Monday, November 14, 2011

Adobe Flash for Educators

Animate Your Lessons:
Using Adobe Flash for Teaching Purposes

I just completed a 7-hour online course at called Flash Professional CS5 Essential Training. This is a comprehensive course that covers Flash animation topics such as:

  • Drawing and manipulating basic shapes
  • Using the toolbar for controlling line, color, size, shape, and alignment of objects
  • Working with multiple layers of objects
  • Working with the timeline
  • Working with text
  • Creating "tweens" to animate an object from one state to another
  • Working with buttons
  • Incorporating audio
  • Incorporating video
  • Learning the basics of ActionScript, Adobe's native programming language
  • and more!

This is not the kind of training that one should take in all at once.This training is chunked into 24 chapters, and each chapter is further subdivided into mini-lessons that don't last more than 5 minutes or so. I viewed the videos over the course of about 3 weeks, practicing with my sample project as I went along. That is how I find I learn best - designing a project side by side with the videos I am watching. This way I really get some practical experience and internalize my learning.

If you are already familiar with other graphics programs such as Photoshop or Illustrator, you'll find that the Flash interface is very similar so you might breeze right through the training. If you are new to Adobe products (or graphics software in general) - be patient with yourself! This is very powerful software and therefore pretty complex for the new user. Take it in stride, practice what you can, and leave the rest for another day. Most importantly, just try to have fun with it!

I chose a kid-friendly science lesson that explains the various stages that a frog must go through from egg to adulthood. The target audience for this lesson is Grade 2. At the end of this lesson, students should be able to accomplish the following:
  • Given an unlabeled graphic of the stages of a frog's life cycle, students will be able to correctly identify and label each of the stages. (knowledge)
  • Given a specific stage of a frog's life cycle, students will be able to explain (in writing or verbally) three or more details about that stage. (comprehension)

The following are my first three flash projects!

The Splash Page: This is a single piece of artwork that contains no animation. Its sole purpose is to display the title and author, with some relevant graphics. Click here to see my Flash splash page.

The Mini-Lesson:This is a 1 1/2 minute animation that explains the five stages of the life cycle of a frog. Believe me, I went through a lot of trial and error to get this working. It took me about two entire weekends to work on this (and I was working at it morning, noon, and night!), most of that time spent still learning the Adobe Flash software features and its interface. I think my next project won't take nearly this long! I must note here: I'm not an artist, so I took a look at other graphics and animations of the frog life cycle that I found freely on the web. I was so impressed with Harcourt's version, I borrowed a lot of the ideas for my drawings and also borrowed much of the script from the audio (Geez, I hope they don't mind!) The purpose of my initial Flash project was purely to gain some experience with the software. My next project will be more original, I promise! Click here to see my Flash mini-lesson.

The Quiz: This is an interactive quiz with button interaction that is controlled by Adobe's proprietary programming language, ActionScript. I happen to have about 15 years of computer programming experience from my first career before I became a teacher, so I took to this like a fish takes to water. However, this subject matter could be a bit hefty for those who are new to programming. Go forth, tread lightly, and as I mentioned earlier, be patient with yourself! Click here to see my Flash quiz.

Upon completion of any online course, awards you with a completion certificate. This is nice to have for your résumé, online portfolio, or professional blog. Here's mine...

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