Jul 17, 2009

Busting my Brain with Flash

As a web developer learning Flash has been on my radar for quite some time.  Now as an e-Learning training developer knowing Flash will allow me to do better quality training interactions with learners.  So I'm off and up and learning.  I thought I would share some of my thoughts about my progress towards learning Flash.

First, I started with a good online resource that shows instructional videos and allows the learner to work through sample files.  I'm using Lynda.com which has turned out to be a great way to learn most of the Adobe products.  The instructor shows the very basics but also some of the shortcuts and best practices for using the tool itself.  This has been a great way to get started.

One thing I realized from the Lynda.com videos is that programming in Flash is really broken up into two parts: Flash animation and ActionScript.  So far ActionScript seems very familar since I am used to object based programming languages and scripting languages like JavaScript.  I feel very comfortable with that and I think that once I know the Flash object model (or have access to a reference) I'll be good to go.

Flash animation is the big brain buster for me.  I'm familiar with editing images, photos, and interactive web sites.  However, dealing with animations is proving to be the key concept I'm going to have to learn to master Flash.  So I'm learning tweens, shapes and key frames but it's not all gelling yet.  The first project I wanted to do in Flash has proven that I'll need more than just Lynda.com to master the animation portion.

I'm at the level now where I can do an interactive Flash animation using simple shapes, symbols, buttons, and action script.  However I'm not yet at the point where I can do a complex animation.  For example, a scene where you see someone using a computer from behind the person's back and then zoom in to show the monitor full screen.  I'm still working on that one.

Next, I'm going to order a few books from Amazon.com to try to push myself to the next level.  I'll also need to start doing some small projects in Flash because this seems to be one of those things that requires a lot of practice.  Any thoughts from those of you who have been down this road before?

Jul 8, 2009

Joining the Revolution in November

I've finally decided to commit my dollars to the mobile revolution. About two years ago I decided not to get an iPhone and save the extra $30-$50 a month in increased phone bills that would have resulted. My contract with my current mobile phone provider ends in November and now I'm having trouble waiting to upgrade to the iPhone.

When I renewed my contract with my current provider I was hoping they would come out with a competitive product but it never materialized. Oh, a new Blackberry device...meh. And my current provider seems to be more concerned with restricting services and monetizing them than in actually providing me a great product and service...meh. Now when they lose me as a customer they'll probably blame it on the economy. It's not the economy, its the result of focusing on their market share instead of on the needs of their customers. I understand the business logic here but it can back fire if you don't offer customers what they want. Ok...enough of my frustration with big wireless companies. Thank goodness for companies like Apple and Google that really seem to have their fingers on the pulse of the mobile revolution.

So, back to the iPhone. I may be overexcited about the iPhone. After all, I've only seen them and played with them a few times. But I'm a big Google user and to be able to get GMail, Calendar, Docs, Maps, and Reader while I'm on the move would be awesome. The ability to access Facebook and LinkedIn is great also. There are more benefits I really like. I can take advantage of the speed of my local wireless network. And they have a great developer network and large number of free and cheap apps that are very useful or entertaining. Oh, and then there's my music collection.

Ok, so sure I can get the applications I mentioned on other phones but those other phones seem to be in a different league than the iPhone. They are not as easy to use and the providers of those phones often complicate things by charging differently for each service the iPhone has out of the box. I'm still amazed that my current provider would do things like disable Blue Tooth so that I am forced to use their e-mail service to get the photos off my phone...argh...ok I'm digressing again.

Jul 2, 2009

Where is Your E-Learning Environment Going?

I've learned over time that it is important for me to take time to view what I'm doing from different perspectives. Often we developers get caught up in the micro-perspective of what we do. After all, focusing on what happens after the user clicks a button is what I get paid to do. However, when we wear many hats (like both instructional design and development) we are better served to think about things holistically. I know it is important for me to check that my rudder is directed in the right position in this big pond of e-learning. So with that in mind, I've created a map of where I think the e-learning future is for my organization (a large public school system). I have drafted it in the diagram below.

Currently my organization is working on setting up a formal learning system that will manage instructor led training, web-based training, and virtual classroom training. This is the short term goal. The future is still murky for my organization. While informal and continuous learning do occur in my organization, I believe there is an e-learning solution that can enhance continuous learning. This can be done through just-in-time content and collaborative content like wikis and blogs bound through a social network. This is not just a technology solution. It will require a bit of a culture change and will require buy in from the trainers, SMEs, and other mentors who will be asked to lead the charge.

So there is a high level outlook of my best guess of the future of e-learning at my organization. Writing the event for clicking a button is in the small (but important) box I call "Online Self-Paced". What is your best guess for the future of your organization?