From my Notebook >

Teaching Photoshop To College Students: A Memory

I liked to put UFO-related tasks into my Photoshop exams.

“Open up the network folder called ‘Final Exam’,” I’d say. “Inside you’ll find the first task.”

It was a photo of a lovely little English town on a spring day. Old brick buildings, little trees…

…and a bright, blurry, metallic object in the sky. Of the unidentified type.

The instructions read, “The town council of {city name} would like to use this photo in a tourism brochure. However, they would like the UFO removed from the cloudy sky. Please use the techniques you used in class to remove the UFO.”

I was laughing deep, hearty laughs, inside my head, the entire time. And by “time,” I mean from the time I created the assignments two nights before, all the way through to the end of the exam.

It wasn’t an easy assssignment—you had to have some practice with the tools, or else the clouds in the background were going to look too wispy, deformed, partially out of focus. But the ridiculousness of removing a UFO from a photo seemed to get through to at least half the class. We had connected throughout the semester through little jokes here and there, but this! This was the final seal on our relationship.

“I love your exams,” one of my students said. “They crack me up.” A few other chuckles followed.

“I don’t get it,” another student said. “I hide the layer and the whole photo disappears.” She wasn’t laughing.

You know what makes a big difference in students’ sense of humor? Class attendance. Attending class buys you time for a laugh when the exam comes around.

Related note: My students who did drugs were generally pretty unfunny by the end of the semester.