CHANGING DIGITAL TOOL SETS AND EDUCATION
Tools. Craftsmen love their tools. Without a proper set of tools, their jobs would take much longer, and probably would not be done as well. If you were to speak to someone who works with tools, they would tell you that they have favorite tools among their collection. You will hear a story about how they will use these favorite tools constantly, and utilize the rest only when necessary. The craftsman will covet and care for these tools, as old favorites just cannot be replaced with new ones and have the same feel in their hands.
When better tools do come about, the craftsman may give them a try. It may take a while, but the new tool probably will work just as well, and probably better than the old favorite. Suddenly, the craftsman has a new favorite tool, and has found that it saves time and produces solid work.
I spent many years working with hand tools as a jeweler. I have a set of favorite tools that are on the front of my bench. I have new ones that I bought along the way to replace the favorites, but they remain in the cupboard waiting for me to pick them up. One pair of pliers had been in my hands for over 30 years, the “needle nose” is long gone, ground down so many times to keep them sharp. One day I just could not get the tip into the spot I needed to get the work done. Out came the new ones and the job got done, quickly and cleanly. Out went the old ones.
My full time days as a jeweler have been replaced with digital media production and teaching the techniques. I have been having fun producing and teaching the skills to build websites, videos, digital graphics, etc. for over 12 years now. I have favorite tools and technologies for doing my work here as well (Ok, mostly Adobe’s toolset!). I have seen tools and technologies come and go during this time. Some of them I was very happy to watch disappear (Director), some I miss.
This industry is always changing. Learning never stops. There is always a new technology or “digital trinket” coming out that needs special treatment from us to work. Right now, our industry has been turned on its ear with so many new and evolving technologies that are coming out much faster than ever before. Technologies are here and in the hands of consumers that our current tool sets do not provide what we need to get our work done in a timely fashion. All of a sudden, I don’t have a tool (let alone a favorite tool) for some of the jobs I need to get done.
I teach in a community college’s Computer Information Systems department. Besides Microsoft Office, our classes include web design/development and the study of computer applications. The Adobe applications our department focuses on are Photoshop, Dreamweaver, Illustrator, InDesign, Premiere, and Flash (gone are Flex and Flash Catalyst). Right now, we are in a broil over how to proceed with our department and college web developer/designer certificates. It may take a student 3 (now with budget cuts maybe 4) years to get through the certificate program. Technologies are changing too fast to keep the certificates stable for that amount of time. If we do not change them, we risk becoming stale and out of date, providing an education that will not be what employers are looking for when the students graduate.
Our certificates dictate certain Adobe application classes are required be taken, with others as electives. When the landscape of application/technology choices change so fast, the certificates become out dated in months, not years. With the “death” of Flash as a web technology, Flex and Flash Catalyst were “killed” too. Flash I is still a requirement for our certificates, Flash II is an elective. Flex and Flash Catalyst are also electives. Our certificates are becoming “littered” with technologies that are not pertinent, and missing the ones that have become so.
Schools and technology departments must make an effort to plan the new methodology for teaching the new workflows at a speed equaling the various technologies release, a plan to embrace the tools that will provide the modern skillsets for our students. The college’s ability to provide pertinent certificates will require some study and discussion to come up with an answer that will allow the fast pace of change.
Loving our tools means we love to work. Sometimes, even when it is so difficult, we must leave the tools we love and embrace the new ones. A modern web requires modern tools.