Monday, May 17, 2010

Creating With Computers (Part VI) - The Student Reading Recorder Example

The fundamental design concept behind all of the Web 2.0 tools such as Twitter and Facebook are very similar to my simple Student Reading Recorder application. What you see on your computer screen when you are looking at Twitter or Facebook is the same thing that every single person on the planet sees, at least in respect to the layout of the elements on the screen. What is different is the content that fills in those little elements of space on your screen. The way Facebook and Twitter determines what to put in those little boxes within the layout is based on information that you generated and they store in their database. In Twitter for example, every person with an account that has selected me as someone to follow has an entry in the Twitter database that identifies my account as one that they want to follow. When I add a new tweet, that action initiates a query through the twitter database looking for all accounts that have marked my account as one that they are following. When the query locates my unique account information in somebody else's list of people they are following, it pulls my last tweet out of the database and puts it into the list of tweets of the for that individual. At least that's how I imagine it. I don't work for Twitter or Facebook, but my hunch is probably pretty close. My little reading application works the same way.

My database consists of four tables. The first table holds information about the teacher. The second table holds information about the students. The third table in the database holds information about the assessments and the last table holds information about the individual student assessment results.

The first screen of the student application pulls information from the database out of three of the tables. The start button initiates a call to the database that queries the database to retrieve the unique identification number for the specific teacher that the students types in to the "class" field. This identification number is then used to generate a drop down list of every student that has that teacher's unique identification number saved into their student record. When the student selects their name from the drop down list, a second call to the database is initiated and uses the student's unique identification number to retrieve the students current reading assessment activity. In addition, it uses the student's unique identification number to retrieve their avatar icon for the upper right of the screen. The avatar icons are titled with the student's unique identification number.

The remaining icons on the screen consists of two buttons. The red circle button begins a recording session. This recording session works with Apple's Quicktime technology and requires that the QuickTime player is installed on the student's workstation. The sound recording is actually saved to the local "recordings" folder on the student workstation. (This works in the same fashion for both the Macintosh platform and the MS Windows platform. The Linux platform does not have an Apple QuickTime player so it records audio a little different. I will describe the Linux version in a separate post.)

In order to provide the teacher with the ability to evaluate the student's reading recording from any networked computer, the green triangle button, which is used by the student to navigate between the screens, also uploads a copy of the student recording to the remote server via an FTP process.

A copy of this application is linked at the bottom of this post. One important fact, this tool has not been designed for commercial release. This is an in house tool designed for a specific goal and in a specific environment. The environment that this application is running is very robust and latency issues at home over a DSL speed connection are not experienced in the classroom.

The remaining student screens provide students with additional focus on thinking about their reading using the recording that they created in screen one. This second screen prompts the student to listen to their recording and count the number of words that they read. They can strike the space bar on the keyboard to help them count the number of words that they read aloud during the recording.

The third screen simply has them rank how well they felt they read the paragraph and allows them to drag a marker on a line to identify their rating.

The fourth screen allows the student to listen to the recording again and identify one word that they thought was particularly difficult to read aloud.

The fifth screen provides a ranking which is actually just a number that increments by five each time they do an recording activity. The screen is particularly vague as I am interested in how the students that use this tool would describe what this number represents. Obviously the more times they do an activity the more obvious it will be that the number increases.

Remember, even thought this application is functional, it primarily serves as an example of what can be done with these types of rapid application development tools. Revolution is a great tool development tool and seeing how they provide a free version and educational pricing on more complete versions there is only a small investment in time to get started.

Download Examples
Examples of the Macintosh and Windows Student Applications Available Here

In part VII I will share the teacher management components of this example application and show off some of the other features of Revolution that helps make developing tools with this product much easier than traditional programming languages.

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