Technology and Continuing Studies: Adobe Software for Publishing and the Classroom

by Jennifer Harder

At about the age of five, back in the 1980’s when my father placed me in front of a computer at the engineering company where he worked, I instantly became interested in what this device was and the what the different colored buttons were for. That is probably what began my fascination with computers, technology, and graphic design software. However, my desire to learn more about Adobe software became more prevalent once I entered college. Then, in my early 20’s, I would never have believed that about a decade later I would be teaching it at Langara College in the Continuing Studies Technology department and have completed three books on Adobe Software. This includes my latest book, Graphic and Multimedia for the Web with Adobe Creative Cloud.

Being asked to write a blog related to my latest book started me thinking about, as an author and instructor of Adobe software, what important messages about technology should be conveyed to students, whether they are beginners or want to upgrade their existing skills. In continuing studies classes, I come across students from all demographics and ages (20-60 years.) Adobe technology at any age is not always easy to learn. In many cases these students are older learners who are needing to upgrade their skills in order to keep their job if they want to compete with the younger generation. To complicate the matter, society has this theory that we are either dominantly right brained (artistic) or left brained (analytical.) While it might be true that our brains develop more on one side than the other due to life circumstances, any time you combine art or video (Photoshop and Illustrator) and the use of coding (Animate and Dreamweaver,) you are now entering a realm where both sides of your brain must start working.  This presents quite a challenge to the mind that now must flex again.

As an instructor, understanding where that person is coming from and explaining a new concept is probably once of greatest challenges when working with students, and it certainly requires a degree of patience and empathy. After listening to them, I try to apply the comments they make that day to ways that I can improve my teaching style and make their learning as enjoyable and stress-free as possible. What I learn in the classroom is what I later try to apply in my writing. I think my students are grateful when I can supply them with resources - like information on Adobe books - that they can use later outside of the classroom to continue their learning experience.

So, here are some key points that I think can apply to learning Adobe technology whether you’re a student, a reader, or an instructor:

  • Learning is a life-long process. There will always be upgrades with Adobe software.
  • Don’t expect to master everything in a specific piece of software or software collection overnight. If you practice every day, your skills will improve. Take each lesson in small steps and put down the book if you need a break. It will always be there the next day.
  • There are some types of software that you will be more interested in than others. I find that a good foundation in Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign is a great place to start.
  • Some Adobe software - or parts of the software - requires that you have additional education. For example, to become better at using a program like Animate or Dreamweaver, I highly recommend that you find a book from Apress about such topics as HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. These are all topics that I teach in my classroom and I also touch on these code languages in my book.
  • You don’t have to be a great videographer to shoot video. Learning the basics using Photoshop and Media Encoder can get you started in working with audio and video for the web. I present these topics in my third book.
  • Keep reading Adobe technology books, even if they are slightly out dated ones. I am always amazed at some of the ideas that former authors have that I would never have considered. I try to look at how these ideas can be applied in my teaching in a new and innovative ways. Sometimes it is just the slight adjustment of code, or a design that creates something totally new.
  • As an instructor or author, consider your audience and their skill level. It’s easy to overwhelm students with new ideas, but if you don’t explain them in a methodical and relevant manner, the audience can get easily lost. Remember that your audience may not have the years of training you have, but that does not mean they don’t have something to contribute to your knowledge as well. So listen and respond patiently when they tell you that they are confused and need assistance. Or, in the case of a book, supply resource links if you think the topic requires a more detailed explanation.
  • It’s also easy to hold back and not explain an idea fully to those that are willing to learn or have bought a book. Generally, if you can’t explain what a panel in Adobe does or does not do, it’s probably best to leave it out of the curriculum until you have a better grasp of the topic and can explain it fully. Giving only half the answer in a book will leave the reader confused. As I have discovered in the classroom, a student will test your knowledge, so you need a good explanation as to why you are skipping over a topic. Don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know a lot about that topic, but I’ll do some research into it and get back to you." In my case I consulted various books, instructors, and Apress editors - and they with their technical writers - so that I could present the most up to date Adobe information.
  • Do your software research and get back to students or readers in a timely manner. You never know how that type of consideration for others will be rewarded in the future.

In conclusion, I hope that whether you are in my classroom, reading my books, or reading other books at Apress, you will be inspired to learn about Adobe software and continue your lifelong study of technology.

About the Author

Jennifer Harder has worked in the graphic design industry for over 10 years. She has a degree in Graphic Communications and is currently teaching Acrobat, InDesign, and Dreamweaver courses at Langara College. As a freelancer, Jennifer frequently works with Adobe PDFs to help enhance web sites. She enjoys talking about Adobe Software and her interests include: writing, illustration, and working on her websites.

This article was contributed by Jennifer Harder, author of Graphics and Multimedia for the Web with Adobe Creative Cloud.