Teaching Examples

Learning Flash
March 6, 2007, 2:16 pm
Filed under: education, Flash, journalism, online, teaching, training

An awful lot of people have asked me, “How long does it take to learn Flash?” It’s a fair question — I mean, I understand why they want to know — but it’s almost impossible to answer.

I think there are highly motivated people who are already fluent in a complex program, such as Photoshop or Final Cut Pro, who could learn it pretty adequately in a marathon three-day weekend. But that would be exceptional.

There are probably some well-meaning people who could never learn it. That would be exceptional too — not very likely.

Flash presentation

I have been teaching Flash to journalism students (and others) since 2003. In that time I guess I’ve taught about 100 college students. Only one failed to learn Flash at the rudimentary level. About half a dozen took to Flash like birds to the air. Everyone else? Somewhere in between.

Years ago when I learned to play Go (an Asian board game said to be harder than Western chess), my first teacher had two Zen-like statements he liked to repeat when students felt frustrated. The first was:

“Go is a hard game.”

That doesn’t mean you can’t learn it. But it’s not a quick or simple process. Hard things take time. Hard things offer great rewards. Learning a hard thing is more mind-expanding than learning an easy thing.

The other thing my Go teacher said often:

“Go is a long game.”

This is kind of amusing, because people can and do play “speed Go” and complete a game in as little as 10 minutes (it makes your heart pound!). But an artful game, a graceful game — a game for the books, in a sense (there are many books containing the great games of Go, dating back centuries) — that takes many hours. Even days. There’s a novel about such a game, The Master of Go.

It took me about three years to learn Flash well enough to write about it. But I was starting in 2001, and not only was Flash different then (version 5, whereas now we are on version 8) — the Web was different too. And most of the books about Flash were — and still are — atrociously bad for beginners. They make all kinds of assumptions about your prior knowledge, or your reasons for learning, that often do not fit journalists and journalism students at all.

In the end, it was not my teacher’s fault that I did not become a Go master. The reason lies partly in a lack of study and partly in a lack of talent, I think — and maybe also in a lack of will. I was not determined to become great at Go. I played for fun. I didn’t spend hours studying it, as some of my friends did. I didn’t play out the same tesuji again and again to teach my hand to remember so that my brain could forget.

In the East they say it takes your whole lifetime to learn Go. Yet there have been 8-year-old children who are so great at Go, they can beat everyone except a handful of middle-aged masters of the game. So how can it take a lifetime, if a child can be so brilliant at it? Both things are true.

How long does it take to learn Flash?

More than a weekend. Less than a lifetime. You’ll see.

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5 Comments so far
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tnxs mindy, now i’m hooked on learning go! damn you!

Comment by koci

Well, you already know Flash — so what’s the problem, Richard?

Comment by Mindy McAdams

Do you have reading recommendations for a Flash beginner? A Go beginner?

Comment by Patrick T. Lafferty

Flash: If you’re a journalist, my book was written for you.

Go: Learn to Play Go, Vol. I.

Comment by Mindy McAdams

The journalism class where I learned Flash used your book! I still have it … Thanks for that.

Even though I’ve been using it for over two years, I still wouldn’t say I’ve learned all of it. How could anyone? There are infinite possibilities of what you could do with that program. I’d say I’ve learned enough to have a working knowledge of Flash’s multimedia capabilities.

Comment by Angela Grant

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