Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Reflections on the RunRevLive.14 Conference

I recently attended and presented at the RunRevLive.14 conference in San Diego, CA. As a result, I have come to two simple conclusions:
  1. People at RunRev and the LiveCode community at large consist of very, very smart people who are also very helpful, supportive, and kind.
  2. I know about 1% of LiveCode.
Even though I do feel now as if I know very little of what LiveCode can do, the fact that I am still able to do so much shows its power and potential. Consequently, the conference has greatly reinforced my decision to commit to learning LiveCode.

I was able to attend the conference because my proposal to make a presentation at the conference was accepted. This came with a complimentary conference registration, otherwise, I never could have afforded the $1599 registration fee. The title of my presentation was "From Concept to Prototype to the App Store" and it featured the story of my design of my iOS app "Lunar Hotel Shuttle." I've written about this app in previous posts, but in short, the app teaches about Newton’s Laws of Motion in a futuristic, imaginary context. The storyline is that NASA has built a hotel on the moon that is so large that elevators are not possible or practical. Instead, hotel guests are shuttled to their hotel floor by a small shuttle that the player has to learn how to fly.

I explained in my presentation that the main purpose of developing this app was not to create a great game that would make any money, but rather to test the appropriateness and functionality of LiveCode for action games on mobile devices, especially a game where the "feel" is very important. This was important to me in order to know whether LiveCode would be an appropriate tool for projects like this and to understand where LiveCode's limits were to be found for games requiring high responsiveness. I also wanted to test out a wide range of functionality within LiveCode.

I also contrasted LiveCode as a development tool for instructional design with Adobe Captivate and Articulate Storyline, probably the two most popular eLearning development tools currently on the market. I used a taxonomy of learner interactions from the military to based my comparison of LiveCode with these other tools:

Levels of Interactivity in eLearning

Level 1 - Passive
Watching a video, self-running slide show, or animation

Level 2 - Limited Participation
Simple interactions (e.g. M/C) with no branching

Level 3 - Complex Participation
Simple and complex interactions (e.g. drag and drop) that conditionally branch the lesson

Level 4 - Real-Time Participation
Games and simulations

Adapted from “Department of Defense Handbook: Development of Interactive Multimedia Instruction,” 1999, Report No. MIL-HDBK-29612-3

I like to refer to Level 4 as "creative interactions." Here were my simple conclusions based on this comparison:
  • LiveCode is an important, but not exclusive, tool in the instructional design & development toolbox.
  • LiveCode is excellent for creating Level 4 (Creative) Interactions.
  • LiveCode is strong for mobile native app development for eLearning, but weak for Web-based eLearning.
  • The option to export to HTML5 should make LiveCode a game changer for eLearning development.
Yes, you read right - RunRev is currently working on providing the option to export LiveCode applications to HTML5. I believe LiveCode will become a very serious contender in the eLearning design world when this export option becomes available. (Apparently, LiveCode will be converted into JavaScript for easy integration into existing HTML5 applications, therefore no plug-ins or Java will be required for it to run.)

My audience was small, but very engaged. I thank all who came to my session. A special thank you to Bernie Dodge, Professor of Learning Design and Technology at San Diego State University, for coming to my session. LiveCode is one of the tools Bernie is recommending to students in his gaming and simulation course this semester. Bernie and I also had some very good conversations at the conference about design and reflections on the recent history (past 30 years or so) of the instructional technology field.

On the plane ride to and from San Diego, I read a good deal from Paul Graham's book Hackers and painters: Big ideas from the computer age, published by O'Reilly Media, Inc. One quote from the book captures well the enthusiasm and commitment of the LiveCode community:
“Ordinary technology changes fast. But programming languages are different: programming languages are not just technology, but what programmers think in. They’re half technology and half religion.” p. 179
I am already looking forward to my next RunRevLive conference.