Students in Miami’s “Public Expression and Critical Inquiry” course needed a way to rehearse the steps necessary for giving an unprepared speech. As an exercise in class, the students are given a choice between a quote, or a current event. They have three minutes to prepare an argument that supports their point of view. Then, they have to present that point of view for five minutes.
To help the students perfect this technique, I was asked to build a program that would pick a random topic from a list of either quotes or current events. We decided to up the ante and actually record the video/audio of the practices to let the student watch their own progress over time. The videos are private (not even faculty see the practice videos) and the student can make as many as they need to perfect their technique.
Students enter their credentials, then are prompted between using a quote or a random current event pulled from one of several approved RSS feeds. Once they choose, they are given the random topic and have three minutes to plan the speech. At the end of three minutes, student’s web cams or microphones record their impromptu speech for a total of five minutes or until they stop the recording.
We chose to build application in Flex and use Flash Media Server to actually record the speeches. Since the Impromptu Widget could be used at other times in the course and in other departments at Miami (Foreign Languages, Theatre, Video/Television Production), Flex and FMS seemed to be the appropriate environment.