Back to school with Adobe's Education Exchange

Adobe's Education Exchange has grown into an incredible resource for anyone who uses Adobe products in class. Need some new lessons this year? Check out the Edu Exchange.
Written by Christopher Dawson, Contributor

When I last reported on Adobe's Education Exchange site, it was a fledgling social learning destination with several lessons that integrated Adobe professional tools posted for teachers to use or modify with their students. I was impressed when Adobe first formally rolled out the beta of the site at ISTE this year, but taking another look this fall left me pleasantly surprised at the richness and breadth of lessons that teachers were sharing. In fact, it has become my go-to site when I want to learn to do something new or interesting with CS5.

I'm no graphics or design guru. My wife, the aesthete, will be happy to tell you that. My own website stinks and is badly in need of a facelift and fresh content (not to mention a better host than an old desktop in my basement, where our miserable DSL service often leaves 6geeks.net dead in the water). I've been happy letting Joomla and WordPress handle the layout and content for me (I've used both and was planning a full migration to WordPress this summer, but just never got around to it), but since I'm a real live consultant now, it's time for something a little bit less blog-y and a little more website-y. I need the site to be much more focused and give clients quick access to what I do, how I do it, and my philosophies in Ed Tech. I also need to be able to distribute an e-book I'm working on whenever I manage to get it finished.

And here's where Adobe and the Education Exchange come in. I've been wanting to learn Dreamweaver and really pit it against some of the less expensive tools out there to see if my earlier impressions of CS5 and its potential roles in tech education (and educational technology) continued to ring true, so this seemed like the perfect opportunity. I've used Dreamweaver in the past, but a lot has changed since CS3, so the 6geeks.net redesign gave me an excuse to really dive in.

Next: Education Exchange to the rescue! »

I could have just fired up Dreamweaver and started clicking through the included templates, but with my aesthetically challenged brain, pulled up the Education Exchange to see if any far more creative teachers had some cool lessons that might provide inspiration and fill me in with how-to's and features. A quick search for Dreamweaver turned up hundreds of lessons and how-to's for both CS4 and CS5 versions of the software but one lesson in particular caught my eye (you may need to create an account and log in to the Exchange to follow this link): "Digital Design CS5: Building a basic client website". This turned out to be a full simulation designed as a group activity with several pages of accompanying documentation and specific instructions for the use of Dreamweaver and Fireworks, the latter for designing and wireframing the site for a simulated presentation to the client (the instructor).

What impressed me the most about the lesson was not the focus on CS5. Sure, there were instructions for using specific features, but more than that, the focus was on the design process and teamwork and used the various views available in Dreamweaver to teach Cascading Style Sheets.

Refining my search to "dreamweaver cs5" gave me 47 tutorials, lessons, and resources (there was some duplication, but more than enough to get me deeply into a far more professional version of my site). Not only was there enough to teach me what I needed to know, to cover specific gaps in my own knowledge of the tools, and to impart a bit of creative flair to my work, but there was also enough content to build a high school or college-level course on web design. All an instructor would need to do is knit together the various components, some of which, again, focused on the tool, while others used the tool to focus on web and design concepts.

This same philosophy can be seen in many of the other lessons on the Exchange, many of which were posted by Adobe's own education group, but to which a growing number of educators have also made significant contributions. Been wondering what Adobe Connect Pro might do for your classes? A search for "Connect Pro" gets you everything from "Getting started providing support for online professional development programs" to "Create on-demand eLearning content with Adobe Connect Pro."

Do your students need better digital assets than they can find on Google Images? One teacher posted a link to the US Fish & Wildlife National Digital Library.

Need a lesson (or 50) for a digital media or graphic design course? A search for "graphic design" provides 71 hits ranging from a rubric for a graphics project to a large unit on graphic design for the Web using Photoshop, Fireworks, and Illustrator.

Whether you want to learn something new, explore a new technology with your classes, develop top notch design or web curricula, or just freshen up some courses for the fall, the Education Exchange needs to be on your short list of Internet resources. Unfortunately, if you don't already own them, you'll probably find yourself downloading trials of software and then ultimately hitting up procurement and IT folks to get Adobe products. The resources are as good as the software. Which, I suppose, was Adobe's idea.

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