Otter Progress – Development is almost there…

28 08 2008

Just a quick update since it has been 2 weeks since the last post. I have mentioned previously that once semester starts it gets pretty crazy. Well, in the 2 weeks I have been teaching and marking, but also getting some development done. And I am happy to say I have had some major things happen.

Firstly, I have about 70 participants for my final data collection in a month. It will involve students using my application to see how it helps them with Object Oriented Program Design, and I just had to get them to fill out Consent Forms so that everything is above board with the Ethics department. Hopefully this gets me the last data I need!

The other major thing has been in the development side of things. Here are some screen shots of the current version. It has come a loooong way since the last postings. Not only does it look better, but it is very functional… almost the point of unleashing it. So final development can hopefully be sorted over the weekend and then into the hands of some testers. How exciting!

… Matt


Wow… these bricks do give a little…

12 08 2008

My last post had a nice image of a brick wall. I just typed into Google image search “Otter puts head through brick wall”. I actually got lots of results, just none with an otter with its head through a brick wall (no… I wasn’t expecting to get that picture). So I typed “head through brick wall” and this image was about the 3rd result. I laughed, so here it is.


Silliness out of the way, I managed to solve a couple of problems in my development that really had me stuck and a little despondant. The main one was one of those times when you are saying to yourself “I am sure I have tried it this way, but let’s give it another go”. Anyway, some stars aligned, my office filled with an orange mist with gold sparkles (as our resident goat would say), and it worked. Phew.

So I have one more main thing to solve and then I think it is tidy up (touch wood). Fingers crossed that at the end of this week I am pretty close to having the main functionality all working. Hopefully…

… Matt

Otter Development Screenshots

22 07 2008

Sorry to bump you from the top post Lucie… just popping some development screenshots up so I can trace the progress of the actual application as I develop it!

Here we have some screenshots of rough but functional steps through my student activity.

… Matt

The Otter’s Week – Publications and more Development

20 07 2008

Funny… teaching semester as started and I feel I had more time this week to work on the research. This week was two things:

First, I am getting two papers together for the ASCILITE conference. These aren’t about my PhD, rather based on the work of two of my honours students. They did some good work so it is important to get it out there!

The main work though has been more development. I have had a great run with the Flex 3 / Air development this week… I have my XML docs working pretty sweet, as well as getting round the actual logic and flow of my app. But Friday I was bashing my head against the desk… a strange problem I just couldn’t solve! So I left it, frustrated.

Anyway, it was a lazy Sunday so I thought why not do a bit more. And, as I expected (well, hoped!) I solved my problem in 15 minutes. Woo hoo! So I went on to spend more time consolidating my code and understanding so I can get more into the actual PhD app. Overall, a great day.

The other thing I have started doing is keeping my work process diary. I ask all my 3rd year students to keep both a blog and a workbook of their work. Well, a case of practicing as I preach, cause I now have both. This blog lets me share my successes and frustrations, while the process diary is letting me keep notes about my development that will fit into my actual thesis. The notes aren’t extensive, but enough to make writing my thesis hopefully a lot easier.

So there you go… not a bad week!

… Matt

What does this picture have to do with anything?

I did an image search for “good week” and this is what I got!

Development fun

7 07 2008

I have been quiet of late and that has been mainly because of the time of year (lots of marking etc), but it is also because I have been trying to keep my head in my development with Flex. So how is it going? Alright actually!

Given Flex 3 is quite new it is a little difficult to find great resources to help. Not many books out yet, but there is lots out there on the interweb. The difficulty is in finding something that is approaching it from your perspectives. There is lots of ways to skin a cat to use an awful euphemism, and it seems with Flex different approaches don’t mix and match too well. For example, although there are lots of different ways to use XML, you have to choose one way and be consistent. That is a fair ask I think, but finding examples to help becomes a little tricky.

Anyway, lots of success…

  • I have my head around Flex 3 scripting language
  • I am getting there with Action Script 3
  • I have database access working fine and loading my app with data (using PHP and MySQL)
  • Drag and drop is working a treat
  • I am writing to XML for another form of persistent data
  • Tabbed layout working well too
  • And so I have both Flex and Air apps working no worries

The little thing still hassling me is that I still have inconsistencies in working with the XML so reading some files is giving me grief. But I am sure I can crack that nut. One I do then I need to get down to creating the actual app. I have started some design work, and am finding it is translating from my original teaching methodology pretty well.

So there you have it… my Flex experience in a nutshell so far. Well, enough typing… more coding!

… Matt

This shows the Flex Dev environment… this one is just me testing

the dragging and dropping of content between XML documents


9 06 2008

Finally, I am getting to some development for my PhD! This is not to say that is dislike the writing and data analysis… quite the opposite actually… but doing development appeals to the inherent programmer in me.

I don’t have to do any really major development. I am turning my proposed strategy for dealing with the identified programming issues from a paper-based teaching approach, to a teaching approach supported by a web-based app. The app version will help me integrate some additional support into the teaching process such as improved scaffolding.

The development also isn’t too major as:

  • I have already developed and preliminarily tested the underlying teaching approach
  • The breadth of the application is limited to my case
  • The use of the technology should be straight forward

I have done some mucking around with development over the last few years, but this is where I develop the actual thing. After a bit of deliberation about what technology to use, I am running with Adobe Flex. I knew I wanted a Rich Internet App, but had some options. Flex seems appealing for a few reasons:

  • It will most certainly enable what I need
  • It still uses PHP for the database part
  • I need to get familiar with Action Script 3
  • I have expert support here at work if I need it
  • I can run it as an AIR app (it can run offline as well as connected online)

So my last few days has just been poking around with Flex to see how it works. I think I have my head around conceptually how it all fits together… now to get stuck in! My next couple of weeks are going to be taken mostly with marking and exams, but I will be trying to sneak in a little here and there. More posts soon!

… Matt