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Getting with the Program

November 19, 2007

If you think computer programming is only for techies, think again. Or, even better, talk to Chris Stein.

An assistant professor in BMCC’s computer information systems (CIS) department, Stein teaches multimedia programming and design (MMP), which collectively comprises three areas – programming, video and art and design. Admittedly, the MMP offerings are best suited to students with some aptitude for technology and an interest in its practical applications. “But the courses are really about solving problems, designing games and creating art,” says Stein. “They are also great fun.”

Flash forward

In the multimedia programming concentration, students learn to use Adobe Flash, which enables them to create Web content, interactive games, and, ultimately, movies. “It’s an incredibly versatile application, limited only by the user’s proficiency and imagination,” says Stein, who joined BMCC four years ago after completing graduate studies at the NYU’s interactive telecommunications program.  “TV news stations use Flash; so does youtube. And just about every computer sold today includes a Flash player.”

The  video concentration builds on the programming course, preparing students to incorporate sophisticated video content into their projects. The art and design courses, meanwhile, emphasize the visual aspect of programming, leaning heavily to instruction in typography, imagery and visual aesthetics.  The capstone course encompasses all three tracks and involves a major project – typically a Web site created for an outside client. 

By and large, graduates who have successfully completed the MMP sequence are well-positioned to find jobs – with programming firms, broadcasters, graphic design firms or other businesses.  “But we generally recommend that they go on to a four-year school first,” Stein says.  “Apart from the academic benefits of continuing their education, senior colleges also offer greater professional networking opportunities.”

Learning by doing

Not surprisingly, MMP courses are taught in a computer lab and are heavily hands-on; every student has his or her own computer. Stein’s approach is to introduce a new concept, demonstrate how it works, and then have the students try it out on their own, while he walks around the room, seeing how they’re doing and answering their questions. “The idea is to learn by doing,” he says. But that isn’t to downplay the importance of basic communication skills. 

“When graduates enter the job market, they find that technical proficiency is important, but employers also expect them to be able to express themselves clearly,” Stein says. “You’ll be e-mailing your colleagues, conveying your ideas, asking people what they need from you – which means that being able to put your thoughts clearly into words is crucial. As much as anything else, multimedia is about communication.”

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