Posts in Category "Showcase"

June 25, 2011

Using Connect to connect with a real audience

For the last few years, our Grade 2 classes have been doing a project called “Great Inventions” which looks at the history of various common items, such as toys, bicycles, toilets and Christmas lights, to name a few. Each child picks a topic, then puts together a slideshow about it. These kids are only in Grade 2 (about 7 years old) so there are quite a good collection of research, technology and presentation skills involved in this project.

Last year, I helped the Grade 2 teachers rethink this task a little, making three main changes.

Firstly, we scaffolded the task a little more than it had been, getting the students to have only three slides (plus a title slide) – one that informed about the past history of the invention, one that informed about the present state of the invention, and the third which tried to make a prediction about the possible future of the invention. This allowed for a nice balance of factual research with some imaginative dreaming.

Secondly, we created a wiki that had a sort of “sanitised” collection of the relevant information that we wanted to students to focus on. Being only 7 years old, we felt it would be better if we pre-selected the information that they would find most useful. This meant we could then ensure the language was at an appropriate level, and it gave the kids a bit more focus on the information we knew they’d be needing.

Thirdly, I suggested to the teachers that the whole point of creating a PowerPoint instead of a poster or a printed document was that they should be presenting the final product to a real audience. In the past, the PowerPoint file was the end result on its own, but I really felt that if you go to the trouble of making a set of PowerPoint slides then you ought to be standing in front of an audience and actually presenting them.

To this end, I pushed for the idea of live streaming the student presentations out onto the open web so that parents, friends, grandparents, etc, could log on and watch their child present to the rest of the class. After carefully addressing the obvious concerns, letters went home to parents and the student presentations were live streamed using the free UStream service.  Feedback from parents was very positive.

A full explanation of the project from last year can be found here

Following on from the success of last year, the teachers were very keen to do it again this year. When they approached me about setting up the live stream again I started to set up the same UStream channel, but I was dismayed to realise just how much advertising is now being inflicted on UStream users. Ads were being injected into the streams, and the UStream website has so much advertising on it that it’s basically unusable for schools.  I looked at other alternatives, such as Livestream, but without much success.

Then it dawned on me… why not use Adobe Connect? I don’t know why I didn’t think of it sooner, but Connect is a perfect tool for this kind of thing. Not only is it clean of advertising, it’s as private as you want to make it. We decided to still make the room completely open to guest access for anyone who knew the URL, but it’s good to know that higher levels of access security are possible.

We arranged a layout using the modules we wanted, with a backchannel chat, a live video window and also the shared screen of the student PowerPoint. This meant we were able to not only watch the student actually present their work, but we also got to broadcast a high quality version of their PowerPoint output screen as well. Because we had the Connect-enabled computer connected to the classroom Interactive Whiteboard, the student could simply stand at the board and present as usual, but the video and shared screen would both be broadcast synchronously with each other. We also used an external Logitech High Def eyeball-style webcam with a built in microphone, so the quality of the audio and video was quite good. It all worked really well.

As intended, the chat room soon became populated with parents and grandparents logging in to watch their little darlings. The positive comments from the chat room, and the fact that it was an authentic audience they were presenting to, were hugely motivating factors for the students. Every child that got up to present their work knew that it was not just their classmates and the teacher watching them, but a whole audience “out there” on the Internet. That sort of authenticity makes a big difference.

Adobe Connect was exactly the right tool for this sort of thing. As well as the fact that it was relatively protected and ad-free, it also allowed us much better control over the virtual presentation space, the layout, the participants, the backchannel, etc. The presentations were all recorded and archived so that parents – and teachers – could revise the presentations and watch them again if necessary.

The parent feedback was extremely positive. Within the hour after the first set of presentations, the Grade 2 teachers had received several emails from parents who were over the moon about being able to watch their child from their home or office, such as this one…

Thank-you for the opportunity to watch the presentations this morning through a live stream.
I was very happy as I managed to log on just as Ashley was about to begin! It was so impressive to be able to watch the wonderful presentations and comment at the same time. I did have to turn the volume up high on my speakers but it was good to see Ashley get up and she was looking forward to doing her presentation.
I think it’s a wonderful tool for the students.

And this one…

I just wanted to share with you & the girls that both my husband & I really enjoyed the webcast of the Invention Presentations this morning very much!
It was really wonderful to see the great work & preparation that the girls have put into researching their topics, & their Powerpoint skills are just fabulous! They could teach some of my team here at work a couple of things about clip art & animations!
We would love another opportunity to dial into the classroom one day.

For all the hoo-ha about students accessing the Internet and the supposed dangers of students being online, I think the results of this session with Adobe Connect, and the positive feedback from the parents, speak for themselves.

9:56 PM Permalink
March 17, 2011

Easy broadcasting from schools using Connect

Chick Cam Live LogoNormally a school’s connection with the wider world via the internet is primarily a receive model – great volumes of information demanding a faster internet connection with all of the associated filtering issues this brings. Sometimes a school will want to reverse that and start to broadcast – sometimes not to broadcast to the whole world, but to its own students, staff and the wider school community. My first experience of this came via something we called PuppyCam – a primary school teacher had a dog which was due to have a litter of puppies and she wanted the pupils in school to be able to see them in class. All that was required was a laptop near the litter, a webcam to peek over the edge of their box and a connection to our Buckinghamshire Adobe Connect server, and we were in business. A blog post more than three years old (slightly younger than the puppies in question) gives a little more information on PuppyCam…


This spring a similar situation occurred in a school that didn’t take the initiative and ask – but on learning about the surprise Spring project for Year 2 pupils (aged 6-7) it seemed to me that our Connect server was again the answer. The Spring project was a delivery of an incubator with eggs in it – eggs which would shortly hatch into chicks, which would remain in the classroom for two weeks in total. The suggestion of broadcasting the incubator via Connect so that the pupils could watch them hatch in case the chicks decided to arrive outside school hours was taken up by the school, but there was a problem: no webcam. A cursory glance around the classroom showed an Avermedia Visualiser (document camera) which turned out to communicate just fine with Flash Player, and could therefore be used as the camera via which any activitiy in the incubator could be broadcast. Continue reading…

10:03 AM Permalink
November 6, 2010

A New Revolutionary Tool for Content Creation and Publishing – Project ROME

Adobe has a new all-in-one content creation and publishing tool parked in a cloud.  Project ROME is revolutionary and a true paradigm shift for content creation and publishing applications.   ROME can be run as an Adobe Air application or accessed directly from a light-weight internet cloud (browser-based web application).  The application is light-weight, but incredibility rich and diverse as a creation tool.  Adobe has extracted some of the best tools from various Adobe applications like Flash, Premiere, InDesign, Photoshop, and Illustrator and suspended them into a one-stop creative experience for the end-user.  Join the new and growing cultural revolution for creative educators!   Project ROME can be run from a simple Netbook laptop to a high performance desktop computer, the choice is yours.  Project ROME is available through Adobe Labs probably for a limited time.  I would encourage all educators to sign-in and reach for the stars, pushing the boundaries of the creative process.

Project ROME for Education – (For educator evaluation only)

Project Rome For Education Pilot Program – Institutions interested in a pilot, apply today

Project ROME –

Dave Forrester

Adobe Education Leader

3:48 AM Permalink
June 30, 2010

Awesome Animation Techniques

3 years back, I was working in a training firm and I was running around Singapore to conduct various trainings on Adobe’s products to local schools from the Primary – College schools. I’ve seen some awesome capabilities of some students who totally excel and rock in specific areas. (Animations, Videos & Web)
Today, I’m featuring one of my ex student from Ngee Ann Secondary School and Temasek Junior College. He’s Tan Kang Soon and he excels in animation and not just using Adobe Flash’s tools to create Motion Tween but Frame-by-Frame Animation (Here is something about frame-by-frame animation: . His capability to draw using just the mouse and visualizing how the character’s movement will be is totally FANTASTIC and I would say his works produced are pretty much on par with a few from the professional industry.
I’ve recently caught up with him and here are some of his works that he has created and all of which are his personal rendition of the characters in the animation created with Adobe Flash.

So how do you find his work? Pretty Cool eh? Enjoy and will be putting up the next post soon. Cheers 🙂

9:21 AM Permalink
April 21, 2010

Adobe AIR for Android!

AIR for AndroidFinally! Enough iPhone stuff! Time to talk about AIR for Android!
I have two applications I’m working on right now, one is a screen sketching application and the other is an educational application that allows art history students to casually study images with metadata through a mobile interface.
My examples are a bit different from those you’ve probably seen around the web lately, as they are not games but creative tools and educational study aids. I didn’t have anything built for iPhone as most prerelease testers had, so this is all pretty much from scratch over the past few days and VERY primitive, yet I believe this speaks to the effectiveness of the platform that I was able to produce two viable tools in my spare time in a matter of days. Nice.

SketchNSave []
SketchNSave provides a canvas to perform simple sketches on your Android device using a variety of colors and nib sizes. I’ve added an interesting effect where as different strokes are applied, older ones will fade and blur into the canvas and newer strokes remain distinct and crisp. A user can clear the canvas at will, and even save the image to the device camera roll.

StudyShuffler []
StudyShuffler provides a casual interface for Art History students to access study materials on the go. Students simply plug in their DU ID, select a gallery of images to pull from, and then proceed to study each image one at a time. To view image metadata, simply touch the card to flip it. To proceed to the next image, just give the mobile device a quick shake!

AIR for Android: OMG This is Cool!
So I’m writing this post a number of days before I’ll have NDA clearance to publish anything regarding Android for AIR. Just want to record my first impressions here!

Go, AIR for Android! Go, Flash!

7:00 AM Permalink
April 6, 2010

First Flex 4 Tool Built for CourseMedia™

At the University of Denver, we’ve been using the Flex 4 framework for a number of smaller projects (over the course of the development of the new framework) and now that Flex 4 is final, we’ve also begun working it into our CourseMedia™ application.
The first tool to benefit from Flex 4 is our CourseMedia™ Arrangement Tool:
The old arrangement tool is actually a leftover from DUVAGA which was updated to work with DUVAGA2/CourseMedia™ when we made the transition to video and such a few years back. For the more technically curious; the old arranger was written in originally written in ActionScript 1.0 (!) and really requires an update for many, many reasons.
The new Arrangement Tool is built on the open source Flex 4 framework and users will immediately notice it to be much faster at processing information, making database calls, and soforth. We are actually rendering bitmap data from video feeds and text slides as well, while preserving the thumbnails created within CourseMedia. This will allow for much simpler item reuse in this tool and hopefully others down the road.
While grabbing the input frame for a video clip may seem to be the best idea, in our testing we noticed that many clips at the beginning of a film began with a series of black frames. This is obviously no good for thumbnail generation. What we decided was to determine the frame precisely between but the start and end frames for any given video clip and render that frame to be used as the video thumbnail as illustrated below.
Frame Calculator
Here is a functional overview video of the Gallery Arrangement Tool used in the University of Denver CourseMedia™ Course Media Management System:

6:38 AM Permalink
March 11, 2010

DU Residence Hall Energy Consumption Project

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
Hear Ben talk about the project at about 1:14:

2:13 PM Permalink
January 25, 2010

Education and New Media Collaborative Conference Application

The University of Denver Center for Teaching and Learning is holding a conference this Friday the 29th on “Education and New Media“. We are going to be streaming two keynotes by Michael Wesch live via Flash Media Server and invite you all to attend the discussion through a special app built for the conference that incorporates the live FMS stream, conference Twitter feed, and Google Analytics.
Remote participants can log in and post to the feed via the app – built entirely in Flash:
The idea behind this app is that conference participants (and those from afar who have interest in the keynotes) will be able to participate in a collaborative conversation through the Twitter feed while watching the keynote all through a single interface.
To accomplish this, I’ve employed Sandro Ducceschi’s very cool Tweetr AS3 Library for interfacing with the Twitter API. This is employed for both pulling all tweets marked with “#CTL2010” and allowing users to authenticate into Twitter and post directly from the app. The feed is refreshed every 60 seconds.
On the video side of things, we have employed the university’s Flash Media Servers and are tracking stats via Google Analytics Event Tracking API (which I have previously presented about for FITC). This results in a really nice (and functional!) showcase piece for using new media through the integration of a variety of systems and services.
To tie it all together, we’re using the open source Flex 4 framework and have made heavy use of the new Spark component set. The open source Text Layout Framework is used to render tweets along with my TwitterString class to interpret links, hashtags, and usernames.
I invite everyone to please spread the word about the conference stream. We’d like to have as many people participate in the discussion as possible!
Information about the conference follows:

The University of Denver is hosting an Education and New Media conference on Friday, January 29, 2010. We are very excited to have Michael Wesch as our keynote speaker. You are invited to join us for his keynote sessions via a live video stream. Virtual participants will have the ability to ask questions and share their comments via Twitter.
Michael’s morning keynote begins at approximately 8:30 and is titled, “How can we create students who can create meaningfully connections?” The afternoon keynote will begin around 12:15 pm and is titled, “Making connections: Experiments in Learning with New Media.”
Visit the conference webpage for more information and please feel free to share this invitation with your colleagues.
Information about how to the access the video stream will be posted here soon.

Please spread the word!

4:29 PM Permalink
November 19, 2009

Using Flash to create ambient artwork

I have recently been working on creating an ambient art work called ‘Tracier’, which is currently on display in the Kube Gallery in Poole, Dorset. The live, interactive piece is built using Flash and takes a live video feed from a web cam. This feed is heavily processed inside Flash so that just ‘ghostly’ movement is displayed on a projected screen. Using motion tracking, Flash then takes ‘tracings’ of the image along with sampled colours, these are eroded and displayed resulting in kinetic visuals. The piece was created as part of my research and was intended to add visual interest to any public space, not necessarily a gallery.

8:25 AM Permalink
September 20, 2009

Open House Night Video- Made With Adobe Visual Communicator

This year we wanted to do something a bit different for our 10 minute “speech” to the parents attending the annual Open House Night at our school. So using Adobe Visual Communicator, we decided to create a “video tour” of the units we teach in Technology Education at Amherst Middle School.


Sure we could have pre-recorded these segments, and had the benefit of starting over if we flubbed our lines, but hey what fun would that be? We decided to perform LIVE so parents could see Visual Communicator in all it’s simplicity.  Simply put, there is NO other comparable software out there that has greenscreen capability, live output, a built in teleprompter, and so many templates and wizards making video production a snap!  All made possible with software costing less than $150 edu retail.

Suffice to say, this will now be an annual event for us as it went over extrememly well and was highly effective showing what we teach in our classrooms.  We had a lot of positive feedback from administration and parents, and the video was featured on SchoolTube for all to view as well.

Production Note– nearly all of what you see was created exclusively with Visual Communicator, except for the classroom footage which we used our handy Flip Video cameras for, worked great!

5:40 PM Permalink