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.

VC

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 www.displaylink.com) 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.

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