Donna Dolan

What Comes First?

Just curious, when introducing a new software to beginners, is it better to introduce the software interface and methodically get to know tools and panels with small activities, OR, is it better to get the students excited with one project that concentrate on one ore more tool/skill?

Is it better to use books for learning skills, OR, demonstrations?

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Wayne Kijanowski

Posted on 3/10/14 2:56:33 AM Permalink

Here's what works for me. I teach Desktop Publishing (InDesign) and Photoshop at TIU. I teach it with a modular schedule, that is, we meet for 7 nights for 3.5 hours. Class is so full, need to teach it twice...(not bragging...think it is students are excited about the software and what they can do with it). I teach totally inductively. Each course is about 50 exercises that usually has the process not the product as the main goal. Because some items are repeated in different ways, after about the 3rd class they know what a certain tool or filter does. I supplement this with homework videos on the Adobe Website as well as I have them subscribe for a month to I start each class by showing them images of all the "cool stuff" they will do today...I rarely lecture.

Most excel this way and get a grasp and pretty much want you to stay out of their way...still, there are other students who coast and need a kick in the butt and a hug. I team those who do well with those who struggle...and keep the class at a good pace and those who struggle I make sure my door is always open.

jon papworth

Posted on 3/7/14 11:40:47 AM Permalink

we find starting with a project and teaching skills as we progress keeps students more engaged. we try to get students to find an example of the style they want to produce then teach how to create this style, students take notes and annotate screen shots in their e sketchbooks. following this students use the skills to create a piece on a new theme using their own images but using the style learnt - this confirms their learning and offers room for creativity. as they progress and learn more styles they can start to mix them together to create their own style.

I find demonstrations at first then getting students to find tutorials for elements they want to further themselves in and support them through tutorials works really well - occasionally you get a little stumped and have to go away for a minute and try it yourself but it generally works really well.

Brad Clark

Posted on 2/18/14 10:48:36 PM Permalink

Complex applications can easily overwhelm students. I have found that starting with a simple assignment that introduces a few key concepts is the best way to start. When I teach Premiere Pro, I start with demonstrations of software procedures and have students use what they learn. The following day I will introduce some additional information, such as titling or exporting. When introducing something that is sequentially complex, such as After Effects, I have students watch instructional videos, which allow them to re-watch areas they are unclear on.

Chris Deady

Posted on 1/29/14 1:35:20 AM Permalink

I like to introduce the the basics of the program. I will go over setting up a document, the interface, tools and panels and then start creating some cool effect to grain their interest. Along the way I give them mini projects to develop their skills and build confidence. Soon enough they are ready to explore and create on their own. I will give them more challenging and create projects when I feel they are ready. Since every class is different, it takes a little time to assess and gauge what the class is capable of and I pace the class accordingly.

Lukas Engqvist

Posted on 11/23/13 10:09:26 PM Permalink

It's a tough one because it depends on your students. It is important for both students to succeed by introducing project s that use the basic skills, but also to help them decipher the interphase. Adobe technicians have designed over 250 cursors in photoshop, a similar number in illustrator and in indesign. Help your students look for the hints so that they can see how the computer interprets their commands. They need to trust the computer will do as they say.

Since students are different you will have to vary, some will want a lecture, some a link to a video and others will want written step by step instructions. Teaching Photoshop, Illustrator or InDesign or Premiere my approach is very different. There are some principles and best practices that they will never discover by self exploration. In photoshop the hard concept to handle is masks, in Illustrator the key is understanding beziers and appearance vs outline, in InDesign to get to the advanced functions I find the struggle is for those with a passion for the visual to handle syntax and semantic structure of text. And so on…

I more and more believe that each student needs to construct their understanding of the programs (See if you need to fresh up on the teaching theory). I will normally try to give a 20 minute introduction, then give an exercise where they can implement those skills, and spend the rest of the lesson helping those that struggle to understand the concepts. Some students will seem to understand one lesson, and then the next they will struggle where they seemed to be fine before. I have also started giving written questions in photo shop, many students have a hard time reflecting… I ask them to do something and then ask them to describe what they see when they try one thing rather than another, or what is the difference between choosing one method rather than the other. Giving them the "how" and asking them if they can figure out "what" or "why".

I do find some of the diligent students struggle. They get lost between watching the demo, follow on their own screen and take verbose notes. It can be very disturbing for the flow (for me, for them and for understanding the principle), and I need to remind them not to take notes during those demos.

Mark DuBois

Posted on 9/26/13 10:31:36 PM Permalink

I agree with Ben. I typically introduce a project or workflow and then walk through the necessary parts of the interface to accomplish the project. There are so many great resources on Adobe TV and other places that most students can do further research when they want to learn more about the interface.

Best always,

Jim Colbert

Posted on 9/24/13 4:12:53 PM Permalink

I have always had the best luck with just introducing the basics of a program and letting my students just run with it. Some will take to the new tech slowly while others will make me want to go back and practice more myself. I teach a Broadcasting/Doc Films class to high school students and experience a varied level of interest. I usually save the in-depth, menu based teaching for the third year kids. They have a wider knowledge base and are more likely to jump right in so they can polish their work and get better at what they do.

With the beginning classes, I just tend to let them explore, discover, and ask questions. With each project, I introduce another element that they have to use and we take maybe a class or two to go over it. Each project has to include the elements of the prior project as well as the new one. For example, the first project might just be to edit four or five still shots together. Second might be to add transitions. Third will be to add fade-in/out. Then titles, music, importing video, and so on.

Aaron Roberts

Posted on 9/23/13 5:27:46 PM Permalink

I can really only speak from my own experience. I teach a Vis Comm-ish class to high school students. We start a new unit every three or four weeks. These are problem-based units where students are solving visual problems using the software. However, give the enormous technical overhead that comes with competently using the software, we do software demonstrations for maybe 3 or 4 hours of class time before getting into actual execution of the project. Most of these demos are based on the Classroom in a Book series. However, because the reading level can be a bit high for newbies we do it as an interactive demo. I show on the projector a few things, they do those things on their own screen. Back and forth until the mini-project is done. It's worked pretty well. I've been teaching Adobe stuff for 12 years. I have some pretty cool results I think. :)

You can peak at my resources that I've uploaded. They are mostly videos of the actual demonstrations that we do in class. That is all technical end. Those things then lead into actual artsy projects.

Ben Forta

Posted on 9/22/13 9:20:26 PM Permalink

I like to start with an actual project, one that gives them a taste for what the program does, and installs a "heck, I can do this!" sense of accomplishment. If the project can be personalized, even better. I am not a fan of long tours through menus and options, and much prefer to introduce features as they are needed.

--- Ben