This ground has been trod(den?) many times of course, but the lack of Flash on the iPad could indeed torpedo its efficacy in the classroom. It is difficult to have any device that can’t access a fundamental part of the web. And, while most mainstream sites have created their own iOS apps with compatible video to work around the lack-of-Flash issue, more minor or less mainstream sites that don’t or can’t do this then get left out in the cold.

In English today, to review for our impending mid-term, I had a number of grammar practice websites lined up. Realizing that they might utilize Flash, I piloted them on the iPad before class, and indeed Safari couldn’t run it. This meant that I had to sign out the laptops, drag them into class, unlock the cabinet, have everyone get one, log in, and get moving. But more important is that the lack of Flash essentially nullified the iPad for that particular day. Some colleagues whose textbooks have on-line editions have similar concerns because so much of the interactive / multi-media content of those on-line editions is Flash-based, and does not play on the iPad. I realize / hope that textbook publishers will catch up, or find a suitable work around (and Apple’s recent announcement of the textbook end of the iBookStore and the release of iBooks Author should kick start this process), but it will be difficult to adapt the iPad wholesale without at least these concerns being addressed.

The most common retort of course will be that this happens so infrequently that it doesn’t (or shouldn’t) matter or that there are alternative websites available that are compatible, neither of which I can refute. But it is a bit of a momentum-killer to have something in place that can’t be utilized. I did too search for some apps (admittedly not for too long). The ones I primarily found were ESL apps and there were virtually no free ones of any substance: another dead end. Finally, there is the Flash-compatible browser Skyfire, which bills itself as the work around to the iPad’s lack of Flash. I have had limited success with Skyfire and videos, though the videos tend to show, at least the ones that I’ve seen, in thumbnail form / size, but, as expected, Skyfire is designed for videos rather than Flash-based websites. It returned the same error message about needing Flash as Safari did when I tried to open the Flash-based grammar site.

So, while I’m not willing to identify the lack of Flash as the iPad’s fatal flaw, it is a significant tick against it for classroom use.

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