Waraku Education

Ideas, experiments and observations as they occur [and I have time] relating to teaching and learning in a secondary school - special focus on ICT.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Show them the free stuff first

I have been meaning to get accustomed to using the 'Gimp' for graphic manipulation. I have been meaning to get skilled in graphic manipulation. For example, I have heard about layers but had never managed to work out how to use them. Last weekend I did this. There are lots of things that I still don't know but I know enough to start having fun and be creative.

The need to come to terms with this has become more urgent as resistance to use the Gimp for graphic manipulation in visual arts and photography in my school has persisted and seemed to be becoming more entrenched. Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Photoshop Elements are seen as the tools of choice and they seem to be happy to spend the money in the face of shrinking budget allocations.. Of all things Kidpix is used in junior secondary – again a propriety product. Why would they pay money for this when there is Tuxpaint – (free and open source, can be put on all computers (well actually is already) in the school and at home)?

It has been said to me that the Gimp is unsuitable because it loads into several windows and so appears slightly different to most other windows programs. 'Too hard to teach'. 'We gave it a try and it did not work'. Well this has got me worked up and now I am out to prove them wrong. The reports I have read heap a lot of praise on the Gimp as a suitable alternative to Adobe Photoshop. Even if it is a bit different or even a bit buggy, the price and the ability to use across platforms (Windows and Linux) more than balances this.

It erks me because I think we should show the kids how to use the free stuff first. It is common sense that the tool that people learn with first becomes the preferred tool. It takes a lot of motivation for people to decide to spend the energy to learn something new. Show them the propriety tool first and you are setting the kids up. This is inconsistent with the spirit of free and open education. Show them the free tool first.

I have grabbed 18 staff photos – the ones that are put near the front entrance of the school so that visitors can put a name to a face. I used the iwarp distort filter in Gimp to distort their faces and have put these on display in the computer lab. I want students to see how funny these are and peak their curiosity. I want them to ask me how to do it. I want the students to ask for copies of the Gimp to take home. I want the students to be bragging to their arts and photography teachers about the fun things that they can do on ANY COMPUTER IN THE SCHOOL, not the select few with the paid for propriety software installed.

I reckon that I might even run a few lunch time workshops. I will put a couple of larger distorted photos in prominent places around the school with a sign saying – “Would you like to know how to do this. I will show you in less than 10 minutes at lunchtime.”


  • At 9:16 pm, Blogger Leigh Blackall said…

    I'm totally with you Wara, and I hope you will start creating screencast demos of your GIMP work, as this is what we need. ScreenHunter is a free screen recorder, and Audacity will do the audio. Offer up the screenrecording and MP3 seperately... hope you'll do it.

    Or Windows Media Encoder 9 does a good recording if you're on windows that is.


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