On3!

What is Runtime Expectations?
Join Ben Farrell, Adrian Pomilio, and Bucky Schwarz as they broadcast live from Cuban Revolution in downtown Durham, NC with a beer in one hand and a mic in the other.  They’ll be covering all the aspects of software development that compel them to put a beer in that first hand. Shows feature both live guests and call-ins.


Follow Joseph on Twitter: http://twitter.com/josephlabrecque

Follow Adrian on Twitter: http://twitter.com/adrianpomilio

5:58 PM Permalink
April 10, 2011

The Cell Phone Experiment – Part 1

My goal – to finally bring cell phones and their amazing technology into the classroom as working tools, instead of as working distractions. This idea initially came to me a few years ago but the world was clearly not ready. “Get those things out of our classrooms!” cried many, many teachers and administrators. And who can blame them. Students were clearly distracted by them and demonstrated very little restraint (if indeed, any restraint at all) in using them even though they were strongly instructed to turn them off and put them away. Now – years later, there is no improvement in student behaviour, but something else has changed. We, the great collective “we”, being teachers, administrators and superintendants, seem to be finally realizing two important developments. First, phones are not going away. Period. Secondly, these phones and all of the devices yet to come, are only going to become more capable and even more commonplace. In our own high school we have recently had to revise the school’s Code of Conduct to reflect these changing times and realities.

When I told one of our vice-prinicipals that I wanted to utilize cell phones and their built in cameras as sources of images for videos the students were doing in class, she was positively interested. THAT was not an answer I would have received a few years ago. Her only concern was that many of my students would therefore be out in the halls filming and shooting. I came up with a solution to that – press passes. The students and I would create a version of a hall pass but it would be labelled, Press Pass and would state that the student wearing this pass was one of mine and had certain responsibilities and it included my class phone number so another teacher could immediately call me and complain or comment. As it happens, it was not the use of the cell phones that killed that part of my process. We have had a run of incidents with too many students out and about in our hallways so when I approached our prinicipal about this experiment she was accepting of my use of the cell phones but not of the students in the halls. All of their shooting would have to be done outside of school, which actually worked out well for the project. What was very interesting was that she then told me about the upcoming changes to the Code of Conduct based in part on requests like mine to make positive use of these machines in school. Clearly not all teachers are in favour of this shift but when my department met to discuss the proposed changes to the Code of Conduct, they supported my experiment and wrote in the required changes for me. The change I am after allows a teacher to use a cell phone camera in class. Previously we were told that was illegal… and now I am just waiting for final confirmation that the changes are accepted and passed. Change apparently takes a long, long time. Still.

But here is the kicker – I am having a huge problem getting the students to use their phone cameras for the project. I never expected this to be a challenge. I tried and tried to understand the reasons for this attitude, with no success. Then one day a student needed help with a particularly difficult picture so I brought in my Pentax K10 semi-pro DSLR. His comment when he saw the pics I took was, “Those are legit.” And that, it seems, is part of the problem. Cell phone cameras are not legit. Big DSLR cameras are legit. The movie cameras I have in my classroom with their microphones on top and cables and such are legit. They look, “pro”. Cell phones are not “pro”. They are commonplace and they are entertainment. The fact that many cell phones are much better than little point-and-shoot cameras is lost on these students.

At this point in the proceedings I am still confident that as we become increasingly engaged in this project, the students will buy into the use of their phone cameras and they will start to realize that “legit” comes in many, many forms. Funny – I thought it would our administration that might stall the project. As I said – I remain optimistic. We’ll get there.

Where to from here? One student is finally using his cell phone to shoot images for his storyboard – he is doing a digital storyboard. When I told him he was welcome to put together a digital version he was delighted! I guess it never occured to him that that would be possible. Funny how these digital kids can be so cautious about some things while launching into new apps and technology a the same time.

9:23 PM Permalink
April 7, 2011

Changing Education Paradigms – Sir Ken Robinson

I thought I would share this animated youtube video of Sir Ken Robinson talking about reforming public education.  Sir Ken has some interesting views on our current education systems and the problems we all face. Through the use of animation and his wry sense of humour he asks some very challenging questions about how we deliver education and what the future may hold. Please click on the link below.

Changing Education Paradigms

“Sir Ken Robinson, PhD is an internationally recognized leader in the development of creativity, innovation and human resources. He has worked with governments in Europe, Asia and the USA, with international agencies, Fortune 500 companies, and some of the world’s leading cultural organizations. In 1998, he led a national commission on creativity, education and the economy for the UK Government. ‘All Our Futures: Creativity, Culture and Education’ (The Robinson Report) was published to wide acclaim in 1999.

For twelve years, he was Professor of Education at the University of Warwick in the UK and is now Professor Emeritus. He has received honorary degrees from the Open University and the Central School of Speech and Drama; Birmingham City University, Rhode Island School of Design, Ringling College of Art and Design and the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts. He has been honored with the Athena Award of the Rhode Island School of Design for services to the arts and education; the Peabody Medal for contributions to the arts and culture in the United States, and the Benjamin Franklin Medal of the Royal Society of Arts for outstanding contributions to cultural relations between the United Kingdom and the United States. In 2005 he was named as one of Time/Fortune/CNN’s Principal Voices. In 2003, he received a knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II for his services to the arts. He speaks to audiences throughout the world on the creative challenges facing business and education in the new global economies.”

Phil Beards April 2011

8:08 PM Permalink