When our students and our pedagogy need a little 'spark' by MARINA "RED" MADDEN, MFA | DECEMBER 2019 | 9 minute read

"A curriculum that advocates a dialogic perspective [...] allows both teacher and student to enter a cycle of action and reflection in which both will grow...the teacher's learning style is open to interaction and the exercise of greater freedom." —Gabriel Diaz-Maggioli

Using my 'spark' to ignite creativity across disciplines

When UTSA invested in the Adobe Creative Cloud Enterprise license in Fall 2018, and then became an official Adobe Creative Campus in Fall 2019, they began seeking faculty community members with experience not only working in Adobe tools, but teaching Adobe. Boy, oh boy, was I an eager beaver faculty member ready to sign up for any service I could provide, if it involved Adobe. You see, I had been raised on Adobe, design and creativity; it was a natural language and my ethos as a tween through adulthood and into my own present-day professional and academic life.

I grew up with a designing mother who studied commercial art in the late 80s; she then worked in advertising as a graphic designer throughout the 90s until 2015, when she retired. I was present when the first versions of Photoshop were released on the first Apple computers—what an amazing time to be an adolescent. My childlike enthusiasm continues for our Roadrunners that now have access to an even more sophisticated set of Adobe tools in 2019.

Flash forward to 2019, I was starting my seventh year as a full time Lecturer III with COLFA for the UTSA Dept. of Communication, as part of the ever-growing BA and MA in communication programs—an MFA in a sea of Ph.D's, specializing in digital media production, graphic design, strategic communication design, editorial design and branding campaigns, etc. Now, I found myself at the center of an official Adobe Creative Campus, what? To me, this was my fan girl moment, like a mega-fan meeting Bono, face to face!

Helping others reconnect with their creative 'spark'...it is there!

This semester I led three Adobe Spark training courses—two for faculty, one for staff. After 12 years teaching undergraduate and graduate students, this was my first time teaching peers, i.e. fellow faculty and community members, so admittedly, I was a little nervous. In the end however, I believe I may have benefitted even more than my faculty colleagues.

The most obvious difference when teaching fellow teachers is the level of collaboration that can occur when the context of instruction is designed so the exchange of ideas, creativity and storytelling is centered around a central tool—Adobe Spark in this case. You have to understand that most of us design scholars (MFAs) don't necessarily "teach" software—we teach process, methods, composition techniques, but the tools are practicums that improve over time with each project assigned. Altering my pedagogy to center the instruction around a single application or tool, allowed the software to be the ice breaker and creativity maker—this was a good change and a new spark in my teaching style.

Sharing our stories—the reason for Adobe Spark tools

My final training class of the Fall 2019 semester was well attended and there were faculty members from across many disciplines—computer science, English, psychology, Latin studies, music, biology—I was really excited to see so many of my fellow faculty members eager to get creative with their assignment prompts and course updates & redesigns utilizing Adobe Spark, the Adobe Education Exchange, and the Adobe tutorials at their fingertips, even if it was a Friday afternoon before the Thanksgiving holiday.

One in particular 'trainee' made an impression on me. She had all the signs of a traditional teacher: good posture, roller cart, beautiful colorful attire, smart shoes, smiles and eyes wide open. This was a veteran educator with 30+ years teaching experience that had recently returned to higher ed—brand new to UTSA—the perfect Adobe trainee! As I moved through the Adobe Spark demos, I could see my perfect trainee was becoming frustratated and a little upset that she struggled to follow along. I thought, "oh no, I've lost her!"

After class, when all the others had emptied the lab, I noticed my perfect trainee had stayed after eager to speak to me about all that was covered—then she shared her story and my heart was forever changed. She shared with me, with eyes wet, that her greatest fear was,

"staring into a sea of young faces, bored, waiting for something dynamic, and all I have to give them is another talking head."

My purpose as an Adobe Ambassador and Faculty Fellow was crystal clear—CREATIVITY FOR ALL.

I am happy to say this class encounter was transformational for both trainer and trainee—we both are bonded together by our shared SPARK. A spark for our pedagogy, and a spark for our students. As I write this blog, my friend and former trainee, wanted to share this will all future Adobe trainees:

"You got me excited, now I want more! My toe went in, now I want to learn to swim, and I day dream of a day when I’m not just in learning mode, but I know enough to break free and am swimming freely using all kinds of strokes."
Created By
Marina RED Madden, MFA


Created with images by Warren Wong - "untitled image" • Agence Olloweb - "Il s’agit d’une photographie réalisée pour illustrer notre page des offres de création graphique de l’agence web Olloweb Solution" • Museums Victoria - "Computer System - Apple Lisa 2 (modified to Macintosh XL)" • Todd Poirier - "Bono singer microphone" • Monica Melton - "I followed Don Kao, a Chinese American LGBT activist, around for weeks on an assignment from New York Times photo editor James Estrin. I captured this moment of Don helping a woman fill out paperwork. It exemplifies how hands on and willing to help Don is, especially among LGBTQ youth." • Todd Quackenbush - "Orange light sparks" • NESA by Makers - "untitled image" • sk - "untitled image" • Nathan Dumlao - "untitled image" • Nate Neelson - "Iceberg Theory. i put a lot emotion in this photo"