In lieu of physical cards, George H.W. Bush New Tech Odessa Graphic Design teacher Joshua Voyles recently had his students create Holiday Instagram stories.

He has more than 100 students in all of his class periods combined. On a recent Wednesday, he had 19 in person and online.

Every year, they would make Christmas or greeting cards, but this year Voyles thought it might be better to be able to send them out over a smart phone.

He noted that Instagram is relevant to the students because many have the app. Stories are another part of Instagram and last for a limited time.

“… I thought what a better way to capture their attention than to use something like social media,” Voyles said.

“Basically what they had to do was use Photoshop to design their own Instagram story. And I told them that’s more of what the professional influencers are doing because you can design your own story from your phone. But I thought it would be better to show them more of the professional side like these influencers that are actually designing their own stories and advertising,” Voyles said.

He told his students it didn’t have to be for Christmas; it could be about any holiday, a winter theme or a greeting to friends and family.

“The story is something you want everyone to see for a couple of seconds. I think it stays for 24 hours,” he said.

When they are working in Photoshop, they’re usually working in inches for their units.

“But now with Instagram Stories, they’re having to use a pixel-based and then they have to use the dimensions of the story to fit the phone. … They loved the assignment. They were all turning it in within two or three days …,” Voyles said.

He added that the students have to get the dimensions for the Instagram Story right on their phone as part of their grade. Voyles said he left the assignment open ended so they could take elements of their favorite movies, for example, and incorporate them into greetings.

“I will actually do the assignments with them, so no matter what kind of an assignment I give them I do it, too. They kind of feel more like we’re a family when we do it together,” he said.

The coronavirus, Voyles said, has challenged him and forced him to look for new ways to innovate with technology.

“… If this wouldn’t have happened, we would probably just be doing Christmas cards again,” he said.

He added that the course includes some photography and videos and did a scary movie trailer for Halloween using iMovie to edit it together.

“They’re freshmen, so I’m teaching them the basics of graphic design,” he said.

Voyles has been at NTO for three years. Before this, he had jobs in design, digital media and video production at Crestview Baptist Church and in youth ministry at Teen FLOW, both in Midland.

“I honestly think God just led me to it because I never imagined being a teacher before … this job,” Voyles said.

He added that friends and family told him he should be a teacher. Coincidentally, his mother and best friend are both teachers.

It all fell into place within about a month.

“I really feel like this place, God just blessed me with it because I don’t know if I would ever want to teach at another school,” Voyles said.

The ninth-graders are loving the class as well.

Norma Nino, a 14-year-old ninth grader, said she was excited about the Instagram Stories project because it was something she planned on posting on her Instagram.

“And I really like making the poster designs,” Nino said.

She also liked the idea because she enjoys sending things out that make people happy.

“I really enjoy this class,” Nino said. “It’s one of my favorite classes actually because you have a lot of fun and I learn a lot of stuff about computers. I think computers are pretty interesting.”

Alexia Etherty, 14, said Voyles explains things well and in a way students can understand.

“… I’m really interested in what he’s going to do the rest of the year. It was really fun to work in Photoshop … He helps us out if we don’t know what to do so there’s never really hard things about it,” Etherty said.

Sadie Nabarrette, 14, said the students get to do whatever they want in class and they can be as creative as they want.

“I haven’t tried Instagram Stories before. It’s cool to see and learn about how the computers work,” Nabarrette said.

Izaiah Medrano, 15, also enjoys getting to “mess around” with Photoshop and filming and photography.

“I’m really into that, so yeah, I really like this class,” Medrano said.

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