Week 4: PuppetPals #3, ColorSplash & Adobe Photoshop

This week, the Prep class finished their PuppetPals project, The Grade 1-2s used ColorSplash to paint colour back into a photo, and the Grade 3-6s were introduced to Photoshop Desktop, creating lower third captions to photos. I’ll start with PuppetPals, then on to ColorSplash and finally Photoshop at the end of the post.


So because of last week, the Preps (unlike the Grade 1-2s) had to finish their project on PuppetPals. We did a refresher on what they were supposed to do (introduce each other on PuppetPals using some key “get-to-know-you” questions) and then gave them the time to complete. Many students needed a lot of support in doing this – mainly due to an ability to focus on the given task – so in some cases I had to have my finger on their ipad record/pause button, as they went through each question. The results were varied, but the core skill of telling a story using a digital tool is definitely there. Here is an example of one of the Prep videos below.


Excuse the American spelling. I like to keep the spelling as the app is called so people can track it down.

I’ve known about ColorSplash for a while now, and have been excited to try it out on students. Basically, it’s an app that allows you to either take a photo or import one in, turn it black and white, and then get you to paint the colour back in to any given area. I thought this would be an excellent way to highlight focus in a photo, so I tied it into “Healthy Choices” – which was technically only the Grade 1 topic for the term, but I stretched it to the Grade 2s as well.

I went out and bought a variety of fruit and vegetables from the supermarket. I asked the students in their pair groups to select a few and then pose for a photo (which, due to time and practicality, I took for them). They then were tasked with painting the colour back in, but only on the food, to highlight the healthy choices you can make with food.

I spent a little time modelling how to do this in the class. I showed how you can zoom into the photo using the pinch gesture, how to paint carefully around and inside the object, and how to switch back to the black and white brush to refine and edit any mistakes. The photo on the iPad retains the colour information, even if it’s not visible, so the students didn’t need to pick out colours, they just needed to use their fingers to paint the colour back in.

I was impressed how careful the students were in trying to do the best job possible. The photos came out quite well. When they were done, they handed the iPad to me, I gave them some feedback – sent them back if I think they needed to do further work – then uploaded them into their class’ Google Drive folder so we could share them at the end of the lesson. Below are some examples from the Grade 1 & 2s. (P.S – The Instagramy border and crop was done by me)


An aside, first.

As much as possible, I try to use Adobe tools where I can. Thanks to the new agreement between the Victorian Education Department and Adobe, state schools can now subscribe to Adobe’s Creative Cloud suite of programs for a hugely subsidised rate. Full disclosure, I am an Adobe Education Leader, so part of that role is to promote and teach Adobe tools in the education system. So, I suppose, there’s a bit of politics involved there as well. But, I honestly believe that Adobe’s tools are brilliant at giving people license to be as creative as possible.

Not everyone agrees. A conversation with a friend of mine – a graphic designer – has stayed with me. He was very supportive and excited learning about my new specialist classes, but questioned the idea of using Adobe tools in the classroom. Adobe tools – take Photoshop as an example – are hugely complex, industry standard applications. His argument was that in using such tools, the students will spend more time learning how to use the tool, and less time being creative in it’s use. To him, it would be better to use simplified, cheaper programs that achieve much the same thing.

I completely see where he’s coming from. But there are a couple of arguments I’d make against that. Firstly, you don’t need to teach everything about Photoshop (to stay with that particular example) to still have a successful unit of lessons. In the same way that a child does not need to know every word in the English language to be able to read effectively. Secondly, I know Adobe tools. I’d hardly class myself as an expert, but why spend the time sourcing and then learning new tools, when the ones I really want are readily available. Thirdly, I know kids. I know how well they can adapt to technology. I went in confident that they would get there. Finally, and this comes from my principal, even at this age – it gives them valuable job skills. These are tools and techniques that professionals use. I teach with Adobe tools on the desktop from Grades 3-6. I can only imagine how well a student will be skilled when they’ve gone through four years of learning Photoshop, InDesign, Premiere and the like. It’s very exciting.

So, in introducing Photoshop – in which most students had heard of before – I thought the key thing to start is to talk about layers. Layers is central to how most things in Photoshop work. If you understand layers, you have a solid foundation to build upon.

So, I printed and laminated three sheets. One with a background photo, one with a rectangle shape and one with a layer of text. The key thing being that the last two layers were clear aside from what was on it. Putting the three together creates a composite. But the composite is made up of the three layers.

By showing them in a physical form, the students understood that layers together combine to form the piece of art or the composite they want to make.

I brought Photoshop up on the screen and gave them a quick tour of the interface. The menu bar, the tool bar, the options bar and the panels. I didn’t go through every little thing, obviously, but I did point out the tools they’d be using for this project, as well as the layer panel and the properties panel. In reflection, I probably should have pointed out the history panel as well, so they knew where to go if they needed to go back and fix mistakes.

We then talked about what a lower third was, an industry term that refers to (often) boxed information on the lower part of the screen (or the image).

I then explained I wanted them to caption an image using the shape tool to draw out a rectangle, the type tool to write some text, and then the move tool to position them together. I also talked about formatting options, such as rounding the rectangle corners, creating a drop shadow, how to change the font, the text size and fill as well.

For the grade 3-4s that’s as far as I went. The grade 5-6s I also mentioned how to use opacity on the shape layer to give it a slightly transparent look. I also showed them how to unlink the corners of the rectangle, so that they could play around with the corners to see what looked good.

Most students didn’t finish this lesson, so I’ve extended it to next week’s lesson. Those that didn’t finish didn’t have much to do, so I will still go ahead with the new project next week as well.