A Demo of ‘Extended’ Labs

In this post I am going to show a video of what can be done with the addition of media to labs (and that media includes parallel interfaces), but before that an overview of how these features are being put into place.


To begin, text files with .ijt extensions are recognized as lab files. The have a two part structure with the first part up to the single right parenthesis being the ‘lecture’, followed by text executed as if it were part of the operating environment. The results of this evaluation and the instructions are shown to the learner with one exception – the text preceded and followed by the PREPARE keyword is executed but neither they nor the results they produce are shown. This allows side effects such as having files loaded and run to adjust the environment and showcase specific concepts to be taught.


In the case of the example lab, ‘J conference 2014 – Toronto’, the PREPARE section launches the frame1 display which shows the jhs environment and an interactive display of shape and type side by side. frame1 is patterned on the demo9 example in the studio menu of the JHS environment, creating an html file with frames to display the different components.  The result is  two interactive frames side by side, with the jijx window displaying the ‘lecture’ for this particular lesson, in this case hints of phrases to enter.


The second lesson launches frame2 but in that case a video replaces the shape and type demo. This video is the Ratio Arithmetic promo video that I produced and originates from my account in youtube. At this point only external videos may be run by the Safari browser. By using video animations and explanations of more complicated concepts combine to make for easier learning . At least that is the potential use, whether the combination of video, text and interaction works to make things clearer is down to the skills of the creator.


BlogLab3The final lesson returns back to the interactive jhs environment.

This will probably be as far as I will take this experiment with the lab framework, as Eric Iverson has suggested that it may be better to use the sp framework which has more capability for the new forms of interaction. The key thing I believe is to retain the structure of the lab files so that they are backward compatible and more importantly to potentially create a tool to allow easier creation of the augmented labs and at the same time enforcing lab structure with consistent results across platforms.

J labs on steroids

I really like how the interactive labs in J allow for a mix of instruction and learner experimentation, and I want to further enrich the medium by linking video clips to the lab steps.

To accomplish this, each lab with video would first present a message box asking whether to include the display of videos. If video is included, the programmed part of the lab would launch subsequent videos using a web browser. This video content would be reusable, since the text of the lab could develop context for specific situations (important as the creation of video content is labour intensive).

So, how to leverage the use the video content? The entertainer in me wants to make it very engaging; the educator has no objections if it does not impede learning; the anthropologist knows how sensitive cultures are to how they are represented (and the J community is no exception). It seems to me that making learning material more attractive generates the potential of a larger audience, with more people using the language. The work is there to be done. First play with the labs to find out how that structure can be bent into something more attractive while remaining informative; later, to engage with the community regarding appropriate instructional styles.