Students, no sign up needed to use SmashFact


Getting the SmashFact app is easy for students–just download it from any app store.

One of the best things about the SmashFact app is that it is designed for mobile devices. Students can play SmashFact activities on-the-go with the app installed on their phone or tablet. There is no signing up necessary, just tell them to head to one of the app stores listed below:

For Apple users, visit the App Store to download SmashFact for iPhone or SmashFact HD for iPad.

For Android users, visit the Google Play Store to download SmashFact for phone or SmashFact HD for tablet.

Android users can also visit the Amazon App Store to download SmashFact for phone or SmashFact HD for tablet.

If a student prefers to play SmashFact on their desktop, or if you are interested in purchasing the SmashFact app for your classroom computers, visit our Britt Carr Interactive Learning Shop to download SmashFact Student Version for Desktop.

Photo credit: PhotoAtelier under CC BY-2.0

Teaching Naked: NPR Interview

Students build a band by dragging and dropping artists to the stage.

Last night I was answering a request for best practices in interactive teaching and learning from Adobe, I stumbled on an NPR interview where one of my games became the focus! Hear the interview.

Teaching Naked focuses on moving teaching technology out of the classroom to spend quality face-face time where it counts, essentially inverting the traditional approach to teaching. Dr. Jose Bowen, argues that you can use technology in effective ways to first introduce students to material before they reach the classroom. So when students do get into class they can spend the time debating, discussing and exploring. Dr. Bowen discusses why he provides his lectures as podcasts and uses Flash based games to engage his students.

In the interview,  the host of the program plays Jazz Bandstand, one of the games I designed for his Jazz History students when he taught the large attendance class at Miami University. In the game, the students build a jazz band to match the requested jazz style. It’s a whimsical but effective way of moving students from simply memorizing who played what, to analyzing differences in individual playing styles.

The activity kicked off a large series of successful activities and learning games I designed for the Fine Arts faculty and teaching staff at Miami. See more in the Game Category.

Nokia Phone Trials

So, I signed up to try out some of the newer Nokia Phones. I currently have, and heavily use my iPhone. Regardless, I’m excited to be a part of the program. Since I develop learning activities mostly in Adobe Flash, and since Steve Jobs’ announcement that Flash apps for iPhone will not be sold on iTunes, I figured It’s time to give Nokia a shot.

Some first impressions:

  • I love the way it slides open to reveal the full keyboard. It feels nice in my hands and is easier for me to type with two thumbs.
  • touchscreen requires pressure – bad
  • force feedback when you type – good
  • I figured I’d like the the feel of the keys, and I do. But I think they are still to small- and I have skinny fingers too!
  • easy to setup
  • no first character cap when typing in text box
  • hit areas are a little too small on interface

Can’t wait to play with the voice recognition and compass features.

I’ll be doing some tests on this this week and over the weekend. Stay tuned.

“Working Smarter…” Presentation at Adobe MAX in L.A.!

After much anticipation, my colleague Craig Taylor and I delivered a session entitled “RIA in Education: Working Smarter Not Harder”.

Official Description:
See examples and hear strategies on maximizing the use of rich Internet applications (RIAs) in education while still providing the user with a personal experience. Learn how Miami University architects RIAs for education using Flash Catalyst, Flash Builder, and Adobe AIR. This session features an overview of models of development and looks under the hood at a few higher education applications built in Flash Catalyst and Flex Builder (the precursor to Flash Builder) and delivered with AIR.

The session had 58 attendees and we scored well in the session evaluations!

View the streamed session here .

Describe That Tune!


The game's level 1 screen.

“Describe That Tune” combines the fun of a timed “Name that Tune” style game with the cognitive twist of musical style analysis.

Students must guide the “notes” of a song to the appropriate staff that describes the the texture or tone of a given song. The quicker the answer, the higher the students score.

The game features six levels, timed sessions which challenge the students to stretch their music comprehension and expand their analysis skills every time they play.

This Flash-based game was easily re-purposed from the previous games “Jazz By Ear” and “Phun with Phonetics” by swapping out the interaction’s mp3s, and making a few minor tweaks to the Actionscript.

Test your music analysis skills here!

Integrity Quickstart

iQ screen cap

“Integrity Quickstart” is a reformatted, more dynamic version of the Miami University Academic Integrity training. The scenario-based tutorials are designed to inform students on issues of academic integrity and the benefits of building character by making the right choices now.

Each scenario introduces the student to a new topic with a animated Flash video, a set of links to resources for the student and a self test designed to assess the students understanding of the topic.

The individual assets were created with Flash and embedded in presentation template using

See the Integrity Quickstart!

Theatre Etiquette: In Development


I was asked to pull together a quick training module designed to remind students that their conduct in a theatre performance should be different than how they would act at a movie, or a concert or a sporting event.

The original plan was to develop a training in the paperworks style like we produced for the eScholar training. The outcome will be slightly different.

The students are introduced to a bad behavior (which is designed to get more annoying as the scene progresses). At some point the user will be asked to eliminate the cause of the behavior or ignore it.

Adam Baumgartner (Digital Media) wanted to try a new animation process by scanning the storyboard frames, touch them up using Photoshop, and animate them using Adobe Premiere. The resulting video file (an FLV) will be streamed into a Flash file that allows users to interact with the scene and eliminate or ignore the bad behavior. Ignoring the annoyance only plays the movie (and bad behavior) in an infinite loop.

See the first pass here.

Virtual Audience Using Adobe AIR

A pre-recorded audience listens AND responds to your performance

A pre-recorded audience listens AND responds to your performance


The Virtual Audience allows the user to practice in a virtual reality performing in front of a living, breathing  virtual audience.

11/12/12 update- If you are interested in the V.A. download, please see this post.

The initial faculty request was to create a DVD with loopable video that would allow a music student to practice in front of an audience that did the distracting things that audiences do, cough, sneeze, whisper, etc.  In theory this would allow the student to be desensitized to audience distractions. We satisfied the faculty’s initial request by making a DVD. But, I asked to go a step further,  and make a more interactive version by using Flash’s ability to sense user’s movement and sound using a web camera’s lens (as the audience’s eyes) and mic (as their ears).

When Flash senses movement from the camera, it tells the audience when the student has “taken the stage” and Flash prompts the audience to act accordingly: welcome clap.  We shot fourteen segments of distractions. Audience members coughing, sleeping, answering cell calls, etc. During the performance, random clips of video load that represent audience behavior. Or, distractions. When Flash hears that the music has stopped for a few seconds, it tells the audience to clap in response to a performance ending. And, like a real audience, you don’t know how they will react. Sometimes the performer receives a polite clap, sometimes a more enthusiastic applause, sometimes a full standing ovation.

We are using Adobe AIR as the deployment method for a few of reasons:

  • Though streaming the video from Flash Media Server is an option, for quality and processing consistency, this needs to be a desktop application
  • we wanted to avoid creating two different versions
  • Air has a seamless update framework. This allows us to easily push updates to the user without them have to do much more than allow the update to occur

We actually tested the VA in various settings (from HUGE screens, to life size projectors to video goggles). It had a chilling (but good) effect when I “took the stage”.

During the development, we realized that the VA could be used by other areas of the university that “perform” in front of an audience. Namely speech communication and theater. Both programs require students to think on their toes and concentrate on performing a piece that they may be very familiar with performing in a quiet setting, with no distractions.

Future versions will be available using Flash Media Server and will feature video shot in HD format. The HD format will provide finer quality video when the audiences is projected on to large format screens or viewed on larger monitors.

See a 5 minute demo of the Virtual Audience

Miami Academic Integrity Training

Miami University's eScholar Training

Last summer I was asked to develop a more interactive version of an existing tutorial. The Miami Academic Integrity Training project is a training that will be shown to all first and second year students. It is was designed to promote academic integrity, while at the same time, introducing students to writing and research resources they have at their disposal.

Although the training introduces sound practices for writing and research, the content itself was dry and static. The client asked me to create a more interactive, fun and intriguing tutorial. The client mentioned that the first two passes didn’t go over well with student focus groups.

To combat the static nature of the content, and reduce the time it took to get through the training, I decided to go with an interactive ‘paperworks’ style training video I’d seen on YouTube recently (thank you for the inspiration). The animated video provides information and is occasionally paused by a Flash based activity requiring the student to interact. At the end of each section is a multiple choice test (this one isn’t boring) embedded in the video. Flash is awesome!

We’ve had a few changes along the way. We know we’ll have to make more changes. But, we’ve come up with a first pass that seems like it might work well.  But let me know what you think. For best player results, install the latest Adobe Flash Player.

See the Academic Integrity Video

Audio Mixer Simulator


Soundboard Simulator

Jay Rozema, the faculty member from the Theatre department (see the Stage Lighting activity) approached me about creating a soundboard simulator that would help his students visualize the tracking of audio inside the workings of a soundboard. Like the Stage Lighting activity, he required that it be a simulator, rather than an activity. And, he also asked if I could deliver scenarios to help the student further their mastery. It works like this.

As the students enter the activity, they select a scenario, which delivers a story: “You’re running sound for X band this evening; they have drums, guitar, bass, keyboards and vocals. It’s a small bar so you won’t need to mic the drums or bass. In addition, the vocalist has asked for a set of on-stage monitors so he can hear his performance.”  Students are to set up the soundboard the way the scenario asks. When finished, they save the scenario and load another. When all scenarios are complete the student submits his/her work to the faculty who can review each scenario’s settings and leave feedback for the students to revise and resubmit.

This activity was created using Adobe Flash (with heavy AS3 classes). An XML back end defines the scenarios, so they can easily be changed or added to without needing to recompile the original flash FLA file. All of the components of the soundboard are coded as individual AS3 Class files so they may be used in conjunction with other soundboard related activities that may come in the future.

See the public version of the Interactive Soundboard activity.