Creative classics

14th May 2004 at 01:00
New developments for digital creativity in the classroom, seen by Jack Kenny

Computer-to-pupil ratio is a crude way of expressing a school's commitment to ICT. Another way of looking at dedication to digital creativity might be to measure the digital camera-to-pupil ratio. A straw poll indicates that although a school might have a 1 to 5 computer-to-pupil ratio it will probably have a 1 to 1,000 ratio with digital video cameras and maybe 1 to 250 with digital still cameras.

All of which is a pity because there's evidence that both types of cameras can increase motivation and provide valuable resources right across the curriculum, as well as being a focus for creativity.

Doesn't every department in a secondary school need a basic suite of kit for digital creativity? You might start with a digital video camera, a digital still camera that can capture short bursts of video, a photo printer and a scanner capable of capturing negatives and slides.

When it comes to software, Adobe's Creative Suite is a good option, but make no mistake,it's not for the casual user. Teachers and students require a high level of skill to test the limits of these programs.

Creative Suite runs on both PCs and Macs.The Premium edition includes PhotoShop,Illustrator, InDesign, GoLive and Acrobat Professional, while the Standard option lacks GoLive and Acrobat.

Beginners high on ambition and short on cash should try The Gimp. This image manipulation software has been developed by the Open Source community and is freely available. There is even an extensive manual for download too. The software lacks the gloss that you get with commercial packages, but it has a wide range of features and it is free One of the best tools for schools wanting to experiment with audio is the Mixman. I have never seen anything quite like the Mixman DM2. It is a kind of hardware mixing desk that's powered by your PC through its USB port.

Plug it in, choose a style of music, add bass lines, samples, your own voice or sounds and then re-mix and create your own tunes.

Kids will love this, but will you let them have it? There are warp effects, a cross-fader, dozens of vocals, beats and effects, real-time control of pitch, volume, panning and tempo. You can also import sounds. When you're done, burn the results on to CD or upload them on to the internet for everyone to hear at The music making capabilities of Apple computers are well established with GarageBand. And now Apple has brought out GarageBand Jam Pack. These additions to the software give you more loops, instruments and effects. It makes a great package even better.

Low-level video editing is well served too. Windows MovieMaker2 and iMovie for Mac are both free. Both will take you into the basics of editing.

Go up a level on the PC and you get into Serif, Ulead and Pinnacle (see review on p32). Apple has recently released Final Cut Express. If you are being irritated by some of the restrictions of iMovie, it is probably time to move up to Express. It is a big leap but well worth taking. Final Cut Express 2 is a "non-destructive editor"; your original footage is never affected by your editing. You also get colour correction that lets you balance and harmonise clips shot at different times and in different light.

Sound editing is also much more sophisticated.

Links Education is selling the Movie Box, which includes everything you need to start making videos; a Panasonic camera, wide-angle lens, long-life batteries, five tapes, lens and screen hoods. You also get Pinnacle Studio 8 editing software, cables and a tripod.

Video is also the subject of Magix Music Maker 2004 and, in spite of its title, some schools use it mainly for video. You can create sounds and combine sound and video. There are filters, synthesisers, mixers, drum machines, vocal correctors, sound editors and loop generators. You might be overawed by it; your pupils will not be.

Finally when someone suggested to me that Flight Simulator was a quirky, creative way of getting over some basic concepts in geography I was intrigued. Think about it though; you have to know about navigation, if you don't you crash. Cloud formations, maps, topography and weather systems all have to be understood too. Suddenly it all makes sense.

Suggested digital suite700i digital video camera - pound;345.99

A310 digital still camera - pound;140

Photo printer 865 - pound;140

Scanner 500f - pound;120Canon

Final Cut Express 2 - pound;138

GarageBand Jam Pack - pound;68

Flight Simulator - pound;39.99


Mixman DM2 - pound;89.95

TAG Learning

Movie Box - pound;899Links Education

MoviePlus - pound;79.99Serif

Magix Music Maker 2004 - pound;39.99


Creative Suite Premium - around pound;150 for dedicated education licence.

pound;389 otherwise


The Gimp

Manual http:gimp-savvy.combook

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