Archive for November, 2009

Christmas E-cards project

November 27, 2009 Leave a comment

The Digital Media Computing (Higher) class have finished their Christmas e-cards projects for Animation Fundamentals. The e-cards were created using Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Flash.

The project consisted of writing a schedule for completing the e-card project, making custom graphics, manipulating exisiting graphics and applying different animation techniques.

Here are some of the results:

  1. Ben
  2. Callum
  3. Carl
  4. Gordon
  5. Esther
  6. Matthew
  7. Pawel
  8. Sam

Web 2.0 in the classroom

November 21, 2009 Leave a comment

This week I was invited to host a workshop on using Web 2.0 tools in the classroom along with my colleague Smithereenz.

Each year at Carnegie College there is a staff development day just after the winter break when staff can attend a variety of different workshops or presentations. Last year we had a school-wide event where we were tasked to come up with some kind of marketing material for our department. Photography lecturer Niall Hendrie and I produced a little video clip about photography in an attempt to make the photography department appear even cooler than it already is!

Anyway, as I mentioned, Smithereenz and I have been asked to provide a workshop or presentation on using Web 2.0 tools with students. Both he and I have been using various online tools to support our own personal learning and that of our students for several years. In particular we use Twitter to extend our personal learning network, but we’ve also been using other tools to engage students in collaborative learning and to enhance their IT skills.

Some of the tools I currently use, and how I use them, are listed below:

Google Docs – word processor, presentation tool and spreadsheet. Great for sharing documents and for collaborative writing. Some of my students have used the presentation tool for producing their Art & Design Context coursework. – file sharing, web conferencing and online document creation with a generous 2 GB storage space. Many students are using this for online storage of their files so they can easily share files between college and home.

Buzzword – Adobe’s online word processor. Staff in the Photography and Graphic Design depts are using the collaborative document feature for maintaining records of meetings and collating information. – Adobe’s photo sharing and basic editing environment. Photography students are taking advantage of the generous online storage space and also using this tool for submitting coursework.

TimeGlider – create and share interactive timelines. The Art & Design Context students have been collaborating on creating a timeline of artwork from the past 200 years.

Twitter – Students and myself have been using this tool to extend our personal learning networks and to ‘follow’ people with similar vocational interests as ourselves. Personally I’ve discovered Lots of websites, online resources and useful information through my contacts on Twitter.

Facebook – I personally use this mainly for maintaining contact with people and sharing phtoographs. Many of my fellow Adobe Education Leaders use Facebook and we use it to share information, resources, photos and videos.

Blogger – an easy to use blogging system that I’ve used for many years. Less powerful than WordPress, but much easier to use. The Visual Communication students have a colaborative blog where they share information and post (sometimes) relevant material.

WordPress – powerful blogging system, which you are currently viewing!

Wikispaces – a wiki (collaborative space) system that’s relatively easy to use.

Jiglu – a group site featuring message boards, discussions and file sharing. Used by the Scottish Qualifications Authority for collaboratively developing new qualifications.

Linked In – contact management, and professional networking tool. Great for looking for employment and making professional contacts.

Google Reader – RSS feed viewer which I use to keep track of graphic design, photography and education feeds and blogs.

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Tackling racist comments – a primer

November 17, 2009 Leave a comment

This video has been popping up on various sites and blogs recently, but I make no apology for reposting it here. It’s presented by Jay Smooth, a New York hip-hop radio host and it offers some advice on dealing with racism, particularly in confronting racist comments. This is something that all too many teachers will encounter in their work life, so any tips are greatly appreciated. I’ve had to deal with this recently myself, and my approach is always to confront the comments with the “You’d probably best not talk like that, people might find that offensive and think you’re being racist. I’m sure you don’t want people thinking that…”. Many other offensive comments can be dealt with in a similar way – its an invite to think about what they’ve said, not an invite to a fight!

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Digital Games Design

November 11, 2009 Leave a comment

Next semester (starts January) I’m probably taking a Games Design unit with the Digital Media Computing (Higher) group. As well as this, I’m on the SQA’s Qualification Design Team for a forthcoming NPA in Games Design.
The Digital Games Design unit is quite straightforward in terms of content, but does involve a lot of research and writing. There certainly has to be a good mix of practical to go along with the written assessments, so I’m looking at ways to introduce more practical aspects to the unit.
One plan I have is to create a template for a game in Adobe Flash, Star Wars game ideawhich the students can customise by creating their own graphics, animations and sounds. I already have a simple side-scrolling shooter game, which can be easily customised visually and aurally to look and sound like different types of game. For instance it may be possible to use stills from a science fiction movie like Star Wars and make a space-age shooter. Alternatively students can make the player’s vehicle into a helicopter and change the scenery to look like the Vietnam war of the 1970’s. Another idea is to swap the vehicle for a superhero and have Sauerbraten screenshotSuperman flying across the streets of Metropolis.

As well as 2D games in Adobe Flash I’m also hoping to investigate 3D and multiplayer games, perhaps by using the free 3D game engine Cube 2: Sauerbraten, which is so easy to use that even my 9 year old son has built some really amazing looking levels with it. There are also some great video tutorials for Sauerbraten on Youtube, so very little is required in terms of development for using these tools. What’s more, students can download it and take it home, which is always a great incentive for some self directed learning.

Categories: Game Design, teaching

Pushing the boundaries of Photography

November 9, 2009 2 comments

undersea image created using Adobe PhotoshopI’m currently teaching digital photography and imaging to the NC Photography class, and they’re coping very well with the workload (actually the units are very outdated and no longer represent anything that would challenge a current tech-savvy student). However, since the units aren’t particularly demanding I have been encouraging the students to try to extend their Adobe Photoshop skills beyond simple image enhancement and basic manipulation.

Recently we shot some photographs of the members of the class and some buildings at the college and recreated the classic ‘Attack of the 50 foot woman’ B-movie poster. We also did some tutorials on creating images from scratch in Photoshop – starting with a blank canvas and simply using filters, blends and masks to achieve astonishing results.

In the past I’ve found many photography students to be very reluctant to try anything particularly creative with their photographs. Many simply want to enhance their images and not try anything different, so I’m trying my best with this year’s NQ class to get them to experiment and try lots of different techniques to hopefully extend their skills and maybe also provide them with a better chance of gaining employment.

Photography is a difficult business to break into. The market tends to be fairly well saturated with commercial, wedding and portrait photographers, and other photography jobs such as journalism, nature and sports are very difficult to get in to. Hopefully by extending the photographers digital imaging skills they’ll be able to offer a better range of services and be able to take their digital imaging skills into other professions or related industries.

Categories: NQ Photography

Go directly to dole, do not pass Go, do not collect certificate

November 8, 2009 Leave a comment

It’s that time of year when colleges across the world experience drop out. It’s two or three months into the new academic year and suddenly there’s a downturn in attendance. Tell me if this isn’t the case worldwide, but I believe it to be true.

I’m sure most educators reflect on what causes this seasonal drop out, so here’s some of my opinions.

  1. The student realises their chosen course isn’t actually what they want to do.
  2. Grants, bursaries, savings just aren’t enough to get by or to lead the kind of life the students wants just now, so part time work takes over, maybe becomes full time work, or maybe unemployment benefit and doing nothing has a more immediate attraction.
  3. Its darker and the weather is more miserable, wet and cold in winter. Maybe you’ve got a cold or a cough. You just don’t feel like getting out of bed.
  4. The course turns out to be much more difficult than expected. The course that sounded fun at the beginning e.g. Photography or Art, turns out to be a lot of work (actually no more work than any other course at the same level, but for some reason you thought it would be less demanding).

So what can we do about this?

  1. Stricter entrance requirements? – Isn’t it the case that ‘entrance requirements’ suddenly don’t matter when you only have 8 enrolements but need 15 to run the course? After all, if there’s no course, there’s no teaching job.
  2. Better interview selection? – How can you tell anything from a 10 minute interview? Interviews can’t reveal level of commitment, ability to get up in the morning, funding issues, etc.
  3. Be more honest and open about the content of a course? – Actually there isn’t anything hidden, it’s just that many people choose not to see the bit that says ‘core skills, business skills and history’ are fundamental parts of the course along with ‘drawing, painting and playing with computers’.
  4. Actually I’ve just ran out of ideas…

I think possibly that there’s not much we can do about this as educators. Most of this stuff is completely outwith our control. Indeed, perhaps its better that we don’t try to intervene. Are we doing employers any favours by allowing students endless resits (I don’t, but some so-called educators do) and putting up with behaviour that isn’t employer-friendly? Are our future entrepreneurs really going to be the people who can’t get out of bed, lack self-motivation and avoid hard work?

I’m reminded of what an old scuba diving instructor told me once. It was about 20 years ago, and we were on a little island in the middle of the Red Sea. The sun was shining, it was warm, the sea was a beautiful crystal blue.  The diving was excellent – coral reefs, shoals of beautiful coloured fish. We’d been eating freshly cooked fish on the beach beneath the shade of some palm trees, and I was definitley of the opinion that my instructor had the best job in the world. He asked if I had a good job, and I said that I did. He asked if I’d like to trade jobs with him and I replied that I’d be very happy to do so. However he told me that I had an important job, and that somebody would still need to do it if I wasn’t there. He told me that everyone has a place and that everyone can’t have dream jobs or else there’d be no-one to keep the streets clean, noone to to serve in the shops, noone guarding the offices at night, noone mending the roofs. He told me that everyone has their place and someway they’ll find their way there.

Maybe that’s what college’s are about – helping people to find their place. It isn’t just about learning skills and gaining certificates, its about providing opportunities and helping others find their place, whether it’s managing a multinational, painting landscapes, constructing homes, or leaving college without a qualification and serving in a local bar. Let’s not forget the people who take these paths and do all the jobs that need to be done. Let’s be thankful that everyone has a place and sometimes we should be happy that we’ve helped them to get there even if we didn’t meet our targets, performance indicators and other nonsense metrics that seem to dominate our jobs as educators.

Categories: Uncategorized

Ten things they don’t teach you at teacher training college

November 4, 2009 1 comment
  1. Never assume a student has any prior knowledge of a subject. If they claim prior knowledge, it’s a lie or they have almost certainly forgotten it all.
  2. A student claims that a task you have set them is too easy. Actually, they don’t fully understand the task and will need it spelled out in tiny incremental steps.
  3. Students cannot work out how to tackle big projects. Breaking down big problems into smaller manageable ones  is entirely outwith their ability, whether they are in primary school or have a Doctorate.
  4. Two sided photocopies don’t work. Students only see one side. This is especially true for assessments.
  5. Students, despite access to the Internet and libraries don’t know the meaning of deadline, due date, submission date, hand-in or other such synonyms. These words only enter the vocabulary when successfully engaged in employment.
  6. Role-play is not a valid method of teaching, learning or assessment. It is just stupid, embarrassing and not fun in any way.
  7. Coloured post it notes stuck to a flipchart is not a valid method of teaching or learning. It’s just coloured bits of paper that stick to the flipchart for a short space of time until they fall to the ground due to boredom. It’s the Autumn of teaching methods – a season that nobody really likes because its dreary and everything good has passed or is yet to come.
  8. Teacher training just teaches you the proper names for all the things that someone who hasn’t taught for a long time thinks a teacher should do in class.
  9. Learning to teach is like learning to drive. After you’ve qualified, only then do you learn how to do it properly.
  10. Teaching theory is more of a hypothesis than a theory – no-one really knows how it works. Bad teachers can tell you how teaching works, good teachers haven’t a clue.
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