Stencils as Annotations, Not Interfaces

  • Jun 08, 2012

Originally, when we created Stencils (the overlay through which we present tutorials - first in Storytelling Alice, then in Alice 2, 3, and Looking Glass), they were intended to serve the purpose of annotation, effectively. We introduced them as a tutorial interaction technique where you could both visually guide the user to what they needed to look at and prevent them from doing actions that weren't required by the tutorial that might throw the interface into a state the user couldn't easily recover from.


Fast forward a few years, and it seemed like the process of relating lines of code to the animations they caused in output could be done as an annotation. So, we wrote the original version of Hastings and later Dinah as Stencil overlays. Then, to allow people to search for target lines of code, we added UI components placed on the Stencil to support that.

Fast forward again and we're incorporating automatically generated tutorials at the end of the reuse process (exciting!). But as part of that, we're thinking about where else tutorial kinds of things might want to be integrated into the interface. There are several candidates that seem worth some support: if you can't drag and drop lines of code, you're not going to get very far. We really want to encourage users to share projects because they can serve as examples (and tutorial sources) for other users. And reuse is one of the mechanisms designed to facilitate learning, both the selection process and the process of completing a tutorial to reconstruct the selected code. Given the potential complexity of selecting a beginning and ending line for reuse, we want to be able to provide more support for this. So, we want to add a Stencil over top of the dinah reuse stencil? Problem.

Consequently, I'm currently switching over Dinah and Dinah for remixing to be perspectives in their own right. So, their interface elements get incorporated into the main interface. As a consequence, we'll be able to explore some of the designs that use Stencil overlays.


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