By Ifanyi Bell
Educators are an industrious bunch. On a day-to-day basis, they have to make something out of nothing, and that’s especially true when it comes to integrating technology in the classroom.
They’re faced with a slew of barriers preventing a full-scale upgrade of technology—namely funding and an ideological consensus regarding reform, among other challenges. Until those things are sorted, educators will continue to use the vast patchwork of software and hardware available to them from the highly competitive consumer technology market.
Unfortunately, there’s no centralized system — the patchwork is just that: a hodgepodge of technology available to some, but not all. Software will run on this computer, but not that one. This license can be applied to that desktop, but not that laptop. This app can be loaded on an Apple, but not a PC.
There may be some good news — at least in the media-making realm: Project Rome for Education, from Adobe, a suite of media making tools for classroom use, based on the design industry standard, Adobe Creative Suite (CS). Adobe has taken elements of its famous(ly expensive) media creation software (Photoshop, Illustrator, After-Effects, Premiere, etc.) and bundled it into an all-in-one kit for creating slideshows, digital stories, web-pages, presentations, and more.
Adobe recently released a preview of the software and its sibling, the “Educational Version,” which can be accessed through a web-based application, or a fully downloadable desktop app. Educators can develop and customize interactive quizzes and tests (exported as .swf files) to be taken on computers and have the option of facilitating lessons as a class, or assign work to individual students. Certainly a lot of potential here.
Will it solve the complicated issues associated with classroom technology integration? Certainly not. Could it help streamline the compatibility and accessibility issues associated with classroom media creation? Perhaps. With only the preview version of the software available for download, there is no official word on pricing, or even an official release date. The website is soliciting educators to enroll in a pilot testing program. When it does release, it will be available for Apple and PC with the option of running it completely from the Web.
As with most new technology that’s brought to the education realm, as important as the technology is the training component. The Adobe Creative Suite is a powerful and sophisticated set of tools, and since the developers have leaned very heavily on the the user elements from those products, I’m concerned that the learning curve will require more time that teachers have to create truly polished lessons and projects, let alone facilitate the training process. If you or an educator has signed up for the pilot, let us know. We’d love to learn more.
[12/2/10 UPDATE: We recently received a message stating that the trial project for Project ROME for Education has concluded, and that no additional Project ROME software updates are planned at this time.]