Putting Murder Under the Microscope
The NSW Department of Education and Training (DET NSW) Centre for Learning Innovation (CLI) produces high quality learning resources and provides leadership in the use of technology in education and training. It aims to build teacher capability through professional development services and by providing useful tools for teaching and learning.
Its team of developers used Adobe Flex to update its Murder under the Microscope online environmental game, created for school students in years 5 to 8, typically children aged 9 to 14 years. During the game, teams of students research and analyse evidence to solve a fictitious eco-crime. The project culminates with the students submitting a plan to protect the environment.
Murder Under the Microscope is one of CLI's flagship projects and is extremely well received by the schools that run it. It has over one thousand school teams registered with hit rates peaking at up to 80 000 on one day.
According to Dheeraj Chowdhury, Assistant Director, Learning Applications and Multimedia at CLI, Adobe Flex was chosen due to its solid and flexible framework.
"Using this framework and component-based development means shorter development times from concept to a product or service that is market-ready. Another key benefit that attracted us to Adobe Flex was the skinning ability of the applications that it produces. The power to quickly and elegantly change the whole look-and-feel of a site in a hassle-free way is a major benefit of Adobe Flex."
Stanley Yip, Flex Team Leader, says the Learning Applications and Multimedia team at CLI found Adobe Flex a natural progression for their skill and knowledge base, founded on Flash and ActionScript 2.0, through to ActionScript 3.0 and Flex.
"Initially the team was only using static Illustrator templates for skinning of websites, but since introduction of Adobe Flex we are now employing the full capacity of skinning, using all the design products in Adobe Creative Suite," says Yip.
In the Murder Under the Microscope 2009 (MuM09) project, CLI extensively used the Flex skinning tools in Adobe Flash to develop animated rollovers on buttons, and to embed Flash into the MXML code for the graphic elements throughout the site.
"This added a far more dynamic feel to the final product, and allowed us to start moving away from the traditional "Flex look". Using Adobe Flex skinning allowed us to develop both the programming code and the visual design concurrently," says CLI educational programmer and Flex developer Edward Birchall.
Without Adobe Flex, "we'd be a team of unhappy developers," laughs Birchall. Already the CLI team has developed plans to make use of other Adobe products.
"We have recently begun experimenting with Flash Catalyst and Flash Builder. We are excited by and are following the industry build-up of these two software applications quite closely. They appear very promising for the future.
"The beta version of Catalyst is looking especially good, with some great possibilities coming out of our initial research and development. It will be great to see a more refined version soon to build upon what appears to be an upcoming "must have" from Adobe," says Dheeraj Chowdhury.
Free education resources from Adobe
Did you know that Adobe Flex Builder and ColdFusion are available free to educational customers?
This includes all students, faculty and staff of eligible education institutions. Adobe ColdFusion 8 for Education is available for free to educational customers for learning purposes only and not for production purposes.
To receive the product, you must upload a valid proof of eligibility to get the serial numbers to activate the product. Valid proofs of eligibility are:
1. a student ID showing current enrolment,
2. a Faculty ID showing current employment,
3. an employee ID showing current employment, or
4. a letter on an educational institution letterhead stating that you are either a current student, a current faculty member or a current employee of the institution.
For further information and instructions to access the free software, visit https://freeriatools.adobe.com/
There are plenty of other Adobe free education resources, from training to development, across Adobe Flex and Cold Fusion.
Here's a list to get you started:
Adobe Learning Resources wiki (various products) http://learn.adobe.com
Video training: Learn Flex in a Week http://www.adobe.com/devnet/flex/videotraining/
Free Book: Getting Started with Flex 3 http://www.adobe.com/devnet/flex/
Attest: A practice exam engine for the Adobe Flex 3 certification http://software.pxldesigns.com/attest/index.php
ColdFusion 8: Introduction and Advanced Development (free curriculum) http://www.adobe.com/education/
There is also a mass amount of articles, quickstart tutorials, samples and videos on -
Adobe Developer Connection http://developer.adobe.com
Adobe Design Center http://www.adobe.com/designcenter/
Adobe TV http://tv.adobe.com