Shooting Panoramas with an iPad

So where as I had the grade 1’s reinforce their basic iPad camera skills doing Macro Photography, the grade 2’s did something similar, but exploring the Panorama feature in the iOS camera app.

I started by showing some examples of what panorama photography entails. Giving a stock standard definition of a panorama (that is “an unobstructed and wide view of an extensive area in all directions”) really means virtually nothing to Grade 2’s from the outset. However, unpacking each element (obstruction/unobstruction, wide view, extensive area, all directions) started painting a picture in their minds before I showed them an example of one I had shot at our school.

From there I gave them strategies on how to keep the camera steady when shooting a panorama; how to keep the arrow on the line steady, and how to crop the photo afterwards if they have any black spots which indicate missing pixels.

It’s pretty simple technique just using the built in iOS camera and having a go. The students really enjoyed taking this new type of photo and came up with some pretty great shots. Here are just a few examples.


Turning Photos into Sketches with Sketch (Grade 2)

Sketch is a pretty basic app, I’ll admit. There are a number of good filters here to change a photo into a sketch, but unlike Brushstroke, you only have two possible adjustments you can make – brightness and contrast.

Having said that, there is something to be said for an app that’s simple and intuative for younger students to use. Aside from the filters, a really good teaching point would be choosing an appropriate filter for the photo they have taken. Not all filters look good on every photo, so you need to be picky about which one complements the photo you are trying to “sketch”.

The video of how to use the app is below.

Here are some of the better examples from the Grade 2 students.

Turning Photos into Paintings with Brushstroke (Grade 2)

Grade 2 is one of those levels where I have to dream up new projects since they have done everything last year I dreamed up for the Grade 1-2s. The lesson here and the one that follows (Turning Photos into Sketches) is basically how to use a filter app. With older students, I don’t like these kind of apps because it doesn’t give a lot of creative control over what happens.

I don’t mind so much at this level though. At the very least it gives the students an understanding of what filters are, which will benefit them next year when they start on the desktops using Photoshop and other applications.

I’m quite picky then with the apps that I choose for this sort of thing. I don’t want a “one-button-will-do-it” because I want the students to have as many choices and as many options for adjustments as possible.

This app is a good one for the amount of filters it presents you with, and then the ability to fiddle it with a lot of different adjustments like saturation, exposure, brightness, contrast and vibrance.

The video below shows how to use Brushstroke.

Here are some examples from the students.

Twirl Art using Photoshop CC (Grade 6)

Ideas come from many places. Some come directly from your own imagination, some are inspired by what others done, and some come from ripping off paying homage to others who have done exceptional work.

I had never heard of Twirl Art before. Apparently such a thing has existed before. Where I found about it from was from the exceptional Photoshop/Illustrator instructor Deke McClelland over at I will admit, and give proper credit, to Deke in that this project was virtually followed word for word, step for step the way he did it.

Twirl Art can start from virtually any photograph. Personally, I find a photo that has a nice mixture of bright and vibrant colours work best. Then, following the steps, you go from this:

to this:

Pretty amazing huh? It takes a lot of work, using a combination of various filters and blending modes in Photoshop to create the final result.

This is an advanced class, but I was really impressed how well the students were able to follow the instructions so well.

The video I have below does go through the steps quickly, I’ll admit. You may need to stop and start to take notes. As I said, it takes a lot of work, but I think the end result is something you could proudly print out professionally and have hanging on your wall.

At least I think so.

Here is the video that explains the process. And again, thanks to Deke for his wonderful project. You can find all of Deke’s videos over at at

Creating a Planet in a Galaxy in Photoshop CC (Grade 5)

Sometimes I feel like teaching Photoshop (or another big program) is like learning how to cook. When it comes to a big project like this, it’s a matter of following the steps one after the other to get the desired result. In the case of primary school students learning Photoshop, I’ve learned the best way is to model a couple of steps at a time, get them to go off and do it, come back to the screen, and going through the next couple.

This project had it’s genesis in the Grade 5 students studying space later in the year. I had this idea to create an engagement for them by getting them to design their own planet in their own galaxy. With that, they could take their finished image to class and then write up a report about their planet. The name, the kind of atmosphere, what kind of ecosystem, habitats and life their planet would have.

This project goes over two lessons. The first one, creating the galaxy, is relatively short. The second one where they create their planet takes a little longer, but is definitely achieveable in two lessons. Most steps must be done as is, but there is a little flexibility with colours and textures to make it their own.

I will credit upfront the video on YouTube I got most of my “recipe” for this was from Blue Lightning Photoshop TV . My steps are mostly the same, but updated for Photoshop 2017 with a few small tweaks.

The videos below are in two parts: the galaxy and then the planet.

Here are a few examples from the students.

Having Fun with Adobe Photoshop Fix (Grade 2)

The mobile app Adobe Photoshop Fix is an incredibly powerful mobile app that lets you do much of the retouching and editing functions that the desktop Photoshop CC does. You can remove things from backgrounds, heal areas and blend layers. All sorts of goodness.

But with great power comes great responsibility. How much is too far? Where is the point where your photo becomes a distortion of what came before? And is this a good or bad thing?

This are interesting questions of ethics that would suit older students. But when introducing this app to younger students (as a sneaky precursor in introducing Photoshop proper next year to these kids) it’s all about the fun. And without doubt, the most fun you can have with this is the face liquify function.

Essentially, the app detects your face (assuming it’s an ubobstructed close up headshot) and the edit points on the face. The nose, eyes, cheeks, jawline, chin, forehead, mouth and lips. And with each edit point there are a number of options you can change. Obviously professional “serious” photographers use this to make slight subtle changes to the models they shoot, but with these kids, it’s all about distorting features.

I also got them to do a little bit of blended painting, so they could colour their hair as well.

The video here better explains the process.

Here are some examples from my Grade 2 students:

Macro or Close Up Photography (Grade 1)

This lesson was a pretty straight forward one. I wasn’t using any special app, just the iPad one.

I wanted to teach the students how to use the camera – in particular paying attention to focusing on the subject – when taking close up photography. I modelled using the iPad and how when you have the camera right up close, the camera can some times have a hard time picking up where the focus needs to be. By tapping on the subject of the photo (whether it’s a flower, a leaf or a figuringe) the iPad (or iPhone) does a pretty good job to compensate.

For the classes I went to our Wetlands area, as well as the Veggie Garden – and encouraged the kids to get right up as close as possible. I told them I didn’t want them to use zoom. When dealing with a camera like on a mobile device, zoom always degrades the quality of the photo since it’s a digital zoom, not an optical one. This means it’s not the camera itself that’s doing the zooming with the hardware, but it’s the software. It never does a stellar job. So – I got the kids to get right up as close as possible.

This lesson was meant as a review of the camera functions within the device whilst looking at a different type of photography.

Here are some examples.

Up and Running for 2017 – and with a new eBook coming!

It’s been a few months since the last post of the blog. It’s been a very busy term, and I am also working hard on releasing the ebook on Media Arts hopefully ready to go out in just a few short weeks.

Having said that, I have been doing many new lessons this term, as the students have been upskilled in various concepts and programs to do with Photography. I will be putting out a new post from now every couple of days to catch you up on all the exciting things happening with Media Arts in my classroom.

Hopefully all my loyal readers will be interested to hear about the book project I’ve been working hard on. The book, also titled Confessions of a Media Arts Teacher, is an interactive ebook that includes all the posts on this blog, expanded to include links, photo galleries, videos, lesson and unit planners, as well as reflections on each. It will also include project files for many of the lessons that you can save to a Dropbox folder with just a tap of the finger. It will be priced at $39.95 (AUD).


It is designed to work on an iPad, but can be read just as well on a desktop as well. If you would like to be kept informed on when it comes out, please email me at . I will be offering an early-bird 10% discount for anyone who wants to be on this distribution list.

So stay tuned for more exciting Media Arts goodness! And please do comment on posts if you like what you read, or even better – if you’ve tried out the projects in your classrooms! Your feedback will make this blog even better!

Also, if you are reading this in an email (meaning you subscribed for email updates) you might find the graphics and videos I put in the posts don’t come up. I encourage you to click on the link to read the post in the blog so you can get the whole picture.

See you in a couple of days!

Time Lapse Art (Prep)

The objective for this project was quite simple. Draw a picture and film it. More specifically, it was for the students to draw a picture of their favourite season and have a partner film it using the Time Lapse feature from the iPad camera app. This tied in perfectly with their unit on seasons.

The skills, in terms of video, that the students were learned were based on constantly checking and critiquing the film as it was being shot. That’s a complicated way of saying that the students doing the filming are watching and adjusting as needed.

So, the way I had it set up was that the students who were drawing were sitting at a single desk. Next to them was an iPad attached to a tripod. The tripod was angled down to the desk so that the whole (A3) paper was in the frame. Students who were drawing had a bunch of coloured pencils each, had to decide what season to draw, and then got to it. Students doing the filming would watch the drawing on the iPad and carefully adjust the sheet if the illustrator accidentally moved it out of frame. They also kept an eye out for heads being in shot and gently indicating to the illustrator to move back.

When the picture was finished, the two students swapped roles, and we began again.

The results were actually extremely good for something that conceptually was extremely simple. The students, when sharing their videos, were amazed at how their drawings came to life so quickly.

Here are a couple of my favourites as examples:

This was the last of the projects I did with the Preps. I will reflect on the Prep curriculum during the summer break.

Adding Subtitles to Star Wars (Gr3-4)

It was about this time last year when I found out I was going to take on the Media Arts specialist role. So many ideas were running through my head. What tools, what equipment and mostly – what projects should I do?

This one is the first one I thought of. I’m not saying it’s necessarily the best project we’ve done all year, but it was a lot of fun.

Essentially, I wanted to teach the students how to add subtitles to a video project. So there’s your learning outcome. My way to engage them was to use Star Wars. I remembered years ago seeing a clip online where someone put their subtitles on a sequence featuring R2D2. So, simply – what is R2D2 really saying? A fun idea – yes. But one that takes a lot of planning, both from the teacher and the students.

The clip I used, which I found on YouTube and downloaded, was the start of Revenge of the Sith where Obi Wan and Anakin are flying around, trying to get in the command ship to free Chancellor Palpatine. Yes, I knew all of that without looking it up! There are some moments where R2 says somethings, but in the history of Star Wars cannon, the movies never subtitle R2. Other characters sometimes know what he’s saying, but you as the viewer do not. So, I had a think and came up with this video.

I’m not claiming it’s all that funny, but that was fine because I challenged the kids to do better. I gave them, in the first session, a planning sheet where I had transcribed the whole sequence, added timecodes to each line of dialogue, and left a blank space everytime R2D2 beeped and whistled. I even left a space for the enemy droid ship who said something mechinical before firing his missiles.

So, after watching the sequence a couple of times, the kids had to basically fill in the blanks as to what R2D2 was saying at each point. Of course, as you’d expect, there were some students that I had to temper their enthusiasm a little as what they suggested was borderline inappropriate, but for the most part, the kids got into the spirit of it. Even those who had no real interest in Star Wars.

The second and third session was the real challenge. The process of adding subtitles (or captions, as Premiere Pro calls it) is fairly simple, but easy to mess up. Below is a video of me explaining how I added subtitles to my Star Wars clip.

I was strict with the kids on using proper capitalisation and punctuation. I helped out when it came to spelling. I also made them check, and re-check their timecodes so that they matched what I had on the sheet.

The results were mixed. I’m not a comedy critic, but I do think my version was better than some of the kids, but most did a very reasonable job. And all students, at the end, had a much greater understanding of subtitles, their various purposes, and the technicalities of where and how they are placed in a video clip.

This was the last project I did with the Gr 3-4s. I will post a reflection on the Gr 3-4 curriculum over the summer break.