Archive for October, 2009

Real World Experience

October 26, 2009 Leave a comment

Having students undertake real-world projects can sometimes be awkward. It’s good experience for the student, however if the students don’t fully participate then it can become a really bad experience for the client. I’ve managed a number of external client projects in the past, many of which have been very successful, however a few of them have been downright disasters.

The benefits from doing external projects are many – students gain good experience working with a client, they usually have to complete the project to a high standard and to a deadline, and its beneficial in terms of employability skills and business networking. If things go well then repeat projects are often forthcoming, but when things go bad then the student, lecturer and college reputation can be put at risk.

Carefully matching students to projects is usually the best policy – ensuring only the most reliable students take on the external projects, and certainly this policy has worked in the past, with many students going on to get further work or employment with the client. The project also needs careful management from the teacher, ensuring that the client and students are communicating effectively and that any problems are resolved quickly.

I’m not managing many external projects at the moment, however a small animation project cropped up this week via a link on Twitter. Twitter is becoming an essential tool in my personal learning network, and aside for the occasional inane dross posted by some people, the majority is usually quite useful if you are careful about who you ‘follow’. I’ve been encouraging students to make use of Twitter in an intelligent way and to network with people who may provide useful information and tips for their course or future employment. Personally I follow many teachers and educators both in Scotland and abroad and this has led me to find out about many new technologies and tools that I can use in my own teaching.

Anyway, back to the animation project, and the HNC Interactive Media and HND Visual Communication students have all been looking at this particular project and brainstorming ideas. The plan is to take an organisation’s static logo and animate it for use in a video and also as a back-projection during an awards ceremony. The logo itself is very intricately patterned, so isn’t necessarily easy to animate. Also, we’ve got to ensure that the animation is suitable for the intended audience. Some students have come up with ideas that just wouldn’t be appropriate, but might be suitable for an episode of South Park! Again careful management is required to create a suitably restrained animation that meets the needs of the client. The finished animation should be complete by early to mid November, so hopefully I’ll be able to post it here  for all to see.

Categories: Uncategorized

Who teaches the teacher?

October 21, 2009 Leave a comment

We have a new addition to the teaching team this week with Drew Farrell joining us until the end of the year to complete a practical tour of duty as part of his teaching studies.

Drew is a photographer to trade, but is looking at taking his skills into education and is currently undertaking a course of study at Stirling University. He has a great portfolio at his site, which demonstrates his journalistic, editorial and portrait skills.

Over the next couple of months Drew will be taking part in classes and honing his practical teaching skills under the watchful eyes of myself and fellow photography lecturer, Niall Hendrie.

Categories: Uncategorized

Art comes to TV

October 20, 2009 Leave a comment

I didn’t do much talking in todays Art & design Context class. After a short reminder about an imminent assignment and a short presentation (using Google Presentations) on Graphic Design movements we watched Glamours Golden Age on BBC iPlayer. The episode, screened last night on BBC4 explored the 1920’s and 30’s and the Art Deco style that dominated art and design during those times. The show was particularly good at making links between what was happening socially and politically and how that affected the art movement, and how art then had an effect on life.

The show looked at architecture, transport, advertising, everyday objects and also how Hollywood played a major role in promoting the Art Deco style. As well as the art and design work, topical issues of the time were also covered including The Depression and the build up to World War 2.

Looking forward to next weeks episode Bright Young Things which is about youth and sex, drink and drugs! This episode may be of interest to photography students as it will feature the work of fashion and portrait photographer Cecil Beaton.

Categories: Uncategorized

Web 2.0 tools for Photography

October 9, 2009 Leave a comment

A few weeks ago I introduced my NQ Photography students to the wonders of online photo albums such as Google Picasa Galleries, Flickr and, and now many of them are using these great free tools for their college assignments. has been particularly popular, as it offers online photo manipulation tools as well as tools for managing and viewing albums of photographs.

Today was the due date for the first assignment, a set of 12 images of different subjects in different lighting conditions, and many of the students have opted to submit their work by sharing their albums on This has proved to be very convenient for both myself and the students, and is much better than the cumbersome method that we used last year that involved submitting the photographs via the college’s VLE. It’s easy to manage, easy to share images, submissions are date and time stamped and its also a great tool for using outside of college.

Woohoo for Adobe!

Categories: NQ Photography, teaching

Up to date…

October 7, 2009 Leave a comment

Keeping skills up to date these days is a real challenge, particularly for those of us at the cutting (bleeding) edge of technology!

This year I’m teaching Actionscript 3.0 exclusively – so no more old Actionscript 1 or 2 in Flash, no more on (release) and no more undeclared variables! Bad enough for me, quite tough for students!

The students often ask me how I know so much about Flash, but I have to say that I sometimes feel like I’m only scratching the surface too. Truth is that I do a lot of practice. A few years ago I was doing Flash every day and learning new and wonderful things. My favourite Flash book is Macromedia Flash Advanced by Russell Chun, which I’ve read cover to cover. However I don’t think there’s a new version for Actionscript 3.0 yet, so all my AS3 knowledge so far has been gathered from web-based tutorials and also (which is great).

Today during the Wednesday afternoon respite period I’ve been trying out some new animation with Flash, including a hula hooper and a squirrel – enjoy!

Categories: teaching

Countdown to Christmas…

October 7, 2009 Leave a comment

How many shopping days til Christmas?

More importantly, how many animation days do we have to complete our Yuletide e-cards?

The NQ Digital Media Computing class have been hard at work putting together their Christmas e-cards for the Animation Fundamentals unit. All of the toys have been constructed and are busy whizzing along the conveyor belts in Santa’s toy factory. A little group of elves has been made, complete with the students faces in place of the elf faces, and Santa’s sleigh has been coloured-in and will soon be zooming across the rooftops.

We’re well ahead of schedule, so it looks like Santa will be delivering presents on time this year, and the little elf students can take a well earned rest!

Red Card for Animation!

October 5, 2009 Leave a comment

Until January my HNC Interactive Media class are creating animations for the Show Racism The Red card competition which has recently been launched in Scotland and is supported by the SQA, EIS and LTS.

We watched some of the videos from the website and also looked through the competition rules before brainstorming ideas and creating a mindmap. Groups of students then chose an area to investigate further and started planning a number of short storylines to make into an animation.

After the October break we will reconvene to pick the best ideas and start turning them into animations.