Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

A bit of effort now will save time and stress in the future, hopefully!

I’m a great believer in the benefits of streamlining systems to make repetitive tasks quicker and easier. It seems obvious, but I’m often surprised at how many times I see people choosing to repeatedly do something the difficult way rather than spend a few moments setting up a process to make all future occurrences quicker and easier. I’m in the habit of doing this with most repeating tasks (within reason). I set up prerecorded Photoshop actions for frequent tasks, I use Automator scripts to instantly create new sets of folders and files for different job types, I file all digital assets that I create so that I can easily use them again without the need to recreate them. I even create process lists so I don’t have to keep remembering and reinventing complex tasks that I perform less frequently. These things take a small amount of time to initially set up, but they make life much easier and tasks much quicker from then on.

when I run my vacation care and classroom activities it frequently takes me an hour to set up and just as long to pack away. One of my trolleys carry a selection of equipment and cables; a laptop or two, a projector, amplified speaker, a printer and all of the related cables and chargers. Up until now I have had to unload the trolly, find suitable positions for everything, cable everything up and plug it all into the mains. In an attempt to streamline this process I have created a trolly rack that holds all of this equipment in a useable manner, pre cabled and ready to go. I simply plug a single cable into the mains and i’m ready.

It took me a little time to create, but I believe the savings in time, effort and stress will be considerable, not to mention the reduced disturbance it has on the class or OSHC centre. It has also made it possible for me to hold two animation sessions a day, allowing me to pack up, get to my second session and set up again in reasonable time.

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My iPad based Animation System. Yep! I’m pretty excited about this.

Animation station in use

Bear with me! I’m pretty excited about this. I have been rather busy over the past few months developing a child friendly, stop motion animation system for use in schools. I wanted to create a system that was easy to use, versatile and would allow the children to see the results of their work immediately without them needing to transfer their images to another application for processing. In addition to this it needed to be relatively low cost and portable to allow sufficient units for a whole classroom of children. These days, amateur stop motion is often created with a camera plugged into a laptop running costly software, This can become expensive when duplicated to cater for a whole class!

After much trial and error (understatement but ill spare you the details) I settled on a design based around an iPad mini and an “animation stage” secured onto a single sturdy base unit. The iPad mini was not only a lot less expensive than a laptop and camera but in many ways was more convenient and easier to use, It also provided access to a range of good quality inexpensive software applications.

I created twelve of these animation stations and twelve sets of characters and props. Magnets on the backs of the characters and props allow them to stick to the stage board and be moved as desired.

To make this a whole group activity I decided that each animation station could represent a single act from a larger show (circus show in this case). Once the children have finished their individual animations they can be rapidly edited together to form the whole show.

Are you still with me? :-)

animation station

My first run of this activity was in a number of vacation care centers during the April holidays. It was received very well by both the staff and children and Im really pleased with the results. This is a great way to combine modern technology with hands on creativity in a way that children find engaging. Many of the children were keen to know what iPad software we were using so that they could have a go at making their own animations at home.

12 animation stations

Having given this activity a first run, I am now able to pinpoint a few things that I could improve upon with the physical system as well as my instruction. Im looking forward to making continuous improvements and enhancements to this system and I have many ideas in mind.

My next job is to consider creating another theme (Im thinking time travel) and introduce it into the classroom as an engaging activity that can support curriculum subjects in addition to ICT literacy. With the help of sticky backed magnets this system also allows children to create their own animatable items, providing a great way to learn and communicate ideas. Can you tell I’m pretty excited about this? :-)

If you have any thoughts or questions please get in touch!

My facebook page should you require it:

https://www.facebook.com/byronpetch

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Do computers prevent children from developing creative skills?

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I was having a conversation the other day and it was suggested to me that computers could be detrimental in art and design education because they take so much away from the students personal creativity; “They just press a button and its done for them” I was told. This isn’t the first time this has been suggested to me.

I would like to share with you why I think this is not the case and why I think the opposite may be true. However! first I would like to acknowledge that there are a lot of children’s “creative” software applications that offer very little creative freedom, I am thinking of apps such as those colouring in ones, where the child simply picks a colour and clicks or taps in the space to be filled. In the real, non-digital world there are also a lot of so called creative toys that offer very little in the way of creative freedom. The other day I was I was looking at a colouring-in book which coloured it’s self just by brushing clear water over the pages. This clearly has no creative value and you simple would not select these products if your interest was in creative development. Digital painting requires much the same skills as traditional painting.

Digital painting requires much the same skills as traditional painting. Many creative computer and tablet applications offer a lot of creative flexibility. More than this, they offer an easy way to make and correct mistakes, try things out and change things. This is an essential part of the creative process. Knowing that you can try things out and mess things up is vital to reaching your desired result and is conducive to creative experimentation; An approach that is often far less convenient and tempting using traditional techniques.

Of course you still have to work within the confines of the applications possibilities in much the same way as you would with any other media. A degree of restriction by the media is often an aid to the creative process and gives the artist something to work with.

I think the most exciting way in which the digital approach really offers creative advantage though, is in its multi modal tendency. I love the way the computer has become a central hub where a seemingly endless array of creative techniques can be bought together to result in new ways of developing, creating and delivering ideas. There have been many times I have bought together ink drawings, photography, video, sound and digital illustration in a single project. The biggest challenge for me in the digital world has been knowing when to stop and say, thats it, its done!

So in brief, I believe, as with real world tools and techniques, your creative freedom in the digital world is only restricted by your choice of tools and your imagination. In addition to this going digital facilitates endless ways of combining multiple techniques.

What are your views on this?

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