Improptu Widget


The Impromptu Widget allows Intro to Speech students the chance to practice giving an unprepared speech.

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.


On the Road with ‘Lolita’


Created as an out-of-class companion to in-class discussion, On The Road with ‘Lolita’ takes students on a virtual field trip through some of the places visited in the famous Nabokov novel.

The activity is based in Google Earth to examine the lead character’s geographic journey. Accompanying each destination are photos and videos of the locations, as well as the site’s entry in the novel, analysis of the author’s reasoning, and opportunities for students to explore their own thoughts about why each location was chosen by the author and discussed in the book.

Sustainable Yield: Fishing Game

Sustainable Yield

This application, originally created by Dr. James Oris, lets students be the captain of a fishing boat and experience the choices that need to be made to prevent over-fishing.

Students submit an effort each ‘fishing season’ and watch the collective population data change as other teams submit their own efforts. Students can choose to refrain, or fish as much as they desire.

“Free Market” teams of students compete against each other to see who can catch the most in the 20 years. Ultimately, greed causes free market teams to lose as a result of diminished populations. Likewise, consortium teams are rewarded for their patience. Students can use the chat and wallet functions to purchase other fleets and gain their fishing power, or communicate a strategy to sustain the population’s growth for the next season.

The application was upgraded to allow real-time data and communication to be passed to the students using Flex and Flash Media Server.

Scientific Calculator Tutorial Video


This interactive video was designed to step students through complex procedures in calculating statistics using the functions of a Scientific calculator.  Side-by-side video allows the students to see the functions used along with the screen outcomes. Narration accompanies the video to explain the intricate details of the process.

See the Scientific Calculator Demonstrations

World History Time Lines


The World History Time Line series allows students to interactively explore important dates relevant to this history course. Pop-ups show maps of political boundaries as well as photos of art and other cultural artifacts found from the era.

The time lines made use of a reusable architecture which minimized production of these eight customized learning objects.

The project inspired the creation of a tool designed to allow faculty and students to create and save their own interactive digital time lines which include a variety of media (coming summer 2007).

Currently these activities are only available to students at Miami Unversity.