One Day Digital with Nesta

nesta one day digital

It was One Day Digital at Glasgow University on Saturday. Organised by Nesta UK I was invited to provide a workshop to enable Primary Teachers some basic understanding on how they might use iPads for creative projects in their classrooms. I set the scene here.

nesta one day digital

My approach was a combination of showcasing projects I have run and the work that has come out of them; demonstrations of practical and inexpensive apps to use; and some ‘in-at-the-deep-end’/‘off-you-go-and-do-it’ group tasks. Each session broke up into two or three groups periodically throughout the workshop. Each group produced a short film and an animation.

The irony of reinforcing the point that all film-making requires a great amount of preparation, and then sending 13 teachers off to complete a task they are totally unprepared for wasn’t lost on me – however, they all stepped up and threw themselves into the task and what you see below are some of the ‘fruits’ of the day.

nesta one day digital(If you were there and you have content on your own iPad you would like to share please contact me through the form here. (contact page))

Frankenstein’s Photos were pretty popular – basically using a framing app to composite sections of each team member to make one new face with frightening results.

We also managed to stage what must be the shortest film festival in history in that each of the animations were less than four seconds each.


One Day DigitalSo despite the very early start (Taxi at 6:20am) to get to Glasgow Uni for 9:30 and inevitable Groundhog Day effect of delivering the same workshop twice, it was a lot of fun and I really enjoyed working with everyone.

Finally, here’s a Storify prepared by Nesta who programmed and managed the event – thanks to them too.

If you were there, what was your KEY take-away from the day? Please leave comments and feedback below. Much appreciated.

Volvo not included – getting creative with iPad


This Saturday at Glasgow University I’m hosting a Digital Media class using iPads at Nesta’s One Day Digital event for primary school teachers. The focus will, quite honestly, be my eleven year old self’s wish list of school holiday activities… film-making and editing, animation, audio recording, image manipulation and sharing them.

volvoTo do all of this 20-odd years ago – as I did – and to make it mobile would have required a Volvo estate… bulky cameras, VHS machines and clunky TVs, meters of power and connector cables.

Of course things have moved on, but do you realise how much? In 1982, nearly 10 years before I bought my first video camera, ILM (Industrial Light and Magic) the emerging digital division of George Lucas’ (creator of Star Wars) movie company Lucas Film, created cinema’s first entirely computer-generated (CG) sequence. It was in Star Trek II: The Warth of Kahn, it lasted 60 seconds and cost a reported $250,000 (total budget of which was only $11M) and required a computer that would have filled several large rooms.

Today, any reasonably high-end laptop has the processing power to generate effects vastly superior in quality at a fraction of the cost.

But we’re not going high-end. Let’s take a step back because while laptops got more powerful other options emerged too.

Joby gorillapod video and grip tight

I have several cameras in the house, but the one I use the most isn’t the best quality, it’s the one that fits easily in my pocket. Equally I love vinyl records too but I mostly listen to music on a device that, yep, fits in my pocket. Coincidentally the same device that I mostly take photos with.

So for me it comes down to convenience. Gary Penn of Dundee video game company Denki has a set of design rules for computer games – but I believe they could be applied to many creative activities. The key one here is ‘convenience‘.

If I can easily take the device with me everywhere I go then there are more opportunities for me to be creative. I don’t have to plan opportunities in the way that I would have with a car full of kit.

Now, we may not be making an Oscar winning movie on our iPhone or iPad just yet (except for this one perhaps) but the experience will be much more immediate, fun and equally as rewarding; not forgetting extremely convenient.

treehouse qr scan

Of course, in this instance the key audience are those who are unlikely to have Final Cut Pro running on a Pro Mac. What’s more likely is that at school or in the home they have access to a phone or tablet that is capable of colour correction and manipulation of images and moving images; film-making, animation, time-lapse and slo-mo video.

And despite the convenience of mobile devices they can’t yet take away the reality that movie making is often very hard work, with extremes of both intense attention to detail and periods of not very much happening. But we wouldn’t want them to. These mini-projects can help young people understand and appreciate the challenges of the processes as well as the satisfaction of the professional film-maker, documentarian or journalist; but in a space that they can relate to.

Hopefully we’ll capture some examples from Saturday’s workshop and get permission to post them here. I look forward to meeting those of you who are coming along – it should be a great day! UPDATE: Read about it here!

For reference here are the list of apps we’ll be using and what for:

Part One
Movie making – the trailer (App: iMovie)
Movie making – for fun (Apps: Action Movie + iMovie)
Movie making – the documentary (iMovie)

Part Two
Audio/AudioBoo (Apps: Instant Rec and AudioBoo)

Part Three
Frankenstien’s Photo – image manipulation (Apps: Snapseed + Nostalgio)

Part Four
Stop Motion Animation – (App: iMotionHD)
Time lapse – (App: iMotionHD)

Whether you are coming on Saturday or not please feel free to post any queries or comments below.

Digital Imaging on iPad (via AudioBoo)


The images above are on display at Perth Museum and Art Gallery. From left to right, the second, fourth and fifth displays were completed as part of an iPad workshop I led in November 2012 and are exhibited until the end of March.

This week some of the young people who took part in the project, (as part of the Living Communities programme) came back to view their exhibited work and I was able to talk to them about their experience and share those thoughts via AudioBoo which will also be tagged to the work on display via a QR Code.

The interesting thing for me is that the young people are enjoying using the touch screen for the same reasons as I do – immediate, responsive (interactive) and an enjoyable way of working – as opposed to a mouse and multiple clicks. Given the immediate responsive nature of the touch screen I would suggest that it holds more creative potential – see here.

In one of his last keynotes Steve Jobs talked about how the iPad was “people’s favourite device” – backed up only last month by this report. They were enjoying the experience of the web, gaming and even productivity much more on the iPad than they were on desktops or laptops. I’d already had that experience myself but noticed that my son losing interest in his Nintendo DS if the iPad was an option.

So, as exciting as it was to see this work on display it was equally as rewarding to hear that a new found interest was being kindled (no pun intended) through me introducing a touch screen in this context. And, you can hear for yourself in the clips below…


Some of the images in their native form back in November.


iPad – therefore iLearn


Over the past 18 months I have had many opportunities to use the iPad as a learning tool and information on Playful Communications: learning and training services can be found here.

As a combination of camera, audio recorder, note-pad and presentation tool I initially thought it would be useful to me but more and more I’ve been finding apps that have supplied me with ideas for great learning projects both at home, in classrooms, colleges. I have been able to use the iPad2 to great effect as part of the Living Communities project based at Perth Museum and Art Gallery and with so many tablets out in the professional world there is huge scope now for corporate training.


Mobile devices are offering amazing creative opportunities. With the advent of the 69p ‘app’ accessibility to software is unprecedented.

While these apps are not considered industry standard in the way that Adobe Creative Suite might be, they are offering genuine, valuable insights into industry processes. In fact, the immediacy of touch screen technology coupled with intuitive software can be a superior experience to the desktop and mouse, identifying a new way of working for the near future.

There are of course already professionals in the field whose tool kit consists of a ‘well app-ed’ mobile device. Journalists, bloggers, vloggers, social media amplifiers – the early adopters of these tool-kits have been the winners in recent years.

Many of the learning opportunities that Playful Communications offer are designed around the iPad. As an Apple user of 20 years the iPad was a natural purchase.


We also find iOS apps to be very stable. As participants often download the apps we have taught them to use, we want to be confident that the applications we advocate are safe and fit for use.

So while iOS is our platform of choice Playful Communications are also open to, and experienced in, using other devices on alternative platforms (Windows, Android, etc). 

In most cases the applications we use have a counterpart or similarly available application that will do the same job. If you use other products and would like workshops or training in those areas then please contact us to discuss.


Instagram launched in October 2010. Monday past (14 May 2012) marked my first year with the app! That makes me a Grandad in Instagram years surely? User 3,911,665 to be exact… and I was reminded of this that I wrote 5 or 6 weeks into using it last June…

What I’m doing here is list a bunch of the apps and websites that have rounded out the Instagram experience over the last year. I think what I love most about the Instagram is that, having had a camera since I was about 7 years old I have always taken a combination of snaps (family), arty stuff (college) and then a whole bunch of images in-between that most people would have no interest in (why are you taking a picture of that?)… but I would end up hoarding. Instagram has given me an outlet for these pictures – a worldwide community of people who are doing something very similar to share them with.

The whole Instagram ‘start-up’ story is also very inspiring in terms of taking an idea to completion and beyond. Part of why I wrote about Instagram last year was to share this: (a now well documented story now but if you’re new and catching up then  it’s a good read straight from the horses mouth). Who knew that within a year of that there would be ten times the users and it’d be worth 1Billion to Facebook!?

When Facebook bought Instagram many users closed their accounts on ‘principal’! That’s just daft. So far Facebook has no impact on the service. That might change, but til then..!
My response to the buy-out visualised below and written about here: Before – After

Instagram also inspired one of my social media ‘game based’ ideas that I’ve tried out a couple of times called Beginning/Middle/Endyou can read about it here. Essentially players share a story in three acts, each represented by a single image via Instagram. Submissions ranged from documentary to traditional storytelling and down right abstract… It needs some work but there is something there I think…

So, to the other apps that I’ve stumbled across over the past year…

I always feel a bit of an Instagram fraud because I use iPad (I don’t have an iPhone) so images are not always as spontaneous as I would like. However, what I ‘do’ love about the iPad is it’s capacity for photo editing (I can edit so much quicker than can on my MacBookPro) and partly that’s down to a great little app called Snapseed. Well worth the purchase and reviewed by me here.

I’m going to cover two apps in one here – TinyPlanets is a genius idea of taking a regular pic and wrapping it into what appears to be a, er… Tiny Planet! I need say no more, just download and give it a go. Below is a compilation of three of my TinyPlanets brought together using Nostalgio, a frame app that allows you to bring together multiple images from your pic library using one of twenty templates.

If you like to keep up-to-date with what’s going on with you Instagram network online via a web browser then Statigram is perfect, not to mention the statistics, which can get a bit anal, but the fun thing is how they visualise the stats (see the top image in this post) and email you Instagram ready images of them to share… so you get to see and share who you’ve been liking the most via Instagram itself.

If you like playing with the Mac Photobooth (Android equivalents also available) app on then you’ll probably get some milage out of FaceGoo HD. Take a pic of your nearest and dearest and then disfigure them in the most horrifying of ways by pinching and dragging the the screen. Lovely.

Day one of my Instagram year two brought with it my invitation from Instacanvas. This is the company that turns your Instagram pics into wall hangings or anything else that’ll absorb ink! My gallery opens today and for a small fortune you can buy my lo-resolution art…
I’m still not sure about this one. I know the iPhone has a better camera than the iPad but the images that go to Instagram are compressed in size… are they really that good a quality to print at 500mm square?

There are of course countless other apps that you can use from grungy filters (Pixlromatic), Cartoony effects (ToonPaint) to Fisheye lenses and HDR. If you use Flickr then there is even a piece of software (Dopiaza) to gather your Instagram pics into a folder which I then use to feed into my blog. So, given that you’ve got this far either share you favourites with me or go and get into this glorious whorl of pictures and share your results. A few weeks ago I would have argued that Instagram alone would justify the purchase of an iPad or iPhone, but then they put it on Android too..!

It’s not all cats, dogs and memes… I follow Mountain bikers in spain, someone who lives vary near to the foot of Mount Fuji, I get the best views from some of the worlds finest cities and often share the same sunset as it circumvents the globe. Some of my own Instagram pictures are my best pictures. They are the simple things that ordinarily I might have missed or simply forgotten in their ‘ordinariness’ – I love searching back through those images… I urge you to try it out and some of these other apps, then come follow me and ‘like’ all my pics! ;)

UPDATE: In the interest of balance here’s how to spot an Instagram Junkie!

Instagram : Instagram/Facebook

The uneasy alliance!

According to Mark Zuckerberg, turning down $15Billion from Microsoft (to buy Facebook) wasn’t that tough a decision. Turning down the $1Billion from Yahoo three years earlier was the real toughie!

Who could blame Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, let alone begrudge them, the offer of $1Billion for their company Instagram (from Facebook last month). And yet has there ever been such an emotive outcry from a community of users over a piece of software? Apparently there are users who have already thrown in the towel and closed their accounts… but what, I ask you, is the upside to that?

I’m of the opinion that lightning ‘can’ strike twice, particularly when it comes to ideas. So if Instagram becomes FaceCram or InstaBum then maybe I’ll call it a day, but I know that something else equally as good, if not unimaginably better, would come along and fire up our enthusiasm and loyalty once more.

For now, however, nothing has perceptibly changed at Instagram. Infact, I think I was more upset when the ‘sneakers’ disappeared last year! So, while the pic above illustrates my feelings on the takeover, at the same time I can’t help thinking “Good on yer Kevin and Mike“.

Followers of this blog and my previous blog (MysteryBoxes) will know I’m a big fan of the Instagram App and have used it as part of projects and games. I’m one of several million users who’ll be sticking around… at least until Instagram is no longer fun… but hopefully that day’ll never come!

Right Brain/Left Brain

During my Masters I took part in a focus group for a PHD student studying the relationship to Right and Left Brain functions in relation to creativity.
The aim of his study was “…to better understand the impact of interactive technology on the creative process.” In order to do this he also needed to “understand how creative practitioners make sense of their own creative practice.

For as long as I’ve been using a computer for Photoshop, Illustrator, etc., I’d been told that, in order to be truly creative, ideas must be generated on paper first and that creativity could not, cannot, originate at the keyboard or mouse.

I always struggled with this. Rewind a few years back to the 10 years I had spent working full-time as a graphic designer in a various local authority art departments. Rarely was there time to get the sketchbooks out and spend a morning doodling before gathering into a creative huddle and spend a week deliberating over a leaflet. I wouldn’t say that everything we put out was a creative masterpiece, but as individuals and as a team we were creative, we had to be!

The key argument for zero-creativity at the computer is because we engage the wrong side of our brain…

The left hemisphere specializes in analytical thought. It is responsible for dealing with “hard” facts such as abstractions, structure, discipline, rules, time sequences, mathematics, categorizing, logic…
The right hemisphere specializes in “softer” aspects than the left hemisphere. The right hemisphere is responsible for intuition, feelings, sensitivity, emotions, daydreaming, visualizing, creativity… (the old belief that left-handed people are more creative does hold some scientific credence). The right hemisphere also has a holistic method of perception that is able to recognize patterns and similarities and combines those elements into new forms.
Taken from The Art Institute of Vancouver website

So at first glance one can understand the argument but, with more and more creatives sat in front of computer screens, does it tally with the reality of peoples processes and creative output?

One of the conclusions the PHD student had come to was based on the observation of his girlfriend, an architect used to using a tablet for creating plans as well as concept sketches. Her feeling was that this ‘idea’ of stunted creativity at the PC was historically linked to older, slower computers, there wasn’t the immediate creative feedback that occurred with pencil and paper. But that’s not as true today. Modern professional level computers are powerful enough that filters, brush strokes, etc., are as instantaneous as their analogue counterparts. So perhaps the original theory outdated!?

That’s not to say that I can do without a sketchbook, it’s nice to have the option, but similarly some things can be done more quickly on the computer. I also found that I would create ‘digital sketchbooks’, creating multiple variants of my work during the creative process that I could go back to and contrast with later pieces. So, in effect there’s not a right or wrong way, they are just different processes.

So, I was reminded of these theories recently while using a new (to me) photo editing app on the iPad called Snapseed. The interface is so intuitive – stroke up and down for men pallets and left to right for intensity of the filter.

The relationship between the movement of my finger and the changes in the image are instantaneous and because of the touch screen there is nothing between me and the work. Not even a pencil!
In particular I like that the menus are where ever my finger happens to be, as opposed to the iPad edition of Photoshop where I’m still navigating via specific sections of the screen and the delay between what I want to do and how long it takes me to get there feels too long in comparison to Snapseed where it’s just there!
After a week of using Snapseed I found myself craving an A2 sized iPad so that I could get to work on my DSLR images and see more of the detail at one time. Surely this is the future!?

Obviously, this is only one area of what Photoshop is used for, but there is no escaping the fact that for colour correction, cropping, and filters, my workflow is quicker and more creative on the iPad than it could be on my MacBookPro.

So, to answer the initial argument – can I be creative on a Mac without a sketchbook? Yes I think so. But there are clearly ways possible now that are better and are a glimpse of what’s just around the corner!

It’s all very exciting.

Get Snapseed from the App Store for £2.99 (worth it!) – or if you took part in the Apple 12 Days of Christmas giveaways you might find that you’ve already downloaded it for FREE (even better value!!) and just not used it yet.

And if you want to find out more about ‘Right Brained Vs Left Brained’ then visit the website of the Arts Institute of Vancouver or do their test here… :)