Waiting for Superman
Schools across our nation are facing a dropout crisis. The cost to our nation both in loss of potential for learning, unemployment, government assistance, and becoming incarcerated is high. Creative student driven projects using technology tools provides them with a platform to develop their own voice, a self-concept, a reason to learn and grow and find personal success. The student may get an “A” out of the class he or she has a connection and passion for and carry this momentum of personal enlightenment all the way to graduation. However, many of these same students who find a spark buckle under the load of graduation requirements, academic, career/college, and personal/social challenges while in school. These same students may be identified as students at risk of dropping out, they may need additional school/community interventions to make it through school, and continued monitoring of their progress towards graduation. These vulnerable students may find a strong connection with a gifted teacher in real-time while in the classroom, helping them not fall through the cracks. However, the school system they may be connected with does not have the technological infrastructure and software products to help the whole school staff and the community to identify them at an early age, recommend interventions based in research, and monitor their progress towards graduation. A Superman and/or Superwomen (RIA) developer could be out there to bring real time information to the school system, develop an early warning system, provide a display system to monitor the whole student while in school, and link interventions to research. The idea is to put new innovative RIA applications in the hands of students, school practitioners, teachers, administrators, superintendents, and school board members. Most of our schools are using student information systems that display or report student data as an autopsy. Online standardized grades books may be the closest example of real-time data, but academic student monitoring is only one layer to a complex set of analytics needed to carry out and monitor a school improvement plan. Is the idea of mining data and exporting it into an excel spreadsheet to be real-time monitoring of student progress (graduation requirements, test scores, attendance, behavior, GPA)? By the time someone mines the data and exports it into a spreadsheet and gives it to a school principal, superintendent, or school board member, the data has become outdated. The students may have already dropped out. The frameworks of Ajax and Flex and tools of Flex Builder and CS5 may be the superpowers needed for the next superman and/or superwomen educator. I will keep looking up into the clouds, waiting for an education superhero to bring us a new set of applications that can run, monitor, and alert us in real-time.
Posts in Category "Global Collaboration"
Waiting for Superman
Adobe Acrobat Connect Pro is an awesome service for presenting and collaborating at a distance. Unfortunately, not a lot of people at the University of Denver (and other universities, I’d imagine) have a Connect Pro license and have to look elsewhere for such services. In preparing for the H1N1 Influenza virus, faculty actually have a lot of options beyond setting up a standard Blackboard course. Adobe offers some great free tools to help users collaborate across great distances.
One of the services provided by Adobe is called ConnectNow, which actually shares a lot of functionality with Connect Pro. You won’t be able to conduct an entire class with the service (as it only supports a limited number of connection per room) but you can share your desktop, take control of a student machine to work through a problem, and it includes rich whiteboarding and chat tools.
Couple this with Buzzword, Presentations, and other Acrobat.com tools, and you can easily conduct your course at a distance in the event of student or faculty illness. I’m fortunate enough to have a Connect Pro account and conduct all my office hours through that service.
Today’s faculty have a set of really robust, free tools at our disposal and should take full advantage of whichever ones complement our specific courses.
I’m finally back home from a fantastic week in San Jose at the Adobe Summer Institute. The Summer Institute is a 5 day conference/workshop event run by Adobe’s Education division for members of their global Adobe Education Leaders program. I was inducted into the AEL program last year but was unable to attend the 2008 event in San Francisco. This year I was determined to attend the San Jose event and I’m really glad I went.
When you do in fact know a fair bit about technology and how to use it, it becomes harder to find professional development experiences that challenge and extend you. One of the reasons I was so keen to attend the Summer Institute was that I felt it would push me to learn more and build on some of the knowledge I already have. Having been a Photoshop user for many years, and spending many hours inside programs like InDesign (and PageMaker before that) and having taught Flash and Dreamweaver to students, I’ve always been quite immersed in Adobe’s Creative Suite, but the nature of these tools always seems to be such that the more you know about them, the more you realise you don’t know.
The other AELs came mainly from all over the US, with quite a few from the UK and a handful from other places like New Zealand, Hong Kong and Belgium. I was the only Aussie. We started the week on Monday evening with a Welcome Party at our hotel where we got to meet the other AELS and some of the folk from Adobe. It was good to meet new people and make new connections.
Tuesday started early for me with a Photoshop exam. This was taken as part of the Adobe Certified Associate, a recognised certification for Photoshop users. Happily, I passed the exam without too much trouble. The rest of Tuesday was filled with meeting with the Adobe product teams, where we got to hear about future product roadmaps, learn about upcoming features and directions for the Creative Suite, and to offer suggestions for how we thought the products could be improved. Parts of the day were done under NDA so I can’t really go into details, but suffice to say there will be plenty of exciting new stuff coming from Adobe in the next year or two. Dinner that night was held at Saratoga Springs, a lovely camping ground in the hills surrounding Silicon Valley, and we had fun and games with some hilarious variations on team volleyball played with water-filled balloons.
Wednesday was filled with AEL to AEL sessions – workshops where we presented to each other many of the things we were doing in our own schools and districts. Watching these sessions, it really struck me what an intensely creative and passionate group of educators this was. Although not everything was directly relevant to my own teaching situation, I still got tons of great ideas from the sharing that took place. Collaborative projects, experimental ideas based on art, design and creativity, ideas for streamlining school administration, examples of how teachers do things in other parts of the world… we got all sorts of cool ideas from these AEL sessions. After a full day of learning from each other, we regrouped in the Adobe Cafeteria for a delicious dinner and drinks, where more sharing and conversation took place in a relaxed casual atmosphere. I was quite amazed as we watched the planes fly over the Adobe building, which was directly in the landing path of San Jose airport, seeming to clear the top of the building with only a few hundred feet to spare. A few of us kicked on to a bar in downtown San Jose where the conversations continued into the night, only louder.
Thursday was another full day of learning, with a intense session run by Adobe’s John Schuman. We learned many of the very cool features in the software tools, and in particular how to make them work together smoothly. Our project required us to integrate our work across Photoshop, Dreamweaver, Flash, Fireworks, InDesign and Bridge as we roundtripped files between the various tools. In each of the applications we discovered lots of useful workflows and there were quite a few new concepts that I hadn’t come across before. The last part of the day took us into a project using Flash Catalyst, a relatively new product still in beta, that makes it much easier for designers to create interactive content. I’m still getting my head around Catalyst, but it looks like a great tool for rapidly designing interactive media without the need to know heavy-duty coding stuff.
Thursday night was good fun, with a night out to a local San Jose pool hall. By this stage we had gotten to know each other a little better, so it was cool to hang out, shoot some pool and have still more conversations about learning and life. The night finished while it was still young, as the pool tables were reclaimed at the stroke of 9:00pm. A few of us wandered across the road to another party that looked like it would be fun. I turned out to be an Open Source party, sponsored by Source Forge. With free drinks (free as in “beer” – I thought that was hilarious at an Open Source event), tatoos getting done in the basement (no, I didn’t get one), as well as Twitter stations, free T-shirt giveaways from the good folk at ThinkGeek, guys playing with Star Wars light sabres, people wearing infra-red night vision goggles, etc, it was a truly geeky event… I loved it!
Friday morning was the last day of the conference and I’d arranged to do another certification exam, this time in Dreamweaver. Although I’ve used Dreamweaver a lot in the past, I hadn’t used it much lately so wasn’t feeling too confident in my ability to pass this exam. However, I did pass, and since I had a bit of time to spare at the end I decided to have a crack at the remaining exam for Flash. This one I really wasn’t too confident about, since I haven’t used Flash much in the last 12 months and there are some big changes to the CS4 version. Even so, I surprised myself by passing the Flash exam too, so I was feeling pretty pleased that I managed to get my certification in Photoshop, Dreamweaver and Flash all in the same week.
The rest of Friday morning was a general wrap up of the event, with feedback and a debriefing session between the AELs and the Adobe folk. It was kind of sad to have it all come to an end, but we eventually said our goodbyes and all went our separate ways. The sessions were all recorded with Adobe Connect, as well as a ton of Twitter, Flickr and Delicious resources all tagged with ael09, so at least there is a decent electronic record of the sessions.
I didn’t have to be at the airport until quite late so myself and Saiqa, another AEL from London, decided to rent a car and do some Silicon Valley sightseeing. We dropped in on the headquarters of Apple and Google, then headed in to San Francisco for some last minute sightseeing around Fisherman’s Wharf before getting back to SFO airport for our late flights.
Overall, a great week and one I’d be keen to do again. Thanks Adobe for running and hosting the event, especially to Megan Stewart and her team who did a great job of making sure the program went off perfectly. Great conference, can’t wait to get back next year!
Wow- Adobe Labs keeps coming up with new tools that free education to focus on the CONTENT of learning, not the tools and limitations of shared resources. With just five minutes of playing with Presentations in the Adobe Labs I could see numerous classroom applications.
I work in a high-poverty school that shares just a few technology resources among a large list of classrooms. The Presentations tool has many of the same attributes of Buzzword in that I can have students collaboratively work on a project. With just one laptop or computer in the classroom or if I have the entire set of laptops from our cart, students can focus on the content of the presentation. We don’t have to worry about WHERE the original file is saved, which laptop it was saved to, or trying to access a server that the updated files might or might not have been saved to.
Adobe has just helped the collaboration process- this tool is easy enough to use that with just some basic training students can start the creation process.
The concept of building online educational communities is a rapidly evolving one. These emerging and new communities are taking on forms like user groups and blogs. I have a strong belief in using technology to build relationships and connect people together. I have to admit I was not too excited about blogging when I first become an Adobe Education Leader. I would rather be using Adobe Acrobat Connect Professional to connect with people and exchange ideas. However, I have turned a new leaf and have started to enjoy the experience of blogging and contributing to my educational community. In the spirit of promoting what I believe, I would like to make everyone aware of another Adobe Education Blog organized by a band of experienced Adobe Systems Professionals. I believe they have been featured in the past on this blog site, however, we have just added to our Adobe Education Leadership program with our Higher Education AEL’s and this site is always available to all K-12 and Higher Education Educators. I have provided a link below to their site and you may want to bookmark it for the future to find new and innovative ways to use technology to help improve our educational system.
Adobe Education Technologies Blog Site