Google Drawing and Slides Now Have Gradients

Sometimes it really is the little things that make a big difference.

I love using Google drawings with my students and today we noticed that they added gradients to the fill tools in both Drawing and Slides.

There are two types of gradients: linear and radial.

Drawing

In Drawing the fill menu looks like this:

graddraw

Slides

In Slides, they added a section of colors that matches the slide color theme.

The Slides fill menu looks like this:

gradslides

I would love to see more choices. More colors, blending multiple colors, changing the direction of the linear gradient or changing where the gradient starts and stops would be great tools to add. Hopefully. this is just the beginning. Meanwhile, my students and I will have fun playing with them.

The Power of Images

I teach a digital storytelling class to middle school students in grades 6 through 8. I rarely teach anything the same way twice because I get bored and if I am bored well the kids are lets just say bored too. I often give them the opportunity to move the class in a different direction then what I planned as long as it deepens their understanding of a topic. This happened a few weeks ago when we started manipulating digital images for our stories. Based on conversations in class I kept getting the feeling that they did not understand how prevalent image manipulation is in our society and that they need to question everything they see.

They next day I showed them Girl Power – Retouch I had used it before and knew some of the reactions I would get. The last time I used it two eighth grade girls created this:

This class found it fascinating. We talked about images being changed to communicate something and for a reason. One student joked about not manipulating the image of a shoe. I knew I had to find a shoe that had been changed.
I was fortunate to find Greg Apodaca’s website with a shoe that had been manipulated. I also found Glenn Feron’s site called “The Art of Retouching.” Both sites were amazing with many examples of photo manipulation. You can mouse over most of these images to see how they were changed. I showed the kids a woman’s face, a man’s face, the close up of an eye, the close up of skin and a stomach.
The discussion with the class was impressive. They were trying to figure out why even knuckles are changed. They (girls and boys) made the connections that they may never be able to look like the models in magazines. (The boys got into a discussion about the movie 300.) This is such an important lesson at this age. They also discussed how these images influence what they buy.
I also asked some essential questions that came into my mind about this topic. So we discussed: What is truth? What is beauty? and What is real? In the context of these images and more. The discussion was amazing. No answers were considered wrong. (We did some of this in iChat which is limited to my room. The students who usually don’t chime in will make comments in iChat.)
A day or two later this appeared. It was a request on reddit.com to see if the community could help this person fix a picture of his mother. The online community came together and did a beautiful job:

Now I did not in anyway want to pass judgement or take this lightly. I have been in the same position and have a similar picture of my mother that I have debated editing. But, I wanted to see what my students would say. They took evaluating the picture and the situation seriously and most said that it was a wonderful thing to do. Then one girl in the middle row raised her hand and said, “But it’s not real.” This led to a debate that blew me away. Some quotes I remember were:
“But reality sucks in this case. He wants to remember her smile not the tube.”
“If he doesn’t want to see that tube in the picture, he’s going to have trouble dealing with her dying.”
“How come they got rid of the straw and ripped chair. Does everything have to be perfect?”
“Will it change his memories?”
The last one brought tears to my eyes.
Middle school students are interesting. They are both young and old all at the same time. They are capable of adult thought without the adult experiences to back them up. They don’t need to be taught what to think, but how to think and how to question.
I am becoming more focused on essential questions. I recently took a course on curriculum with a focus on Understanding by Design. I used these lessons to create a unit I plan on using in the future. You can find all of the links above and the unit here: http://smorraubd.wikispaces.com/

Digital Images Workshop

These links are from a workshop that was presented at a Montclair Staff Development Workshop on July 1, 2009. It is also posted on the Ning I created for my staff. I am very protective of the Ning and I am only allowing Montclair Public School Staff to join. I am looking at alternatives to paper handouts and PowerPoint type presentations. I am hoping to create conversations around these topics and allow for playback and feedback. This posting on my Ning has already been viewed 42 times. There were only 20 people in the class, so I hoping I can infer that they are using the links. I will continue to explore using blogs and my Ning for PD. Please feel free to share your thoughts.
Digital Images
Picnik
Flickr
Picassa
Wikimedia
LunaPic
SplashUp
My Delicious- Images
My Delicious -Photos
Fair Use Chart
Creative Commons
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