Learning Flash by Reading a Book

I’m starting to learn Flash now. This is something I want to do, and I’m looking forward to having the ability to do more interactivity in my courses than just what I can do with html or even with Captivate. Things are a little slow for my job right now, so it has seemed the perfect time to get started. Flash really does feel a bit overwhelming to me; there’s just so much information and so many tools. I’ve tried a little bit of picking apart existing files, but this really is so new to me that I don’t even know where to start.

Therefore, I’ve decided that I need some help, starting with one of those 1000+ page books you see for every application in the bookstores. I’m using is Macromedia Flash 8 Bible by Reinhardt and Snow. It’s not a bad book; it has very comprehensive information and I’m able to follow the writing fairly easily even though the terminology is unfamiliar. I finished the first chapter on drawing tools today and realized that I basically just read it without actually doing anything in the program. No practice, just reading, learning terminology and icons and purposes. I flipped back to the table of contents and realized something: I won’t reach “My First Flash Project” until chapter 20.

OK, that’s not going to work. I’m going to need to do at least a little application of the new skills as I go along or there’s no chance that I’ll remember them by the time I get to chapter 20. Maybe I’ll just skip to that chapter and then refer back to the earlier chapters as I run into issues. The thing is, I really do think the information in these early chapters is valuable. I just wish it was in the context of more activities or tutorials or something.

So I made my own practice activity. Back in my corporate trainer days, I always ignored the “official” lesson for teaching drawing objects in our books. Frankly, it was lame; just disjointed shapes in a boring presentation. Instead, I copied and adapted the idea from another trainer to have everyone draw a house. It was planned out so they practiced using the different shapes and lines, plus duplicating, grouping, and aligning. We always had much more fun doing that, and sometimes I was fortunate enough to have some terrific artists in the class who shared their art.

House drawn in Flash

Building on the same kind of image as my old PowerPoint exercise, here’s what I did in Flash today. For a first practice, I don’t think it’s too bad, especially since I’m just drawing with the mouse. Yeah, laugh at it if you want. I know it’s flat and simplistic and it looks like a 5-year-old did it, but it was fun. It gave me a purpose for using each of the tools, and I felt much more productive than simply reading.

It’s good to be in the role of learner for a while and remind myself how boring it is to just read content without applying it. Of course, that’s why I’m learning Flash–to give my students a better learning experience with more practice and interaction.

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