For the past six years, I have used Adobe Flash (and now Animate CC) as a vehicle for teaching programming to liberal arts students. Flash/Animate is the very best platform for introducing beginners to the world of object oriented programming. We start out by using the animation tools, and the implicit object metaphor helps students develop and understanding of objects, properties, and methods. From there, we typically move on to basic programming activities (e.g. creating a Hangman game or a trivia game) using ActionScript. By the end of the semester, the students are designing their own games.
Earlier this year, as part of an independent study, I worked with a group of students to research possible alternatives to Flash/Animate as a teaching tool. Nothing offers the same combination of an intuitive, visual toolset with an object-oriented programming language. Nevertheless, I am bailing on Adobe Animate CC for the following reasons:
- The Adobe Animate CC software seems to be one of the most buggy and crash-prone applications included in the entire Creative Cloud. You simply need to skim this forum to see that this is the case. There are users who cannot even open the application. Adobe technical support people occasionally post in the thread, but they never actually close the issues or post solutions. I understand that all applications have bugs, and these problems are more common when a new version is rolled out. Ordinarily, I would just grit my teeth and wait for the patches to roll out, but...
- Adobe provides little support to the educational market when it comes to supporting Animate CC. When I started teaching Flash/Actionscript, I was able to locate more than a dozen recent books that tackled various aspects of the platform. Books like Foundation Game Design for Flash, Learning Flash Actionscript, and Actionscript Game Design University were extremely helpful in the classroom, especially when combined with selective excerpts from various Lynda tutorials.
- So, what books do we have available for Adobe Animate CC? We have only one book for Adobe Animate:
- Learn Adobe Animate CC for Interactive Media. The book is well written, but it is hardly a comprehensive introduction to the platform. It uses six mini-projects to teach certain aspects of the platform, but there is no big picture explanation of how this fits together with AIR, HTML5, and the changing nature of the web. What's more, all of the ActionScript examples involve timeline scripting rather than external class files.
- What sorts of video resources are available for Adobe Animate CC? There is only one course.
- Learn Adobe Animate CC: The Basics. Developed by the same person who wrote the book mentioned above, this is a 2 hour tutorial that covers animation basics.
3. Adobe provides zero support to the educational market when it comes to supporting ActionScript. There are zero books which discuss what the emergence of Animate CC means for ActionScript, and there have been very few books released about ActionScript during the past four years. Rex van der Spuy updated his book on game design with ActionScript, but that version of the book completely disregards the Flash platform in order to support other development environments.
To make it clear: I'm not asking for some textbook that I can just plop into in the hands of students. I create my modules from scratch by combining excerpts from multiple manuals and video tutorials. But, due to the lack of leadership from Adobe, it's impossible to get a sense of the big picture of where this tool is going and how Adobe sees it fitting in with the larger ecosystem of the web.
I stood by Flash, even as the plugin was killed off in mobile platforms because I believed the vision that Adobe was peddling in their explanation of the Adobe Integrated Runtime. When students relayed the "Flash is Dead" meme, I was able to convince them that the product would endure and that their ActionScript skills would be transferable to other development environments down the road.
But now, I'm stuck. It's difficult to explain to students why I'm trying to teach them ActionScript with books that were written for Flash CS5. Now that the name of the program has been changed, it is even more ludicrous. I'm supposed to tell a skeptical college student "Yes, this program is called Adobe Animate CC 2015.5, but you should use this book titled Foundation Game Design for Adobe Flash Professional CS5." It just doesn't make any sense.
At the beginning 2016, I was ready to switch over to HTML5 or to some other platform. Adobe surprised everyone by announcing Adobe Animate CC. I decided to wait and see what Adobe would do to breathe new life into the platform. Adobe's efforts seem half-hearted at best. There appears to be just one person creating instructional content for the platform: the author of the book and the Lynda tutorial. During the past six months, I've tried several times to contact this person to see if he had *any* guidance for educators, but there has been no response. (Note: I'm not upset with the author who is clearly very busy. It makes no sense that there is just one overworked champion for Adobe Animate CC.) It's sad that my final recourse has been writing a long message in an Adobe forum that few people are likely to read.
School starts in two weeks. I will reinvent this class with different programming tools. Unfortunately, nothing comes close to Flash/Animate/ActionScript when one is teaching beginners how to program.
Adobe, are you listening? At times, it feels as if the the company is deliberately sabotaging Animate CC. At the very least, could you share your vision for the future of Animate/ActionScript? Where do you see these tools going? What books/resources are in the pipeline? Give us some reason to stick with this platform. On the flip side, if you're planning to eventually phase out the software, could you just rip off the band-aid and get it over with?
If anyone from Adobe would like to follow up with me, my name is Aaron Delwiche (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I'm a professor at a liberal arts college in San Antonio, Texas. Please feel free to contact me directly.
I don't know if there are other educators out there who share my frustration. If so, I hope that others will chime in on this thread.