I have just signed up to join the Adobe team for some training, next week at Edith Cowen University. The sessions look really interesting, with 4 sessions including: "Webdesign without coding using Adobe Muse & Edge Animate" and "Animate Digital Portfolios made easy with Adobe Acrobat". This opportunity is too good to miss, especially as its free!
To be given the opportunity to download and test a pre-release version of Adobe CS6 was a very exciting prospect. My expectations were high, as a casual non-professional user I hope for a simple streamlined interface and easy adoption of this creative world. I work in schools with teachers who practice a â€œjust in time learningâ€ approach. I want teachers and students to find these sometimes daunting programs accessible. In other words can I make the design, develop and publish workflow simpler for my colleagues?
CS6 covers all bases for digital creativity. Graphic design, moving image, audio engineering, and web development is all possible. Finding your starting place and ascertaining the right tool for the job though can be a little trickier. My applications folder is now littered with Adobe packages and in my eagerness to get started I find myself overwhelmed.
For example, the Production Premium package includes Prelude and SpeedGrade. Apparently here to help me with many â€œpre and post production challengesâ€. With Prelude I can log and tag content and create rough cuts to be sent to Premier Pro. SpeedGrade allows for colour grading and finishing of video. Unless you are a seasoned professional this will mean nothing to you, as it meant little to me.
Instead I zone in on the Design Standard, I am comfortable with Photoshop, InDesign and Illustrator. Immediately I notice a much faster opening time. Seems logical, with new â€œperformance enginesâ€ everything feels snappier inside CS6.
Photoshop includes the new â€œContent-Aware Move Toolâ€. Simply lasso an object on your background layer, and drag with the tool. The results are mind bogglingly amazing. How do they fill in the background when there is nothing there? You simply have to try it, already I can see the scope for use here.
Countless new features including a cool Field Blur feature and Adaptive Wide Angle Filter actual allow you to adjust the focus and depth of a photograph as if you were using a completely different lens.
I personally prefer the black design of the interface and I do feel the new tools warrant the upgrade cost of around $300. Especially if you are an Industry Professional.
But then if you were an Industry Professional you wouldnâ€™t be reading this.
Iâ€™m not going to review CS6
Instead iâ€™m going to introduce you to Creative Cloud and show you 2 of the most ground breaking products from Adobe for many years. They are Muse and Edge. They are game changes for Adobe. My only criticism of the Adobe suite since CS3 is that they have taken few risks. Change seems to have eluded them a little.
I want to draw a quick comparison to Final Cut Pro X. The software is developed by Apple. In their recent upgrade of the package they changed so many things, removed favourite features and ceased support for previous standards, that there was outrage from the loyal fans. So much so that many migrated from the film editing suite and spent their money with other software companies.I want to draw another comparison for the rest of us. Facebook has forced its users to adopt a new interface called Timeline. Most people donâ€™t want it, but in order to keep the company evolving and improving, Facebook has deemed it a necessary change.
Now Adobe have developed such a huge community of users, to adapt the layout of Photoshop, adjust or remove tools inside Flash or even tinker slightly with Dreamweaver (in order to simplify/attract new users) would just annoy too many existing customers.
So I am exited to see Adobe creating completely new tools for a new audience which not only provide a simple approach to design and web development but support the future of web standards too.
It seems that everyone is a web designer these days. Google Sites, Wordpress and Weebly are technically 3 very different platforms but all assist in theÂ creation of very attractive and informative websites, quickly and often free. I would have a guess and say that this is having a negative affect on individual professionals and small companies in the web design sector. It may also see the slowing of new adopters for software like Dreamweaver. The appeal of having a website up and running quickly, with easy updates and management is important to most.
If you want to design and manage your own website and you have little coding knowledge Muse is for you. If you are looking for a simple way to enter the world of web development and want to follow correct design standards this is the only choice.
As you start to use Muse your progress gathers like a snow ball hurtling down a hill. Designing beautiful web pages the way you want them, guiding your visitors around multiple pages and creating totally unique and original ideas of how your website should behave is so easy.
Progress is constantly being made and industry standards constantly evolving. Rest assured that when you are using Muse, Adobe are utilising the latest coding practices â€œunder the hoodâ€. For example your menus, text boxes, drop shadows and curved edges when possible are always being coded with CSS. This means that your design contains very few picture assets which can add unnecessary weight. In turn all of your design work is rendered at lightning fast speeds. Your code is clean and future proof.
I am a big fan of the Widgets Library which allows for drag and drop of complex objects such as interactive menus, accordion style panels and picture sliders. As the community of Muse users grows Iâ€™m certain that many third party developed Widgets will start to appear.
Muse feels a lot like iWeb does, both behave in WYSISWYG (What You See Is What You Get) fashion. As an entry into Dreamweaver and other Adobe products this is an obvious path to take.
Well if a simple web design package wasnâ€™t enough Adobe confessed to another area which needed addressing. Animated content that can be rendered perfectly by every device and browser.
Upon opening Edge you are encouraged to complete the In-App Lessons. After 20 mins working through these lessons youâ€™ll be asking yourself why you never dug deeper into Flash. The answer is simple though, Edge invites the user in. There are only 6 Tools to use and the layout feels manageable. For simple splash screens or welcome pages which can be imported into all environments (including iOS), Edge is the way to go. I am already working with a teacher at my school to create a welcome screen for her iBook.
It is clear that many seasoned professionals are criticising Adobe for their move into simplified design approach. After all the outcome of hiding code kind of results in more code being generated in the background. For the purists out there this has to be a step backward. I would suggest that the accessibility for new users including students and teachers will have a very positive outcome. I see a definite market of young adopters who want to get to grips with Adobe tools learning with both Edge and Muse.
The Creative Cloud
Another new approach involving subscription payments to Adobe to receive the software you want. Also providing online and collaborative storage and web hosting for your websites. The 20gig of storage allows me to start work on a Photoshop file on my laptop and finish on my iPad using Adobe Touch.
The Student and Teacher Edition will cost you US$29.99 per month. Just to re-cap, this allows you unlimited access to the entire Master Collection if you need it. At present it is the only way to get your hands on Edge and Muse too.
Adobe seem to be shuffling things around a lot at present. Through the Creative Cloud they are tackling one of the biggest problems they have in piracy of software. With two new entry level packages they are opening the doors for many new inexperienced customers. Equally support for existing users is as good as it ever was. My only criticism here is that there are now almost 20 products on offer. The edges between each product is blurred and to find the best tool is sometimes not obvious.
For the first time when using the Adobe suite you will feel like you are not the last one to join the party, you wont be playing constant catch up with the professionals. For educators and students that rocks! For professions of the future that means a new era of designers and developers coming through with the know how and enthusiasm to adopt Adobe tools.
Bright Ideas from Adobe
To most of us, Adobe are known as the company who develop Photoshop. Others know them as the company behind industry standard tools such as Illustrator and Acrobat. More recently they have been getting media attention with their proprietary format Flash, its lack of support on the iPad and Apple's reluctance to support this versatile developers tool. It appears that this has sent shock waves through the company.
Adobe have always had a strong presence in education. In 2011 their Creative Suite of software was shipped to 80% of Australian schools. And for good reason; The range of tools allowed for creative expression like never before. Used with the right direction from teaching staff and the software holds tremendous pedagogical value. Any student familiar with the design principles of Photoshop, InDesign or Illustrator have a head start with professions across the board.
My role as Technology Integration Specialist in education sees me liaising with hundred's of teachers, all of whom are determined to adopt 21st Century computing skills. Teachers understand that to achieve positive learning outcomes means not only engaging students with tools with which they are familiar, but also to challenge young minds, encourage hidden talents, and to communicate in different mediums. For many though, the thought of mastering any software which succeeds the word Adobe can put some teachers at unease.
The reason for this is simple. Adobe make software for professionals. They create extremely powerful ways that enable specialists to design brands. Adobe smash boundaries in web development, break down barriers for communication and make collaboration across the globe a snap. But to simply open an Adobe product and nurture the creative brilliance of our studentâ€™s minds can be tricky.
Fortunately help is at hand. Adobe seem to be investing considerable time and money to build the right networks and learning infrastructures to ensure that schools, colleges and universities are preparing our young adults for a modern workforce, one which will require higher order thinking skills, problem solving and authentic creative content. A workforce where the likelihood is Adobe tools are present, one where to "PDF" and "Photoshop" are Verbs.
On Tuesday 27th March I attended the Adobe Education Leadership conference in Sydney. I wanted to know how and why teachers should utilise Adobe tools. To say I left inspired is an understatement.
The transformation of learning.
Students, many adults and most early technology adopters are communicating and absorbing information in a very different way. Classrooms of the 20th Century were, for good reason very different to those of today. Teaching itself has, and is, undergoing a paradigm shift to accommodate the active minds of our modern students, and this was something which Jon Perera (Vice President, Adobe Education) reaffirmed in his opening talk.
This â€œparadigm shiftâ€ or changing model of teaching for 21st Century students, is something most teachers are aware of, although discovering and adopting new technologies to enable our students is a constant challenge. Jon Perera highlighted 3 main areas which Adobe are focusing on to provide a sound future in education:
- Multiscreen Technologies, (including cross platform compatibility) is the first key area. Empowering all students throughout the world, no matter from what socio-economic background, to benefit from digital media and to learn creatively is key.
- Capitalising on the Social Computing explosion, which we have experienced in the last 5 years, is also imperative. After all it is here where our students are most comfortable. It is here where students feel they have a platform and a voice to be heard. Enabling game and content creation and by integrating Facebook and Twitter gives purpose to many and empowers students... all while they are learning.
- Cloud Computing. This really encapsulates all of the above. When learning becomes always accessible, collaborative and around the clock, the need to store personal data securely is a must. Adobe Creative Cloud is a solution which not only provides syncing between devices, cloud storage and a social community, but also delivers seamless integration between all of Adobeâ€™s main applications. It will be available this half of 2012 and shows much promise. http://www.adobe.com/products/creativecloud.html
Digital literacy and creativity.
To be able to grasp the concept of digital literacy is something that has often eluded me. The digital world is after all, constantly evolving. It progresses in order to enhance our lives and to be truly literate in this complex language is a struggle.
The digitally literate student should innovate through many different forms of media. They Â should produce and manipulate beautifulÂ images and insightful video. They need to collect and interpret information in manageable and meaningful ways. Across the curriculumÂ students need to choose the right tools to demonstrate creative expression, both visually and aurally.
This creative expression is not reserved for the arts. In fact an initiative by the European Commission titled the European Year of Creativity and Innovation 2009 (EYCI 2009) surveyed 10,000 teachers. The findings showed that an "overwhelming majority" of teachers see creativity as being relevant in all subjects.
Why is creativity so important?
Teachers need to leverage creativity so that students are able to acquire concepts, internalise learning and externalise knowledge. This learning process works with our modern students and allows for a far greater reach across all students (including those with learning disabilities). Teachers already know this and Adobe realise this too.
By creating support networks such as the Adobe Education Exchange and Adobe TV, teachers and students are never far away from advice, tips and most importantly inspiration. A single Adobe ID gives you free access to all of their services so itâ€™s simple and easy to benefit and I cannot recommend it enough.
The Adobe Education Exchange
This community of educators is amazing, if you are looking to utilise Adobe software in your lessons you must take a look at this http://edexchange.adobe.com. In just a few minutes you will discover fantastic, tried and tested projects which are all categorised into Age Group, Product (Photoshop, Illustrator etc), and Resource Type. Most of the projects directly support Australian Curriculum and with thousands of teachers downloading the resources, you have plenty of access to feed back and support if needed.
My favourite AEE project was titled Easy Circle Art. The lesson was listed by Judy Dirken and is listed as Grades 7-12. This project meets the ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) NETS standards. The NETS (National Educational Technology Standards) set a standard of excellence and best practices in learning, teaching, and leading with technology in education.
Additionally if you or your students need some more technical direction, the Adobe TV website offers 100â€™s of training and instructional videos categorised by product. You will find many Adobe beginner guides and probably dozens of videos on how to cut out objects from the background!
The importance of training and development
Throughout the Adobe Education Leadership Forum an emphasis was placed on increasing teacher ICT confidence. This was re-enforced by Dr Sarah K. Howard from the University of Wollongong (NSW). Dr Howard demonstrated through a survey of 4,249 teachers adopting the Digital Education Revolution in NSW, that teachers are not reporting confidence with ICT in the classroom.
Lila Mularczyk is the principal at Merrylands High School. Merrylands have completed a successful roll out of Lenovo laptops to all staff and students years 9-12. Every laptop had the Adobe suite installed on it and the school focused on â€œTeacher Professional Learningâ€. This came in many forms, most impressive was the emphasis on building experts, who in turn became leaders and drivers. These staff ICT champions went on to assist other staff members. Students were involved in the PL too, with a student laptop team who provided assistance to staff students and parents. Innovation was encouraged and creativity quickly became the precedence at Merrylands.
Empowering students through creativity
The Digital Revolution has given Australian students the tools they need to voice themselves and learning becomes autonomous. Technology integration has proven to decrease truancy levels, increase critical and higher order thinking and in turn give students the best head start for their professional futures. Adobe software is at the forefront of all these things. They have acknowledged and addressed the need to adapt and simplify their software.
If you are considering implementing the Adobe suite across your campus I would highly recommend the Adobe Digital School Collection. This suite empowers students with diverse learning styles and abilities to showcase their knowledge across the whole curriculum. The suite includes Photoshop Elements, Premiere Elements, Contribute, Acrobat X Pro and Soundbooth. This means that your school or institute can start editing video, picture, audio, websites and share work easily between Mac and PC.
Adobe are also catering for tablet devices with Adobe Touch Apps. Currently there are 6 apps available across Android and iOS and it seems that Adobe are focusing heavily on these multiscreen mobile technologies. Adobe Photoshop Touch for iPad is an amazing example of how Photoshop can be simplified and scaled down for use with touch interaction. At just $9.99 I recommend you take a look.
Regarding Flash play back on the iPad, we were privy to a demonstration of Flash CS6. You may be pleased to hear that developers will be able to export their flash creations as HTML5. To the rest of us this means that we may start seeing more Adobe Flash content on the iPad!
The end of the day saw a beautiful demonstration from Sarah Kung, a 16 year old student from Sydney. Initially inspired by her brother, Sarah had discovered Photoshop and Illustrator on her laptop and set to work. Her first passion was typography but Sarahâ€™s zeal for photo manipulation, vibrant colours, and creativity lead to discovering a hidden talent. I have included a couple of Sarahâ€™s pictures in this article.
Both Microsoft and Apple offer a range of products which allow for multimedia creation. But no tools come close to the professional standards which Adobe have set. It is through these standards of design and workflows which have really set Adobe apart. Adobe have demonstrated resilience in the last few years and it is this ability to adapt and cater for modern professionals and students which has earned Adobe the confidence of millions of educators around the world.