An element that I brought to my district when I first began was my use and knowledge of technology. I love technology – even when it’s slow and stupid I still love it. I love old technology, I love current technology, and I love know what might be coming. When it came time to addressing the previous curriculum I realize there were no ties to technology. This bothered me but at the same time, it must have been because the school didn’t have some programs and all that…right? Wrong! Not even the 2nd day in and on my computer and here I discover our district has the *entire* Adobe suite on their system…on every computer! That meant the kids had access to it all. Thinking logically, I decided it was time to begin a unit that crosses over art and technology. I don’t have time to do this with 5th and 6th grade and our computers teacher does an excellent job of address creativity in his class so I decided to concentrate on my 7th and 8th graders.
My 8th graders are introduced to Photoshop. I know, I know, hold the phone – that is a complicated program! High school students and some college students can’t even grasp it. But with some patience and the right resources, 8th graders can really thrive in Photoshop. I premise that I rent out a computer lab for a 2 week period – but knock on wood that we go 1:1 some day!
First, students create an account and log onto Edmodo, an educational social networking website designed to excite students in a modern way but address guidelines that fulfill the needs of teachers. I love it…and so do the students. Using Edmodo, I can do daily bell ringers that cover concepts we talked about, keyboard commands, menus, filters, and everything in between. But before I can quiz students on any of this, I start with a simple question they can respond to: What technology are you confident in and how do you use it productively? This can really stump a kid so we end up talking about what this means and what productivity is. Most think using Facebook would suffice for an answer but then again, most do not use it productively. This generates some interesting responses and really gets them geared to learn about a new program.
After we set up Edmodo, students spend 2 (sometimes 3 depending on class) periods exploring Photoshop. The first day I go through everything, in an overwhelming amount. I explain that while I’m confident they could use some tools, I prefer that some aren’t used (due to mistakes that can happen) and some are used with my guidance. While I’m walking through the program and showing them all the capabilities, I also have a packet that uses “student friendly” language to describe the basic, very basic, functions of each tool on the left side panel (file) and what everything on the right side panel (file) shows. There is a third page (file) to the packet that includes some basic commands that will make a lot of things easier for the students. This is always in front of the students any time they are using the program but not when they are doing bell ringers or quizzes.
The first day is rough and overwhelming but the second day gets a little bit more exciting. I literally just had a student come in and ask for a pass to our computer lab and he exclaimed, “I love Photoshop!!!” and he’s only been on it two days. This always confirms my reason for including this program. Moving on, students are then introduced to the concepts of motivational posters (just google it) and how some portray humor. Using this concept, students are instructed that they will be making their own “Motivational Me” poster that will include their name and a quote that represents them. This quote can or may not tie to their imagery but overall they usually get the idea. Using dimensions set by a template (pdf file but editable if opened in Adobe Illustrator) I create, students begin a canvas in Photoshop and drop photos in it to manipulate. The requirement this year is that they use images from at least two photographs and must enlist the use of at least two filters, one rendering, an image adjustment and multiple tools. These are very vague guidelines because the program itself can be awfully overwhelming. But as a couple days pass, students quickly grasp the basics. My first year, I had hundreds of questions and this year, I have less and less. I think this is partly due to my adjustments but also because the kids are becoming more technology capable. Students are encouraged to bring their own photographs but if they cannot they must follow the rules of copyright or use FreeStockPhotos.Biz. If they want to use a a copyrighted image they must follow the correct process. For this project as well as the quote the choose, they complete a citation page for my use.
Some students keep it simple; others go all out. The names are blurred for privacy.
All of the images you see above exceed expectations in regards to Photoshopping. The project itself is very personal for each student. They have the file forever and if they choose they can give me money ($1/copy) to have it professional printed and laminated. Overall, I just get excited during this unit. I wish that I could have been exposed to this kind of programming when I was younger so that I had a better grasp on it. Students are constantly stumbling upon how things work and even teaching me because who really know everything there is to know about Photoshop. I’ve had multiple students contact me over the summer and on breaks to find out where they can go about purchasing the program or using similar resources. That again, is rewarding. Hopefully these resources can be of use to someone else, of course..