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Old 11-06-2012, 09:13 PM   #1
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Advice for high school animation teachers

Hello!

Im an animation instructor at career training high school and I was wondering if I could get some advice about some of the goals weve set to improve our program this year. It would be great to get feedback from professionals working in the industry.

Here are our goals:

1. Finding an appropriate certification exam for our program completers.
2. Finding ways to attract more girls into the program.
3. Increasing the memory in all our systems to 6 GB.


Very soon we will be required to administer some kind of certification exam as a requirement for completion of our program. There is an Autodesk testing facility nearby and we were considering making the Autodesk 2012 Certified Associate Exam a required component of completion in our program. However there is a fee involved and this could be problematic for underprivileged students. I've also heard that we should write our own exam.


We would also like to address imbalance between the genders in all technology fields and are always looking for ways to attract more girls. Any advice in that area would be really great.

We are already in the process of ordering more memory and upgrading all the systems to 6 GB.

Any input or advice on these goals or any other subject would be much appreciated. Thanks so much!


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Old 11-06-2012, 09:34 PM   #2
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What high level skills do you want the kids to learn in the end?
Basic 3d skills are nice but then not sure about their value for life or most jobs out there. Let's face it how many future professional vfx artists are attending your class? No, it is not a big job market.
What is their most likely career path?

Also, software outdates quickely, it may make sense to focus on transferable skills (both teaching and testing).
If they really know all the features in the package wont matter a lot to anyone in the end. Nobody gets hired only for being able to handle software anymore these days.
And i guess the girls will attend if you teach what they are interested in...
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Last edited by katisss : 11-06-2012 at 10:14 PM.
 
Old 11-07-2012, 04:37 PM   #3
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What we're trying to do is to get students some basic experience and prepare them to be successful in a college animation program. We want to get their hands in all parts of the process from modeling, texturing, animation and lighting up to basic dynamics and rigging and character animation. That way they have a better idea of their good at and what direction they want to go in college or whether or not they even like animation enough to spend that much money on pursuing it in college.

What we need is an exam that will cover the basics. I'm not sure when, but soon the state of Arizona is going to require some kind of certification exam for all career and technical high school programs including us. So far the Autodesk Certified Associate seems to be the best to us, but we're wondering if maybe there's something out there that's cheaper, or can be done online in the classroom rather than at the Autodesk testing center.
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Old 11-07-2012, 05:06 PM   #4
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The other issue I could see with the AD cert. is that it may be a little intense for a highschool class. Not that they couldn't handle it, but it would be a lot of material to cover. You would end up basically needing to teach them the programs instead of teaching them the general principles and workflows of 3d modelling and animation. If you are trying to give them a solid foundation that they can build on then you should not be teaching them to be button pushers (which is what you end up doing when you begin to teach the software instead of the workflow or theory).


Would the state accept a test you put together yourself based on industry research? I think you would really be better off teaching them a basic pipeline process that results in them taking a project from blank screen to completed basic scene and lets them touch on each part of the process. That way they will have skills that translate across software platforms and will understand why they do the things they do instead of just knowing what button to push. My two cents. Good luck.

EDIT:
OP, what experience do you have in this field? What methods are you currently using to teach them?

Last edited by Crotalis : 11-07-2012 at 07:54 PM.
 
Old 11-07-2012, 05:09 PM   #5
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Seriously, even an animation college wouldnt care about if they know all the features. It takes several years to learn Maya. It does...
Animation is so much more than software. Rather cover animation history.
And visual results count not knowing all the features.
If you a photographer understanding the camera is great, but it doesnt make a good picture.
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Last edited by katisss : 11-07-2012 at 06:08 PM.
 
Old 11-07-2012, 06:09 PM   #6
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I did 3 years of a multimedia class in high school, and I think there was about a 15:1 ratio of boys to girls. The class mostly focused on game asset creation, film, and vfx. The final exam was written by the instructor.

The Autodesk exam looks a bit brutal for a high school elective class.

it might be a good idea to include some 3D motion graphics and product rendering curriculum. Games and VFX are pretty tough to break into nowadays, but motion graphics and product rendering are great complimentary skills for many corporate jobs like CAD engineers and graphic designers.

Out of curiosity, what's the floor plan of your classroom? Do you have tables, or individual, boxed off workstations?

-AJ
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Old 11-07-2012, 06:40 PM   #7
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I developed a four year 3D animation course (that included elements of game design and motion capture) that I taught to high school students for nearly ten years.
The software I taught included 3ds Max, ZBrush, Mudbox, Unreal Development Kit (UDK), Photoshop, Sketchbook Pro, Premiere, After Effects, and Motion Builder.
My classes produced students who are now working for BioWare, Timegate Studios, and Gearbox (after attending great colleges as well).
Though I don't teach anymore, I'd be happy to answer any questions you might have.

To answer your current questions:

1. At this point, I wouldn't worry so much about certification. With 3D animation/game industries, holding an Autodesk certification won't have much bearing on whether a high school student gets into college or into a good job unless the facility hiring them is looking to do some training.

2. Ahh, that's a tough one. There aren't really any magic formulas for attracting girls other than going to them and talking to them directly about your courses. Girls involved in gaming are going to be highly interested, but I've found the girls that don't play many games can be just excited and recruit-able. Over the 10 years that I taught high school I saw the number of girls in my program increase from 1 or 2 to a quarter or even a third of my first year classes. Typically there was a rather high attrition rate with girls in my higher level classes as some of them figured out animation is a little tougher than they thought.
My advice to you is to promote your classes regularly....particularly to girls.

3. Sounds like you have that one under control.


I've found that it's important to have administrators that truly support such a program because it can expensive to maintain with yearly software upgrade and with periodic hardware upgrades. My course was funded through the career & technology education (CATE) program in our school district using federal Perkins funding.
I also found that establishing a good relationship with industry pros was helpful.
Lastly, one of the things I did with my high school students was get the program involved with Skills USA which is a student leadership organization that has local, regional, and national animation competitions that the student can participate in.
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Old 11-07-2012, 06:56 PM   #8
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Yea, SkillsUSA was fun. Defiantly get involved with that.

Me and my teammate won the national competition in 08 for animation and visualization, and we both got about 15K in scholarships to various colleges. We also got several thousand dollars of hardware and software.

It could be a huge boost to your program if your students win. It helped my instructor to secure funding for new computers after we won.

-AJ
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Old 11-07-2012, 07:06 PM   #9
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I guess if you have a local animation college talk to them about their admission process. I am a bit reluctant to recommend kids to go for this industry without making it clear that it is competitive as hell.
The same number of students graduate every year than the entire workforce of the animation vfx industry. High number of graduates never geta job.
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Last edited by katisss : 11-07-2012 at 07:09 PM.
 
Old 11-07-2012, 07:40 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Crotalis
The other issue I could see with the AD cert. is that it may be a little intense for a highschool class. Not that they couldn't handle it, but it would be a lot of material to cover. You would end up basically needing to teach them the programs instead of teaching them the general principles and workflows of 3d modelling and animation. If you are trying to give them a solid foundation that they can build on then you should not be teaching them to be button pushers (which is what you end up doing when you begin to teach the software instead of the workflow or theory).....


That's kind of how I see it. There are a lot of other things to study in high school, getting bogged down in intense software study might divert them from other essential studies. It's like teaching a 4 year old to do the Rubiks cube before learning to play with building blocks.
Theory and workflow would probably be better at high school stage, they can get into the softwares later on if they decide to go that study route.
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Old 11-07-2012, 09:45 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MsZippy
What we're trying to do is to get students some basic experience and prepare them to be successful in a college animation program.


Honestly, I think this goal would be better served by teaching drawing and design fundamentals then by anything involving animation software.
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Old 11-07-2012, 10:35 PM   #12
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Thanks so much for everyone's help!

We've been involved with SkillsUSA for a long time and the kids love it! There aren't many animation high school programs in Arizona so we've gone to the national competition every year that I've been teaching.

I do also include animation history lessons and basic art concepts and we do a bit of compositing and motion graphics as well. The kids have widely varying art experience, but I try to cover the elements and principles of design and composition and I make them sketch every day and draw storyboards and concept art for all their projects.

I've heard from a few different people that we should write our own certification exam. We have a fairly intensive program so I think the kids could handle the Certified Associate exam from Autodesk, but probably not the Certified Professional. We have the students for 2 1/2 a day 5 days a week for two years and it counts for 3 elective credits. I don't really like the idea of putting them through an expensive and difficult test especially when it probably isn't that important. I started teaching right out of school so I haven't worked in the industry before but I've always been under the impression that the quality of the work in your portfolio and on your show reel trumped everything else in terms of degrees and certifications and so forth. We do definitely need something though because it's going to be required by the state. Maybe writing our own is something to think about.
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Old 11-08-2012, 01:59 AM   #13
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As an animation lecturer looking to become a high school teacher, I can't think of anything worse than getting students to get some sort of qualification before finishing school. Those years should be about promoting exploration and creativity, treat it like high school art where there's room for study and exploration and where they can get a basic understanding of a piece of software and see what they can create, not bog them down trying to fulfill some crappy industry certificate that only seems like some optional thing they could consider after finishing higher education.

So yeah, write your own but make sure it encourages imagination and exploration, not just meeting a bunch of specific criteria.
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Old 11-08-2012, 12:25 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JoshBowman
As an animation lecturer looking to become a high school teacher, I can't think of anything worse than getting students to get some sort of qualification before finishing school. Those years should be about promoting exploration and creativity, treat it like high school art where there's room for study and exploration and where they can get a basic understanding of a piece of software and see what they can create, not bog them down trying to fulfill some crappy industry certificate that only seems like some optional thing they could consider after finishing higher education.

So yeah, write your own but make sure it encourages imagination and exploration, not just meeting a bunch of specific criteria.

I gotta agree with this one.
People who loved lego as kids are better at 3d. Getting people to love 3d is a lot harder than lego I think the trick is to encourage experimentation and illustrate the fact that 3d is not a separate thing but more a tool to be used in connection with all media.
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Old 11-08-2012, 12:50 PM   #15
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> We have the students for 2 1/2 a day 5 days a week for two year
You are saying 50% of their time is spend on animation?
Sounds horrible for their academic record to me.
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