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.