Canadian School Division Standardizes on Serif Design Suite, Adding Technology and Creative Elements to Classes and Improving Student Engagement
Before Clarke Hagan began working with the technology department at Canada’s Louis Riel School Division in fall 2010, the division’s teachers had used a variety of graphics and design software titles in 40 schools in an attempt to incorporate technology into classes. However, the schools united that fall to use the Serif Design Suite, a single self-sufficient package to meet design and graphics needs that span all subjects, ages and student abilities.
Three months into the school year, Hagan said the benefits of using Serif’s programs are clear. Students using Serif’s applications are more deeply involved in lessons and teachers are more efficient with their instructional time since the software programs are so easy to use.
Other software in this genre can be very intimidating. Some come with a complex manual that is 1,000 pages long; not Serif. We don’t have to spend weeks and months teaching the software. Instead, we can get right to covering the topics we need.
— Clarke Hagan,
ICT Learning Coordinator
“Serif is a good fit for us, as it is very user friendly; we look for software that empowers the user without having a huge learning curve,” said Hagan, Louis Riel’s ICT (information and communications technology) Learning Coordinator.
“By deploying Serif Design Suite on all systems, we believe the software will be infused in lessons and activities across the grades. Our technology strategy is focusesd on providing tools that can transform the classroom environment, that is, Are our children better engaged in learning? Are they more active in their lessons? Do they like what they are learning? We find these sparks of excitement, creativity and confidence to be the building blocks on which all meaningful learning is based. Serif helps us find those ‘sparks’.”
Hagan said his predecessor had selected the Serif Design Suite graphics software package to introduce to all of the Winnipeg, Manitoba-based division’s nearly 14,500 students. Initially, about 24 teachers – mostly senior ICT teachers and those who teach web design, photography, movie design and information communication – have been formally trained on the software and others are being introduced to it on an ad hoc basis, Hagan explained. Plans during the 2010-2011 school year are for all educators to be prepped about how to incorporate the software into their own lessons.
“The division needed a cohesive package of software that could do multiple things including graphic design and photo editing that was offered at an affordable price point. We needed a creative toolkit that could be used in every school, at every level, with children of all abilities,” said Hagan. “We have found all of this and more with the Serif Design Suite. We plan to extend our use of it during the next several years”.
The Serif Design Suite, which includes software tools for vector drawing, Flash animations, digital video editing, web publishing, desktop publishing and photo editing, was installed on all of Louis Riel’s 6,500 computers by September 2010. Since then, Hagan and his early-and middle-years counterpart Kim Melvin have begun working with teachers in the division’s 40 schools to develop lessons and projects that involve the applications. He says they have been guided by Serif’s Teacher Resources, a comprehensive disc with suggested projects and other teaching worksheets.
One grade-8 class has worked with Serif’s DrawPlus on an assignment incorporating stop motion animation, while some of the high school-level movie design courses are using Serif’s MoviePlus to create their own sequences.
“Technology is changing so quickly. We need programs like Serif that share common elements – like the tutorial always on the left hand side of the screen or buttons with similar functions in the same spots, for example – to help get our staff and our student population functioning with this program quickly,” said Hagan.
Programs such as Serif’s PagePlus encourage students to explore their own creative inclinations in a familiar working interface. Also, most Serif programs, like PhotoPlus and MoviePlus, accept several different types of files, enabling schools to operate the applications regardless of the hardware (like digital cameras or video cameras) they are using.
“Other software in this genre can be very intimidating. Some come with a complex manual that is 1,000 pages long; not Serif. We don’t have to spend weeks and months teaching the software. Instead, we can get right to covering the topics we need. To compare, you wouldn’t expect to spend three months teaching pre-calculus students how to use a calculator,” said Hagan. “This enables us to gear lessons toward the core subject areas and our outcomes and spend more time on learning.”
The Serif Design Suite also provides a common technology thread for students or teachers who might be transferring to other schools within the division. They can know that even if they change school buildings, their lessons can continue uninterrupted since they will work with the same programs in a new location.
“The Serif Design Suite is quickly becoming a vital technology tool in our classrooms,” said Hagan.