Archive for March, 2010

March 24, 2010

Flash Builder 4 and Flex 4 SDK in Education

Flash Builder 4 (previously known as Flex Builder) and the open source Flex 4 Software Development Kit were released last week. This is a significant update that features over 70 new enhancements to the development environment and programming language. Some of the most notable enhancements for me are the new skinning architecture, enhanced data integration, and FXG support. I’m also very happy to learn the Adobe is continuing to offer Flash Builder for free to students, faculty, and for lab settings.
Flash Builder offers a great environment for student programmers to become familiar with classes, objects, methods, inheritance and other important concepts of object-oriented programming. Actionscript 3 is the programming language for Flash Builder. It is an ECMAScript based programming language that is similar enough to JavaScript that, I’ve found, most web programmers don’t have much trouble getting up to speed with it. Flash Builder also makes a great learning environment for budding programmers because it uses the Eclipse IDE. Eclipse is widely used for developing in other programming languages. By combining Actionscript 3 with the pre-built components available in Flash Builder, students can quickly get simple applications up and running which can motivate them to dig deeper and learn more.
Flash Builder is also a powerful tool for creating rich educational content. Here are just a few ideas where Flash Builder really shines in developing engaging content:
Interactive Data Visualization
Allowing students to see charts of complex datasets and allowing them to interact with those visual components can be a very effective learning activity. From a programming standpoint, binding datasets to charting components is incredibly easy and fun! Adobe has announced that the charting components are now free and available in the Flex SDK. We should see a lot more use of these great libraries in education!
Interactive Video and Audio
The Flash Platform has a great API for interacting with web video and audio. Combining text, images, with a video or audio stream can aid in learning new concepts. Being able to auto stop a video at a specific time, jumping to a specific point in a movie, using cue points to fire off events during a movie, or even applying advanced filters on a video are all possibilities inside the Flash Platform.
Flash Builder with Flash Media Server
Coupling Flash content with Flash Media Server can be a tremendous tool for language learning and performance analysis. Having the students listen and compare their recorded voice to a voice of an expert, or having them view their own performance in a video can be very effective.
I’m definitely excited about the release of Flash Builder 4 and the Flex 4 SDK. I think there are some great new enhancements in the update that can help developers in education. If you feel like I missed a home-run quality of Flash Builder in education, please add it to the comments below. I’m looking forward to seeing how these enhancements take the Flash Platform to the next level.

11:10 AM Permalink
March 23, 2010

F2F Combined without Travel

I get a lot of requests for Face to Face training, often in situations where we already have an online course. Sometimes it is because a department or school wants it fast and all at once, but most often it is because of a comfort level they get having someone to answer their questions as they think of them. This is all well and good, but in today’s economy our district is pushing more and more to have training online. Most courses are asynchronous, taking away that personal contact that you get in the face to face classroom.
So, I am running an experiment the next couple months. I am meeting with my participants face to face, but online. The course will be training the use of Adobe Connect Professional. All delivery will be done using Adobe Connect Professional. This will immerse the participants in the product they are learning and remove the need for travel for both the participants and the instructor. My curiosity is whether online face to face will meet that personal need of participants that typically want to be in the same room as the instructor.
Let me know what feedback you have from participants on face to face versus online versus blended versus asynchronous training and professional development programs. I will add comments to this posting in late May after I get feedback from my participants.
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11:37 AM Permalink
March 22, 2010

Digital Learning Environment Events Update – San Diego

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The third Digital Learning Environment Event was held in beautiful San Diego, California on March 11, 2010. The day started off with a keynote by Tom Greaves the Chairman of The Greaves Group.
Tom Greaves has a long history in pioneering technology. His interest in technology started at the young age of 7 when he built his own prize-winning mechanical computer. He worked for years for IBM where he developed and marketed many innovative products. Tom is a well-known speaker and panelist at national and state educational conferences and speaks often on the future of technology in education. He has written many articles related to the future of technology trends and strategic planning.
Tom describes 3 major challenges facing education today. The first challenge he calls, “Education Hits the Perfect Storm”. The storm is the result of several things, including:
• The world is changing rapidly.
• The amount of information available is doubling every 18 months.
• Technology is rapidly evolving.
• The dilemma is the world around us is changing, jobs are changing, and yet schools, where change is slow to happen, lags behind, change.
The second challenge, according to Tom is, “Pressure for Results are Intensifying”.
• Regulations are not going away and are likely to get stricter rather than easier.
• NCLB may be revised but it is not going away.
Third, “Finances Have Hit the Cliff”.
• During the years from 1965 to 2000, education funding rose at twice the rate of inflation.
• We have seen no increase since 2000.
• We have to figure out how to do more with less.
Is there a way out? Check out the National Education Technology Plan 2010 at The purpose of the plan is to, “To help states and districts prepare today’s students for the opportunities and challenges of tomorrow, a set of seven action steps and accompanying recommendations have been developed:
1. Strengthen Leadership
2. Consider Innovative Budgeting
3. Improve Teacher Training
4. Support E-Learning and Virtual Schools
5. Encourage Broadband Access
6. Move Toward Digital Content
7. Integrate Data Systems
Tom issued a final conundrum: Why aren’t 1:1 programs working better? His answer-improper implementation. It isn’t about the technology, it is about the implementation. To assist those who are planning a 1:1 implementation, Tom recommended Project Red, which was also referenced at the last DLE in Las Vegas by keynote Leslie Wilson. Project Red’s mission includes, “We believe that technology can help us re-engineer our educational system. Through the efforts of Project RED and our partners we believe that technology will transform learning, just as it has transformed homes and offices in almost every other segment of our society.” This organization offers support to schools as they navigate through the planning and implementation of 1:1 programs.
Tom left us with this final thought, “What we need to remember is that 1:1 beats 1:2 or greater every time but proper implementation trumps student computer ratios any time.”
Following Tom’s keynote the participants broke into groups a cycled through 4 classrooms where one group was treated to presentations in several disciplines that highlighted how technology can be integrated into the curriculum in powerful ways that propel students toward learning 21st century skills with Instructional 2 and 3 techniques and another group of IT decision makers looked at solutions and ideas for cloud computing, wired and wireless networking, as well as network security.
Please join us at one of the FREE remaining DLE events coming to a city near you:
Atlanta – March 19, 2010
Boston – April 8, 2010
Washington DC – April 14, 2010
Indianapolis – April 20, 2010
Denver – April 29, 2010
Minneapolis – May 5, 2010
Raleigh-Durham – May 11, 2010
Find out more and to register for the events, visit: http://www.guide2digitallearning.com

http://www.greavesgroup.com/home.html

http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/os/technology/plan/2004/site/edlite-default.html

http://www.projectred.org/

9:49 PM Permalink
March 21, 2010

Adobe Acrobat Connect Pro and Webcam Fun

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The Logitech Webcam Pro 9000 and Connect Pro can be the perfect pair for some real webcam fun. I was experimenting with my Webcam Pro 9000 and Connect Pro one day and noticed a “Video Effects” panel within the complementary software that comes with the webcam. The “Video Effects” panel comes with five Avatars: Green Alien, Cool Cat, Stripped Velociraptor, Blue Shark, and Stick Guy. My wife is a large cat fan, so I tried on the cat inside the “Camera and Voice” pod inside one of my Connect Pro meeting rooms. The software tries to calibrate your real face movements with the avatar of your choosing. I believe it simulates your face movements enough to give everyone a big laugh and smile on the other end of the webinar and/or meeting you are trying to provide to your participates. The Logitech website has many more free avatars for you to try on. I also like the “Dollar Bill,” maybe next webinar I will show up as a dollar.
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8:20 PM Permalink
March 11, 2010

DU Residence Hall Energy Consumption Project

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Benjamin Zenner, a student at the University of Denver, has come up with a project to monitor energy consumption at the campus residence halls and display the information to students using a touchscreen interface.
The electric meters at five University of Denver residence halls are equipped with data collectors that transmit electrical consumption to Northwrite Inc. at 15 minute intervals. This data is then passed back to DU systems through a ColdFusion web service which sorts and stores the data within a local MySQL database. When one of the five residence halls is selected, this Flash-based web application makes queries against the database and plots the energy usage in kilowatt hours (kWh) over time for the residence hall.
My department became involved when the time came to put the pieces together. We needed to work with the energy monitoring company (Northwrite) to provide them with a WSDL to submit metering data to. We set this up in ColdFusion and parse out the data to be submitted rto a MySQL database that the Flash-based energy kiosk feeds from.
You can check it out at http://ctl.du.edu/energy/
Hear Ben talk about the project at about 1:14:

2:13 PM Permalink
March 9, 2010

Disco Balls, Music Players, Star Fields, Connect Pro, What?

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Adobe Acrobat Connect Professional is not your typical, boring web conferencing environment. One can throw a web conference party, bringing a disco ball and music into the room to celebrate a goal that a school district team has achieved together. The Acrobat Connect Pro Exchange has both free and cost friendly Connect Pro components, basically SWF and XML files that can be uploaded to your Connect Pro Hosted Account. These little extras can perform many exciting effects inside a standard Share Pod. The long list includes: “Talking Stick,” allowing someone to support multiple, high-quality, video streams in Adobe Connect Pro, “Connect Pro MP3 Player,” allowing for an individual Connect Pro user to stream music into their room, “Digital Timer,” keeping people honest in the room who like to ramble, “Connect Pro-shambo,” playing rock, paper, scissors if a difficult decision needs to be made between friends, “Connect Pro Clock,” showing everyone in the room their current time, regardless of the time zone, and “Footprints,” showing Connect Pro users a Carbon Savings Calculator which helps to preserve mother earth. The list is long and exciting, at the same time, one can go even further into the depths of becoming a Connect Pro Evangelist/Rock Star by accessing a pay site like, Flash Componets.net. One can purchase cheap, but stylish SWF files that can bring up the cool factor in the Connect Pro Meeting Room. So, instead of putting some “Bling” on for your next web conference meeting, well, try on some “Flash.”
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9:59 PM Permalink
March 3, 2010

Summer Workshops for School TV Production

Back by popular demand–School TV Summer Workshops for teachers will take place June 28-30th and July 14-16 2010.

Learn how to use Adobe software products to create affordable green-screened school TV newscasts, classroom video projects and more!

 

 

Participants will learn how to begin or improve school TV newscasts on any size budget, and create student video productions that have the professional look of network TV. Any classroom can now be used as a professional ‘green screen’ recording studio, thanks to the Adobe Digital School Collection and Adobe Visual Communicator software. Join Adobe Education Leader Rob Zdrojewski for an inside look at the Amherst Tech TV Studios, serving as a showcase model school TV program exclusively using Adobe software products!

Visit SchoolTVmadeEasy.com for complete details: http://www.schooltvmadeeasy.com/workshops.cfm

 

9:55 AM Permalink

Adobe Captivate – Branching Slides

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Adobe Captivate – How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
This tutorial will demonstrate how to create a slick interactive photo slide presentation using Adobe Captivate’s branching tools.
Learn how to:

  • Create a Photo Slide Show
  • Set up branching
  • Add buttons
  • Insert an image
  • Set up slide transitions
  • change slide backgrounds

View the tutorial

9:19 AM Permalink