Test on Android Tablet


I was very worried that calling in Google Images and YouTube videos would be blocked on mobile devices for security reasons or whatever, but turns out there’s no such thing. I emailed my APK to Vern and she very helpfully installed it on her tablet. There is a slight resolution issue, which is weird because I though Android tablets were 800px wide, but it’s close enough for a test. Here are a couple screenshots taken directly from her tablet:

New Artistic Direction

I have been working on a new artistic direction that would give The Novus Textbook some real character. It may seem odd at first, but I want you to look at it for a while and imagine how cool it could be! I was thinking Bioshock, vintage, textured, experimental, and adventurous. Take a look:

Programming Complete

It’s been a long time since the last blog update, but there really hasn’t been much of note aside from standard progress and programming.

It’s not 100% complete scripting, but all major features have been implemented and are functional. Of the features I have created are:

  • Content boxes that call in videos from YouTube and images from Google Images based on a keyword
  • Structuring of pages through an external XML file
  • Changing chapters and pages from section to section based on the XML file
  • Questions sourced from the XML integrated into pages that give points and track progress
  • Achievements being earned and saved to local storage
  • Dropdown chapter information sourced from the XML
  • and of course functional navigation throughout the application

Only minor scripting remains and a couple features which should not be a problem:

  • Time trial quizzes that become available after completing a chapter and add to your progress
  • Local storage and online hosting of the XML file which updates if it doesn’t match

Although those features are important, they aren’t crucial to the functionality of the overall application. Now for the last difficult step, to update the graphics and aesthetic to give it some real personality and appeal. I don’t like the formality and boringness of the current look. I will be giving it a lot of character, what might seem uncharacteristic of a textbook, but what I think will make it more appealing to the user.

Halfpoint Development Update

Today is the end of the world.

Lol no. It’s the last class before the 2 week mid sem break and I should document my progress here. Currently I am still on schedule based on my Gantt chart. The content box that loads in photos and videos from Google Images and YouTube based on a keyword is complete. Loading the content and page format in from an external XML document is also complete. Progress is good.

We are now at v0.2. For v0.3 there are 2 key points. Gamification, including dynamic quizzes, challenges, and progress, and navigation of the pages and content needs to be refined and made functional. Those should be done by the end of January, leaving February for refinement and most importantly, visual improvements and animations.

MMDP Begins and Refinement of Visuals

As the first week of the new semester begins, a big focus has been put on finalising the visual design and layout of the interactive textbook. Although I think that minor changes will be made as the project development goes into full swing, I can at least bring the designs close to what they should be and to look half decent.

After presenting this in class, it became apparent that the content page was just not up to scratch. Overall, the other pages were basically okay, and could be tweaked as the functionality was implemented, but the actual content page looked horrendous. So here is a change in layout that seems more acceptable, and as with the other pages, can be slightly fixed as needs come and go.

Click this image to see the full view.

As you can see, I changed it from a 2 column layout to a single one as to make the text bigger and to keep clutter to a minimum. Dynamic loading of 3rd party content is also more specified. What was pointed out during the presentation was that if I want to have content loaded in dynamically, I need to have fixed positions of specific dimensions that can easily load in the element and have it fit seamlessly with the layout regardless of what it is.

These layouts are finalised for now, but again, I expect them to be somewhat improved as functionality and user testing comes into play.

Degree Essay

I have received my grade for my Degree Essay entitled, ‘Exploring interactive digital media’s ability to enhance the learning experience of secondary level students in Malaysia today’. My research and writings here closely relate to my final project and provide insight and basis into The Interactive Textbook. You can read the full writing by clicking here.

Statement of Intent


The main idea was to revolutionise high school classrooms; to exhibit a sort of ‘Classroom of Tomorrow’ but with technology available today. Secondary level education today, privatised or government, is severely lacking. I am proposing that a refocusing of the core components of education, with the integration of useful interactive digital media tools, can greatly enhance the learning experience and performance of students and teachers. 3 key elements of the high school environment are the textbook, the blackboard, and a communication system between students, teachers, and parents. Transforming these into dynamic, progressive, and easily utilised digital tools will help bring schools into the modern age.

As this scale is too large and unfocused, I decided to funnel my efforts into producing what I consider most important. That is, how can I create a dynamic, interactive textbook that cultivates cognitive development and self-teaching methods among high school students? The interactive textbook needs to be easy and fun to use with features that will interest generations born into the 21st century. Using theories and understandings such as fun theory, distributed cognition, and socially mediated cognitive development will help guide me in ensuring the textbook functions as intended and is actually a useful tool.

This project is embedded in education, teaching, and learning methods. The interactive textbook is a new kind of educational software, a powerful and versatile educational tool that will be easily adopted by students who have access to computing devices.

The interactive textbook will be an AIR application that runs on desktops, laptops, tablets, or mobile devices, connected to the Internet to access hosted XML documents that contain all the content for the textbook, but will function offline as well by occasionally saving the data locally. For the purposes of my final project, I will limit the content presented to the transformation of a single high school textbook, most likely a year 11 science textbook as it is a core subject in any education system and often is considered a boring topic. The content will be the same, but with the addition of tools and functions such as:

  • dynamic loading of content for easy updating
  • saving/highlighting of content to personalise learning experiences
  • integrated YouTube videos based on chapter topics
  • access to search engine features such as Google images
  • additional information via Wikipedia
  • fun theory based tasks with milestones to encourage learning
  • and social integration with Facebook and Twitter.

Target Audience
The application’s target is 2 fold. First, it is a useful learning tool for tech savvy high school students, aged 13-17. Second, it is a tool that teachers can use to improve their lessons. The target market would mostly be in urban areas, but any area or school equipped with computers and an internet connection can utilise the interactive textbook. Marketing wise, it would be promoted to school administrations, and perhaps even the Ministry of Education, to consider implementing it in schools nationwide.

Existing Skills & Knowledge
The construction of the interactive textbook will require a strong proficiency with Actionscript 3.0 and some knowledge of website construction that includes HTML, CSS, XML, and PHP scripting. These are areas that I specialise in and have significant experience working with, so I should not encounter any technical problems when it comes to these. As for the subject matter, I come from a family of educators and have a firm grasp on the purpose and problems of education. I will be able to consult with experienced teachers as my project develops, allowing me to solve some of the problems of an outdated education system.

New Skills & Knowledge
Elements that I am not experienced with is integration of 3rd party APIs. Linking the interactive textbook with YouTube, Google, Wikipedia, and Facebook is something I have to learn. Twitter, however, I have already experimented with and should not be a problem. Academics is also a new area for me. Because education is such a vast topic, there are innumerable theories, concepts, methods, and experiments that I have yet to study and discover.

Degree Essay Relation
“Exploring interactive digital media’s ability to enhance the learning experience of secondary level students today”. This is the research question that I am pursuing for my degree essay and it carries over to my final project. Although not as specific as my degree essay, the interactive textbook can share some of the academic findings and resources I discover during my research processes. It will be strongly supported by my degree essay but will still require substantial research on its own as the essay does not cover all topics.

Complete Poster

The 54321 Poster

Comments from classmates:
Trina Tay
‎- Yes, to improve the teaching education skill today, students get excited of study/learn stuff, self independent
- Maybe? A bit too much, doing 3 stuffs (textbook,blackboard,network).
As he mentioned he will focus one(textbook) in case of not enough time. For sure, if one he can done on time, he already understand using what software and program to do it.
- No

Cheryl Teh
1. Yes, Motivational, engaging, multimedia classroom
2. Yes if you choose only one of the ideas and make a really improved version. I prefer textbook/blackboard
3. Sorry forgot to ask: What level of examination that students recently failed? Malaysia education system or general education system?

Verny Wong
1. nice explanation and wide range of the presentation but I am not sure what he changes I can imagine but maybe thats the way?
2. it really seems a lot to work , if its more focused down to one is better?
3. I have seen newspaper that number of students passing in exam increases but you said more fails, so I think theres a need for research to support the idea.

Li Wei Lim
1.simulation of classroom for high school students? using digital platforms (digital textbook) instead of using the traditional media such as printed books. It would be boring if there are only texts.
2.yes? but there will be too many information/things/data to be collected

Bubu Yiin
‎1) Yes. It clearly explained
2) Yes. He did mention that if the duration not allow, he might focus on one.
3) Suggestion resource: A Theory of Learning for the mobile age
It talking about mobility learning.

Kar Yann Ha
‎1. Yes, self-learning education with modern technologies.
2. Not sure, has not decided properly which sections he proposed to focus on.
3. Is there any specific learning pattern to be applied for each subjects when learning in a technological environment?

Aiseu Lee
Good flow in using existing examples to relate back to own project. I can’t really imagine how the project is going to look like because there is too many sub projects he wants to cover. What is platform? What form?————If working on…See more

Wan Zhen Lum
1. Yes, it was clearly explained with sources and examples.
2. Yes, he showed that he was aware that he might not be able to do all and would only narrow it down to one are which would be doable, for the time frame and skills at hand now.
3. No.

Loo Yi Hou
they create this social media cube for children… hope its helpful~

Kevyn Leong
‎- Yes.
- Yes, viable depending on scale. May be possible.
- No.

Sour Ice-cream
‎1. Yes, the project is very well define. In addition, the poster is very well done.
2. Yes, because he has suggested 3 solutions and if there’s not enough time for the all, he would choose and focus on the 1st solution.
3. No.

Wee Nee
‎1.) It is clear and i’m able to understand the message that is delivered by the poster. The details are explained well.
2.) 3 big ideas, by the time given, as he mentioned probably only 1 idea could be done. If Zak is fast in progress it wouldn’t be a problem because he has the skills in doing all 3 ideas.

Dissertation Proposal

As encouraged, this project is progressing in tandem with my chosen topic for my dissertation this semester. Earlier today we submitted our proposal for our essay and I thought it would be a good idea to post my progress of that here too.

Proposed topic
Secondary education in Malaysian government schools is primitive and does not exploit technological advances over the past decade. This prevents teachers from focussing on higher order tasks and students from reaching their maximum potential by being prepared for the 21st century. I want to explore the possibilities of interactive digital media and its ability to enhance the learning experience of students today.

Scope of enquiry
Education has a never-ending list of problems and areas of exploration, so focus is key. I have decided to narrow my scope to Malaysian secondary level government school classrooms in urban areas and interactive digital media technologies that exist and can be implemented practically today such as Flash.

Proposed research question
Exploring interactive digital media’s ability to enhance the learning experience of secondary level students today.

Relevance of enquiry to personal practice
My ideal final project would be a classroom of the future, but with technology and methods that are available today. Going through the academic process of researching and writing a dissertation on the proposed question would provide me with invaluable information and experience. This will prepare me not only for my final project, but also for future endeavours as I venture further into my shifting career path. It will help put my ideas into practical perspectives and I will not be hindered by ignorance of the education industry.

Proposed enquiry outcomes
I plan for my enquiries to lead me to define the problems of secondary level government school classrooms in Malaysia. I also intend to discover theories and academic studies that will improve my understanding of education and the benefits and detriments interactive digital media may have on the teaching and learning experience for secondary level students compared to today’s methods.

Assessment of feasibility
Although challenging the well-established norms of education is a complicated task, it is an area in need of change. Narrowing my scope will allow me to focus on specifics and make it possible to come to solid conclusions. Over the past few years, there have been efforts made to reform standard education methods and this has led to the production of numerous academic sources and existing projects that can serve as sources and examples. In addition, pursuing this topic does not require anything extravagant or implausible, as in, contacting relevant parties such as teachers is possible, research sources are readily available, and it does not include any kind of exorbitant expense. One issue may arise due to the age group of secondary students. Being under 18, I may need to interact with minors, I may also need to interview teachers if sufficient information cannot be sourced, which will require me to get ethical permission from The University of Hertfordshire.

Primary research and enquiry will run from 5th June until 19th June. This includes reading research materials, interviews, analysis, and sourcing any further information available.

A skeleton based on research outcomes will be prepared by the 3rd of July. This skeleton will outline the content that I intend to discuss and explore within the essay and critique from this will help me focus on what is important.

The first draft will be prepared by the 24th of July. This will be a partially complete essay, incomplete, in terms of language and content. Critique from this draft will be used to enhance the essay.

The second draft will be presented on the 7th of August. At this point the essay is practically complete and can be submitted, however, it may still contain flaws and can be improved.

I will have a final check on the 21st of August to ensure everything is in order and my essay is as perfected as it can be.

Finished essay submission on Tuesday, 28th August 2012.

List of initial sources
Blasik, K., Williams, R. G., Johnson, J., & Boegli, D. R. (2003) ‘The Marriage of Rigorous Academics and Technical Instruction with State-of-the-Art Technology: A Success Story of the William T. McFatter Technical High School’. The High School Journal. 87(2). pp. 44-55.
[A success story of a new technical high school that prioritises smaller but more computer-oriented classes.]

Denner, J., Werner, L., Bean, S., & Campe, S. (2005) ‘The Girls Creating Games Program: Strategies for Engaging Middle-School Girls in Information Technology’. Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies. 26(1). pp. 90-98.
[Exploration of video game related activity as a gateway to higher technological competence amongst females.]

Dye, J. F. (2003) ‘From Values Based on Simplicity and Standardization Toward the Realities Found In Complexity and Contingency: A Particular View for High School During the 21st Century’. The High School Journal. 87(2). pp. 1-6.
[Exploring problems with the current concept of school and the benefits of reformation.]

Li, X., Atkins, M. S., & Stanton, B. (2006) ‘Effects of Home and School Computer Use on School Readiness and Cognitive Development Among Head Start Children: A Randomized Controlled Pilot Trial’. Merrill-Palmer Quarterly. 52(2). pp. 239-263.
[This study includes the effects of early computer use by children on their cognitive and psychomotor skills.]

Liu, C. C., Chou, C. C., Liu, B. J., & Yang, Y. W. (2006) ‘Improving Mathematics Teaching and Learning Experiences for Hard of Hearing Students With Wireless Technology-Enhanced Classrooms’. American Annals of the Deaf. 151(3). pp. 345-355.
[A paper on how wireless technology improves disabled children’s learning experience.]

Williams, T. (2009) ‘Multimedia Learning Gets Medieval’. Pedagogy. 9(1). pp. 77-95.
[How multimedia can improve the communication of classic literature to modern generations.]