As an Adobe Educational Leader, I've been privileged to beta test the new version and I have genuinely been seriously impressed with the new features. Granted, I might say that anyway because Adobe is very helpful to me, but I do genuinely think this next version is going to have great uses in schools
Flash CS3 was packed with new features, but the main one was the new version of ActionScript 3. I think many schools may have stuck with Macromedia (as it was then) Flash 8 rather than upgrade. This is both because of the cost but also because I'm not sure there were too many benefits that really said to schools that they had to upgrade. In reality, there was a lot they could have benefited from, but there weren't enough clearly identifiable benefits. With cash-strapped schools I suspect many will still be on version 8.
When we teach Flash to our students at Neale-Wade we are still using Flash 8. This, to me, currently does everything we need. We've established Flash as a core element of the curriculum and teach students throughout KS3 and beyond. The benefits are noticeable already - one of my more lower ability Year 10 classes were set a challenge to create a promotional Flash movie earlier this week. In the past it would have taken us ages to complete the work - last week every single student was able to produce the required quality using movie clips, tweening and frame-by-frame animation. We even had a trainee teacher in with us and they showed her how to use it.
Flash 8 is very powerful, but these students have had exposure to the way it works. They have been taught how to produce a motion tween, how to turn static text into graphics and then manipulate it - and so on.
However, this next version of Flash offers two key features that I really think have the potential to have a transformational impact in schools.
1. Tweening [or more correctly Object-based Animation]
Firstly the improvement to the way tweening works. Tweening is where you animate an object between two different places. Flash fills in the gaps for you. This is relatively straightforward, but could be a bit fiddly. You had to create your movie clip, add in additional frames, then add in a new keyframe, and then select the first frame again to set the motion tween. With Flash CS4, this has turned into what is basically a two click task. This changes what could take a good 20 minutes into something that takes a 20 seconds. Why is this so good? Well, from my perspective we currently spend a series of lessons exploring and developing motion tweening. Yet the first few are normally spent fire-fighting issues to get individual students efforts to work. With the new version, the whole simplified process should mean we can focus far more on effective content creation rather than get caught up in the mechanics of the whole thing.
2. 3D transformation [or as my students and I called it on Friday - the 'wow' tool]
This is something I've wanted to see in Flash since I first used Flash version 3. It allows you not just to manipulate objects on the x and y axes, but also the z. For the non-mathematically minded this means you grab an object, click on the 3D transformation tool, and can then drag it in any direction. It means you can make a logo spin in 3D extremely easily. When I created the Fling the Teacher game I spent quite a while building the question box. The box spins into place when a new question appears. It is a nice little effect that works well. Something like that can be created in seconds now. Quite a lot of the Flash teaching we currently deliver is focused on promotional work - such as creating a logo or trying to advertise something. These kind of tasks can just take off with the 3D transformational options. I do think it will have a major impact on the quality of the work.
Also, just giving students the power to experiment with the 3D transformational tool - I reckon - will both enthuse them more but also enable us to encourage them to work at a much higher level. Some of the effects that you could now produce in seconds just weren't possible without additional expensive add-ons or complex programming. Edit: I also forgot, there is even a PowerPoint-esque pre-prepared animations panel where you can click on an object, select a desired animation and you're done. Powerful stuff - and ideal for us as educators where I feel it will allow us to get beyond the basics quickly.
I think it is going to be a significant update. We've already looked at the system requirements - I don't think we're going to be prevented from upgrading due to them. I was a bit worried, but when we checked I think we can handle it. Not quite as sure across thin client machines though - I'll give that a test next week (once I've checked I'm allowed to from Adobe).