Should we use Flash in education?

Last week I took part in an e-learning stuff podcast on the future of which we discussed in light of the fact that the Apple iPhone and Ipad doesn’t do flash, should we stop using it when creating educational content.

So should we stop using Flash when creating content – or do we keep using it, knowing that some people will have devices that won’t be able to access the content?

When I worked at a University; for the ‘e-learning courses’ – (the ones that were delivered entirely online) when a learner inquired and before they enrolled they were given a minimum specification in terms of what they would need on their computers in order to be able to do the course – and this idea I liked – it then made it easy to create content and check it against this specification, and then be safe in the knowledge that everything will work as desired.

So this could be one solution – to state what types of resources will be used, and what specifications are required to use them – then people can make a choice.

Another option would be for an organisation to stop using Flash, so that the iPad users out there, can use their devices, but how far do we go with this. I use Microsoft extensively in my teaching resources – so some of these resources become unusable on certain devices. However when I produce such resources, I do try where possible to create them in a way that they will work in older version of office and in open office. This isn’t always possible as sometimes there is a functionality in the newer versions which prevents this, in which case I have to make a judgment as to what to do, which is similar to accessibility judgments where you way up the benefits for the masses, against the disadvantages to the minority – can you make an adjustment for the minority, and then decide which technique or tool to use, and I think that this approach is valid for the use of Flash, and I follow these steps when making a decision.

  1. What is the learning outcome that I am trying to achieve?
  2. Which learners will be using the resource, and when and how?
  3. Which technologies could be used?
  4. Which one will give me the best desired output?
  5. Which one will give me the best compromise of desired output and increased accessibility?
  6. Which one will be easiest to update in the future by myself or someone else?
  7. I will then weigh up the answers to the above questions to try to make an informed decision.

The problem with this model is that it relies on me having not just a good knowledge of the different options available, but also access to lots of different tools to create them. In many organisations they will have a small number of tools to create content, and the staff will learn how to use 1 or 2, and then proceed with them only.

At some point in the future when HTML 5 is mainstream then these issues may go away, but there is such a vast array of existing materials out there, it will take time for this to happen and time for the existing resources to get converted and updated.

Very,very simple sports movement analysis

Yesterday I was presenting at an event organised for people that will be running the level Diploma in Sport and Active Leisure, and I had been asked to provide some ideas as to how to teach some of the units – including the science based ones. I used to teach biomechanics so for me the science based ones are very easy, but for many they are not.

Having presented a few ideas to the group, I then decided to try and ‘wow’ them with a live demonstration. I wanted to show the group how easy it is to do basic movement analysis, which is normally achieved by using very expensive technology (which is very good) but takes a bit of time to learn, and is often so expensive that you have 1 or 2 computers in the class with it on, making it hard for the learners to practice.

From a teaching and learning perspective, I want something that all the learners can do, very quickly without having to learn lots of skills up front, and this was the basis of this demonstration. I gave my compact camera to one of the group, and asked them to film me carrying out a movement. This they did, I then plugged the camera into my laptop and copied the video file accross.

I then showed in the space of about 5 minutes how I could take still images from that video file by using quicktime which allows me to move the film forwards or backwards 1 frame at a time by using my cursor keys, and then using copy and paste to take these images into a PowerPoint presentation. I then drew an arrow on the position of my arm on each image, before copying each arrow onto a single slide. The end result being a line diagram showing how my arm had moved during the motion.

A screencast showing the technique is here

Normally when I do demonstrations at events, it is the complicated uses of technologies that has the wow factor, but in this case it was the utter simplicity of it that had the wow factor. 1 attendee in particular loved this idea as he had struggled to use the more complicated systems for movement analysis, and the idea of just copying and pasting – was well within his comfort zone.

This technique was something that I used about 10 years ago in my teaching because I didn’t have access to the more sophisticated software, so it is interesting for me to revisit this now, but shows how it is possible to use the technologies that we have to create results.