Setting Up the Virtual Space

Before I get into each week and the lessons I have taught, I thought I would do a quick note on how I set up my virtual workspace (ie: organisation) for the kids to access their work.

So, this is what I have. 13 Windows desktops – spaced for two students on a desktop (occassionally three if we have a big class). I also have 12 iPads.

I decided to go with Google Drive. I set up Google Drive on each iPad as well as on each PC. I created a Media Arts account, and logged each device on to that.

(I have my own personal Google Drive. I shared the Media Arts root folder with my personal account, so I can have easy access to all of that, plus my own stuff as well. Down the line, I might have to get the school to pay for extra capacity, but for right now, it’s fine.)

Inside that Media Arts account on Google Drive, I have folders for each year level (Foundation, Grade 1, Grade 2, Grade 3, Grade 4, Grade 5, Grade 6) and inside that a folder for each individal class.


When the students take photos or create videos on the iPad, we save them into Google Drive and into the approrpriate class folder. With the older kids (Grade 3 – Grade 6) I show them how to do this themselves, but with the younger kids, I get them to bring up their iPads and I do it for them.

For the computers, I have a Google Drive shortcut saved on the desktop, as well as saved in the Favourites folder list so they have easy access to it.

Right now, that’s how I’ve got it working. Will keep you updated to see how it pans out.


Planning The Year Ahead

So the year finally came to an end. The room well on it’s way to being set up. It was now time to contemplate all I had to do. I had to plan a series of units – from Prep to Grade 6 – from scratch. I had the new curriculum as a framework, but I had nothing to look back on, no skills to build up and no experience to fall back on. This is a new subject to primary school kids, and I had to justify the faith in which the school had placed on me.


There were a few of those points flitting about in my brain that I had to now bring together.

  1. I wanted to include Adobe tools in there. Desktop apps for the older kids, but certainly there is a plethora of fantastic tools such as Voice, Slate, Photoshop Mix, Photoshop Fix, Capture and the new kid on the block – Post. These apps are top notch.
  2. I don’t want to solely rely on Adobe tools. One of the main components of media arts is to communicate an idea or a story using digital means. An app that is very popular with my 3 year old girl is called PuppetPals HD. I’m so lucky I have her as a benchmark, because if she can make something work, there is no reason why the average Prep student couldn’t also.
  3. The curriculum is – for the most part – framed in composite year levels. Which means Prep, 1-2s, 3-4s and 5-6s. This is back to the old VELS way of doing things and quite different to the National Curriculum or even the AusVELS which had the curriculum set out in single year levels. Our school has been structured as single year levels for a few years now. I don’t see it going back, so I need to essentially split up a composite level (1-2s for example) into Grade 1 and Grade 2.
  4. As I mentioned before, every student is starting from scratch, pretty much. None of them have experience with planning a photography project. Virtually none of them have used Adobe apps before. None of them know what a composite is, or a filter. Very few of them have any in depth experience in editing videos and audio, much less properly planning and shooting one. This means everyone is starting from scratch, from square 1.
  5. None of the kids (or many of the teachers and parents come to that) have a clear idea of what Media Arts is. I’m still getting my head around it as well. I know what it isn’t – and that’s pretty important to set out from the beginning.
  6. Apart from the kids now in Grade 5, every other year I have taught have moved on to high school. Which means, I have to get to know virtually EVERYONE! I feel like a brand new teacher.

So, a lot to think about. To start with, this year, I plan to teach the 1-2s the exact same thing. Same with the 3-4s and the 5-6s. Once we’ve gotten through the first year, I then have space to build on as they progress to the next year and the next level.

I think that, for the most part, I will limit the Prep – 2s to work on iPads, with the older kids using iPads and Desktops. I don’t see it as my role to teach ICT. I would hope, by the time a child is in third grade, they would have some understanding of how to navigate and use a desktop environment (in our case, Windows PCs).

I plan to have everyone work in pairs. I don’t have enough machines for them to work separately, but I also want them to work in teams. The pairs will remain the same throughout the term. I’ll mix it up next term.

I will split the year up into four units. It will look almost identical (as far as WHAT they are learning) for all the kids in the school. The difference is in HOW they learn it, and my expectations also increase with the older students.

This is how I broke it down:

A slide from my presentation to the kids – “What is Media Arts?”

The main difference being, for the grade five and sixes, they will skip the animation component in term 3 and go straight into video production. Then in term 4 they will go in post production skills (titles, subtitles, special effects, audio mixing, etc).

The idea is that by the end of the second term (in the first semester) they can work on a mini project that brings together the photography and design. This I can use for the major assessment in their reports. Then, in the second semester, they can use their new skills in animation and video production to deliver a short film that will be their assessment piece for the end of the year.

The last thing – in particular to me working in my school – is that with our school now granted status as an International Baccalaureate candidate school with the PYP (Primary Years Program) I had to think of how to make genuine and meaningful links to the students Inquiry in their classrooms, based on their central questions and wonderings. For me, that meant finding out what they are exploring in each year level, and where possible, using those topics to fuel the output of what the students come up with. For example, the Prep students start the year looking at themselves and their place in our world. So I will use that for future project ideas.

So, before everyone comes back from holidays, this is the rough plan I have for term one. Bear in mind that, the first week of school (in actuality it’s only two days) the students do not have specialist classes. I start from Week 2.

Experience tells me that I fully expect this to change after the first week, as I get to know how far I can push the kids. Some lessons might need longer that one session, so sacrifices will have to be made. But no problems, I can always move that to next year’s planner down the road.

Setting Up The Space

“Alright, we’re doing this, so give us your wishlist – and we’ll work out what we can afford.”

Wow. Who doesn’t love hearing that? So while most teachers were winding down their year with their class, writing and proofreading reports and planning what they were doing on their holidays – I was doing all of that and planning my next year.

Spaces were getting moved around anyway. Our staffroom, which attaches to the library, flooded last year. Our new staffroom was upstairs leaving (once the water had been drained and the room repaired) a free room. The library was moved into that room which left a huge space for me to use for Media Arts.

When word got around that we were bringing Media Arts into the specialist rotation of classes, I have to say everyone was very supportive. A lot of people were asking if I was excited about next year. The answer was, “Yes, of course I bloody am!” but I had see out the year first. I didn’t think it was fair, not to mention it would be unprofessional, to my current grade four class to switch off with my head in the clouds for the possibilities for the following year.

But at the back of my mind, little things were niggling at me that
were getting filed for future use.


A number of elements came together for all this to be possible. Early in 2015, thanks to my connection with Adobe, I was contacted by the department that write the Victorian Curriculum to say they were getting a focus group together of primary school ICT teachers to see how they could transfer Media Arts (previously in the National Curriculum) to Victoria. Technically, although I was in a coordinator role, I was a generalist classroom teacher at the time, but I didn’t tell them that! I went along and we had a great discussion. I remember coming back the next day and chatting to my Prin, saying “I came out of it thinking, it would be SO much fun to be a Media Arts teacher!” Foreshadowing indeed . . .

So then, towards the end of the year, unbeknownst to me, our Visual Arts teacher expressed a wish to move into the classroom, as being an Art Teacher was all she’d known. This provided my Prin with the problem of what to do without an Art Teacher. I am assuming that that is when the conversation we had about Media Arts came to him. The fact that I’m very heavily involved with Adobe and using Adobe products in the classroom helped a lot as well, and stars aligned to offer me the position.

I was floored, I’ll be honest. It’s pretty much my dream job. As I started to think about it,  a number of things stuck in my head and wouldn’t go away.

Don’t tell anyone – I can’t draw! And here I am masquerading as your new Art teacher!

  1. It’s Media Arts, not IT or ICT. Therefore the room I set up will be a studio not a lab. For some reason, this was very important for me to tell virtually EVERYONE!
  2. Although I see myself as creative, I am by no means any kind of artist, which presented a bit of a problem. Of course, I am defining myself in the traditional sense – I can’t draw and do not have much in the aptitude of visual arts beyond enjoying a good coloring book. But I do like taking photos, and I am interested in graphic design and video production, so that’s a start. It’s a little secret I have with all the kids I teach. Don’t tell anyone – I can’t draw! And here I am masquerading as your new Art teacher!
  3. I wanted Adobe in the mix. I am comfortable with Adobe tools (although hardly an expert) and in my experience, the older kids in the school can pick up even these industry standard programs pretty quickly. Another factor going in to this was that Adobe and the Victorian Education department were currently in negotiations to offer government schools a special deal on the Creative Cloud subscription.
  4. I wanted desktops, and fairly good ones. I wanted decent sized monitors. I wanted a flexible working space. That meant desks, workstations, couches and (later hopefully) beanbags. I also had cushions, but I’m not sure where I’d put them.
  5. I wanted a big screen TV rather than an interactive whiteboard. Which is fine, because a TV is a fifth of the price of a SMART Board.

This last one presented a bit of a problem in so much as I had a specific idea of what I wanted. Our technician and I spent a fair bit of time nutting out how it would work. Essentially, I wanted my teacher workstation with two monitors, one extending onto the other. But I also wanted the TV to mirror just the first primary monitor. This is not as easy as you might think.

I finally brought to school a little device I used to use at home. When I brought my laptop to and from work, I would go home, put the laptop on my desk keyboard drawer and plug it in to the monitors I had set up. I then closed the laptop lid, pushed in the drawer, and worked from my cordless keyboard and mouse.

Because laptops aren’t really designed to take in TWO monitors, I got myself a DVI to USB adapter. This allowed me to create another monitor input using the USB port. Essentially, what I wanted to do at work was the same thing. The only difference being that closed lid of my laptop at home equated to the primary monitor on on my desk at work.

Anyway, by using the adapter (which was from Display Link and a little piece of software called MultipleMonitors, I acheived my goal.

So anyway, holidays came and almost went. I started coming in to school a week or so before it started, when all my furniture and computers were delivered, at set about doing a lot of unpacking. The technician came in and networked everything. A little later, the TV was mounted. The iPads arrived and had to be cloned (I asked for and was given a dozen 128gb iPad Airs).

Having said all of that, I don’t have everything I wanted. Still and Video Cameras might have to come later, since – as you can imagine – a lot of money was spent already. The school sees this space and this subject as an investment and I hope I can live up to it.


What’s It All About?

Media Arts – a new addition to the spanking new Victorian Curriculm in Australia. Technically the new Victorian Curriculm begins next year in 2017, but schools have been encouraged to give it a go this year as they see fit.

After discussions with my Principal, it was decided that we should go ahead with making Media Arts a full specialty subject, for all students from Prep (Foundation) to Grade Six. To me, this was hugely forward thinking. To look at teaching kids from age 6-12 how to create art using digital tools, it’s pretty mind blowing.

At this point it might be useful to introduce myself. My name is Joel Aarons. I’ve been a primary school teacher in Victoria, Australia for eight years. This year I was given my dream position at Bentleigh West Primary School, which was as a Media Arts specialist teacher. This aligned perfectly with the other hat that I wear, which is an Adobe Education Leader. Although hardly an expert in the whole of Adobe’s Creative Cloud suite of programs, I do know enough to give tips, tricks and lesson ideas to fellow educators.

My Adobe "Hat"

The purpose of this blog is to have you follow me on my journey as a baby Media Arts teacher, and to share with you my highs, my lows and my lessons learned. I hope that this blog gains a small following of likeminded educators that can share ideas to help make Media Arts a success.

I believe that young people in primary school are often sorely underestimated. Many of the lesson plans I have wouldn’t be introduced until late high school. I believe that we need to give the children the freedom and the creative drive to take risks and produce works that they can be proud of.

You can contact me at:
Email: (Click here for the Contact Form)
Twitter: @mrjoelaarons
Web: and