Digital Image Manipulation in English

Earlier this year I was approached by Ms Tam Yuill Proctor, the Head of Department for English. She was interested in the potential for students to use digital image manipulation during their study of static images. I thought that this an exciting project to assist with, but immediately recognised that this is an area that I had very little experience in! What was particularly exciting is the potential to expose Year 9 students to the concept and then progressively up-skill them through to Year 13 where the requirements are obviously a lot more challenging.

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Challenges in Digital Manipulation

My limited previous experience with students in their area has taught me that students primarily fall into two categories. In any class there will be a small number of students, typically 2-5, who have extensive experience, and interest in, digital manipulation of images. These students have typically used Photoshop, and are relatively advanced in their capabilities. The second, much larger, group of students have virtually no experience in this field – and they can often be intimated at the prospect.

Finding a tool

Here at St Andrew’s College we have a range of devices in each classroom as part of our 1:1 program. As an IT team we felt that there were three main criteria that any product we were going to recommend must meet:

  • Able to be used on Mac and Windows laptops
  • Be free to download and use
  • Be complex enough for Year 13 English students

Based on these criteria we decided to investigate the potential of GIMP as a platform for these tasks. gimpEarlier in this post I mentioned the two categories that students fit. The same is true of staff. I fell, very clearly, into the second category – totally inexperienced. It was great that here was a situation that was forcing me to upskill in an area, ready to help students investigate and apply the potential gains to be had using such technology to display their understanding of curriculum content. I found Gimp to be intuitive, relatively easy to use, and it was pretty easy to apply its basic manipulation tools.

“It was great that all students were using the same platform and that they had access to technical support.” – Mrs Helaina Coote – English Teacher

Year 13 Task

The focus of the Year 13 unit of work was for students to create a 8-10 minute presentation or visual essay that explores a theme from the film studies; in this case Tsotsi. Students were being assessed against the Achievement Standard 91477 ‘Create a fluent and coherent visual text which develops, sustains, and structures ideas using verbal and visual language.’

“This standard forces students to develop grit, resilience and perseverance. Progress does not always come easily or immediately.” Mrs Helaina Coote – English Teacher

In previous years many students were attempting to use Photoshop to complete this task, but were becoming bogged down in the detail of the product, with staff frustrated that they did not necessarily have the skills to assist. This year, the decision was made to directly teach students how to use the tool, and support them during class time to use it effectively.

Prior to beginning the task students were introduced to GIMP and instructed on how to use the basic functionality of it. An important part of this was giving students time to experiment with some of the more fundamental functionality of the product such as overlaying images, changing block colours and cropping images.static2

Having had an introduction students were then in a position to begin work on their production. What was particularly important here was that students, who may have no experience in digital manipulation, felt supported. I predominantly spent time in two classes; taught my Ms Helaina Coote, and Ms Phoebe Wright.

Once the students had created a number of different images most of them chose to import them into PowerPoint so that they could add music and animations to ensure that they met the requirements of the assessment task.

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For me personally what was particularly interesting was seeing the skill progression and increases in confidence that all students showed. It was also great to see the upskilling of staff as they learnt next to their students. This was echoed by both teachers involved:

“Teacher shows students willingness to learn. It is good for students to see that help is accepted. Students are supported to learn the tool.”

 

Future Challenges

This is a Challenging assessment task. On reflection there were some students who became a little engrossed in the details of each image, particularly as they we learning the tool. These students found it difficult to work fast enough to create the required number of images. Hopefully, the fact that a number of classes ranging from Y9-Y12 were also introduced to Gimp this year should hopefully enable those students to approach this task with more fluency as they progress through their English education.

This task is a perfect example of how eLearning is integrated into classrooms here at St Andrew’s College. I believe that as students add to their skill year year-on-year we will see further improvement in the complexity and quality of the digital images they are able to create. It is also a great way to support students, and staff, in learning a new tool.

St Andrew’s College Dedication of the Centennial Chapel 25th October 2016

Welcome to the livestream of the St Andrew’s College dedication of the Centennial Chapel – it starts at 10:45am on Tuesday 25th October.

This is not a traditional blog post, however there has been a huge amount of technology and student input into making this livestream happen so we trust that you enjoy it.

#CEM16 Guest Post – Connecting Educators Through TeachMeets

This post was written for the Christchurch Connected Educators blog as part of Connected Educators Month of October 2016. You can read the original post here. A similar post was written for #CEM15 about Mystery Skype which you can read here.

Earlier this year I had the privilege of attending my first ever TeachMeet and it just so happened to be in Melbourne at Ivanhoe Grammar School.  If you’re unsure of what a TeachMeet actually is, you can find more at the website http://www.teachmeet.co.nz but in short:

A TeachMeet is an organised but informal meeting (in the style of an unconference) for teachers to share good practice, practical innovations and personal insights in teaching with technology.

Participants volunteer (via the TeachMeet website) to demonstrate good practice they’ve delivered over the past year, or discuss a product that enhances classroom practice.

Source: Wikipedia

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Encouraging connecting at TeachMeet

With the themes of this year’s Christchurch Educators Month being “connect, innovate and collaborate” I felt that a summary blog on how TeachMeet Christchurch has gone would be appropriate.

I recognised that teachers are very busy people and wanted to keep the commitment levels to TeachMeet pretty low – a once per term meeting that ran for no more than 90mins and in true keeping with the spirit of TeachMeets, each presentation could be no longer than 7 minutes. To facilitate the launch I arranged to host first two sessions at St Andrew’s College where I was confident I could drum up some speakers and also a crowd of listeners and then used an open Google Doc for people to register. You can see the topics and attendees for TeachMeet 0.1 and TeachMeet 0.2.

I was delighted with the turnout for these events and the quality of the presentations from the speakers. Many shared something from a technology / eLearning perspective however the format allows for any educational topic to be shared. Importantly, and in keeping with the theme of connecting, the events were split in half to allow a time for networking with other teachers over a coffee.

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Mr Wilj Dekkers from St Andrew’s College presenting at TeachMeet 0.1

As always at events like this, there was good sharing on Twitter of what was being presented via the hashtag #TMChch and you can see a twitter recap for TeachMeet 0.1 and TeachMeet 0.2

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A montage of photos from an earlier TeachMeet in 2016

I am pleased that Jeremy Cumming (former teacher at Catholic Cathedral College and now working for the Catholic Education Office) asked to pick up the organisation and hosting of TeachMeet 0.3 that will run on 17th November and be hosted at Villa Maria College. This represents a natural progression and maturing of TeachMeet by sharing the hosting and co-ordinating responsibilities amongst teachers and schools which will naturally shape the themes and focus of each session. Ultimately, this is key for the ongoing success of TeachMeet – to be sustainable there needs to be collective responsibilities and a desire amongst teachers to want to connect with each other and share best practice from their classroom, things they are experimenting with, or research they are undertaking in post-graduate studies.

When teachers maintain a mind-set of being lifelong learners then I believe a natural outworking of this is wanting to connect at various sessions like TeachMeet and others that are routinely organised by the teaching community in wider Canterbury.

If you have never been to a TeachMeet before, can I encourage you to consider signing up at www.teachmeet.co.nz for TeachMeet 0.3 which will be the last for 2016, but hopefully just one in a long line of many more where teachers can remain connected