Inkscape Class

Inkscape Class Day 1

Inkscape Course Materials

Early this morning I taught the first session of an 8-session (40 minutes per session) course on Inkscape at a Boston-area middle school. The course is part of Red Hat’s community outreach program. My fellow Red Hatter John had come up with the idea for the program at a school meeting and made it happen, I created the curriculum with the help of the Fedora Design team, and my fellow RH designer Eve and I have volunteered our time to run the course. Red Hat has also donated some Wacom Bamboo Pen + Touch tablets to the school to use during the course. This program is something we’ve been working on making happen since last October so I’m very excited to have kicked things off today.

The Plan

Inkscape Course Description

There’s a theme that spans the entire course, involving a rock band:

Blanchard Records, Inc. is a young record label and they’ve just signed a deal with a hot new band. They think this is going to be their big break, so they want to make a big splash – and it’s time to release a new album and kick off a worldwide tour.

There’s just one small problem. The band doesn’t even have a logo yet!

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to create a logo for this new band, along with the artwork for the new album, a design for their worldwide concert tour poster, and their tour T-shirt.

You’ll learn how to do this using the free graphics program Inkscape, in a 8-session course. At the end of the course you’ll even get your own tour shirt, designed by you, to wear! Sign up today!”

That’s right, one very cool part of this course is that each of the students will produce a design that Walter, the owner of EmbroidMe Chelmsford has very generously agreed to print on T-shirts that the students can keep after the course.

Class Makeup and Organization

I was blown away by how quickly the students picked up on Inkscape. The class is 10 students, all whom are 7th graders. The teachers arranging the course had students ‘apply’ to the class by writing an essay about why they thought they were a good fit for the class – and the students’ motivation was really apparent from how well the class went. The class had originally been planned to be 10 sessions long, but because of various scheduling issues is 8 sessions long. I was really quite worried about this because already there’s a ton of material I have planned, and to condense that even further – well I was worried it would be too much material. After today, however, I’m pretty confident these students can handle what I throw at them very quickly.

The school has fairly new Mac desktops, so we used Inkscape 4.7 on OS X (yes, I know, but baby steps :) ). The Wacom Bamboo pen AND touch worked perfectly in Inkscape (after some hiccups… you must have X11 2.4 installed for it to work – we learned earlier this week during a test run that 2.3 doesn’t work.)

We had a very good student to teacher ratio as Ken noted (Ken is one of the teachers at the school who has been helping us a lot to make this happen.) Today we had 9 students (1 was absent), and 4 teachers (myself, Ken, Eve, and John.)

Today’s Class

Today’s session theme was ‘Inkscape bootcamp’. We ran through the Inkscape bootcamp lesson plan I came up with in a little over 20 minutes. I’d give a quick demonstration of an Inkscape technique up on the projector, then I asked the students to try it themselves and I was able to watch their screens from where I was standing to make sure they were able to get through the exercise. Sometimes one or two of the students would run into trouble, and Eve and I would go over to their workstation and help them out quickly one-on-one. For more involved issues Eve helped out the student and I’d move forward in the lesson so the other students weren’t waiting too long. This seemed to go well for today.

We were left with about 15 minutes at the end of the lesson where I handed out an exercise sheet for the students to run through if they wanted to in order to practice the techniques we had just covered. But I left the time open for them, making it clear the exercises were just a suggestion. Tatica advised me from her experience teaching Inkscape courses that it’s important early on to give the students a chance to play around and discover on their own, and let them ask questions based on where they end up. So we did just that, and by the end of class time the students didn’t want to leave – I think that’s probably a good sign things are going well so far. Some of the works the students ended up with blew me away. Several of the students started playing with opacity and blur and came up with cool effects (one student came up with a circular design that would have easily made a nice disc design for a rock band album :) ) and compositions.

We laid out the lesson sheets before class next to the students’ keyboard, and one of the students actually had it read at the beginning of class such that he was always a few steps ahead of the class’ progression and he was already exploring the calligraphy tool effects (for example, making wiggly lines using the wiggle control) by the end of the 40 minutes. It was really cool to see. :)

Follow Along on Your Own

I’m going to try to make a blog post per session to keep you updated on how the class is going, and hopefully to also be a resource to other folks who might be interested in teaching a similar class. I’d like to document any issues we run into and the solutions we come up with as well as the successes we stumble upon to that end.

That being said, here’s the lesson plan and exercise sheets we used for the class today:

Introduction to Inkscape Lesson 1

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Introduction to Inkscape Lesson 1 Exercises

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If you’re following along at home and have any questions about the lesson or exercise go ahead and ask away in the comments! :)

This course is sponsored by

Discussion

32 thoughts on “Inkscape Class Day 1

  1. Brilliant!

    Posted by heathenx | January 8, 2010, 11:45 am
  2. nice! I’m actually thinking to incorporate some linux/FOSS classes into the computer classes I’m scheduled to begin in my country, and this is great inspiration =)

    Posted by rolandixor | January 8, 2010, 11:55 am
  3. This sounds fantastic and I’m glad it’s going so well.

    Posted by Sumana Harihareswara | January 8, 2010, 12:15 pm
  4. I dig it! Great work!

    Posted by Scott Baker | January 8, 2010, 12:16 pm
  5. This sounds like an awesome project. I wonder if it’s possible to get these materials posted or linked on the inkscape website as well.

    Posted by mdgeorge | January 8, 2010, 12:53 pm
  6. inspiring. thanks.

    Posted by phil shapiro | January 8, 2010, 5:55 pm
  7. so great!

    Posted by Pettson | January 8, 2010, 6:53 pm
  8. This is great and I have complete lesson 1 and the exercise.

    In October I started reading the Inkscape manual on FLOSS Manuals but haven’t picked it up since. Short little lessons like this are great.

    PS What did you create the lesson documents in?

    Posted by sime | January 9, 2010, 3:34 am
    • Hi Sime! I used Open Office Writer to create the lesson documents. The logo for the course is done using the font Sniglet which is an OFL font.

      Posted by mairin | January 9, 2010, 2:21 pm
  9. Nice job! Wish the whole sessions a great success!

    BTW: It seems that you created the lecture notes in OOo suite. Why not in inkscape directly?

    Posted by Hongzheng Wang | January 9, 2010, 4:47 am
    • Hi Hongzheng,

      I created them in OOo because I think OOo is better for multi-page documents. While I’m not 100% sure I would be up for it, I wanted to keep the option open for putting all the lessons together into one single PDF at the end and making it into a little book. That would be a pain to do if it was done in Inkscape I think, especially if I wanted to paginate the book and have a running header.

      Posted by mairin | January 9, 2010, 2:21 pm
  10. Cool idea, bet it’ll go well — I can’t think of a better program than Inkscape to start with for demonstrating excellent not-already-mainstream open/free software in action.

    I’ve long thought Inkscape to have among the best UIs of open source/free software programs. I started with it as a complete graphics design novice, with past experience limited to Paintbrush (works well within its chosen limitations) and The GIMP (don’t even get me started), and I found that it was easy to get started, desired but yet-undiscovered functionality was easy to find, and things worked about the way I’d have expected. The status bar with key modifier hints, I thought, was particularly inspired for providing the control to do exactly what you were intending to do, even if you’d only expected to be able to do so through manual dexterity. Inkscape’s one of the few open/free programs I recommend to people not already interested in such things, or in new software and computing in general.

    Posted by Jeff Walden | January 9, 2010, 5:53 am
  11. Hi Mairin! Lovely to see Open Source, and particularly Inkscape and Red Hat Linux being explored in a public middle school! Wish we could implement something similar here for Metro Nashville Public Schools. Wishing you much success, from an obsessed Inkscape power user, and Ubuntu user (:

    Posted by QuicheLoraine | January 10, 2010, 4:38 pm
  12. small correction: “Inkscape 4.7″ -> “Inkscape 0.47″

    It seems like you had a lot of fun with this (except the part where you can’t use your car for Day 2)

    Posted by Nicu | January 11, 2010, 3:05 am
  13. Looks like a cool course. If your students really want to try their designs out on a real audience and potentially even win some prizes for their work they should check out my site Figment (http://www.figment.cc) which is devoted to band logo and album cover design. Basically it’s a site where you can create fake bands and then try to market them to other users and climb the charts. As you do you earn fictional currency called Lucre that you can use to buy prizes like iTunes cards. We’re currently running a concert poster contest on the site where the winner will have a real poster custom designed for them by professional rock poster designer Lonny Unitus.

    I hope you’ll check us out.

    Eric

    Posted by Eric | January 24, 2010, 12:53 pm
  14. Thanks for putting these up. I am working though the lessons with my 10 year old Daughter, we both want to learn Inkscape. The ‘deal’ is that if she finishes all the exercises She can design a T-Shirt and we’ll get it printed.

    Posted by Brendan Minish | May 11, 2010, 3:53 pm
    • Hi Brendan! What a wonderful deal :) Let me know how it goes, or if you see any goofs or any potential improvements in the course! I’d love to see your daughter’s design too :)

      Posted by mairin | May 11, 2010, 4:00 pm

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