iPads are continuing to make a big leap into the education field. I often hear about K-12 school districts purchasing iPads for the classroom as well as Colleges and Universities who are purchasing for students and faculty. The most recent participants of the Faculty Technology Institute received iPads as a learning tool. iPad apps are expanding the learning experience both inside and outside the classroom. From interactive lessons to study aids to productivity tools (from Apple site).
One thing that the iPad (as well as the iPhone and iPod touch) lacks is support of Adobe Flash. I find this a little problematic as more and more instructors are using video and websites, many times built on the Adobe Flash platform, as teaching aids. We’ve also seen a change in the way students access course information and content. Mobile devices such as iPads and smartphones have become a preferred method of information consumption, with the ability to access anytime, anywhere.
College resources that have seen increased usage over the past few semesters are streaming servers. Faculty who are using the streaming server are embedding these videos into OAKS and other applications for student consumption. The resulting file type is often a Flash video which cannot be natively viewed on the iPad (or iPod touch and iPhone). The idea is to make these resources available for students to view outside of the classroom.
Though Flash cannot be played natively I thought I would look into some browsing apps that claim to be able to play videos, games and webpages that are built on Flash. I really focused on the ability of these browsers to play video, especially from CofC resources. Here is what I found….
Web Browsing Apps
Skyfire ($4.99) –Has by far the most ratings in the App Store for web browsers and claims to be the most popular browser for the ipad. I was able to play Flash videos on some sites but my success rate was not as high as I’d like. When certain sites did work for me the speed and the video quality were very good.
Photon ($4.99) – Uses a streaming mode to play Flash content. There is a little lag time and lowered video quality when it enters the streaming mode but it is definitely tolerable in my opinion. This seemed to work pretty well when accessing CofC’s streaming servers.
Puffin ($0.99) – Allows users to view Flash videos without streaming or remoting. Again I tested this browser with CofC resources and found that accessing the streaming server worked very well.
iSwifter (Free/$4.99(full))– Similar to Puffin, iSwifter allows users to view Flash videos and play Flash games without streaming or remoting. There seems to be a slight lag when navigating with this browser but I thought iSwifter did a great job of playing Flash files, including streaming video.
CloudBrowse ($2.99) – This browser employs the use of remotely streaming a desktop browser to your device. I found there to be quite a bit of lag time and diminished video quality which would deter me from using this app. I am also a little hesitant to visit sites, such as OAKS, that require credentials to log in since I am accessing a remote machine that I don’t own.
Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be a browsing app available that allows for seamless Flash playback but from my perspective a couple of the apps could be useful. I seemed to get different results depending on what browser I was using and what sites I was visiting but if I had to choose one for personal use I would probably go with the Photon or the iSwifter browsers, however, I encourage you to try them out yourself to find one that might fit your liking. If you would like to try one of these browsing apps contact your Instructional Technologist to borrow a checkout iPad.