Mountain View Voice

News - February 11, 2011

Students show off tech skills

Freestyle projects displayed at multi-media show

by Nick Veronin

It looked like a professional multi-media art show. Children and adults milled about the wide open space, examining paintings and photos, and occasionally sitting with large headphones plugged into laptops to consider the digital videos and audio recordings — all created by the students of Freestyle Academy, the local high school district's communication arts and technology program.

According to official estimates more than 500 people were on hand for Freestyle's "Mid-Year Exhibition," which was held at the newly renovated Computer History Museum on Thursday, Feb. 3. More than 100 paintings and photos were on display, along with exhibitions of student-made websites and screenings of student films in the museum's Hahn Auditorium.

Barry Groves, superintendent of the Mountain View-Los Altos High School District, said he was pleased with the chance to allow the kids to display their art. The exhibit had the look and feel of a professional art show.

"Freestyle is all about 21st century skills," said Leslie Parkinson, a design instructor at Freestyle Academy.

Parkinson explained that Freestyle's 128 juniors and seniors come to the school from Mountain View and Los Altos high schools to spend a portion of their school day learning how to edit photos, create videos and produce professional audio on programs like Photoshop, Final Cut Pro and Pro Tools.

"It's important because that's where the jobs will be," Parkinson said. "Everybody needs a website now."

She said that visual communication methods, such as web video, are growing more popular every day and will certainly continue to be in demand after her students graduate from high school.

Although the skills learned at Freestyle would likely be sufficient to land entry-level media jobs, Mr. Groves said that all of the students who attend Freestyle go on to college.

Annalise Tahran and Sarah Webber — two Los Altos juniors who are studying film at Freestyle — were excited to see their movie on the big screen of the Hahn Auditorium.

Both said they loved coming to Freestyle, noting that it often doesn't feel like learning.

"It's really cool," Tahran said. "It's part of your day and it's like having fun at school — you know, really getting to understand yourself while learning."

"It's pretty awesome," Webber agreed, who said she enjoyed being able to use Final Cut Pro, a program ubiquitous within the film industry.

Parkinson said it is great to see the kids so engaged in something that is ultimately going to benefit them. According to her, the future competitiveness of the country is at stake.

"In order for these kids to have skills that are relevant to the way our country and the world is going, we have to be able to teach them these (skills), or we're going to end up being behind," she said.

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