Monday, July 02, 2007

Photoshopping for Focus

(Gemara Skill Synchronization)

I am working on developing the backgrounds and templates for implementing the
Gemaras skill synchronization platform.

Looking at a page of 1500 year old text is not particularly exciting to your average student. A typical page of Gemara can have between 8 and 10 different content zones each serving a different purpose. Teaching the student how to navigate through the different content zones on the page is part of the introductory lessons of any beginner’s Talmud curriculum. True familiarity with the page only develops with practice. The Catch 22 in this situation is that in order to guide the beginner it is essential that both the teacher and student not only be on the same page but also be on the same part of the page which involves knowledge of the page structure.
Photoshop to the rescue
Taking a Hi Rez (600 dpi) scan of a page of Gemara, I set the page as the background layer. I then selected the section of text we would use in the first unit and saved the selected text as a separate layer. I then went back to the background layer and created an adjustment layer raising the brightness and lowering the contrast. The results are here. (Left image) I am considering enlarging the selected text slightly to have it “pop” off the page a bit more while maintaining the integrity of the standard page layout like this. (Right Image)

I would appreciate feedback from the AviChai community as to whether there is a more efficient way to do this in Photoshop, as well as feedback regarding which of the 2 versions is best pedagogically and aesthetically.

Note: I am well aware that the Smartboard software has tools which make much of this unnecessary, but this part of the experiment is focused on what we need to do if e are using a Tablet PC. (Hopefully more on the Smartboard side in the next posting)


Elky Langer said...

Would using the highlighter pen on the selected text serve the same purpose? Or changing the color of the the text (eg. to red) to make it stand out, so you don't have to fiddle with the adjustment layer?

Elky Langer said...

Also, did you consider using PowerPoint instead of Photoshop? You can have the full page shown, then the selected text in a larger font and/or different color to make it stand out. You should end up with a similar look. Advantage over Photoshop--I enjoy Photoshop but it takes a lot longer to play around in Photoshop than it does in Powerpoint, at least for me. Your mileage may vary.

Another interesting idea is Photostory. You can zoom in on the text that you want, have it fill the screen, go as slowly or quickly as you want to allow students to get their bearings. Photostory is free (download from Microsoft) if you want to try it out.

rejewvenator said...

You might consider using different colors to carry some additional meaning as well. For example, use one color for the Mishna and any beraitas cited in the Talmud section (Tanaitic material), another for amoraic material, another for Rashi, tosfot, and any other rishonim, and another for the various indexing stuff like the ein mishpat ner mitzvha, hagahot habach, etc. This way, the colors carry educational value as well as visual organization.