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Cloud lifts students’ computer work

What’s happening in multimedia courses at Frontier

SOUTH DEERFIELD — At Frontier Regional School, Gabe Chapley, 17, of Deerfield is creating a production about modern technology using animation software. And David Esch, 14, of Deerfield is making a game using a computer coding program.

The students are part of the multimedia courses taught by instructional technology teacher Kevin Murphy at both the middle and high schools.

Murphy, a computer technology teacher for seven years, has branched away from the traditional computer lessons that focus solely on Microsoft Office programs like PowerPoint, Word and Excel.

In his classroom, Murphy emphasizes “cloud computing,” which is using Internet-based software for project management, in addition to the Microsoft programs.

“Students are encouraged to use cloud software like Google Documents,” Murphy said.

Google Documents allows students to create and share work online and access documents from anywhere.

Each day, students are given a challenge to create a file, document, image or game.

“I introduce the tools and they make it happen,” Murphy said.

“It gives me more to use and helps me to advance how I use Google efficiently,” said Esch.

Chapley, an independent study student in Murphy’s class, is using Blender, an open-source program for 3-D creation.

“I get to explore new parts of Blender,” Chapley said.

Chapley is working on a production on modern technology for Frontier Community Access Television, the local public access station.

Murphy has three classes, called multimedia A and B for the middle school and advanced multimedia for the high school.

Frontier students also use Google Apps for Education, a program that allows the school to administer Google Email accounts. The program limits work sharing to students in the class.

The benefit to Internet-based software is it is available to all students. It is free and can be accessed from any computer, Murphy said.

“Empowering students with free available tools is important,” Murphy said. “If everyone had to buy the Microsoft Office suite, it adds up. The average student can’t afford it. This allows them to have free available software.”

The Internet-based software enables every student to access the programs no matter their family income.

“There’s always a question of access, who has the money and who doesn’t,” Murphy said. “I think that the gap is being reduced with software like this.”

The software is also available to students at all times, whether they are using school computers, their home computers or smart phones. Students can log on to the programs anywhere and can access their same work.

“You can get to it from anywhere. There is no need for a flash drive. Whatever I teach here, they can take home with them.”

Learning how to access the tools is important in today’s technological world as the programs become increasingly popular, Murphy said.

“There is a cloud computing revolution now,” Murphy said.

In the past, people had to learn how to use the Microsoft Office programs, Murphy said. Now, specialized training isn’t as important as how to access and learn the available tools.

Unlike traditional programs, the cloud programs are community built. With the open software, thousands of people have input on programs and can makes changes if the community agrees.

“It is cool to have kids exposed to that. They can contribute,” Murphy said.

You can reach Kathleen McKiernan at: mckiernan@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 268.

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