This collection gives teens the tools to express their technical wizardy.
Classroom teachers know that state standards rather than digital gadgets drive instruction. But truth be told, it's often the technology that motivates students to do the work.
Company:Adobe Systems (opens in new tab)
System Requirements: Intel Pentium 4 or Celeron 2.3 GHz processor; Windows XP; 512 MB RAM, color monitor with 16-bit video card, DVI link/ FireWire/I-EEE 1394 interface to connect a Digital 8 or DV camcorder, or a USB-2 interface to connect a DV-via-USB- compatible DV camcorder
Grade/Price: Middle school and later; volume licensing only, $149 per copy for up to 999 copies, plus $22 for the CDs
Pros: Four heavy-hitting applications enabling students to create and share digital content; teacher resource CD with lesson plans, training materials, and product help; affordable
Cons: Primarily just four standalone products bundled together in a single collection; applications require signif-icant learning time to master
The Adobe Digital Collection lets students easily create and share digital content.
The success of Apple's iPod and Web sites like MySpace, Facebook, and YouTube suggests that tweens (ages 8–13) and teens alike appreciate opportunities to share messages, audio files, photos, and video clips with online friends. Adobe's Digital School Collection turns their love of techno-wizardry into a teachable moment, enabling them to construct digital narratives focused on classroom instruction. If students know they are going public with their work, they will be much more inclined to put in their best effort.
This collection of digital communication tools includes four popular Adobe applications: Photoshop Elements 5.0, Premiere Elements 3.0, Contribute 4, and Acrobat 8 Professional. It also has a teacher resource CD with lesson plans and assessments for science, history, civics, and art, plus hands-on tutorials, technical guides, teaching advice, images, videos, and links to online educational resources. I'll examine each product's highlights.
The flagship Photoshop Elements integrates a built-in Photo Downloader which automatically searches for and imports video frames as well as images from floppies, discs, flash drives, media cards, cameras, and mobile phones. If it's a digital image, this application will dress it up. It features numerous tools, special effect filters, and correction options for photo manipulation and enhancement, including an Auto Red Eye Fix that automatically repairs red eye problems it detects at import. Edited images can be output to Photo Book pages, greeting cards, CD/DVD jackets, photo albums, scrapbooks, and calendars.
New to this edition, it also features Web-compatible, animated Flash-based photo galleries and flipbook stop-motion videos consisting of several shots taken in sequence through the Burst Mode feature on a digital camera. Photos imported into and touched up with Photoshop Elements can be incorporated in digital student reports, book reviews, news stories, and other work for posting on the school Web site or class blog, or sharing on disc. Elements 5.0 stands on its own as a user friendly but very powerful digital photo package offering Photomerging for grand sweep panoramic shots, a better organizer for grouping and managing burgeoning collections of images, improved support for the RAW image format, more templates, themes, and artwork for photo-based layouts, and increased options for attention-grabbing photo galleries.
Premiere Elements includes a host of digital movie-making tools to import video clips and photo stills from numerous devices, including Webcams, MPEG-4 video recorders, mobile phones, and DVD and HDV (high-definition video) camcorders. Once imported, users can easily drag and drop clips and stills into Sceneline and Timeline views for mixing with audio, user-recorded narrations, special effects, and clip transitions. They can then add a movie title, place some DVD scene markers, and output the finished project onto DVD or upload the digital video to the Web, an iPod, or a Sony PSP for sharing with others. For example, imagine how much more exciting the life cycle of a paramecium or Monarch butterfly could be if students took advantage of the program's stop motion settings to create time-movies from camcorder or still camera footage, then used the soundtrack options to narrate the process and dramatize each stage in the life cycle stage with sound effects and music.
With Acrobat Professional, students can translate their computer-generated projects into PDFs. Users of Adobe's Acrobat Reader (free) can view, print, and search these Acrobat-generated PDFs, even if their systems lack the applications or typefaces used to create the original document. New to version 8 is the ability to password-protect PDF documents using 128-bit encryption. Users can also embed an index into the document to speed up document searches. Plus, it's easy for students to combine elements from several sources such as photos, video, and audio clips into a single PDF for classroom presentations. Finally, thanks to the companion Acrobat LiveCycle Designed 8's tools to design and edit Web-based interactive forms, students can generate interactive questionnaires and surveys.
Contribute 4 is a Web administrator's dream come true. Webmasters can designate which users have permission to connect to the school or classroom Web site to modify particular pages and upload new content. Contribute's visual editor has tools to change text color, insert images and tables, set links to other Web pages, and create bulleted and numbered lists. Added to this version is a feature that allows users to connect to their blog sites to create and edit blog entries. Contribute 4 also plays well with non-Adobe, Windows-based applications by installing a two-button toolbar in Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Internet Explorer, and Firefox so users can easily "Edit in Contribute" or "Post to Blog."
Unlike Adobe Creative Suite or Studio 8, Digital School Collection applications function independently of each other. They do not constitute a tightly integrated suite. However, some products incorporate features that facilitate work within the others. For example, users can manually configure the File Editor Preferences in Contribute 4 so that double-clicking an image automatically opens it for editing in Photoshop Elements. Each application makes use of the browser-based Adobe Help Center searchable by topic, keyword, index, and bookmark. Similarly, all applications in the Collection include a user friendly Start page with links to common tasks.
Digital technology, like plumbing, often works unnoticed until it breaks down. Applications in Adobe's Digital School Collection constitute the basic plumbing of digital communication. They're versatile, robust, and will require time to master, but collectively they incorporate a full complement of tools to create and share digital content at a very affordable price.
Carol S. Holzberg is district technology coordinator for Greenfield Public Schools and the Greenfield Center School in Massachusetts.