Will the iPad miss an educational grand slam by inches?

I am compelled to post once more about the fact that the Apple iPad doesn’t seem to have Flash support. This blogger called for critics of Apple’s decision to “get over it.” Let me expand upon one educator’s perspective on this issue.

I don’t think the “no Flash support” criticisms from educational bloggers come from a desire to take a shot at Apple. I’m convinced that it genuinely comes from a disappointment that this could have been one of the most transformational educational technologies since the personal computer. I honestly believe that. And in due time, this iPad groundbreaking may still be that significant.

From the early days of Apple, their products were touted as having potential to transform education, and some wonderful things have been done with Apple products in learning environments. Apple is now involved with the Partnership for 21st Century Skills. They are not just suggesting that their products might be useful for education, but they are involved in a group that seeks to transform the “what” is taught in (not just how) schools. Given that context, you will notice that many of the strongest critics about no Flash support are educational bloggers. A huge number of the more exciting and potentially beneficial educational applications that are free and being used in schools around the globe are written in Flash. So, for Apple to claim that they really have the best interest of education in mind with their products and then leave out Flash support, seems to send a mixed message. This decision limits the product’s immediate usefulness in the classroom, although I suspect that the Flash issue will not be significant in two or three years.

I suspect that many of the criticisms come from frustration that this could be an amazing educational technology that could benefit learners right now…if only they would add Flash support. Most of us in education are not developing our own apps, so we depend upon the quality of what is on the market right now. As an educator, it feels like Apple missed an immediate educational grand slam by inches. With that said, given their influence, I’m sure that they will overcome this with time (give it 12-24 months). I’ve been waiting for a product like this. It could replace many traditional texts and paper-based resources, support just-in-time differentiated instruction and assessments, provide powerful opportunities for augmented reality learning environments, replace expensive polling devices, allow for dynamic forms of digital collaborative…and the list goes on. But, no flash support…so a smaller base of immediate applications and educational app developers.

Apple has clearly demonstrated a commitment to excellence, innovation, and thinking outside of the box. As an educator committed to 21st century learning and one who is aware that the entire structure of schooling must change, I see Apple as a friend. So, even with this criticism, I am far from giving up on Apple. I will be one of the first to purchase an iPad, and I am already exploring dozens of potential ways to use such a device to improve student learning, improve student engagement, and to design highly interactive digital age learning experiences.

But Apple, please give us Flash support, or provide a public and compelling argument why the decision not to include Flash support is in the best interest of education.

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About Bernard Bull

Dr. Bernard Bull is the author of Missional Moonshots, Assistant Vice President of Academics, Associate Professor of education, and a frequent keynote speaker and consultant on topics related to educational innovation and entrepreneurship, futures in education, and the intersection of education and digital culture. Opinions expressed here do not reflect those of his primary employer(s).