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The Pezman

Computer Science, art, media, technology and academia

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I wrote a long post but it wound up getting deleted because I wasn't logged in.

Short version: I want to hear about academic courses that you've taken which involve media and technology. This is with an eye towards Computer Science (graphics, animation, audio programming, web programming, etc), but any course which fits this bill will do. I'm trying to propose specific ways my Computer Science department can revamp itself (three professors, struggling to teach the bare minimum, not good for the majors) and think this is a great way to entice non-majors to take more CS courses (by relating CS to technologies they know, see and already understand). Please note that this excludes any certification programs like Full Sail, which aim to teach specific technologies for specific jobs. Thanks.

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I wrote a long post but it wound up getting deleted because I wasn't logged in.

Sucks; now I'm going to have to ask you a bunch of questions, which were probably explained in that post =/

Is your aim to attract students from other disciplines, new (not yet in another discipline) students, or is it to get CS students to take more CS-related courses? Or, do you wish to attract more profs?

The concept of non-major CS is a bit alien to me, but CS plus media/art is right up my alley. I've incorporated technology/media into first-year art courses, and used art/media in fourth-year CS courses, but I'm not sure I've taken any courses like you've described.

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Sucks; now I'm going to have to ask you a bunch of questions, which were probably explained in that post =/

Yeah, I hate that.

Is your aim to attract students from other disciplines, new (not yet in another discipline) students, or is it to get CS students to take more CS-related courses? Or, do you wish to attract more profs?

They're all interrelated. We're not going to be able to justify more professors until we have more students taking the courses. We're not going to get more of those until we show them the interdisciplinary appeal of CS, which may allow students from other majors to take courses for credit if a course exists which can cross over. And yes, I think we can attract more majors as well since they'll start to see how CS can be used.

The concept of non-major CS is a bit alien to me, but CS plus media/art is right up my alley. I've incorporated technology/media into first-year art courses, and used art/media in fourth-year CS courses, but I'm not sure I've taken any courses like you've described.

Tell me what you have done. It's all I can ask.

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Please note that this excludes any certification programs like Full Sail, which aim to teach specific technologies for specific jobs. Thanks.

Certification program? Specific technology for a specific job? que?

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I'm not entirely certain what you're asking. I have an associates in computer science and I was also in computer animation for a year, so I have experience, I'm just not quite certain what you wanna know.

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I wrote a long post but it wound up getting deleted because I wasn't logged in.

Just a quick tip - CTRL+C (copy) is your friend, as is CTRL+V (paste). Use it well and it will serve you well. It has saved me many headaches on this issue.

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Alright. I'm not quite sure what you want to know, but you said talk about media and technology classes. I recently graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts with a concentration in Multimedia Design. As I do graphic design and non-Flash based web design, that is the programming and work that I will be touching on. I've had a lot of good experiences, and quite a bit of bad, so here we go.

First thing first, students NEED to have the WYSIWYG web editing stuff NOT TAUGHT to them. Too many students are coming out of schools not knowing the first thing about CSS and (X)HTML and getting jobs laying down web pages. Why? Because in school, they were taught that Dreamweaver can do it all for them. But what Dreamweaver does is convolute code and create messy structure. Case in point, in my educational experience, for the first two years of school, I thought CSS was the name of the little toolbox that let you edit styles in Dreamweaver, not a separate markup structure (it's not technically a language) in its own right. I completely learned CSS and XHTML on my own. Classes only helped insomuch as they provided an arena in which I was able to practice my learning.

Second, this is from a designer perspective, there must be a basic understanding of both sides of the coin in order to do either of them. Now, if a programmer can't design to save his life, that's fine. That is what a designer is there for. But experience in working in web design has shown that one cannot create a *good* functioning site without a knowledge of how the design translates to code. This is a fundamental flaw in the graphic designers that make PSD files and get them sliced somewhere else. As much as CSS designers don't like to admit it, there are just some things design-wise that are either far too obtuse, or out of reach, given current technology. Conversely, the guy who does the PHP has to have a basic understanding of how the design creates a user experience and how the user works his or her way through the interface in order to create an application which best suits the need.

One major criticism I've had for our program is that we need professors that can do the stuff that they are teaching. Quite often, I've either had a professor who knows, say, Flash, and thus teaches a blanket interactive class but knows nothing about static web. When that has happened, the onus basically falls on Lynda.com to teach us what we needed to know about web programming. I don't know about anyone else, but if a tutorial isn't engaging nearly to the minute, or is working toward some huge greater goal that I am directly applying, I don't want to watch it. And I most certainly do not have a short attention span. Web design is not a culmination of one's knowledge of Dreamweaver, but an understanding of user interaction, graphical layout, and clean markup which leads to faster rendering and better indexing by search engines.

Lastly, and I saved this for last because it is something I feel strongly about, there absolutely needs to be a disruption of the myopia that afflicts many multimedia courses. Whether this is a weakness in the academic systems or the instructors, I cannot say, but I would say that all of the work we were taught in class was outdated by at least a year. On top of that, no one has ever sent me to any sort of resource that would keep me informed of what is happening in the web world. I have found all of those resources in my free time. If I were to drop all of my plans and were given a master's degree right here and now and become a professor, I would constantly seek out what people in the field are doing RIGHT NOW and apply it. For example, perhaps a few week's introduction to Wordpress, or a project that centres on a workflow that involves integrating CMSes with design. I would encourage my students to visit CSS galleries as often as possible to see what other people in the field are doing. As workers in the fields of multimedia, it is our job to be at near the forefront of technology, thus I would also encourage them to learn in unconventional ways, through online communities, blogs, forums, etc. It is my opinion that the fellow students that I have watched succeed in school are the ones who in their spare time are participating in that which they are going to school for. The good animators have gigs of hard drive space and dvd seasons of their favourite cartoons. The good web designers are watching the galleries. The 3D folks are all on CGTalk and similar communities. With the advent of machine-made design, our field has become muddied with Photoshop pirates who think they can design because they have the software. With this immense oversaturation, we are having huge problems finding work unless one is at the pinnacle of the field. What this means for us as web people is that in order to succeed, we need to completely devote ourselves over to the craft. I was actually talking about this to a graphic design professor and some other students tonight. If you don't eat, sleep, and breathe design, you better start packing your bags because right now this is the completely WRONG field to enter unless you are totally on board with design, because it's a tough crowd.

So those are my thoughts on the matter. I think in terms the workforce, there's far too much generalization going on in the seeking of employment, and not enough specialists. If you want my opinion on what should be done for your program, I would say seek out the applications of programming in relation to the various media fields, rather than just an introduction to the media itself which offers no actual gain other than an increasing sense of being in over one's head. But that's just my opinion.

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I'm trying to propose specific ways my Computer Science department can revamp itself (three professors, struggling to teach the bare minimum, not good for the majors)

only 3 professors??

see that's part of the problem right there.. 3 just isn't enough to provide a very broad curriculum. they could spend all their time teaching basic classes and never be able to teach more niche areas of CS such as graphics, HCI, etc

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One thing that could really help is to offer a graphics course. I recently took an OpenGL course here (I'm a CS Major) and I can see the appeal it could have on people who don't know about it. "Do you want to learn how to make your own animations from scratch? Are you a physics major who needs to see a simulation but can't find one? Program it yourself!" You can even extend it to other interests, as "Do you want to learn how to create a game? Come and see what a major in Computer Science can do!" And then have courses in OpenGL, code optimization (or the optimazation can be a part of the Computer Systems courses where you learn about caching, virtual memory, how CPUs work (pipeling, etc..)) and other courses that COULD be used in game programming (for example, Human Computer Interfaces (make your GUIs pretty and easy to use!), and I HIGHLY recommend a course dealing with creating multi-threaded applications (parallelism)).

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I'm not entirely certain what you're asking. I have an associates in computer science and I was also in computer animation for a year, so I have experience, I'm just not quite certain what you wanna know.

Courses in Computer Science (or others, but Computer Science mostly) which relate to multimedia.

More specifically, I'd like to hear how said multimedia courses tie in to the broader concepts that computer science tries to teach. Basically, I need as much justification for these courses as possible.

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Courses in Computer Science (or others, but Computer Science mostly) which relate to multimedia.

More specifically, I'd like to hear how said multimedia courses tie in to the broader concepts that computer science tries to teach. Basically, I need as much justification for these courses as possible.

Which totally wouldn't include PHP, Java, HTML, and CSS for web development or MEL script which is based on Python scripting for coding tools in Maya or setting up console command scripts for advanced rendering or Shake script and Unix base for general compositing, huh?

Or XML, or XHTML...oh what I'm I saying. Nothing I learn in school is relevant to anything. I should just burn my money right now.

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oh what I'm I saying. Nothing I learn in school is relevant to anything. I should just burn my money right now.

I definitely never said Full Sail was irrelevant or that you wasted your money. I don't know where you got that from.

You have to understand, though, that Dickinson and Full Sail have different missions. Full Sail is a technical school, primarily made for people who know exactly what kind of job they want and want to gain knowledge and familiarity with very specific types of programs to increase their appeal. Dickinson is different. It's an academic institution designed to promote a breadth of knowledge across a variety of different disciplines. As such, someone taking a course on graphics might not be a CS major, and might not want to go into a job relating to graphics at all. That will invariably affect the nature and type of material taught.

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