Adobe Education Leaders Institute Report

What does a technical education guy do for summer vacation?  Answer: Spend a week at the the third annual Adobe Education Leaders Institute in San Francisco July 22-25, 2008.  Adobe Systems Inc. has continued to generously fund this unique gathering of educators from the United States and across the world.  We spent three and half days collaborating, learning about new Adobe software tools, and providing feedback to Adobe product developers.  I was especially honored when Bob Regan, Adobe’s Director of K-12 Education,  choose to show the Ferryway School’s recent Edutopia movie, Turning on Technology to kick-off the institute. Regan remarked that he appreciated how students were empowered to use technology as a tool for learning – the focus wasn’t on just using an application.

I’ll be sharing these resources in my school district this year:

  • The Encyclopedia of Life – Adobe’s XD Project group took on the challenge of creating a web-based system for visualizing the Earth’s living organisms. Here’s an image from one of their designs. I think it’s interesting that life can be visualized like a microprocessor. I’m excited to incorporate the EOL into our grade four science unit, Biome Breakthrough.
  • A new free word processor tool has been launched as part of called Buzzword.  The program is a beta, meaning that it still being developed, but you can register for a free account.  Buzzword renders pages using the Flash engine so your documents appear exactly as you expect on the monitor and from your printer.  The AELs were especially interested in using Buzzword to support collaborative student writing projects.
  • From the under-resourced teacher perspective, Photoshop Express – Beta, had to be the most exciting software development shown.  Our students have increasing access to digital tools for taking pictures, think cell phone and ever smaller and cheaper digital cameras.  Last year, I taught a photojournalism lesson as part of a field trip experience where students had to take photos based on categories such as engineering and colonial life.  We used a wiki to share images, but with Photoshop Express, students can perform basic edits on their photos in a Web 2.0 world from home or school.
  • Fellow AEL and art teacher from across the pond (England), Ross Wallis, presented an amazing body of student work.  (Digitial Creativity – Flash) Ross’ philosophy is to treat computers and software as just another tool in the art room.  He requires that his students learn basic art skills before using the technology.  The talking portrait project was particularly interesting since it required students to research historic people by selecting a painting and learning about the artist.  Students then used Photoshop and Crazytalk to make their portraits talk using their own recorded voices.
  • Why become an Adobe Certified Associate?   Because you know a lot about Adobe software and digital work flows and want an objective evaluation of your skills.  Adobe now offers teachers and students the opportunity to receive certification in the following areas:
    • Web Communication using Adobe Dreamweaver CS3
    • Rich Media Communication using Adobe Flash CS3
    • Visual Communication using Adobe Photoshop CS3

    Yes, you have to pass an exam.  The exams are administered by Certiport.

The Chihuly exhibit at the de Young Museum was fun to photograph!

Thoughts on Creativity vs. Email

Summer vacation is usually regarded as a time to rest, relax and push the reset button for most school teachers and administrators.  The Sunday edition of the Boston Globe article in the Money & Careers section, Creativity can thrive, if you keep the e-mail in check, reminded me that one ritual that most teachers are probably engaged in this summer is sorting through thousands of emails as they purge their in-boxes for the start of another school year.  Maggie Jackson cites the statistic that workers get an average of 156 emails a day.  The article presents the idea that workers trying to deal with the onslaught of emails results in an overloaded state that negatively effects the person’s ability to focus and create.  Of course good teaching requires creativity and focus in order to positively engage students.  Since email has become the principle means of administration in schools, teachers should apply the same strategies that businesses are adopting to deal with email overload.  Teachers should set aside a daily block of time to organize and file their emails instead of attempting to respond between class periods.  Teachers should also avoid the use of reply all to everyone in the school when responding to an email sent from the principal to the entire staff.

The Information Overload Research Group is holding its inaugural conference today. Since the IORG just became an organization, it will be interesting to monitor how their website evolves as the group grows and the information spicket flows.  Some tips for dealing with email Information Overload.

My NECC 08 Brief Report

If you’re interested in the field of education and use technology, try to attend the National Educational Computing Conference (NECC). It’s an incredibly well-organized conference which does a good job balancing academics, corporate promotion, and hands-on learning. NECC is sponsored by the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE). ISTE’s mission is to:

Provide leadership and service to improve teaching and learning by advancing the effective use of technology in education!

NECC is a great opportunity to connect with colleagues whom I collaborate with online over the year.  I also enjoy the chance to learn about emerging technologies and software updates.  A few examples are:

  • ISTE unveiled a new tool authored in Moodle to help teachers assess effective technology integration using videos.  The session, NETS•S in Action in North American Classrooms, featured video from the Ferryway school and three other HP Leadership grantees from 2007.
  • Tablet-based computing can be enhanced with learning management software that allows the teacher to exercise control over a classroom.  I attended the session, What Impact Can Pen-Based Technology Have in Your Classroom? Some interesting features of the DyKnow software was the ability to have the instructor collect student work, randomly assign partners in a classroom (students don’t know who their partners are), create on the fly polls, and turn Internet browsing on/off.  The instructor taught Spanish using a set of graphic organizers that we completed with the tablet stylus.  Participants were encouraged to attend the  Workshop on the Impact of Pen-based Technology on Education (wipte) October 15-16, 2008 at Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN.
  • Second life is starting to garner much more attention as an educational research and instructional tool.  Quite a number of conferees wore name tags with their Second life personas.  During the Pearson Foundation reception I spoke to a devoted Second Lifer who convinced me to give it another try.
  • Adobe’s floor presence emphasized how the multitude of software products support one another using Camp Adobe.  As an Adobe Education Leader (AEL) I worked the Adobe booth answering questions and distributing camp stickers.   Major software releases included Adobe Acrobat 9 and Acrobat Connect Pro 7.

This year I marked my fourth NECC by presenting a session called Digital Investigators: Using Digital Media for Project-Based Learning. I shared presentation duties with Dianne Stratton and Elizabeth Tousignant.  Visit our  wiki page for session content.