(u07a1) Developing Your Five Minds

I’ll admit it right from the start. I’m not a blogger. In fact, I never really even read blogs before entering this course. The reason being (and I’m putting this bluntly) is that, for the most part, blogs are usually opinionated fact-lacking publications. There I said it.

However, with a little searching for this final blog post, I found that there are a few exceptions in this sea of blogs. In particular, I was looking for a blog that pertained to technology in education, because as a Technology Education instructor, I’m always looking for new ways to implement technology into my courses (hence the reason I’m taking this course). Anyways, I found a great post on an educational blog site that peaked my interest, because it’s an issue that is currently at the forefront within our district – Cyber Schools. The blog is part of the Techlearning blog site, and you can find a this particular blog here.

Our district is currently suffering an exponentially growing rate of dropouts in favor of cyber school. To compound matters worse, our school must foot the bill for each one of these students so that they can have computer, internet access, materials, etc. To further compound the issue, many of these students that make the transition are students doing poorly in regular classroom settings. Once they enter cyber school, they usually only last a few weeks if that. In a nutshell, cyberschool is turning into a last resort option for already failing students.

Our school has been working on the development of an “in-house” alternative, called Vlinc. With this system, students still must meet all requirements outlined by our district, and the courses are administered by district faculty. There are no outside influences on this system. This is a fairly new process, and although students have started to make the transition, there’s still plenty of room for growth. As faculty members, we’re are being asked (if we wish to do so) to help run these new courses. Many teachers are unprepared to enter this new environment, and even I at times feel like I’m not sure I would handle it well. This course, along with sharing concepts and ideas with others in the same situation (i.e. this blog), I feel I can be more prepared to understand this new virtual learning environment.

I feel that we as faculty need to understand the positives and negatives of this new learning environment before we attempt to delve into it head first. This blog really provided me with some insight into what other states/districts are doing with cyber school. I liked this blog (and the whole blog site) because it provides ideas and insight to the issues revolving around technology within the classroom. The sharing of ideas and information is the first step for teachers to get a better understanding on virtual learning, and how it can be beneficial if used properly (which it currently is not within our district). Because in the end, we are much like our students in that we are never done learning.


Developing an Ethical and Respectful Mind (u06a1)

As I read over Gardner’s chapters on the ethical and respectful mind, I noted how students today are really losing touch with other cultures both within our borders as well as outside of them. I then began thinking about a way I could incorporate and encourage these areas within my classroom. Then it hit me. These students are learning about graphic design, the principles of design, elements of design, typography, etc, but they have little understanding of where it all began. Graphic design in its earliest forms is as old as man first appearing as symbols on rock walls in places where the first humans were known to have existed.

I think it would be great to break the students into groups. Each group would be assigned a specific period of time period to research how graphic designed progressed as well as what uses it had during that time. The students would focus on the expansion across the various cultures of the world, as well as how graphic design uses varied throughout the cultures. It would be important for them to focus not only on the positive influences graphic design has had, but the negative impacts as well (propaganda, slander, symbols of hate, etc). This would allow students to analyze ethical vs. unethical uses of graphic design throughout history. Each group would then create a digital story including images, narration, and audio showcasing their time period. At the conclusion of this project, each group would present their digital story to the class in order of their time period. In a sense, what we would have created is a digital media time-line. Students would be able to see how graphic design progressed throughout the time periods of each group as well as how the uses for graphic design varied throughout cultures.

This assignment would accomplish several things within the ethical and respectful minds. For one, students would have a better appreciation for how truly advanced the cultures of this world have been (and currently are) in terms of their ingenuity and creativity. Many cultures had established a graphic design system as a formal language long before the written word (I would bet most students are unaware of this). As the digital time-line progressed, students would see how cultures adapted and changed graphic design to meet their needs (from early communication, to a currency system in some cultures, to modern day advertising).

I feel as if sometimes students become a bit close minded in terms of their own culture. They just assume everything revolves around them and their culture. Some might even have nationalistic views in that they feel that America is everything in the world, when in fact there are MANY advanced cultures and influential people throughout the world. The advancement of man throughout time knows no boundaries. The tools, materials, and technology that we use today all had their origins spread throughout the world, and I feel that students should gain a better understanding of them. Graphic design is just one portion, but it’s an area that does truly spread throughout the sands of time and across cultures. It hasn’t always been used for the betterment of mankind (ethics), but nonetheless, it has had worldwide impact, and that’s an important step in helping students develop their ethical and respectful minds.

Creativity Outside of the Classroom.

As some of you may know, I have taught digital photography as well as video production. In most of those classes, project sharing was limited to within the walls of the classroom. Students couldn’t really get their work out to others to see, but if I had only known then about sites like Teachertube.com, that could have changed.


Teachertube.com is basically a moderated youtube clone, but it’s primary use is for educators as well as students to showcase their work. Digital stories, power points, video slide shows, video projects, etc can all be showcased to the world through this site. What’s also great about this site (in light of the Pew research) is that, like youtube, users all over the world can comment and rate the work being posted. Students can receive feedback from people all over the world, and leave feedback for others. The site encourages worldwide discussion, which I believe is a major part of developing the creative mind. The project shouldn’t end with submission, but rather it should continue into the evaluation and synthesis end, and sites like these help encourage that. Not only that, but students love seeing their work online (come on…you know they do!).

Obviously the big reason I like this resource over youtube (which is closely resembles) is the fact that the content is school related and safe. I encourage any teacher who has projects that could be put into video format to check this site out, and give it a try. Registration is free just like youtube.

Creativity in the Classroom…It’s in the Name

Graphic design is a very creative content area, and as such we employ the use of software that encourages creativity. Although it’s not a software readily available to all teachers, the Adobe CREATIVE Suite is a great software application for turning creative ideas into reality. I have to be careful that I don’t simply teach a software package, but rather encourage the software to be used as a tool to accomplish a goal.

The software may be expensive, but since it’s industry standard, there really isn’t anything students can’t do. If they can dream it up, they can make it. In fact, there’s often times that students want to accomplish something outside of what I’ve taught, and I find my self showing them new techniques within the software to accomplish their vision. It’s very rewarding to see their eyes light up with excitement when they see that they can actually do what they had in mind all along.

As I’ve mentioned before, my assignments are left somewhat open ended in terms of how student approach them. By doing this, I’m trying to encourage them to use their creativity, and most do. However, creativity can sometimes be the downfall of an assignment. I have students who really don’t approach assignments creatively either out of a lack of interest, or a general lack of desire to think outside of the box. These students would rather have specific, concrete criteria for their assignments. I’m not really sure how you can balance an assignment out so that it caters to both the students striving to be creative as well as those who have little to no desire to be creative.

Here’s an example piece done by one of my students this fall. In this particular project, students had to take a scenic background image, find 5 pictures, and bring them in to creative a “surreal scene.” This project utilized Adobe Photoshop and had students incorporating colorization, image resizing, feathering, and blend modes. I feel that this was one of the more creative projects I’ve seen from my students this year.

Original Image




Print Layout and Math

Much of what we do as Technology Education teachers involves a variety of content outside of our core subject (primarily science and math). I try to incorporate a lot of math into my classroom activities whether it’s in the form of measurement, RPM calculations for machinery, dimensioning in my CAD classes, and of course laying out print designs in desktop publishing. The latter is an activity we are currently wrapping up.

Our first graphic design project of the year didn’t really involve much in the way of layout or understanding image/print resolution. However, their last project required that they develop an accurate full size print layout of their project so that they are able to send the job to our color printer. Their project was to design and create a mock credit card (both front and back). All elements of the card were to be created by them (the shape of the card, the lettering, the card type logo, the swipe bar, etc). Before the project began, we discussed how images vary in their resolution (expressed in PPI, or pixels per inch) depending on their use.

First we calculated how to figure out how many pixels are in an image given it’s pixel dimensions (simply take the width x the height). I told them that this is ALL the more pixels a particular image has, and there can be no more than that. This is where camera’s mega pixel ratings come from (1500px x 2000px would be a 3mp camera).

I stressed that most images on the web are low resolution (most commonly 72ppi), and are not suitable for printing. We created a mock high resolution document within Photoshop (ideally not the best page layout program, but it’s what we have). We then took sample images off the internet and placed them into the project window (set at 250ppi). The students observed what happens to the pixels at various resolutions (the image appears to shrink drastically because the number of pixels in an image is constant, the resolution dictates how many of them are in a given inch). We basically broke it down into steps, like this:

Take a 400px x 400px image. That image has 1600 pixels TOTAL (multiply the dimensions). At 72PPI, there are 72 of those 1600 pixels in every inch. At 250PPI, there are 250 of those 1600 pixels in every image. In the latter example, there are more of the 1600 used in every inch, thus the image appears smaller (on screen) than it’s 72ppi counterpart.

I then set up a scenario to calculate appropriate image sizes given a specific resolution as well as a physical print dimension (in inches). We ran through a scenario like this:

You set up project to be printed at 5″x3″ and 250PPI. You need to find an image that will fit that appropriate space at that resolution, and you need this dimension in pixels. So, what they need to do is some basic math:

250 Pixels Per Inch, and the image needs to fit 5″ x 3″. Students must multiply their resolution (250) by each physical dimension (5 and 3) to get the appropriate pixel dimensions which turns out to be
1250px X 750px.

Desktop publishing is both visual based as well as mathematically based. Students need to understand concepts of image resolution, display resolution vs. print resolution, margins, kerning, leading, etc to fully have all the tools to be a successful designer.

This is simply one example of how I try to keep my instruction interdisciplinary, but in reality it’s almost a daily occurrence . From the wood shop to the graphics lab, I’m always incorporating some cross-curriculum content within my lessons. It’s key not only for my subject area’s survival within school districts (as districts begin cutting “elective” classes), but to also help our students see their education as not subject based, but rather content based.

United Streaming In The Classroom (u02a1)

The video sample I chose to use can be viewed by clicking here.

Although our school is involved directly with United Streaming, I’ve yet to really attempt to utilize it for any of my classes. This assignment was nice in the fact that it allowed me to scan the archives for a video that might pertain to something I might teach.

I found one particular video very interesting, and although I don’t teach it at the moment, it could easily be applied to a digital photography class (which I have taught). Looking at the video even further, I suppose you could even tie in some of the concepts and issues discussed to a graphic design/digital art class (which is what I currently teach).

I would really like to utilize this video early in the year when I present the introduction to digital photography. In previous classes, I had my students form two groups, with one group representing traditional film, and the other digital. The students had to come up with different reasons why one was “better” or more advantagous than the other. In the end, the students had a civil debate on the topic. Some of the points made within this video would have great tie ins to this activity especially on the ethics of digital photography. I believe this is an issue many students don’t think about when discussing photography, and photo manipulation.

Through this video, I would want to students to gain an understanding of the positives as well as the negatives to the digital photo era, and digital photo manipulation. Just because digital photography is a technological advancement, doesn’t necessarily mean that it is without it’s downsides, and students need to realize that. Photo journalism, much like tradtional journalism, is necessary to bring truth and history to people without modification. The advancement of digital photography and photo editing has allowed photo journalists to manipulate history and events before the public sees them. Is this ethical? That’s the question I hope to get my students thinking about and discussing through this video.

There are a few ways this video could be incorporated into my class. One, as mentioned earlier, it could be used as a preceding activity to the digital vs. film debate to envoke thoughts on ethics (rather than just technological features).

This video also has it’s place for when my class enters the post-production side of digital workflow. Students always have fun in Photoshop and Lightroom manipulating photos, but there needs to be an emphasis on editing photos as little as possible, and only enough to improve exposure, rather than altering the photo beyond what actually took place at that moment in time.

I could utilize this video as a reference source for students doing research on a particular photography topic (for a small research paper). I find that providing a list of resources is a nice starting point for students beginning a research paper.

The video is short enough that I could also embed it into a file/activity on my blackboard course fro my students to watch as part of a Q&A sheet on photography.

Finally, I feel that this video could be used in part of a quick one to two day class reasearch project where I would show this video, then ask the students to search magazines at home, and here at school (I could provide older magazines for them). They would have to find 5 photos within the magazines that they found that they believe were manipulated, and then present them to the class via slides. This gets students actively engaged and aware of how photographs today (many of them in fact) are manipulated post-production in some fashion.

(u01a1) Introduction Blog

Hi there! My name is Matt Hensler, and I’m a Technology Education Instructor at Jersey Shore Area Senior High School in Northcentral, PA. I’m 23, going on 24 (in November 😉  ), so I’m probably the younger one of the group. I’ve been teaching for a little over a year now, so I’m also probably the more inexperienced of the group when it comes to teaching.

I teach 9th and 10th grade graphic design, desktop publishing, and web design (with a little wood manufacturing tied in). Since it’s obvious I teach in a subject the revolves around Technology, it’s no surprise that I love it. I’ve always been a Technology nut. I’ve worked in IT, been an part-time web designer, taught digital photography, ran a student news program, and a little in between in just my short few years as a teacher.

I love incorporating non traditional methods of instruction into my classroom, which is why I’m really looking forward to this class. I really enjoy learning about other’s ideas and approaches to keeping learning interactive and different. One of the biggest things I took from the previous 7 week course (Digital Storytelling) were the ideas that were share amongst all of us as peers. I hope to be able to continue that trend in this class as well.

This is my fiance and I at Ricketts Glen state park. Notice the Wilkes shorts! My fiance is a senior there in the Pharmacy program!