Philadelphia Students Gain Real-World Experience from Web and Graphics Design Curriculum. (Applications)

Article excerpt

In the clamor surrounding the state of urban schools, one vital element is frequently overlooked: successful programs. Budget woes, overcrowded classrooms and high dropout rates make headlines. Yet, as educators know, that is only part of the story. While teachers and students learn to make do with less, many districts are realizing that smart investments of time, money and talent can yield results far greater than anticipated. Such is the case at the Philadelphia School District, where instructors are using Adobe software to teach the Fundamentals of Web Design course that is part of the Cisco Networking Academy Program.

The Cisco Networking Academy Program combines theoretical and applied learning to teach students how to build and maintain computer networks and design Web sites. These classes have created a successful learning environment where students arrive early, stay late and do more work than is required. Naja Wigglesworth, a junior at Roxborough High School in northwest Philadelphia, expresses the sentiments of many students: "I am learning things that I never imagined having the opportunity to learn in high school."

A Comprehensive Curriculum

The Fundamentals of Web Design curriculum helps students explore the history of the Web and underlying Web technologies, and introduces them to the basics of Adobe software to design simple projects, such as Web pages. The latter part of the coursework deals with more complex projects, such as designing entire Web sites, video presentations and creating magazine articles. Along the way, students learn not only how to use the software, but also valuable skills such as managing their time and collaborating effectively with fellow students. Currently, 58 instructors are certified to teach the Web design curriculum at 29 Philadelphia high schools. Each instructor completes a full week of training on the Cisco Networking Academy Program, with many teachers having previous experience using Adobe Web and graphics software. This year, an estimated 900 Philadelphia high school students will complete the Web design coursework.

The hands-on design component of the Cisco Networking Academy curriculum makes use of an award-winning suite of Adobe tools, including GoLive, LiveMotion, Premiere, Illustrator and Photoshop. The goal is to show students how electronic images are created, as well as to empower them to bring their own ideas to life on screen or on paper.

Lorraine Bell, a teacher at Mastbaum Area Vocational-Technical School in Philadelphia, works with almost 60 Web design students using the Adobe software on a daily basis. From her perspective, giving students access to leading design tools does much more than prepare them for work in design-related fields. "There's a level of growth that happens when students begin taking the design classes," she says. "First, they realize that they can be creative on their own and not always rely on the creativity of others. Then, they discover the importance of hard work and the resulting satisfaction that comes from taking their own ideas from concept to completion."

Students in Mastbaum's Web design classes participate in real-world projects. For instance, many of the school's students live in neighborhoods where Spanish is spoken almost exclusively. As part of their coursework, students can design a Web site in Spanish for a local business, such as a grocery story or hair salon. It's a novel approach that brings students closer to their communities and exposes people who might have limited technology experience to the Web. "Students are challenged to write the text, select and design images, layout the Web pages, and get the Web sites online--all while juggling deadlines and the concerns of the business owners," says Bell.

Application Integration Encourages Exploration

It's one thing to teach students about what technology can do, and quite another to let them discover the possibilities for themselves. …