Multimedia Arts: Going the Distance

With the vast pool of information and resources the Web has to offer, as well as the unlimited amount of hardware, software and peripherals available, technology has helped my classroom come alive with rich and meaningful experiences.

The Multimedia Arts program at D. Russell Parks Junior High, Fullerton, CA, offers courses that are the most popular elective choices amongst the student body. The program’s classes encompass video production, digital photography, and both pixel-based as well as vector-based computer art. As the sole teacher of these classes, I designed the curriculum to focus on various objectives that satisfy California’s Visual & Performing Arts standards while integrating technology. The classes leverage technology on a daily basis to complete numerous hands-on, cooperative, collaborative, interactive and industry-specific projects. The end result of each class is an ePortfolio of the students’ projects which they get to take home.

I have taught these courses for three years now, and have experienced and witnessed the benefits of technology integration firsthand. In terms of classroom management, teaching elective courses at the junior high level is never an easy task. But infusing technology into the traditional visual and performing arts curriculum has simulated student interest, and thus increased motivation. This increased involvement by the students helps to eliminate a fair percentage of management issues. Students that are usually disruptive and off-task in other subjects are focused and driven to produce in my class.

As an elective teacher, there is the challenge of extremely diverse student skill sets and needs all in one class. My project-based, technology-integrated curriculum also provides a means to reach the various learning styles seen in each class and build from each student’s current knowledge and experiences. Instructional technologies allow me to easily demonstrate and supplement the content being taught. Web-based activities also reinforce the curriculum while stimulating all learners. Group projects allow for shared and interactive learning experiences for all students involved, whereas individual projects allow for modifications that suit the individual student. In all cases, the students in my classroom work cooperatively and collaborate on all projects. They bounce ideas off each other, ask each other for help and/or constructive criticism, provide each other with technology tips and tricks, and troubleshoot for success. In the end, the students learn not only from the content and my instruction, but also from each other and the experiences and challenges the technology presents to them. I also get to learn from and with my students as well!

Last year an above-average student used the resources linked on my curriculum Website to dig deeper into the software’s capabilities and tools. She taught herself how to create a Web-animation using layers in Adobe Photoshop and importing them into Adobe ImageReady. I had yet to experiment with the Adobe ImageReady software and was thrilled to learn from the result of my own student’s interest and curiosity. My curriculum Website, Multimedia Arts @ Parks Junior High, proved to be an invaluable resource - not only as it houses content, PDF materials and resource links for my students and parents, but it also a gallery where the students can be published electronically (as long as the projects fall within fair use/copyright guidelines and appropriate permissions are in place). Each year the website grows and changes with the times and our needs – and I am able to publish more and more student work.

The students in my classes are very involved in and responsible for their own learning, which empowers them to work through and complete each project to the best of their abilities. This shows when I arrive to school at 6:30 a.m. and find several students already waiting at my classroom door to work on their projects. The hours outside of class time that I open up my classroom for students to come in and work are endless. It still amazes me everyday when the lunch bell rings and a group of students voluntarily come in to work

Taking the arts and combining them with technology creates the multimedia art projects that make my classes so appealing to students. All students today must to be able to use a computer for basic practices and needs, such as for communication over Email, for word-processing and for Internet research. Taking it a step further, almost all careers today require the use of technological skills on a daily basis, especially in a state as technologically advanced as California. To serve this need and in the best interest of my students, I create such projects that simulate real world careers. For example, some of my industry-specific projects in graphic design include creating logos, custom font types, CD inlays and more. In video production, students create idea treatments, storyboards, scripts, and genre-specific videos such as commercials, instructional and music videos. The students not only love these projects, but they are learning valuable skills that will open up many personal and professional opportunities in their life.

Lastly, students also need to be able to work with each other and communicate well in all forums and environments. Designing a global learning project where my students have an opportunity to create and work through a project with their peers either across the continent or across the globe provides them with experiences that build communication and collaboration skills, as well as a sensitivity and unbiased awareness for ethnic, cultural, social, and demographic diversities. My first global learning project allowed students to recreate a masterpiece using computer art programs with high school students from Metro High School in Cedar Rapids, IA. Their renderings can be seen in the gallery of Going Global, my global learning project website.

Technology is everywhere now. With this technology comes new issues and concerns for personal, educational and commercial users. As educators, it is important that we do not ignore these issues, nor avoid using technology because of these concerns. Indeed, we cannot integrate technology without also bringing in these issues and concerns. With this in mind, I find it crucial to address Internet safety, netiquette, privacy, piracy, copyright, and fair use in my classes. Bringing such topics into my curriculum created a surprisingly high amount of interest, awareness and concern by the students. Their maturity in handling these areas of concern while using technology can only be connected back to their motivation and interest in such projects that revolve around these issues and their desire to continue “owning” their work. This ethical and moral awareness also prepares them for future educational and professional responsibilities and tasks.

All in all, my multimedia arts classes are able to go the distance for the benefit of the students!

Brandy (Marsh) Champlin