Students Start Here… Photoshop Elements the Key to Digital Media

Learning to use selection tools.

Learning to use selection tools.

Last week I had the pleasure of introducing the Adobe Digital School Collection (ADSC) to a group of Massachusetts educators during the PreConference workshop of MassCUE (October 26, 2010).  The Adobe Digital School Collection is a bundle of software optimized for creating digital media content.  The most important applications are Adobe Photoshop Elements (PSE) and Premiere Elements (Pre), the first handles image creation and editing and the later video.   In my experience, most students and teachers don’t have an opportunity to use these programs on a daily or even weekly basis.

The first activity that I introduced during the PreCon workshop was focused on setting up and building a Photoshop Elements catalog.  The origins of the catalog lesson came from my district’s use of DeepFreeze on all school computers.  DeepFreeze prevents users from altering or permanently storing files on shared school computers.  In order for a user to build an intelligent portfolio of digital images, Photoshop Elements requires a dedicated storage space for building an ongoing catalog.  The analogy here is like collecting toy cars and having plenty of shelves to display and organize them. The shelves need to stay put and your toy cars shouldn’t disappear.  Fortunately, PSE gives users the ability to create custom catalogs that can happily live on a flash drive.  In my school, students participating in our Adobe Youth Voices digital media program each receive their own flash drives.  The workshop participants learned to setup a flash drive catalog.  The lesson plan including all the media assets are available on the Adobe Education Exchange.  Look for Introduction to Photoshop Elements 8 Catalogs – The De Young Museum Portfolio.

Spooky castles?

Spooky castles?

Once teachers had a working catalog we explored the world of selection tools using a lesson shared by Sara Martin over the Ed Exchange.  In horror of Halloween, I challenged teachers to create the spookiest castle using selection tools, shapes, effects, and filters.

After students master editing still images I like to introduce the PSE slideshow editor to move them into video.  The skills needed to master good video production require about 10 times the effort and commitment to learning to become really proficient.  I explained to the workshop teachers that video consumes about 10x more hard disk space than still images especially when High Definition video cameras are readily available.  If you are new to the Digital School Collection, my recommendation is to build your foundation in Photoshop Elements.  This photography slide show was created exclusively in Photoshop Elements using the slideshow editor.   If you like the effect, you are probably responding to the combination of photographic imagery, movement, music, slide transitions and timing.  Challenge your students to build highly polished slide shows before diving into the world of video.  Posting the best slide shows on a streaming video site for everyone to see and comment on will motivate your students to work harder.

We recently surveyed a group of middle school students on their use of technology and software.  As expected the most popular activity was texting, 92% of students reported texting everyday or at least 2-3 times per week.  The next most popular activity was watching YouTube video at 82%.  I always ask students if they would like to be the ones creating the content that everyone WANTS to watch?  What tech integration projects using Photoshop Elements do you want to teach?

How to Guide to Ferryway 2.0 – Part 1

Most schools are members of the web community by virtue of the fact that they have a website developed as part of a district site.  Each school uses a template that they fill in content based upon their individual schools information.   What does it take to transform a school into a web 2.0 community of learners?

First, teachers and administrators have to understand the difference between a web 1.0 and 2.0 school.  I explained this difference during a recent early release professional development session at the Ferryway School.  Read the blog entry, Early Release Launches Ferryway 2.0 Tech Plan. Most teachers learned that Web 2.0 is a two-way street when it comes to the Internet.  Second, schools need to build out a web 2.0 infrastructure.  It sounds complicated, but really it just involves knowing how to assemble content inside a framework that anticipates that students, teachers, and community stakeholders will participate in the 2.0 version of your school.  For instance, the Ferrway School has been profiled in several movies by the George Lucas Educational Foundation’s Edutopia site.  Visitors to the Edutopia site can leave comments about the videos, but if they want to learn more they can check out the Ferryway school website.  The current Ferryway site is a traditional web 1.0 site since visitors simply browse the content that was posted by a few teachers with the magic keys to update the page.   The Grazr box below is an example of using a web 2.0 tool to display those Edutopia comments.  You can read the latest comments without leaving this blog post by clicking on the titles.  Go ahead, try it!

I’m helping manage a team of Ferryway teachers serving on the school’s technology leadership team to build a web 2.0 presence with a blog and wiki.  The blog was actually launched in December 2006 as a way to collect and share feedback for a grant we worked on to expand the school day.  Recently, the blog was repurposed to communicate and share our progress implementing a school technology integration plan.  The Ferryway 2.0 wiki was launched to provide training materials for six digital media workshops.   I’ll be modeling how a wiki is used as a collaborative web space by having teachers actively contribute content to the Ferryway wiki.The third, requires that teachers actually practice using web 2.0 tools in their classrooms.  The best way to accomplish this last one is through well designed PD, direct support to each teacher focused on meeting their instructional needs, and making sure the computer hardware actually works. I’ll revisit this third point in part 2. Is it worth the time and effort to transform your school into a web 2.0 learning community?

Bookmarks are Tasty with Delicious

Annotated delicious bookmark page.One of the more popular social bookmarking websites is delicious.  There are two good reasons to consider using a social bookmarking website.  1) Store your bookmarks on a website in order to access them from anywhere, and 2) Share websites with people that have similar interests on topics you care about.  For instance, in my annotated example to the left, 5 other people bookmarked Tim Berners-Lee Short bio.   If you were researching the history of the Internet and needed to find additional sites, you could investigate their list of bookmarks by clicking on their username.  My delicious username is neochem03 and anyone can view my bookmarks by visiting  Another method for finding sites is to analyze the common tags associated with a saved bookmark.  A good rule of thumb is to look for bookmarks that have at least 3 tags and a comment.  My comment attached to Berners-Lee was “Please, if you use the web, understand its origins.”

Example of social bookmark tools on Education Week article.Delicious was known for having a unique web address;, but was recently relaunched by Yahoo and the extra periods were dropped.  There are many more social bookmarking services available.  Bookmark tools are now standard on many online journals and newspaper sites.  When I click on a pop window appears to add the article, my comment, and tags to my delicious directory of tasty links.  You can register for a free Delicious account.  Teachers who are in school districts that prevent bookmarking links on school computers should consider social bookmarking as a way save sites.  Of course you need to check that the site is not blocked by filtering software.  How do you save your bookmarks?

I’m a Connector!

Pew internet typology table thumbAccording to a new survey tool on the Pew Internet and American Life Project site, I’m now a certified member of the “connectors” group based on my question responses on technology use at home and for work.  The survey took only four minutes to complete.  If you spend a few minutes scanning my blog, it should be obvious that I place a high value on the effective integration of technology in schools.  I agree with the tool’s classification and think it validates my philosophy to Information and Communications Technology (ICT).

Connectors combine a sense that information technology is good for social purposes with a clear recognition that online resources are a great way to learn new things. Their cell phones have a lot of features, and they also try new things with technology; more than half have watched TV programming on a device like a laptop computer or cell phone. Download my full report. (PDF)

As an educator, responsible for training K-12 teachers with a wide range of technology skills, the Pew Internet typology groups remind me of the many efforts that have attempted to capture teacher technology skills to provide them professional development opportunities.  Those efforts often ask teachers to complete the survey, but often don’t make the assessment data available in a timely manner nor in a format that teachers find useful. The combination of inadequate PD in technology integration, administrative policies, and a lack of reasonable access to classroom computer hardware and software keep many teachers at the wrong end of the typology spectrum; Inexperienced Experimenters, Light but Satisfied, Indifferents, and Off the Network.  Where do you fall on the Internet typology spectrum?