DevLearn 2016: Day 1 Recap


Keynote: Penn Jillette – The Magic of Storytelling and Learning

Penn opens by explaining that he is actually a professional liar for a living. When we’re creating a narrative, we’re lying. We choose what feels interesting to us, and as soon as we leave things behind, we too become liars. Show-business is full of lies, so he began his career as a juggler – to stay honest; if the balls dropped, he did something wrong, and if the balls stayed in the air, he did something right.

Coming from a manufacturing town, his parents surprisingly supported him by purchasing an experimental science kit when he told them he was interested in ESP. I’d say that’s supportive…his parents even humoured him by being participants of this testing. I can only say that my parents would be less supportive and more concerned had I come to them with the same revelation.

In stumbling upon a book about magic in the local library, he found an explanation on how to ‘do a trick’, and the trick being what had initially sold him on researching ESP…which he believed was scientific truth, and which he now realized was in fact a trick…or a lie. He then realized that adults and scientists lied to people, and that “scientists were all bullshit and performers were all bullshit”. This realization began his rebellion against science and started to tank his academic achievement in all science courses. He was embarrassed that he had been scammed and wasted his parents time…so he became a juggler.

Teller intervened, explaining that lying was alright in the context of performing magic. All of the talk of immoral and illegal. I think Penn would enjoy a good game of Firefly. He explains that magic is a real look at how information is distorted.

If you want to see a Penn and Teller to see Penn get hurt, he has some words for you: “Fuck you, and go home!” – I think that’s a good way to put it when the trick you’re performing is the bullet catch, a trick that has killed 6 magicians.

Penn believes that one of the most important parts of storytelling, is to make the person get the idea themselves. We’ve heard this as it relates to teaching, tricking students into learning without realizing that they’re engaging in the act of ‘learning’. There’s nothing more powerful than a person telling a story. He ends all of his Broadway shows with a story about how he got his start, so he chose to end his keynote with that monologue…and some fire-eating.

Session 1: Michael Raines – Take Storyline to the Next Level with jQuery, JavaScript, and JSON

Michael Raines of ICF is planning to show us some really neat things we can do to leverage the powers of jQuery, JavaScript, and JSON to blow our existing Storyline competencies out of the water. At least that’s the hope!

The methods he’s going to show us are based on real solutions for real problems that he and/or his team encountered. Although, he does caution attendees not to use these elements in their Storyline courses, unless absolutely necessary. Don’t overcomplicate things if you can avoid it!

With the strictly Storyline solution, he was looking at 80 scenarios with 4 slide per scenario, so 325 slides total. Additionally, because Storyline’s triggers are not setup for advanced logic, he decided to come up with another solution using JavaScript, jQuery, and JSON which allowed him to minimize complication (depending on who you ask, this may not be the least complicated approach, but Michael seems to know what he’s talking about when it comes to coding languages, so he can run with this!).

I do think he showed an interesting solution to his 325 slide problem, but I don’t know if I’ll ever run into a practical use for this method, although I do appreciate the time and effort it must have taken to figure this solution out!

To be honest, I spent most of this session straining to see what Michael was explaining onscreen. He’s obviously an expert at this topic, understanding what he had to do to achieve the desired effect. Because of this, I think he’s suffering from a bit of “the knowledge curse”, which is something Instructional Designers often experience when communicating with a Subject Matter Expert. There are a lot of blank stares in the room. It’s also a complicated topic, so I’m sure he anticipated some confusion.

Update: Some kind soul stepped in to fix the visual problem (now we can see!).

Session 1.5: BYOL: Sarah Dewar – BYOL: DIY Whiteboard Animation

I wasn’t getting what I needed from Session 2, so I wandered around and found a fellow Canadian. Sarah was showing everyone how to create cool videoscribe animations, and just like she did in Toronto this past year, she seemed to amaze the pants off everyone with her presentation!

Session 2: Ron Price – BYOL: Creative New Ways to Expand How You Use Storyline

Ron always puts on a good session, so I’m excited to see how he sparks my creativity within this one.

Here’s what he says we’re going to learn in the session:

  • Features in Storyline that we may not be using fully yet
  • How to build and use custom markers
  • How to design unique animations
  • How to create unique triggers with motion

We’ll see how many we get through, but he acknowledged that an hour isn’t a lot of time, so let’s get to it!

In talking about custom markers, he restrains himself from singing “I like big buttons…” – I’m disappointed in this session already..J/K. He always gets asked “why can’t I resize markers?”, and to that, he tells everyone to thank Articulate, because they don’t want us to make ourselves look bad.

  • Marker Hack #1 – Use the Marker Border (weight) to increase the weight of the marker border, which will in turn increase the size of a marker.
  • Marker Hack #2 – If adjusting border size, duplicate a modified marker, if using multiple on one slide, to ensure consistency amongst markers.
  • Marker Hack #3 – Using no fill, no border to create an invisible marker in the normal state (and then removing the marker effects) – I talk about this one in Mastering Articulate Storyline, because it’s a great opportunity to create the illusion of a labelled graphic, without using layers. This allows you to also create an ‘iframe’ style effect, or to ‘gamify’ interactions to have learners locate easter eggs or to display hints.

Next up, adding animation to a state to add sex appeal to your course. I’m not sure I feel that strongly about animating object states, but this is a helpful tip to make your object states a bit more slick looking.

  • The example he provides is using an oval with a number in it, and then he adds a Hover state, where he draws another oval over the existing one, with no fill and a thicker outline; then, he adds a wheel animation. Now, when you hover, you get a really neat effect that makes your learners think ‘wow, they put some more time into building that’. He then goes on to add some additional labelling within that Hover state, which has grouped components and another animation.
  • He suggests you can use this approach to create an interactive menu for your learning objectives.

Now, it’s time to talk about the need for grouping and animations. The example he shows uses Storyline’s standard swivel. The swivel effect defaults to several flips, but if we only want the swivel to make one flip, we need to do a few things.

  • Create the shape you want to animate.
  • Create a transparent rectangle over the shape you created.
  • Select both items and group them.
  • Animate the group to swivel.
  • Enter the group, and move the original shape down the timeline, so the original shape only appears after the majority of swivels have occurred.

The effect is a coin flip-style effect. And the crowd goes wild. It’s really interesting to see how impactful such simple tips are, and the ones that are most impactful usually just require us to think outside of the box in terms of how things work. Most people don’t think about animations in this manner, so they don’t experiment and stumble upon these types of effects.

Next, Ron’s talking about determining the length of a motion path. To do this, create your object and motion path. To do this, you use the positioning of the original object (right-click select Size and Position), and then select the motion path and move the height down until the object is in the desired position. Then, take note of the position, and use that pixel length when creating additional motion path animations. This is an effect that would come in handy for doing things like creating a pac-man style game.


  1. Jeff Kortenbosch says

    Nice Recap! Especially like Ron’s story… Would be interested to see what he did with that last coin flip animation as I don’t completely get that one. Video?

  2. Esther Ramirios-Mathews says

    I missed most of the opening session due to a travel set back 🙁
    Thanks for recapping. Loved the tips and tricks.

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