Imagine: You're standing behind a camera in outer space and watching Earth rotate in front of you. The camera zooms away, Earth gets smaller, without warning, an orange/reddish light shoots past you. You hear a loud "boom" as the entire planet explodes into white and red pieces. The remains, scattered in the universe, spell out "APOCALYPSE PRODUCTIONS."
Luckily, this is all just an image masterminded by 18-year-old Karen Oleri for her HyperMedia class at Demarest High School in Demarest, N.J. The logo, "Apocalypse Productions," is a fantastical idea Oleri made up for her HyperMedia class.
"I figured it would be simple and to the point," she says. "Something that blows up the planet, that's apocalypse-the end of the world."
Oleri, who plans to study graphic design in college, used Infini-D, a software program that is part of Eovia's Carrara Studio package, to create the 3D environment. She took a spherical object to create Earth and attached a picture of a world map to it. As she made the camera revolve around and zoom out, she also printed a shock wave so that the Earth's fragments moved directly toward the camera.
The most difficult part of the project, she says, was keeping track of individual objects on four different screens,. "You have to make it look as believable as possible," Oleri says. "You have to move the objects up and down close to the camera, and it's difficult to distinguish which way is which."
"After all that work [about 15 hours] it was only 10 or 11 seconds long," she says. "I was really happy the way it turned out." If you don't believe her, check out this project on the Northern Valley Regional High School Web site (www.nvnet.org/nvhs/studentprojects), under the KOProduction Co. movie file.
Welcome to multimedia in the classroom
Multimedia is the use of various tools, such as digital cameras, digital videocameras, scanners, laser printers, laptops, and a plethora of software to create mini-movies, TV announcements, Web page projects and 3D images on a computer.
At Northern Valley Regional High School District in New Jersey, students, like Oleri, in HyperMedia classes are learning and creating multimedia projects. She has also created a project that shows photographic and graphic images to the words of One Week by pop group Barenaked Ladies.
"Layering is a basic concept of multimedia programs," says instructor Javier Rabelo. "You are building tracks, audio tracks, a title track, video tracks ... and you can mix one layer to the next."
"One of the main objectives of HyperMedia is for students to become resourceful and very good problem solvers," Rabelo says. "It's not just the process but the destination. There is a goal and you have to have a thought behind it."
"Multimedia gives students freedom of expression in words, music, sound and video," says Bambi Bovee, a 35-year-old teacher who is now technology director for Los Gatos School District in California.
Bovee says students are creating sophisticated work that is often indistinguishable from an adult expert. "Suddenly, they have the same tools available to them as adults," she says. "No one knows you are a kid when you're using professional Web site tools. I have kids that know how to use Flash and create an animated Web site. You can imagine what this does for their sense of self."
Some schools have set multimedia courses, while other schools integrate multimedia into their regular curriculum. Start-up costs can be $100,000 or higher with additional ongoing and maintenance costs. Schools can apply for grants or seek out organizations that might want to donate equipment.
Sight, Sound, Action
In Concord, Calif., students at Mt. Diablo High School's Digital Safari Academy created a Web site on Native American History. Teams chose different tribes to describe. Open the "Sioux" page (intergate.ccoe.k12.ca.us/mdtech/nativeamerican/) and poignant pipe music plays as a succession of pictures of Sioux chiefs flash across the screen while a drum pounds-"Boom, Boom, Boom." Then the viewer sees a white sketch of an Indian chief outline standing between two tepees in a black background. He lifts his arm and throws a machete, which spins across the screen to reveal the words "the Sioux."
The site immediately goes to a page that explains the Sioux nation. The page gives the viewer various options of what to open, including essays on tradition, arts, battles, chiefs and links.
In creating the Web site, students used Macromedia Fireworks, Dream-weaver, Flash and Sound Edit 16, Corel Bryce 4, Photoshop and Typestyler.
The digital academy integrates technology in core academic programs, such as U.S. history, earth science and math. The multi-award winning academy, implemented in the 1996-97 school year, is organized like a small company with the teacher as CEO and a hierarchy of student managers and production teams who meet with clients and work on outside projects, says director and teacher Ted Maddock.
A $372,000 U.S. Department of Education Technology Integration Grant covered equipment, training and salaries. Maddock then found miscellaneous used furniture around the district, such as computer tables and eight dental office-type chairs donated from a corporation.
"When we're designing projects we try to look at challenging curriculum that may not be palatable to students and say, 'We can't change it, but we can change how it's delivered,' " Maddock says. For example, economics is "not so exciting for seniors," so the academy incorporates a multimedia project, like designing a product or service appropriate for the Web to teach economics.
They can create a full business plan with a demographics study of the audience and compile a customer base. They can then learn who the competition is on the Web and compile budgets to determine what kind of equipment they will need with their funds, Maddock says.
And then they create fully functional Web sites.
"We're a school within a school," Maddock says. "This is the kind of thing to use in a small district in Idaho ... where you have 80 kids in a high school. This is a perfect solution for a program like that. You can have the entire junior and senior class in an integrated, technology-rich environment. This is a solution for schools of any size.
"There is almost nowhere you go where you don't interact with technology. The kind of skills our kids are getting will serve them in any of those employment areas and in college as well," Maddock says.
The team of teachers also wrote four courses of study for multimedia using the district's curriculum, but they deliver it in a different setting. Students also learn the value of copyright concerns so they don't end up accidentally plagiarizing. The academy uses The Fresh Music Lib (www.freshmusic.com), a site with royalty free music and sound library.
The State of Media
In September 2001, Washington state curriculum experts and a Macromedia instructional designer created a pilot program. The goal was to develop a digital design curriculum for high school students with the goal of having students gain computer skills, including designing Web sites.
At Anacortes High School in the San Juan Islands, technology instructor Bre Urness-Straight says 9th-12th-graders take Digital Design and use Macromedia's Dreamweaver, Fireworks, and Flash. Students have learned to create personal banners, client logos, Web pages, portfolios and photo albums. The courses are also aligned with marketing and graphic design classes with the goal of teaching students how to work with clients, including the school's French and Spanish clubs.
"We have a career pathway where students are able to take graphics and technical writing with the multimedia program. It crosses over," Urness-Straight says. "It's beneficial for them to learn how to use all the tools in their other classes."
With the French club, she says, she had a team of four students study how to market the club. They ask themselves who is the audience.
Jereme Berst-Perkins, a 17-year-old junior, says he was always interested in computer hardware. But just about a year ago he started to get involved in 3D design. "I was pretty bored," he says. "I'm thinking of getting more into graphics design."
So when Berst-Perkins took Digital Design, he started to create his own Web site using Dreamweaver and included 3D pictures that he had been working on for the past year, including a red rose suspended in air and pink pills falling from a prescription bottle.
Words with Vision
At Hunterdon Central Regional High School in Flemington, N.J., Dan Van Antwerp is an English teacher who uses multimedia technology in his classroom. "Electric Soup" is the Internet literary magazine that 9th-12th grade students create. It was initially implemented in 1995 as the school's bulletin board system, whereby any student could submit a piece of writing. The magazine now uses Macromedia Dreamweaver to create Web pages. Including hundreds of links, the magazine is busy with poems, short stories, and photos. Corel Bryce creates 3D backgrounds to further stories and poems. For example, if a student is writing about depression or loneliness a wintry scene is appropriate, he says.
"I think it adds a nice artistic aspect to it," he says.
A student's artwork or old photos are scanned in the magazine and digital cameras can take photos on field trips or around campus.
"Interpreting the writing and creating a metaphor through art I think is a very important thing," Van Antwerp says. "And they're part of a team. Each person is doing their piece."
He adds, "Creating multimedia helps their poetry process. Writing about a feeling is one thing, whereas when you show it, it means much more to the reader."
But the Hunterdon students don't only use multimedia for English or Electric Soup, they also use it for such courses as math by using M.C. Escher paintings to teach geometrical patterns and how it relates to equations.
Ducks in Water
Even gifted fourth, fifth and sixth graders at Savannah R-III school district in Savannah, Miss., north of Kansas City, are using multimedia to create Web sites. Fourth-graders are creating a Web site on Missouri wildlife, while fifth-graders are uncovering popular culture and sixth-graders are studying the U.S. justice system. The 27 students between the three grades are using Adobe software, such as GoLive and PhotoShop, and are submitting the Web sites for the ThinkQuest national contest.
The students work on their Web site projects once a week. The sixth graders witnessed at a local courthouse a felony trial of a man accused of driving without a license, Williamson says. They heard witnesses and learned about the defense and prosecution roles. They also took part in their own mock trial, whereby they recorded themselves in a trial of a student who took a dollar from another student under a threat.
As for the fourth grade project, some kids even make their own bird noises as part of the Web site project to introduce the site, Williamson says. The students also do research, visit local wildlife reserves, and find pictures of bald eagles, fish and insects to include on the site, Williamson says. And Macromedia's Flash 5 has added a fun element-it can create animations so words fly across a page, or fade in and out, he says.
At Vermilion High School in Vermilion, Ohio, Richard Robbin is coordinating a video production class where students create school announcements on television every morning. They write scripts, create story boards, and transfer the stories on computers.
Using Ulead's VideoStudio 6 software, students are also creating outside projects, such as five-minute movies or shows for the end of the semester, Robbin says. One student is working on a community promotion to highlight Vermilion, a resort town on Lake Erie, interviewing people around town and taking digital camera shots of landmarks, Robbin says. Another student is creating a five-minute movie on the school's new lighting and sound system.
Although test scores don't yet offer proof, Maddock is confident multimedia works and points to a special education student who was put in his digital academy in California. The student ended up advancing by two years in math and three years in language arts, Maddock says. "He learned math by learning how to place wire frames and animation using Corel's Bryce 3D," Maddock says. "You make fantasy scenes using geometric figures. He was working with and combining geometric figures."
Maddock suggests a few tips for districts that want to integrate a multimedia program in their schools:
Determine how comprehensive a program is needed. If a district has only one or two English teachers teaching the same group of kids, it will be easier for the technology teacher to collaborate with them to do multimedia projects than, for example, six English teachers, Maddock says. Having a separate academy is "the way to go" because "you're making the technology a tool in the instructor's bag," Maddock says. If you can't have a separate academy, have a space for the projects and allow nine to 12 weeks to work on projects so that students have continuity. "The software they are using is not casual to use once a week; it's too complex" and students can sometimes forget the skills they learned with a disjointed program, he says.
Use equipment that has various uses, he says. For example, the HP 5000 laser printer handles 11x17 paper so if students want to do desktop publishing they can print newspapers and ads, he says.
Pick a team and a leader to lead the team. "It's a dynamic environment and what I say to new teachers is that this is a very, very different teaching model," Maddock says. "A classroom is not yours, it's ours. It's teaching by a committee, and we have to constantly communicate with each other."
"The most important piece to this puzzle is the team," Maddock says. "They create the environment and it's the environment that engages the student."
Teachers won't be experts all the time. He says if certain students want to include sound in their projects, he will show only that group of students how to include voiceovers or music, but not the entire class. Later on, the new "sound experts" will teach the next group of students who want to learn the skill. "We do that with all of the concepts," Maddock says.
"We're no longer the sage on the stage with the guide on the side," he says. "The teacher becomes the well-informed facilitator."
Bovee adds that starting a project like this "takes a certain amount of creativity."
"You want someone excited about it, with a certain amount of knowledge and who loves to learn," she says. "The person putting it together and organizing it then transfers that to teachers. They transfer it to the kids. It takes a certain type of person because the technology is so daunting."
Angela Pascopella, email@example.com, is associate features editor.