After taking a year to adjust to living in San Francisco, I’m back with a focus on coding. I was lucky to be student at Gray Area this past fall semester for their Creative Code Immersive. It’s one of the best learning experiences I’ve had in the past decade and urge anyone who wants to find a stronger connection to coding, physical computing, and using code to make interactive work to take the class. I’ll be posting more about my journey in the weeks to come and as I complete my final project.
After having the week focusing on learning p5.js at Gray Area, I was able to create a 5-week unit with my 7th grade students. I would’ve been nice to have a few more weeks to have them create a proper project but it was amazing to see how they were able to grow within that short period as coders. It was also the first time they wrote their own code instead of using drop-down coding platforms.
The first week had a lot of students deleting essential aspects of the coding platform like the setup loop as well as the draw loop and so many curly brackets disappearing. By the end our time together, they barely had any of those issues and they were even able to use the reference guide as a way to experiment with their ideas. As a class, they managed to learn functions but we never had the time to get to loops. Here’s a file to the presentation I used to get us setup. Event the first week of playing with RGB colors was a blast!
Previously to learning p5 at Gray Area I had found inspiration in Angi Chau’s work with the Processing Foundation as a way to structure my classes. Nikki Selken, a teacher and educational consultant at Gray Area also did a wonderful job of framing p5 in our week together too. As a female educator, it’s amazing to have two female educators acting as inspiration for myself while embarking on a new coding journey!
During distance learning, I reached into my bag of tricks to come up with a new unit on Branding for my 7th and 8th graders. I used this unit to also introduce students to the gradient tool, text on a path as well as how to create a scatter brush. After giving them a presentation where we looked at the evolution of logos for iconic brands such as Coca-Cola, Pepsi, McDonald’s, and Apple, students were tasked to create their logos for a business I assigned them. Because I’m such a deep believer in iteration, I asked each student to create three versions of their logo to help with their experimentation and to mimic the work graphic designers do.
I gave students businesses such as a fast casual Italian restaurant, coffee shop, travel story and garden store. It’s been fun to see how they’ve used the power of Illustrator to their advantage. I do think my students are getting sick me saying that sometimes our first idea helps to clear our brains out for the next idea which is generally stronger and more interesting. I also shared the font website, dafont.com with them to get them excited about fonts. I’ve definitely spent way too much searching for the perfect font and it was interesting to see which students also saw how important a font design can be while designing a logo.
This school year I’ve opened up my 7th and 8th grade classes with learning the basics of Illustrator to increase the skill level of my students. Last year we primarily used Tinkercad with the laser cutter because I didn’t have the time to focus on how to teach to students. Over the summer I made sure I strengthened by connection to Illustrator so it could be tool students could rely on.
I’m continually inspired by Erin E. Riley’s new book, The Art of Digital Fabrication, and decided students first Illustrator experiment will be designing their initials using as few shapes as possible to be cut out of vinyl on the Silhouette Cameo. I showed my students first how to manipulate shapes using shapes and the Direct Selection Tool. I also modeled how to add anchor points so they could truly sculpt shapes easily. The Pen Tool was also introduced to see how they can create different shapes depending on they movie their cursor. In the lesson, I used my own initials, as seen below to provide them a foundation.
Last year my students used the Silhouette Cameo a good amount, but they mainly used the trace tool to recreate royalty-free images they found on the internet. This year they are only allowed to use it on original designs since they all know Illustrator. It will be interesting to see if this new distinction will increase their creativity. Also now that the project is complete, the 7th and 8th graders all have their new initial stickers decorating the front of their MacBooks Airs, making for great PR! I decided to my design on my coffee mug because if it gets lost, I will be quite upset.
My starter project when teaching Photoshop tends to be this Mondrian Project because it teaches students the basic tools while allowing them to be creative. I have them focus on the Brush tool, Paint bucket and Color Picker to keep it simple. The first tool I show them is the SHIFT/Click combo that allows Photoshop to create a straight line. It goes, click on area you want the line to begin and then hit SHIFT and CLICK together where you would like the line to end. This always wows them! I also keep the project so they can only use primary colors with a focus on right angles.
My favorite part of a new school year is the chance to create new projects to excite my students. In my 7th Digital Art classes we spend the first half of the trimester working on a 3D modeling project that focus on problem solving. This year I was excited to try out a new feature on Tinkercad, Circuit Assemblies. The feature creates a holder for a CR2032 battery and a single LED as well as the cut shape to put into your design. I was going to originally give each student a battery powered tea light but this option gives them power as creators. The example I showed them is in the picture above.
I titled the Project, “Giving Shade” appropriately and it tasks them to come up with a creative design to hide the battery and LED. I like to challenge my students to not use their names, copyrighted material and logos on their projects because I know they have more creative potential. They groan at first, but the final products are always worth it. I’m going to post more pictures once their projects are completed! I can’t even tell you how excited they are to work on this during our class time together.