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BELL : Class Gets Hands-On Lesson in Multimedia

October 02, 1994|SIMON ROMERO

Ed Murphy saw a disturbing trend among many of his Bell High School students facing life in a society increasingly dependent on television and computers for information.

They could not tell what was a commercial and what wasn't. The lines between the end of a sitcom and the beginning of a news program were blurry. Reality became fiction and vice-versa.

Essentially, Murphy said, they were video illiterate.

"Talent, intelligence and creativity are all there," said Murphy, 53, who teaches video production. "But these abilities aren't being tapped when students don't know anything about the technologies that produce what they see and hear."

Since the early 1970s, Murphy has helped students decipher the endless stream of information through his "video literacy" class. Now, with computers becoming more commonplace and interactive video technologies looming, Murphy is training his students to face the information overload that comes with multimedia technology.

By incorporating hands-on training in multimedia, Murphy hopes to expand awareness of recent systems such as CD-ROM--something most of his students would not normally be able to access.

"Many of the kids that come in here are not literate in either English or Spanish since they are recent arrivals," Murphy said. "But now as a society we're on the verge of an entirely different kind of literacy--video literacy--which is what I hope to teach them.

"I want to show my students how not to be fallible to commercials and their accompanying stereotypes," he said.

The best way for a student to learn the fundamentals of where images come from and what they mean, Murphy said, is for them to produce their own.

In Murphy's crowded classes, which average 38 students each, students trade off with each other for time at several Macintosh computers available for developing graphics and text for their videos. The remainder are able to hone their skills on an editing machine that looks like a cross between a VCR and a television set, with a few controls foreign to both.

"It's easy if you have enough time to edit everything you shoot," said Jaime Mayorquin as he sat at a Macintosh composing an advertising flyer for a videotape yearbook that the entire class is producing.

The videotape yearbooks, which sell for $10 apiece, are one of several hands-on projects for Murphy's students.

Each student is also required to produce a video of his or her own by the end of each term. Last year for the first time, Murphy and 28 of his students gathered their videotapes together and developed the Bell High School Video Portfolios CD-ROM.

Each compact disc features an interview with a student producer, along with comments by Murphy and another video production teacher, Larry Stone. The videos represent the range of productions done by Bell students, including public service announcements, essays, poems and music videos.

The production process requires a computer with a double-speed CD-ROM drive with external speakers, purchased with money from a state grant encouraging schools to become "technology showrooms."

The disks have already been distributed to more than 500 schools and 100 colleges and universities that have expressed interest in using nascent technologies as teaching tools.

For Francisco Santos, 19, who produced a video to accompany the song "Casimira," a tune by the popular norteno band Banda Machos, this exposure will be followed by further opportunities.

With money saved from his job at a poultry processing plant in Vernon, Santos recently purchased his own camcorder and began filming quinceaneras , a traditional Latino birthday celebration for 15-year-old girls, for $150 per party.

"Much better than cutting up chickens," Santos said.

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