Archive for January, 2010

Diary of a Wimpy Kid Movie!

January 30th, 2010

I’ve been so excited about the Lightning Thief movie (which there’s another cool trailer out), but no one told me about:

The Diary of a Wimpy Kid MOVIE!
I don’t care what you say about the book; I think the whole series is hilarious. One afternoon I couldn’t figure out what to watch on DVD or Hulu. I had just picked up Dog Days and read that instead. I laughed the entire afternoon it took to read the book from cover to cover.

Here’s the official website and here’s the trailer:

Diary Of A Wimpy Kid
April 2, why aren’t you here yet? It’s tough to cast a movie based on black and white line art, but I think they’ve done a good job with the essence of the characters (at least from what I can tell of the trailer).

Hunger Games 3 has a release date

January 30th, 2010

The third book in The Hunger Games trilogy is scheduled to come out August 24th, 2010!

Woo and hoo


January 28th, 2010

ToonDoo had been blocked by our district’s Internet filter for a long time. It’s now open for use, so I thought I’d highlight it.

ToonDoo gives you a selection of comic layouts that you can add text and pictures to. It’s a perfect set-up for a quick classroom lesson in the computer lab. I can see its application as a jigsaw activity, where students become experts on one area of the content and other students view their comics. It could work as a final assessment where students have to prove that they learned something in the unit.

You won’t make complex comics with ToonDoo (Kazu Kibuishi, you don’t have anything to fear), but you can create some pretty decent ones. Here’s one that I made in five minutes:
Your jokes don’t have to be so bad. That’s optional.

Isometric Game Engine

January 26th, 2010

Isometric perspective is a way to use 2D images to create a 3D environment. Flash normally operates in 2D images; Chris Lindsey created a game engine in Flash to represent a 3D environment. The engine does require ActionScript 3, though, so it won’t run properly in ActionScript 2.

A game engine is not a game in itself- it is the power behind the game. Programmers will design an engine to run their video game and then license that engine to other game developers. Here’s a list of some of the current game engines out there.

Things to look at in this game engine:

  1. There are no movie clips on the stage to begin with. The code places the movie clips onto the stage when you test the movie/make the .SWF file.
  2. All of the code is in just one frame. You don’t have to search all over for it – this is really appreciated.
  3. There’s a giant array of numbers.
    This is your map. If it says ‘200’, that’s a wall piece that gets placed. If it says ‘100’, that’s a floor piece.

Save a copy of the .FLA file so you have the original and then one to work with. Try editing the ‘hero’ movie clip. Draw your artwork on a new layer inside the movie clip. You can then delete the original box image layer. To help you out, you can turn the box layer into an outline by clicking on the colored box on the layer (in this picture it’s yellow).

Once you get used to how the artwork is set up, try expanding the map by adding a new line of 100s and 200s in the ActionScript.

Click on the game to play it. Use the arrow keys to move your character around.

The .FLA file with all of the code can be found by clicking here.

Republic of Bacon

January 25th, 2010

In the Future Professionals club, we’ve looked at using Flash for animations. We’ll examine ActionScript code to make Flash games.

But something we don’t normally focus on is using Flash for website design. It makes for some fun interface, but be warned: not every device supports Flash.

Check out the new site The Republic of Bacon for a great example of a site designed in Flash (and for a Bacon Rice Krispies Treat recipe).

Will the written word die?

January 24th, 2010

I was asked this question (actually, a more tame version…I don’t think the person asking used the word ‘die’) and the short answer is, “No.”

I’ve been asked this question a couple of times. It first came up when AIM and ICQ chat clients were starting to become popular (does anyone still use ICQ anymore?) and people started abbreviating common words and/or could care less about spelling errors. Even then there was a distinction between everyday language use and a lexicon for the workplace.

But as companies are moving towards incorporating more social media into their marketing (do I need to be a friend of Rubio’s Baja Grill on Facebook? How much breaking news can they have?) we’re going to see some lines between the workplace and the socialspace blur (and I’m the first to admit that I fight that blur). This is part of why I have a work e-mail and a school e-mail. I sound much stuffier (more stuffy…what’s the grammar rule for that?) when I’m sending an e-mail to the staff about AIMS testing.

Why am I stuffier? I need it to be cut and dry, simple to understand. I need to write with clarity. Our students’ scores may rest on a teacher having the proper instructions so tests don’t become invalidated. I don’t want any room for interpretation.

As businesses use technology more and more, the written word doesn’t disappear – but it does take on new forms. I love that traditional newspapers have been scrambling to keep up with Twitter on breaking news stories. 140 characters can sometimes scoop paragraphs worth of info that will never get read.

I do make a distinction between paper use and the written word. I think that the Kindle and nook are signs of that. We’ll see what the iSlate/iPad/Macbook Touch has to say.

This past week students took their creative short stories and used GarageBand to turn them into an audio book complete with sound effects and a musical score. I tell the students (and the teachers creating the assignment) that if they want a quality product at the end the students need to write a rough draft of their recording first. Until we become experts at improv as a society, rough drafts will continue to be made to help ideas flow from one to the next.

Instead of typing a final copy of their story, they mixed down the audio files and dropped them into a shared folder on the school network. Students then donned their headphones and wrote reviews of the different audio books. It was a very enjoyable day in the library. Students had instant feedback, something that they appreciate. It was a project with a purpose. The clearer their ideas, the better the feedback. As the reviewing circle expands into students who they don’t know, the need for clarity increases. Inside jokes are now just random blurtings. This translates into the business world as project teams start to involve more and more collaboration, especially as international business increases.

A colleague of mine who teaches in another district is having trouble with the fact that her curriculum involved a lot of writing but not that much reading. Students must be able to ask, “Why are we writing this?” Is the teacher the only audience? The teacher will only be there for a year. High school (usually) is only four years. What about the rest of our lives? If no one’s reading your work, why write it? (Of course there is an enjoyment for some in the very act of writing, but the question of relevance does need to be asked when creating writing assignments.)

Looking Glass Wars 3: Arch Enemy by Frank Beddor

January 21st, 2010

Frank Beddor was the first author that I hosted in my library, so the Looking Glass Wars has a bit of nostalgia for me. When I read Beddor’s books, I can hear his voice coming through (and when the narrative gets excited, I remember when he jumped on a desk and yelled to the kids).

Arch Enemy has the same fun from the other books. Hatter Madigan shows up (I’d be angry if he didn’t) complete with his Millinery arsenal. As in Seeing Redd, we witness more of the Hatter’s family life. This book definitely has an emphasis on developing the character of Homburg Molly. She’s the one to show up in England and interact with the Liddells and Charles Dodgson.

We get to see more of Dodgson’s day-to-day life. What makes it LGW, though, is when the assassin with razor blade fingerprints shows up to harass the Liddells.

You definitely need to read the first two books in order to understand Arch Enemy. It had been a couple of years since I did, so it took me some time to recall the plotline of the others. Beddor does a good job of re-describing characters but does not spend much time re-telling history.

If you’re a fan of the caterpillar oracle council, you get to see the whole rainbow discussing the fate of Wonderland. Part of the intrigue is trying to figure out the caterpillars’ motivation. Pay attention to them, though, because their part grows throughout the book.

For me the ending seemed kind of rushed. I was reading, thinking, “There’s ten pages left…how is this going to resolve?” I pictured Alyss and Dodge as in their teens but then some artwork inside the book makes Dodge look more Han Solo-ish. Also, there’s a marriage proposal brewing that came out of nowhere. Sure, it adds to the relationship with Alyss and Dodge, but it seemed kindof tacked on to me. I’d be interested to hear other people’s thoughts.

This is an enjoyable book and fans of the series won’t be disappointed. It says that it’s the conclusion of the trilogy, but Beddor left the world wide open for more exploration. Expect more Hatter comics and online games.

Creating a Motion Guide in Flash

January 20th, 2010

Symbols in Flash can use a motion guide to designate a more specific route, with the precision of the pencil tool, for the animation to follow (so you don’t have to make so many adjustments frame-by-frame).

Let’s add a motion guide to our UFO from last week. Click here if you weren’t here last week.

Your project will look something like this when you’re done:

After your last frame of the UFO, let’s have the UFO fly off.

  1. Click on the UFO in the last frame of the timeline. (If the last frame is part of a motion tween already, add a new keyframe right after it).
  2. Next to the Create a New Layer button there’s a box with a dotted line next to it. Click on that icon.
  3. Click on the new layer. Make sure it’s the same frame in the timeline as the end of your UFO.
  4. Insert a new keyframe in the Guide layer.
  5. On that keyframe, draw your new path with the pencil tool.
  6. Move your UFO symbol to snap to the beginning of the path you just created.
  7. Decide how long you want the UFO animation to be. Create a keyframe on the UFO layer a couple of frames down the timeline (more frames means the UFO goes slower on the path).
  8. Create a keyframe on the Guide layer the same number of frames down the timeline that you made the UFO.
  9. On the last keyframe, move your UFO to the end of the path, snapping the UFO to the line.
  10. Highlight the UFO frames from the start of its motion to the last keyframe. CTRL+Click (right click) on the highlighted frames. Create a Motion Tween.
  11. Test your movie.

Creating a fading movie object in Flash CS3

January 13th, 2010

Today’s Future Professionals meeting is going to involve a cow being abducted by a UFO.

  1. Create a Flash ActionScript 3 file.
  2. Created a movie clip of a UFO.
  3. Create a new layer and put a movie clip of a teleporting ray on that new layer.
  4. Drag the ray layer underneath the UFO layer to make the ray underneath the UFO.
  5. Insert a keyframe on frame 10 of the two layers.
  6. Click on frame 1 of the ray layer.
  7. Click on the ray movie clip.
  8. In the movie clip properties window, where it says ‘Color: None’, change it to ‘Alpha’.
  9. Drag the Alpha down to 0%.
  10. Select all of the frames on the ray layer.
  11. CTRL-click/right-click on the highlighted frames in the timeline. Choose ‘Create Motion Tween’.
  12. Now it’s up to you to add a new layer, the cow layer, and do a motion tween to have it disappear inside the ship.

Three things to look at today about chess

January 11th, 2010
  1. How to get a stalemate
  2. How to castle
  3. Endgame strategy

In addition:
With stalemate, we can talk about the 50 move rule and the three-fold repetition to go for a draw.

50 moves:
If in 50 consecutive moves you have not been able to capture a piece, you can call a draw. (Another reason why notation is important)

Three-fold repetition:
If the same position occurs 3 times (not necessarily on consecutive moves) with the same player to move, either player may point this out and claim a draw. If neither player claims the draw, play continues (either player may still lose on time).

You can also call a draw when you don’t have enough material for checkmate:

  1. King against king
  2. King and bishop against king
  3. King and knight against king
  4. King and bishop against king and bishop when the bishops are on the same color squares.