27 July 2009
This article presents seven videos from a series I made with O'Reilly Media based on my book, Essential ActionScript 3 (O'Reilly, 2007). These videos cover the ActionScript 3 language in exhaustive detail, including an introduction to object-oriented programming, object references and garbage collection, graphics programming, the display list, Flex debugging mode, and Flex profiling.
Here's the story behind this unusual video training series: As an educator who is constantly searching for the best way to teach ActionScript, I recently took a deep, honest look at how I personally learned to program. I didn't take computer science at a university; I took English literature and fine art. So naturally I spent much time reading articles, documentation, and books. I also practiced a lot, doing little tasks that I could handle and randomly experimenting with things I didn't quite understand. But that wasn't all there was to it. There was something more: I had mentors.
My early programming career was punctuated by critical discussions with skilled programmers who helped me wrap my head around important concepts. I clearly recall those key moments as turning points in becoming a programmer. A friend would show me the ropes, and through a barrage of questions and answers I'd finally understand the purpose of a class or object, or when to use a hash map, or how to store information in binary format.
As an author, I've always recognized the value of books as learning tools—as well as their limits. Books don't always capture that important mentor-dialog that often results in a "Eureka!" moment for the learner. So, I thought, why not to try capturing the mentor experience in a training video? I started talking to O'Reilly Media about producing the video, and they were amazingly supportive.
But there was a problem. Most training videos are shot in a studio or classroom, using a lecture format that's just as unidirectional as a book. Eureka moments don't happen in a studio or a classroom; they happen at your coworker's desk, on a road trip, or at the end of a party. If we were truly going to capture the experience of learning with a mentor, we had to capture not just its content but its spirit. So we made some phone calls, threw around a bunch of possiblities, and finally ended up renting a cabin in the woods around Inverness, California, to shoot The Lost ActionScript Weekend, a video series about friends learning to program, sharing ideas, asking questions, clearing muddy waters, and getting inspired.
The following lessons show two full hours from the complete program, which runs over 11 hours.
Get to know the world of ActionScript 3, the spirit of Adobe Flash, and your intrepid instructors.
Learn the fundamentals of object-oriented programming, including classes, objects, methods, and variables.
Learn to refer to a single object from multiple parts of a program, then study the principles of memory management in ActionScript. Remember, values are not socks!
Create visual content in ActionScript 3. There's also a guest appearance by Adobe engineer Jim Corbett, creator of the ActionScript display API.
Place visual content on the screen and then rearrange, remove, and manage it with code. Adobe engineer Jim Corbett, creator of the ActionScript display API, also makes an appearance.