August 09, 2007

Manual Forward?

Every year I update the manual I write for the multimedia courses I teach in high school. I started writing my own curriculum because I couldn’t find any one textbook or resource that I liked. Instead, I scoured the web in search of the best projects, tutorials, and guides I could find, and wrote the ones I couldn’t find myself. I started with the production manual available online from NYU’s Tisch film school. What I ended up with is an excellent and thorough resource for any computer multimedia teacher to use in their classroom.

It’s important to note that the course I teach are NOT computer courses, they are UC approved Art and communication courses that use computers. I make the distinction because the focus of the manual is not the nuts and bolts of computer hardware and software, but rather it is focused on teaching high school students to improve their communication skills and take advantage of 21st. century communication technology. Sure, they can already use MySpace, program their iPods, and post their own movies on uTube, but this curriculum gives students a direction, background information, and teaches them the production process.

The assignments are all written to the Visual Performing Arts, Career Technical Education, and National Education Technology Standards. Most of the assignments are tried and tested, broken down into easily understandable steps. However this year I have added many new assignments to go with the new software, and I’m not quite sure how they will turn out. Therefore I am evoking the “beta” label (borrowing from computer geekdom). Since I use Macintosh computers, the manual is written specifically for those machines, and now for OS 10.4. But all of the assignments and steps could be adjusted for whatever software and hardware you have available.

Throughout the manual I give credit and web links to all the work I did not write myself. I have never published the manual as a professional work, nor have I ever charged anyone to use it, and many have. From other schools right here in California all the way to Israel, I have freely shared this resource with anyone interested. If you’d like to download it you can do so here. There is also a series of presentations and lecture notes, all free. If you have any questions, feel free to send me an email at

Every year I write a foreword to the manual. It’s the very last thing I do after I proof read and spell check. What follows now and for the rest of this blog entry is the foreword to this years manual update. It gives a general picture of what I experienced while preparing for this years update.

What a rush! This year’s manual update was completed in just four weeks, a new record. There are two reasons why the schedule was pushed up this year: first, school started two and half weeks earlier this year; second for the first time in seven years Room 1 has new computers. Unfortunately, the news about the new computers came exactly one month before school started, so I was unable to prepare much during the school year like I usually do.

The new computers are first generation Intel iMacs. We almost didn’t get Macintosh computers. The district has a Windows/Dell only policy that the Principal and I had to fight to get what I knew would be best for the students of Room 1. After two summer meetings that included presentations from Adobe and Apple, the district decided to grant my request, and we have new Macs. It’s a logical choice: Macintosh computers are widely used in the multimedia and entertainment industry and Apple now offers a certification program that we’d like to start offering the students of RHS.

This is the seventh version of the Multimedia Manual, but I am dubbing it version 8 beta. The beta status also comes as a result of the shorter writing time. I’m not sure that everything here in version seven is going to work! There are many new assignments, and many major changes. One major change is the exit of Adobe Photoshop and the entry of The Gimp. The change was made because Adobe does not write Photoshop Elements for the Intel Macs, and second because The Gimp is FREE! The Gimp is an open source application written with UNIX so it can be adjusted and molded to work with whatever environment one is comfortable with. So I was able to change all of the keyboard shortcuts and setup the palette layout to match Photoshop LE. The Gimp will also run on Windows and Linux so it’s a good choice for students who may not have a Macintosh computer at home.

The other very cool new additions to the manual include the opportunity to now use GarageBand and iDVD. GarageBand allows students to create their own music using a variety of loops. Now just about anyone can compose his or her own jingles, movie scores, and original compositions. GarageBand also allows students to create their own Podcasts, so I have added postcasting as a new focus. In addition, students may now create their own DVDs. Instead of only being able to distribute their work via a website (which is still included in the course work) students can now also create DVDs to take home and play on their televisions, or on their home computers.

This year will see a continued commitment to creating DVD documentaries for Redlands High School by the Digital Dogz. Last year we sold close to 150 Graduation DVDs making it even more successful than the Football DVD, and raising a significant amount of income for the Digital Dogz that we plan on putting to good use. The Friday Show will also return as a weekly positive reflection of life on campus.

New equipment, new software, and a new approach to teaching and learning multimedia; I’m looking forward to a very exciting and groundbreaking new year.

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