Archive for February, 2008

February 21, 2008

2008 Adobe School Innovation Awards Competition

Adobe just released information regarding the 2008 Adobe School Innovation Awards. The theme this year is “My Community – My Planet – My 21st Century.” The competition is open to high school students in grades 9-12.
Students can submit entries in three categories:
-Web Design & Development
-Film & Video
-Graphic and Print Design
Prizes include software, cash, a laptop computer, and a trip to NECC being held in San Antonio, Texas.
For more information…

10:52 AM Permalink
February 15, 2008

What if…you could Photoshop your way into the Googleplex?

Well you can! That is if you are a K-12 student and live in the United States. Google is currently running a competition to design a “Google Doodle” that embodies the spirit of “What if…?”
Not only can you win a pass into the Googleplex, but you can also win a $10,000 college scholarship, a laptop computer, and a t-shirt that sports your doodle. If you are the grand prize winner Google will also hand over a $25,000 grant towards improving, or establishing, a computer lab at your school (sure to put a smile on your principal’s face).
Crayons are acceptable, but Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, Illustrator, and Fireworks are way cooler! They even have provided a digital template to get you started.

9:23 AM Permalink

Five Tips for Combating Home Movie Mediocrity

1.Tell a story.
Instead of simply burning a DVD of your kid’s soccer game (BORING) capture the highlights from the entire season and create a documentary. The NFL does a great job at this. They are able to take snippets of video throughout the season, add narration and music, and turn it into a compelling story. Of course having a voice like John Facenda (the voice of NFL Films) certainly helps.
2.Don’t Focus Only on the Positive
Success is great! Heck, who doesn’t like to succeed? However, some of the best selling NFL videos document football follies! Try incorporating a bit of life’s struggles into your videos; failure is often times waaaaay more interesting than success (at least on video).
3.Tell the “Rest of the Story”
Senior Jason McElwain scored 20 points for his high school basketball team. Big deal…that is until you hear the rest of the story. Jason was the team’s manager, not a player, and is autistic. His coach, Jim Johnson decided to add Jason to the roster for the last game of the season, entitling Jason to a basketball jersey and hopefully some play time. Jason went on to score twenty points in four minutes, and won his way into the hearts of sports fans across the nation. Without the details…you have no emotion!
– see the video on YouTube
4.Take the Road Less Traveled
My cousin invited me to watch a video of his honeymoon in San Francisco. I rolled my eyes, sighed, and prepared myself for home video boredom. It turns out that Matt and Julie are a bit more adventurous than your average honeymooners. At each location they would walk up to the locals and interview them (think Jay Leno’s “Man on the Street”). The best part of the tape documented Matt finagling a turn on a street performer’s drum set. It was both funny and interesting. It didn’t hurt that they spent a bit of time in post production cutting out the boring parts, adding music, and highlighting the interesting stuff.
5.Add Humor
I taught middle school and junior high science for six years. Hands down the best instructional videos were those starring Bill Nye the Science Guy. He seemed to have a short 20 minute, highly engaging video for just about every topic I taught. He incorporated humor and wacky (but relevant) experiments into every episode. The students and I loved Bill Nye.
So there you have it. My five tips for combating movie mediocrity. Anybody else care to share?

8:01 AM Permalink
February 14, 2008

Mondrianum – Kuler for Mac applications

Lithoglyph’s Mondrianum, formerly known as CocoaKuler, is a powerful plug-in that enables Mac applications to leverage the resources of the kuler community. Once installed, Mondrianum acts like a built-in, system-wide color picker, available in any Mac application that supports this feature of Mac OS X. Apple’s own iWork™ and iLife® suites, Google Sketchup™, Adobe® Photoshop®, and renowned applications like Coda, CSSEdit, and many more, all work well with Mondrianum.
Mondrianum combines the best of the community content on kuler and the nativeness of Mac applications.

11:00 AM Permalink
February 13, 2008

TCEA Conference and Designing with Style Sheets (or not)

Austin is a great city. The music and food are fantastic, the people friendly, and the traffic…well; umm…they’re working on it. Last week’s TCEA conference lived up to the high Austin standards I have come to expect. The event was well attended, offered many great workshops, and hosted a football-sized field of computer and technology vendors. Of course Adobe had a large presence and their booth was always jammed full of conference goers hoping to learn about the latest Adobe magic.
I had the opportunity to present three Adobe-themed workshops: Dreamweaver, Acrobat, and Photoshop. Each session was well attended by a slew of enthusiastic educators chomping at the bit to add to their bag of tricks. Yep, it was one whirl-wind of a week, and judging from the twinkle in their eyes, I would have to say that their students are in for some exciting stuff.
Now that I have had a few days to recover from my “Austin experience,” I can’t help but to think about the strange transition that is taking place regarding web design in education. The professional design community has been going through the CSS change for about 8 years now, but designing pages using Cascading Style Sheets has only recently trickled down into the high school web and multimedia classes. In fact, many teachers in the session were not familiar with the term CSS or had only just begin dabbling with learning how to use Cascading Style Sheets.
I like to “feel out” the skill level of my audience, so when I started to speak about CSS and eyes started to glaze over, I quickly switched gears and started teaching table-based layouts. Yep…I sold out. Much like a science teacher refusing to teach that Pluto is now a planetoid, I sold out.
About two years ago I decided to ditch table based layout and go strictly with CSS. Frankly, the transition was not an easy one and the time investment was huge. Learning all about the different browser quirks and hacks was enough to pull my hair out. Most of my time was spent trying to figure out why one page looked good in “browser A” but was completely blown out in “browser B.” Learning the ins-and-outs of CSS took time…lots and lots of time (and coffee, and aspirin, and more coffee).
But in hindsight, I should have stuck with my guns. A good teacher finds ways to teach hard content. A good teacher finds ways to reach both the struggling newbie and the seasoned brainiac. A good teacher doesn’t shy away from a hard topic. Next year I’ll be teaching CSS layout…and sticking with my guns! Next year teachers will be walking out with a twinkle in their eye and some new CSS tricks in their toolbox!
So, what learning materials (websites, books, etc.) have helped you learn more about desiging with CSS?

10:23 PM Permalink
February 6, 2008

Don’t You Just Love It When You See Student Work Like This?

We’re ramping things up in our school district for one of the biggest events of our teacher’s year–our annual technology conference held every Spring.
You betcha. In a district as large as ours we have a vast audience to draw from, and this year we expect to have 2,500 teachers and their principals on hand for the big event.
So, what’s that have to do with student work? It’s the big design competition that happens to be one my favorite part’s of the big event.
Every year we hold an open competition for students to design the cover of the conference program, and this year’s winning entry is a real stunner. Created in Photoshop (big surprise there), the depth and detail of Javon’s design, seen here in a slide show view of the top three finishers, really pops and shows a wonderful sense of balance, scale and proportion. I can’t wait to see this one on paper!
I know Javon is dedicated and passionate about his craft (he finished second last year), and I’m looking forward to handing him an Adobe Master Collection and a small check as his prize for winning this year’s competition.
I don’t have any doubt in my mind which one he’ll be most excited about.

4:49 PM Permalink