Working with computers comes naturally to most children, who seem to deal fearlessly with technology. With the introduction of various digital media tools that foster creative self-expression, Fun With Media opened Tuesday in the Blossom Valley Shopping Center in Mountain View, with a mission to foster an environment that enables children to express their creativity and build visual communication skills, according to Gita Gopal, Los Altos resident and founder and CEO.
After 21 stressful years as director of a Hewlett-Packard research lab, Gopal, mother of three and president of the Los Altos Special Education PTA for the past two years, said she has embarked on a second career that she hopes will be as much fun for the children as it is for her.
“I started Fun With Media because I was looking for something like this for my daughter and (could find) nothing,” Gopal said. “I was looking for a place that could introduce kids to the creative potential of digital technologies.”
Gopal approached Kaoru Hollin, an experienced visual designer, and Amy Shelley, sixth-grade teacher at Los Altos’ Almond School, and together they founded Fun With Media.
Hollin and Gopal, who have sons the same age, met while volunteering for the Mountain View High School marching band for four years. Shelley has a degree in education technology and taught Gopal’s daughter at summer camp.
“Ours is a unique studio. We want kids to have fun while learning digital media skills,” Gopal said. “When I decided to start this studio, I reached out to Kaoru and Amy because of their graphic design and education backgrounds. We are fortunate to have such complementary skills, and we work really well together.”
Shelley has taught at all grade levels, worked closely with educational software development teams to improve technology tools for the classroom and developed projects that integrate 21st-century technological skills in every area of the elementary classroom curriculum.
During her 20-year career as a graphic designer, Hollin created many iconic illustrations that are bundled with Adobe’s flagship graphics applications. Her work is featured in the company’s leading design references, including “The Adobe Illustrator Wow! Book,” “Adobe Design Essentials” and the “Classroom in a Book” series. Subsequent to her tenure at Adobe, Hollin founded Digital Artistry, a graphic design studio in Mountain View.
The three have combined talents to ensure that their studio is a place where children, excited about their lives and passions, can learn to express themselves creatively, whether they’ve had experience with computers or not.
“Many kids don’t have access to high-end software, and we hope to provide that for everyone,” Hollin said. “We want them to be able to express themselves with different media.”
Fun With Media is equipped with 10 iMacs, Flip UltraHD video cameras, Canon cameras, touch-sensitive Wacom tablets, a large-format photo printer, photo-lighting kits, a green-screen backdrop and other special-effects props. After-school classes, labs and camps are available for students from third grade and up. The studio features an array of programs including digital photography, movie making, comic drawing, stick figure and 2D animation and cartooning.
“I’m excited about working at Fun With Media because I get to do the two things I love most: teaching and technology,” Shelley said.
After creating their projects, students take home something they can be proud of, Gopal said. They may borrow cameras and other equipment to film raw material for special projects.
The goal is to spread the word so that children will hear about “this fun place to learn cool stuff,” Gopal said. In close proximity to local schools and neighborhoods at 1764-A Miramonte Ave. near Cuesta Drive, they hope to give back to the community through the studio, she said.
“I hope so many kids will want to come in during our drop-in lab hours that we will have to add more computers,” Gopal said. “Also, we will have classes for adults to teach skills for long-postponed projects such as digital scrapbooks, movies of their families or their own cooking blogs.”
“Hopefully this will be a great beginning,” Hollin added.
In addition to after-school classes, Fun With Media offers birthday parties, summer camps and opportunities for adults to learn digial media skills.