Designing 3D Pendants Using Adobe Draw & Photoshop (Grades 1-2)

For the Grade 1s and 2s, my entry level lesson into the world of 3D was creating pendants that you wear around your neck.

We start of by having a basic discussion to flesh out what they know about the difference between 2D and 3D objects. We talk about each of the three dimensions, and how that it is depth that makes an object 3D.

This is where, admittedly, the project of the lesson is a bit of a cheat. The lesson is more one on design that it is 3D modelling. This lesson asks the student for a 2D drawing, not a 3D object. That 3D part of it, I do myself, which I will explain in a bit.

I used the fact that the students were already familiar with the Adobe Illustrator Draw to get them to come up with a design they thought would look good as a model. They had the choice to design it tracing existing artwork or doing it “freestyle”. The idea is, all they need to do is draw the outline of the object. The rest would get filled in with just a push of the finger. The video below demonstrates:

I explained in my last post about how I got the students to vote for their favourite designs in each class. Even though the winners were the ones to be printed out, I extruded all the designs to be viewed in a 3D space. I’ll go into how I included 3D objects in the student portfolios in a separate post. This process is done using Photoshop. The process is extremely simple, as you will see, but time consuming when you have to do it for just under 200 students! Given that the students work in pairs, that’s 100 models. Next time around, I will only do this for the Grade 1s and think of a different project for the Grade 2s.

See the video below for the process of creating a 2D drawing into a 3D object using Photoshop.

Next time we look at turning the students into sculptors!


3D Printing from Minecraft (Grade 3)

Firstly, I want to apologise for being off the grid for so long. Personal stuff got in the way, as it always does, and passion projects like this one had to be put on hold for a while. Of course, this doesn’t mean that I stopped teaching, and while there have been lessons with new students that I have repeated, there have been a lot of lessons using new apps and new techniques that I want to share. Who knows? Maybe by the end of the year, there will be enough material to warrant a second volume of the best modestly selling ebook “Confessions of a Media Arts Teacher”. We’ll see.

So, I wanted to start with a doozy. 3D Printing with Minecraft! Something I’ve been trying to figure out for ages, until I found out that the folks over at Mojang slipped a little thing in an update called “structure blocks”. But more of that in a minute.

Ok, where am I? Almost a full year behind unfortunately. Last year – my second year doing Media Arts – we were lucky enough to have our parent committee buy us a small, relatively inexpensive 3D Printer. So, term 2 expanded to include 3D Modelling. I wanted each year level (with the exception of the preps) to experiment with a 3D app and create something. Obviously, the older the kids, the more complex the app.

Trouble is, discounting the Preps, there are over 500 students. Obviously I can’t go ahead and print everyone’s amazing creations. Aside from the cost, it would take about 10 and a half months of continuous printing (I checked). So this is what I proposed.

Students work in pairs anyway. Each pair would create a 3D model according to the app and the project I outlined. Then, we would put the models up on the computer screens around the room. Each student from each class was given two tokens. The tokens represented votes. They were not allowed to vote for their own model. They had to put one token on one model, and one token on another. This way, I tried to alleviate people “power voting” just for their friends. The two models that had the most votes, got theirs printed – one for each student. Still a lot of work, but more manageable. Four models printed from each class in the school.

Some models printed beautifully, others not so much. The ones that didn’t had a little to do with my inexperience with printing in 3D as well as the students making something that just wasn’t print-friendly. I’ll go into the problems when I get to each post.

Ok, with that in mind – MINECRAFT!

Ok, this is a good one to start with because many (MANY) of the students at this age (8-9 years old) know Minecraft a hell of a lot better than I do. They’ve been doing 3D modelling for years and not really been aware of it. It seems perfect, if there was a way to 1) Export an area as a 3D file; and 2) Print that file using an everyday domestic 3D printer.

There are programs that do this – MCedit comes to mind – but I was looking for a solution that was easy enough for the students (and for me) to do this properly.

Introducing the Structure Block! Now, this post is in no way an attempt to teach the basics of Minecraft. There are tons of resources and videos on YouTube that do that. So, assuming that you know how to install the program, create a world, and build a structure, all you need to do is place the structure block right near the building you want to export and enter in the X, Y and Z values of the size. You don’t need to enter coordinates, as you might if you are using the commands FILL or CLONE for example, but just to work out how many blocks your structure goes along each axis. It takes a little trial and error – and sometimes it doesn’t work at all and you need to put the structure block at a different corner of the building, but it works!

The structure block is not found in the usual inventory, even if you are in creative mode. You have to type in a command to get it. You press / to get to the chat and type “/give @s structure_block” (without the quote marks) where @s means yourself.

I should say as well, that it’s important that the structure is printer friendly. Anything too complicated or top heavy, for example, will probably collapse or not print properly. Now, it will export just fine, but as far as sending it into a printer, simpler is better. You could build a house and then just fill it all in. It takes longer to print, but it will be nice and sturdy. Or you can have it hollow as long as you have a proper frame around it.

Lastly, when you export the file, it will export with all the textures and colours you chose with your blocks. It creates a file in the *.glb format. You can even load up the file in a 3D program (like TinkerCAD for example) and continue working on it. However, when it prints, it will print in the one colour, with no sense of whether you used (for example) stone bricks or wooden blocks or whatever. Just so you know. I use 3D Builder (more of that program in a few posts) to examine and edit as I need to, as well as to save it as an STL file so it will print on my printer. Or you could just as easily use Adobe Photoshop as well.

The video below shows how to use the structure block. For me, I use Microsoft’s Minecraft Education Edition, but the process works fine using the Windows 10 app, and I believe the Mac app as well.


If you want to do this with your students, I strongly suggest having a go with it yourself first and be familiar with what works well, and doesn’t work well with the printer.

Needless to say, my students were highly engaged with this activity. The idea that they could use a program they know very well and print out their creations in the real world just blew their minds!

Let me know in the comments how your models worked out! I’d love to see some other examples!

The eBook on special!

Just a quick note to say that the ebook of this site – Confessions of a Media Arts Teacher – is on special right now! 20% off for the next two weeks. Now is the time to buy, if you’ve been on the fence about it, and have something fun and exciting to read over the Christmas holidays.

For the next two weeks, until Nov 13th, the Direct Download Paypal button on the main site will charge only $23.95 for the ebook instead of the regular $29.95 price.

So get in now, while you can!

Creating iPad Icons Using Adobe Tools

This project takes the idea of redesigning some of the logos of the native Apple apps on an iPad. I explained to the students that I was turning them into mini graphic designer teams. Apple has asked for a fresh look for its own logos.

The project was done in four sessions, even though it was orginally planned for three. Sessions 1 & 2 were the students sketching their logos on the iPad using Adobe Draw. I got them using Adobe Draw rather than Adobe Sketch because I wanted their images to be vectorised pictures which could be scaled up and down without degradation. Also, with Adobe Draw, it’s easy to fill in a closed shape by pressing down inside the shape. These images were saved one at a time into the students Google Drive, ready to be used on a computer.

The next step in the second session was to bring all the images in Illustrator to crop them and resize them all uniformly. I provided them with a template file which contained 20 artboards, all in a grid, for the students to use. They didn’t need to fill in all artboards when exporting out their images.

Once this was done, the fourth and final session was the students placing the images into my iPad mockup InDesign template and labelling them. I even sourced the correct font that Apple uses on it’s iOS devices! Once that was done, their work was saved as a jpg and I cropped the bottom part of since no one got that far.

Below are two videos. The first one explains how I got the students using Illustrator to prepare their images, and the second video details how the students placed the icons into InDesign. At the end, I have some student examples.

The students found this an exciting project to do. It gave them a good appreciation of what it is like to fulfill a brief as a graphic designer. The only real notes I gave them along the way was to make sure it was obvious what app their icon design was for. You don’t want people looking at the icon and having no idea what it’s for – no matter how good it looks.

Here are some examples (apologies for the low res quality).

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The eBook is now out! Order it now!!!


You’ve followed the blog, now get the book! The time is ready and the time is now. The ultimate guide to teaching Media Arts is ready for purchase and download! This book is packed to the brim with lesson plans, instructional videos, assets to download and reflections along the way. This book will give you plenty of ideas to easily fill a year’s worth of curriculum.

Tried and tested on an iPad and on a Mac. Reading it on a PC has limited functionality. This is a known issue and is currently being worked on, and customers will be advised when we have the fix in place.

Click here to download a sample of the first 10 pages! (ePUB format – chapter links won’t work on the Sample) and click here to download a sample lesson (ePUB format)

The book is selling at a crazy price of $29.95! There are options to deliver the book that you can read in the information below.

Buy “Confessions of a Media Arts Teacher” eBook – Direct Download option
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Buy “Confessions of a Media Arts Teacher” eBook – USB Key Delivered option
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The book is an expansion of the posts from last year on this blog. A lot of effort has gone into creating content that can be viewed (many, many screencasts; picture galleries) and downloaded (lesson resources, PowerPoints etc) for most lessons covered in this book.

This is a lot more than just a copy of the blog.

A lot of reflection has gone into the writing of this. I’ve added notes here and there with tips on how to better teach the lessons if I feel it didn’t quite go the way I planned.

As you see in the picture above, all lessons come with notes on what grade level I taught the lesson at, what apps were used, and links to where to get those apps. Obviously prices will vary and were current as of the time of writing.

This book is for everyone! Firstly, whether you teach Primary or Secondary, many of these lessons can be adapted for older students. Secondly, as a parent, this is a way that you can get your kids interested in videography, photography and animation (if they aren’t already) by exposing them to some fantastic, creative and fun apps.

If there is enough interest, I already have ideas on a volume 2 which will provide links to the Victorian and Australian Curriculums, as well as detail how in my second year I have progressed from teaching all students from scratch, to now consolidating and developing their skills in Media Arts.


I hope you do choose to purchase this book. As I am a poor teacher, I beg that you don’t share the file with everyone and anyone. I can’t stop you, but obviously I’d like people to purchase the book I’ve put so many months into. Certainly, for a school, $29.95 is a bargain for any fledgling Media Arts teacher who desperately needs ideas for their classes.


The book can be delivered in two ways. If you choose DIRECT DOWNLOAD, I will email you with a link (via Dropbox) for you to download. But – be aware, with all the embedded media in the book – it clocks up at approx 1.6gb. That’s a lot for some people. So I’ve added, for an additional $12, the option for me to post out the book on a USB key anywhere in Australia. Price includes USB key and delivery. Overseas customers can contact me for delivery prices. I don’t intend to profit on this extra option, I just wanted to make the choice available.


Please be aware this is a huge, interactive experience. The book is full of videos, picture galleries and links to downloadable content via Dropbox. As such, not every ebook app plays nicely with such a huge book.

This book is recommended, and is tested primarily on an iPad that has a Dropbox app also installed and signed in. That way, you can access all my downloads directly on the device. If you are on a Mac, then iBooks works just as well. We are currently working on a known issue getting the book to work properly on a PC. Customers will be advised in the future when this fix has been worked out.

Please feel free to comment and give me some feedback on the book. I’d really appreciate it.

Buy “Confessions of a Media Arts Teacher” eBook – Direct Download option
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Buy “Confessions of a Media Arts Teacher” eBook – USB Key Delivered option
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Creating your own handwritten Font with Fontise

Something that I bet my Grade 5 students had never thought about before. How do you create a font? The answer to that can be quite complicated and honestly a little dull. But creating their own handwritten font – using a simple app on the iPad? That has potential to be much more interesting.

There are many, many apps to create your own font, and some cost quite a bit of money. The one I chose is free and easy to use. Not just that – it can also be saved out to work on an iOS device or a computer.

The video below shows how to create a font using the app, and below that are a couple of student examples.

Creating Comic Books with Halftone (Grade 4)

Who doesn’t love a comic book? Maybe I should rephrase . . . What kid doesn’t love a comic book? Well, the answer is probably a fair few, so let’s try one more time. What kid doesn’t love creating a comic book? Ah, now the answer is much higher. Probably most kids, I would think. Judging by my students, there was a lot of fun to be had in this project. I also think it’s important to pitch it at the right age. Grade 4 for this project (that’s 9-10 year olds) is the perfect age. They are young enough to love the idea, but literate enough to craft a cohesive story.

So, the project was this. I told the students to go out and think of a photo story. Around 10-12 images photos would be ideal. Think of what the story is, and what photos you need to take to tell the story. That was a whole session in itself.

From there I modeled how to use Halftone (actually Halftone 2 is what we used). We also had a discussion on what elements make up a comic page. This page on Wikipedia was ideal in helping me to prepare for this. I showed how to create pages, find templates for the panels, insert speech bubbles and captions. Most importantly, I showed them the edit tool and what you could do. From there they went about creating their own comic book.

The kids had a great deal of fun with this. The app was a little challenging to them the first time they used it, but once they got into it, they flew through the process.

When saving their work, there is the option to save each page as an image, or the whole thing as a PDF, but it actually works really well as a video!

Here is a video that models the app – and again, apologies for the sound quality. That’s what you get for recording when you’re out of the country!

Here is one particular example I really enjoyed.

Drawing Emojis in Illustrator CC (Grade 4)

For this project, I needed to seriously brush up on my Illustrator skills. I’ll be the first to admit that Illustrator is not my preferred tool for the reason that I CAN’T DRAW. So, I looked for guidance.

I found an excellent series of videos by a YouTuber named Danksy who I relied heavily on to learn how to draw the first three emojis I was going to teach the class. My idea is that I would create an Illustrator file with four empty artboards. Each week, the students would learn how to create one kind of emoji (I had happy, sad and angry) and in the fourth week – now they had some skills and experience under their belts – they would have a go and making their own in the fourth artboard.

To say the students were excited about doing this, is an understatement. They were practically ripping the door down before each class to come in. They absolutely loved it!!! It was, however, a lot of hard work. Each lesson had me give the students a couple of instructions before they ran back to their computers to do them. Many, many times! But there was a lot of energy in what we were doing, and there were some great skills to learn here, like using the pen tool, the arc tool, pathfinder -> divide and cut out, a lot of copying and pasting, nudging both in size and movement, and using exact colours based on hex codes.

I did not make videos in how to do these, since Dansky explains it very well. I made a few small concessions in my teaching, so I didn’t do it absolutely exactly the same, but it was pretty close, so I need to give him complete credit.


As far as the kids went with their own artwork, I was really blown away with what some of them came up with. The only rule I had was that it needed to be a face emoji. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – I teach the skills, but the ideas that come from them is where the real joy of my job lies.

Here are some highlights:



Crafting Animal Composites with Photoshop CC (Grade 3)

This is my first big regret of the year. Not that the idea behind the project wasn’t a good one, but that the expectation was perhaps too great for my Grade 3 students, who are still very new to Photoshop.

The genesis of this project started with a conversation with the teachers in the Grade 3 team. Something I do regularly is to check in with the teams to see what they are covering in the upcoming term to see if I can those themes to my lessons. In this case, they told me that the students would soon be doing a unit on animal adaptations. They further told me that in the past they have done a fun engagement activity with the kids where they can design their own animal, using different animal bodyparts. I got the impression this was usually done as a sketch. Could this be done in Photoshop they asked?

The answer, of course, is yes – it can. The more important question is, are the students up for it? That, I was not so sure about. It usually takes some practise with a variety of tools (such as the quick selection tool, the magic wand, quick mask, etc) to make a good selection that you can then remove a background.

I planned this lesson to come right after the one they did on selecting and removing the background from superhero pictures (which is covered in a post last year here). In that case, the images were chosen by me, and had varying levels of difficulty in selecting the background correctly.

In this activity, students were to choose three animals. They were to find the pictures on Google and save them to import into Photoshop. But – there were some guidelines first. Each animal needed to be facing the same direction to make it easier. I wanted the students to visualise how they wanted the creature to look in their heads, before they finalised which pictures they were going to use. Most students followed this, but some still had some problematic choices. It says something about the kind of teacher I am, in that there were cases where I let the students choose difficult pictures so they could see where the problems would lie when they brought them into Photoshop.

In any case, the project was simple enough in concept. Bring in three pictures to Photoshop – each on a seperate layer. Choose one animal for the head, one for the body (including legs) and one for the tail. Cut out the background as best you can, and make any transformations needed to put together the animal.

The results were fairly mixed, it’s fair to say. This is perhaps one for a Grade 4 class who have a little more experience in using Photoshop. Nevertheless, the students were all pretty happy with how their menagerie came out.

Below is a video describing the workflow in Photoshop, and under that are some student examples.

Colouring in your photos using Colorscape (Grade 2)

A simple app for a simple project. The Grade 2 students were shown how to use an app called Colorscape. Basically, this app takes a photo (either directly from camera or saved on the camera roll) and turns it into a black and white line drawing like a colouring page. Students can then paint in colours however they like. There are a huge range of colours to choose from, including Palette Colours – which are a palette of colours taken directly from the original photo itself.

I got my trusty box of toys out that I normally use for stop motion videos, and had the students use them to photograph and to colour. When they had finished this first task, I then let them take photos of whatever they wanted. I did have a small caveat, and that was that if they were taking a photo of someone else, they needed to ask their permission first. Knowing the kids, they would have some fun with it!

Some students took it a little more seriously than others. The best works were those that were done carefully and patiently, with some thought into what colours they wanted to use.

The students really enjoyed it, and as an aside – my own 5 year old daughter loves using the app too.

Here below is a quick video in how to use the app, and below that some student examples.