San Francisco is a wonderful city to explore with many homes and buildings having memorable architecture. Tacy Trowbridge hosted my visit to Adobe in San Francisco (located in an amazing building). Tacy is Head of Adobe’s Education Programs and I had the privilege of meeting with her team including Johnson Fung and Terry Fortescue. Tacy, formerly an English and History teacher, has a solid background in education prior to working for Adobe.
Each person explained their roles and we talked about the potential of Adobe mobile apps in education, especially Adobe Spark, which interests me for several reasons:
- It is easy for students and teachers to create pages, videos, graphics and text without fussing about the tech
- NSW students can now login with their school email address
- It is free and a good tool for a BYOD context
- It has the potential to allow students to document and represent their citizen science projects easily
- My employer has a longstanding agreement with Adobe*
In short, students, with phones in their pockets, are able to make products very easily and quickly using Adobe Spark. Students engaged in citizen science projects can easily keep a record of their progress and use this to represent their findings, progress and learning. I like that there is potential for just voice, with a still image, rather than just having a video option.
Here is a FAQ for Adobe Spark for those who wish to explore the educational potential.
Tacy, Terry and Johnson were very attentive and I appreciated their questions about my ideas and enthusiasms. Johnson frames his role at Adobe by thinking about what the user experience will be like in the first three hours, then three months followed by the next three years. A very holy trinity that. He is clearly very switched on to how creativity, imagination, society and technology intersect. Johnson seemed particularly interested in (and thoughtful about) the creative opportunities afforded to students participating in citizen science projects (and can see how this will also nurture our democracy and creativity). I hope we can collaborate into the future.
Terry is focused on tertiary institutions and design projects. It was good to hear that some Australian institutions are making great progress. We talked about the challenge of really embedding technology into practice effectively and creatively in a sustained way. Terry seemed very receptive to ideas about citizen science and also the potential of students wrestling with the new knowledge unravelling our genome has brought to society.
As an aside, while waiting for Tacy in the foyer of this beautiful Adobe building, I could have watched the photography displayed of the six screens for hours. The loops were cleverly timed and the images diverse. Some were heavily and creatively photoshopped, others photographs completely traditionally shot and framed. All were masterful. I snapped a shot so you could see.
On return to Australia I have meetings with several academics and educators about Big History, citizen science, mobile apps, ethics and research to discuss how schools and teachers can be supported to bring the most contemporary learning into classrooms.
Some brief reflective thoughts follow about what can I see that weaves the various threads of this study tour into a rope that teachers can use follows:
1. Citizen science is an opportunity that needs to be supported by many players including government, educational authorities and business to help teachers provide authentic, cutting-edge opportunities for their students
2. Social media is essential for connecting with experts and sharing; teachers need to be more engaged and educational authorities need to relax filtering
3. Students and teachers must represent their citizen science projects using a range of media to document and share their stories
4. Students and teachers mostly have smart phones every day at school. Many have iPhones but of course Samsung, HTC and other brands get a good look in. These are the essential tools for accessing citizen science apps and to document/share. BYOD is fundamental to contemporary schooling.
5. Emerging technologies like mobile DNA sequencing – if supported – provide exciting opportunities for students and teachers in classroom settings as “Moore’s Law” takes effect
6. Tools and technologies come and go but Adobe Spark mobile apps are likely to engage students in telling their citizen science stories and sharing them effectively. They can now login into these free apps using their NSW school email accounts, Facebook, Google or their Adobe account.
7. The focus on non-medical DNA analysis in education should be broadened to considering aspects of what medical analysis can offer. This is a vexed issue but healthcare in the 21st century will increasingly use complex data, our own and our family’s, to assist with the best outcomes for our wellbeing. There is a golden opportunity to engage students with this understanding this data. See this recent journal article considering the ethics of having students participate at American Ivy League universities. “Innovation” is bandied about in education but far too often the innovations are very safe options and less than spectacular for students. If we value providing opportunities for personalised learning students and teachers need to be guided in how to use emerging technologies to support learning.
There is much to consider and I would really value your feedback about the above; some completely unexpected ideas before I commenced on this study tour.
Next stops: Sydney and Wollongong!
Featured image: Flickr photo by Darcy Moore https://flickr.com/photos/darcymoore/26623684334 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA) license
*My scholarship is funded by Adobe but I have used their products happily for many years and happily recommend them to educators and students with no hesitation. I think this new wave of mobile apps really worth exploring.