Intel Education: Showing Evidence

Visit Site Showing Evidence, the Flash ActionScript 2.0 project I developed with Inquirium, is now public. Awesome! Huzzah!

From the Intel site:

Argumentation is essential to human thinking and discourse. People construct and evaluate arguments everyday in school, work, and informal settings to resolve issues as simple as what brand of soda to buy to as complex as whether stem cell research should be legalized. The ability to evaluate and construct arguments is particularly important in today’s society where individuals are constantly confronted with new information. […] The Showing Evidence Tool provides a scaffold to support students as they create a claim and then support or refute it with appropriate evidence. When an argument is complicated, the components of the tool help students think through justifying a claim.

On the technical side of things, we started design of Showing Evidence in November 2003, just after Flash MX 2004 came out. After some initial testing with creating a nice wrapper for MovieClips and a visual object hierarchy, we built a pretty cool object-oriented application shell consisting of about three dozen classes, fairly easily extendable and maintanable. The things I think are coolest are the asynchronous XML loading classes (I learned quite a bit of using static methods as callback functions in AS 2.0). The part that is the hairest, though, is just the event management. I didn’t have a good system in place from the very beginning that fully accounted for Flash’s event-passing and masking foibles, so we ended up building another event management system around it. The next iteration, though, should be kick-ass.

Right now we’re testing the maintainability aspect of the codebase by hacking in right-to-left language support, which Flash does not support at all. The “two event management systems” thing will rear its ugly head though in the next week.

Anyway, I’m feeling pretty happy at the release of this project, and am looking forward to doing more development. It was cool working with Inquirium, and it feels good to release a tool that will be used in education to teach real critical thinking skills. So so awesome! Now I just need to find some people locally to celebrate with, and hope that bug reports don’t start pouring in too rapidly. We only have 3 or 4 reported “bugs” after we went into QA, and most of those were actually feature requests. Not to say that my code was bullet-proof from the very start…Inquirium’s QA caught them :-)

Work Reference:

Dave was invaluable in our work with Intel. We needed someone who could architect a Flash-based educational tool to be deployed world-wide. The two most significant challenges for the tool were developing a robust client-server communications protocol and designing a simple interface to a complex visualization of information. Dave was able to bring his formidable mix of talents to bear on both challenges, providing us with a solid modular development approach and graphic design insight for our interface. Intel couldn’t have been happier with the product. Not only did his code pass muster, he was showing Intel engineers new ways of working with Flash. Intel said they’d never seen such bug-free code. I wouldn’t hesitate to hire Dave for any job. Ben Loh, Ph.D. Principal, Inquirium LLC