Archive for June, 2012

June 24, 2012

My Campus, My Classroom & Me

The connected world is such a wonderful thing! As an educator, it keeps you in a constant state of excitement plus some trepidation thrown in.

The thoughts are always there….Will I try to implement this software in my classroom because I know it will work? Will I try this new Web 2.0 tool that I found on the net? Will I try & use this in my classroom with the chance that it will be an epic fail? And the answer is predominately YES!!

Currently our campus is going through a massive focus reshift as we no longer have any externally based assessments to teach to (the NSW School Certificate in particular). We are now moving into a realm of certification and this is going to be really exciting (for me at least) but there are some who will not be as excited to let go of years of emotional attachment to content & the way in which it is presented. We are trying to move our school to a healthy mix of Assessment of Learning  & Assessment of Learning. In our rapidly changing classroom environment, I believe they both need to coexist for students to be able to learn at their best.

As we are all aware, IT Education needs both (learn to use the software so you can implement it into your classroom & the same for students). Our Year 9 students have classes in using their laptop that the DEC issued them term 1 as part of the Digital Education Revolution. These classes have been enormously successful as the devices have a massive amount of software on them, including the Adobe Design Premium Suite of software. The devices are in a ‘locked down’ environment (specified by the department) and that has more benefits than drawbacks (less troubleshooting time involved). This means that we can maximise the student usage of the devices in the classroom & minimise downtime for all concerned. 

We are in a phase of restructuring with plans in place in 2012 for our refocus to kickstart in 2013. We are putting into place training for all of our year cohorts with the ideal situation being that they all receive an IT accreditation each of the 4 years that they attend our campus. Our staff are currently also in the training phase, with initially interested teachers being targeted with the idea of all staff being involved after the evaluation of the 2013 pilot program. Our students will all have globally-recognised IT skills & abilities that they can use to further their education or gain employment. And that for me, as an IT educator, is extremely gratifying.

At the heart of this new certification age is the use of Adobe Acrobat Pro X &, in particular, ePortfolios. As it is pre-installed onto the device, all content created on the device can be easily converted by Acrobat by the students, and then either submitted for assessment ( we use Moodle at our campus), or archived ready to be added to later or taken with them when they leave our campus. We extensively use Microsoft OneNote at our ca mpus and our students submit their notebooks for assessment each term by creating a PDF and submitting for content approval, a lso done in Acrobat with the use of Comments & stamps. The majority of the content is brought together in Acrobat and directions/instructions are put on each PDF, which speeds up availability of content.

Acrobat Pro X is the glue that binds our digitallly-based, paper-free, IT courses together.

I will keep you updated throughout the semester with how our students, staff & administrators are moving towards the next exciting phase of our journey.





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June 22, 2012

A Student’s Perspective on Adobe Tools

The following is a guest post by Bedros Kharmandarian, a junior at New Milford High School. Throughout his high school career he has been exposed to many elective courses in the areas of graphics and technology that have allowed him to unleash his creative talents. In this piece he discusses his use of Adobe tools to create our recent Holocaust Study Tour book.  You can view last year’s book created using Adobe Creative Design Suite HERE.

As a student, the use of Adobe programs has been a privilege, as well as, a tool to benefit myself and New Milford High School.  A large amount  of my efforts yearly go into our school yearbook, which is done through a collaboration between our Graphic Arts teacher, Mr. Pevny, and a few students such as myself.  I am proud to say that the yearbook has consistently received many awards over the years.  This, in my opinion, can be attributed to an amazing teacher in Mr. Pevny as well as the schools’ investment in the latest educational technology (iMacs, Adobe tools, digital cameras, etc.).

This year, a project that took a grand amount of effort on my part, as well as, the use of programs such as Photoshop and InDesign, was a booklet on the Holocaust Study Tour.  Every year our school holds an educational trip to Germany, Poland, and the Czech Republic, in which a select group of students are taken to get a first hand education on the Holocaust.   When the trip reaches its end, they are left with multitudes of pictures, as well as, an essay, which is to be written by each student.   A single student is bestowed the task of using the resources at hand, coupled with Adobe programs, to create a 60 page booklet.  This year, I was the student chosen.

So, essentially, Adobe software such as InDesign and Photoshop have been a staple in my artistic student life. They have enriched my experience as a student at New Milford High by providing me the ability to make things ranging from yearbook content, Holocaust booklets, playbills for the school musical, projects for numerous classes, and many more learning artifacts.   I am afforded countless opportunities to learn on my terms with the tools that I am comfortable with at times that are convenient.  This is how school should be and I am thankful for everything that NMHS has done to meet my needs and provided me with unparalleled learning opportunities.


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June 17, 2012

Adobe Edge – Assistance Needed

I finally included an Adobe Edge file into one of my free-lance Website jobs.  The actual file works great and I don’t have to worry about it not working on iOS devices or the slow load time which occurs with a Photoshop animation file.  Unfortunately, I did come across two issues in which I hope to find help fixing.  Below is a link to a “draft” of the home page (“draft” – still not complete, hence the off alignment and missing text at the bottom) and the two issues which I am having….

Link to draft:

1.  Border: I can’t seem to remove the black border from the file. I found the two icons which you are able to change the stage color and border color in Edge.  You can see from the left image they appear to be black and gray, I changed them to be transparent and I save the file.  I close the file and quite  Adobe Edge and open everything back up again and the color keeps reverting back to black and gray.  I even tried to change the colors to red rather than transparent and no matter what they revert back to black and gray.  You can see the border when you visit the link above.   I also tried to look in the exported files to remove the border but that did not help. 

2.  Multi-Screen Viewing: I have this page set up to re-size depending on the screen size which the file is being viewed.  If you view it at a tablet size you will notice  the Edge file (scrolling animation piece in the middle) does not re-size itself but rather adds scroll bars.  In the Edge file I tried to change the “overflow” properties but nothing gave me what I needed.  Also in the Dreamweaver HTML file I set width=”100%” and height=”100%” Is there any way to make the edge file re-size itself and exclude the scroll bars?

Any guidance on either issue would be greatly appreciated!

P.S. Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there!

Lori Cullen

2:48 PM Permalink
June 4, 2012

Goin’ Down the Road: My Teaching Philosophy

My title alludes to Don Shebib’s iconic Canadian movie version of the Iliad—the classic account of the collective journey brought back from beyond the margins of the known—from the creature comfort of the status-quo or the cozy confines of the Hobbits’ shire, in the case of J.R. Tolkein’s novel, The Hobbit.

Teaching, for me, is a story of adventure, of audacity and derring-do. The complimentary aspect of teaching is, of course, learning and the two are mutually interdependent aspects of the same thing—a journey of transformation that, necessarily, brings tectonic shifts in our collective worldview that in turn changes the way we see ourselves and the way in which we engage the world. It is a process of invigoration whereby our lives are given deeper meaning and purpose.

I suppose I chose the awkward, Canadian version of this iconic journey for its allusion to the film whose lack of polish gives it a certain honesty and rawness that lacks the gloss of something that has been overly refined. Refinement and process for me are anathema to the sort of real and visceral learning that typically happens when we wade into uncharted territory—all else is sophistry and formulaic to my mind and this can be the source of some philosophical inconsistencies teaching in a Community College with its traditional emphasis on what the Sophists referred to as “techne.”

I am greatly influenced by the Greek philosophers and, although I derive inspiration from pioneers in holistic education like Rudolph Steiner, I am a Platonist at heart.

I see my role as a catalyst in the ongoing process of the personal transformation of those with whom I am privileged to share time along the path of an incredible adventure that leads us ever forward toward the unknown horizons of a shared dream. Along the way, we listen and help to draw out one another’s hopes, fears and dreams in order to facilitate the process of mapping the route that we have travelled and to reflect on that journey in order to provide a contextual narrative that will help to ground our decisions for setting course for new, uncharted shores. I embrace the wisdom of Poet Robert Frost in his classic “The Road Not Taken.”

I encourage my fellow travelers to be explorers as opposed to tourists—to eschew the proven, vicarious and rote in favour of the novel and risk-laden experiences that enrich the threads of one’s personal narrative and make life and learning interesting and engaging. I encourage trust—trust in oneself, in others and in the possibilities of meeting the unknown. Trust in oneself breeds confidence in one’s abilities to face the unscripted challenges of life. School can too often be nothing more than a “canned experience” that mitigates risk and seeks to contain and restrain by delivering standardized, routinized and predictable outcomes that are at odds with the unpredictable and intractable nature of everyday existence. Trust in others is an essential ingredient of our collective identity. It is the glue that binds us and enables us to do things collectively in a way that transcends the limitations of the individual and allows opportunities for our collective energies to be given sublime, concrete expression. It engenders a form of free and responsible citizenship whose greatest goods come from active participation in the co-creation and co-stewardship of the common good.

A long history in improvisational theatre has taught me the value of collaboration and the importance of both giving and receiving of offers of talent and ideas and how, when we collectively surrender our egos and allow for a space where co-creation can occur, the results can often be sublime. I have learned to accept that failure is an inevitable and important consequence of this sort of experimental and experiential approach to collective creation. I am not interested in what one knows, rather, I am more interested in learning about what we don’t know today—tomorrow and sharing in the process of how we achieved these insights—the narrative of the road. To that end, collaboration is an important dimension of the learning activities in my environment.

Teaching and learning for me constitute an environment that is complex and highly interdependent. It is a whole that transcends its mere constituent parts. It brings many entities into highly complex relationships that, when cultivated, help us to find who we are in these relationships and to experiment with different aspects of ourselves in relation. It is an ecology of deep personal—even spiritual growth and revelation that intertwines relationships forged in a communal search for meaning.

The ecosystem of learning is not limited to clichés of Teacher, Student, Class, School, etc.. I believe that it is an integral part of the broader social, political, psychological and spiritual ecosystem that serves as a space where all dimensions of our collective lives from the rote and banal activities of the everyday meld with our boldest experimentation, where failure and triumph, grieving and celebration meet one another with the sole purpose of allowing us to collectively dream of a brighter tomorrow and to set about investing in this belief through audacious creative endeavours that will bring our dreams to fruition.

The learning ecosystem is an economy of transformation that values the sharing of ideas and earnest effort as its currency. It is an engine of change that facilitates our collective migration from the status quo towards a more sublime ideal. It is a story that has been in the making since the dawning of humanity and one that we continue to write. It is a collective narrative that takes form in informal discussions with faculty and students, formal strategy and planning meetings within the institution, negotiations between management teams and union heads, assignment creation and execution, marking, revision, daily communications with all stakeholders, writing job and grant recommendations, counseling, performing and participating in surveys, posing and answering questions, listening, speaking up, advocating, admonishing, facilitating, meeting, joining, refreshing, participating, excelling, failing, observing, reporting, measuring, analyzing, phoning, emailing, SMSing, Facebooking, Ryppleing, Reaching out, liaising, apologizing, owning, etc..

The reductionist, hierarchal and categorical view of this economy of transformation that sees only teacher, learner, class, school, etc. is an anachronism of the industrial era—a mechanistic view of reality and is out of touch with the hyper-connected 24/7 internet age. The age of instant, ubiquitous and searchable knowledge challenges us to see ourselves in new ways, governed by new relationships in this new techno-cultural milieu. We have been radically interconnected to a degree where paradigms of time, place, authority and knowing take on a radically new dimension that I have heard referred to as a “digital pentacost” in reference to the Christian tradition where people are born into a new time wherein all nations share in the discovery of life changing spiritual vision that cannot be predicted or contained—allowing them to break from status quo ways of being and moving to a new ethic that embraced an open mind to the possibilities of the future. This was a time when traditional paradigms of knowing and communicating were superceeded by new (spiritual) abilities that could transcend barriers of time, space and even language.

We live in this time where embracing the comfort of the known ways of being and doing will certainly result in a continuation of our unsustainable destruction of our ecosystem and our very humanity. There is a pressing need for us to be brave enough and audacious enough to wander down a new path together and the teaching and learning environment can create the sort of climate that is appropriate for seeding such a transformation.

I don’t think that this is something that we can teach in the classic sense of filling the empty cup, rather it is a decision that we must invest in together on all levels by all stakeholders and that we must have courage to move quickly and decisively to walk the walk together and take “the Road not taken!”

To this end I have spent the last 9 years struggling with the challenges that our new ecosystem presents for teaching and learning. During that time I have worked on developing a teaching methodology dubbed RISK-based learning (Rapid Integration of Skills and Knowledge) that uses collective, crowd-sourced approaches to dealing with rapid technological change and its corollary of obsolescence. I have given over 12 presentations to University and College educators from Montreal to San Jose on this topic and was recognized with the McGraw-Hill Award for Innovation in Teaching & Learning in 2007. I have enjoyed the privilege of being an active member of both the Adobe Education Leaders and the Apple Distinguished Educators groups where we work to advocate best practices in the integration and use of technology in teaching and learning.

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