Saturday, September 21, 2013

So Far, So Good!

While some aspects of our new Digital Media Design program are still gelling, we hit the ground running during the past two weeks. My brilliant students dove right into a research project about future technologies, to provide them with a bit of a backdrop against which all our projects will be framed. They used free, web-based Prezi to create dynamic and engaging presentations which addressed the current and predicted states of robotics, 3D printing, transportation, communication and more. These were then published to our Edmodo virtual classroom.

We also started experimenting with the Makerbot, printing objects from its SD card, which ships pre-loaded with four 3D objects. One of my students also downloaded a bracelet from Thingiverse which we printed. We were all surprised to see how flexible the PLA filament can be, as the bracelet allowed for twisting and some re-sizing. Still much to learn about this amazing piece of technology.

Students observing the Makerbot at work for the first time. 

Abby wears a fashionable Makerbot bracelet, courtesy of Thingiverse. 

Rock Star Joe coming his hair with a 3D printed comb (one of the designs included on the Makerbot's SD card)

DMD students also started a unit on Digital Storytelling this week, using Microsoft's Photo Story 3 (free download!). MS PS3 is a great little tool if you're unfamiliar. Students can craft stories using images, text, video, music and spoken narration. I used some guidelines provided by the University of Houston's amazing site for digital storytelling and allowed students to choose their topics. Since we now have block scheduling at our school, a few 80 minute periods will allow plenty of time for them to produce and present some incredible stories (3-5 minutes each). I will post the greatest hits here shortly...

"Thank you for shopping with Amazon. My name is Anthony. How may I help you?" Anthony hard at work producing his digital story. We use mic/headset combos via 1/8" mini-plug ports on our PCs. When everyone's working, it looks like a customer service call center in Room A141. 

Daryl searches for the right element that will make his digital story perfect. 

Lastly, speaking of 3D Printing, check this out: 

Monday, September 9, 2013

Breaking the Ice

Today my students in Digital Media Design introduced themselves with the help of custom-made personal avatars, courtesy of Voki. Once they created their Vokis, students copied the provided embed code, returned to the DMD Edmodo page (our virtual classroom), and pasted the code into the assignment dropbox, so that I was able to project each submission for review.

I love Voki because it's free, easy to use and a fun way of getting students (especially technophobes) into being creative on a computer. I use it with my high school students and even with the teachers I meet while instructing professional development workshops and it's always a home run. If you're a teacher looking for a quick new trick to infuse your lessons with technology, give Voki a try (while it still has a free section!).

Thursday, September 5, 2013

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

Wow, it really has been a while since I last posted. As we head into another school year, I thought I would showcase some work that I have been doing over the summer. While I absolutely love teaching, I also love having two months "off" each year to recharge my creative batteries, work on some fun and challenging projects (both personal and professional), and find new inspiration.

I'm getting ready to embark on my second year teaching at Ocean Township High School and I've been asked to create and teach a brand new course called Digital Media Design (DMD). I'm so thankful to have such a supportive and forward-thinking administration in my building who see the value in creating course offerings of this nature.

First things first. Before I detail what DMD is going to look like, I'll share a couple other items. I also teach Digital Photography and have been given a brand new room to teach it in. Last year I focused (no pun intended) mostly on natural light photography as the space wasn't suitable to teach studio/artificial lighting. This new room is huge and will be outfitted with a seamless backdrop, multiple monolights, light modifiers, v-flats, product tent and more. I'm looking forward to preparing the next Annie Leibovitzes and Richard Avedons for their Vanity Fair shoots!

To get my studio chops in line, I took a 10 week course at the School of Visual Arts in NYC, under the direction of Len DeLessio. I can't say enough great things about the course - Studio Lighting: What You Really Want To Know - and Len himself. It was life-changing. Seriously. I now have a greater understanding of studio processes and an appreciation for artificial light. Thanks, Len!

Below, I have posted a few of my greatest hits from the class:

An experiment with some gels.

Try to mimic Jill Greenberg's lighting set up. 

An over-lit white background shot of my friend, Rachel.

This summer also provided me the opportunity to collaborate on a music video project with an amazing group of students and teachers from Eatontown, NJ. The program is known as SPEAK and its aim is to point kids in the right direction, helping them to make good choices (namely avoiding drugs and alcohol). Over the course of two days, the students wrote and recorded an original song entitled, "Choices Last a Lifetime," using Apple's fun and easy-to-use Garageband. They also shot and edited an accompanying music video, employing green screen technology and Sony's Vegas video editing software. I'm so proud of what they were able to create. 

Please check out the video below:
"Choices Last a Lifetime"

Back to my other life. Digital Media Design will encompass a veritable smorgasbord of technologies - Sketchup, Adobe After Effects, Prezi, Voki, Edmodo, Google's suite of applications, digital photography, and 3D Printing (rapid prototyping). I took our new Makerbot home this summer and dug in to see how it ticks. Too cool. Check it out:

I printed all of the files that shipped on the SD card that came with the Makerbot (a chain link, a shark and a nut and bolt combo.

The Makerbot Replicator 2. About the size of a microwave oven, but infinitely cooler. 

My son admiring the Makerbot's handy work.

The printed nut and bolt (this .stl file came with the Makerbot) printed with clear PLA. They fit together nicely.

Then, I dove into Sketchup, created a thing I called the Digi-Widget, brought it into Makerware (controls the Makerbot build), scaled it and printed it. It's a brave new world, folks:

But wait, there's more! Another unit in DMD will serve as an introduction to Robotics. We will be exploring the new LEGO Mindstorms EV3 kit. I have loved LEGOS since I was a kid and I am completely psyched to introduce this 21st century iteration to my students. I familiarized myself with the LEGO programming environment (based on industry-standard, Labview) and with the accompanying curriculum materials. In no time at all, I was up and running. Below is a video of the Gyro Boy, a robot that balances (unbelievably) on 2 wheels with the aid of sensors and some very sophisticated programming (I built the bot, but used the supplied program). Check it out:

Lastly, I plan to incorporate video post production into my DMD course, with the goal of building a digital film making academy of sorts. We offer TV production and broadcast media courses in our school and I built this into DMD to compliment those offerings. My students will be learning the basics of visual effects by experimenting with Adobe After Effects, another robust, industry-standard application. I got my feet wet with it by creating the clip below (thanks to my wife for being such a good sport!):

Oh yeah - one more thing! I had the opportunity to sit in on a good friend's podcast (Thanks, Larry!!!) and I am inspired to have my students create their own, using tools in the Adobe Creative Suite. I'm also laying the groundwork for my own personal podcast, as I firmly believe that modeling is one of the most powerful forms of instruction. 

There will surely be more entries to come in the near future! Best of luck this school year, my fellow educators and students! Be inspired and amaze yourselves!