By David Egbert


March 24, 2010

Flash Builder 4 (previously known as Flex Builder) and the open source Flex 4 Software Development Kit were released last week. This is a significant update that features over 70 new enhancements to the development environment and programming language. Some of the most notable enhancements for me are the new skinning architecture, enhanced data integration, and FXG support. I’m also very happy to learn the Adobe is continuing to offer Flash Builder for free to students, faculty, and for lab settings.
Flash Builder offers a great environment for student programmers to become familiar with classes, objects, methods, inheritance and other important concepts of object-oriented programming. Actionscript 3 is the programming language for Flash Builder. It is an ECMAScript based programming language that is similar enough to JavaScript that, I’ve found, most web programmers don’t have much trouble getting up to speed with it. Flash Builder also makes a great learning environment for budding programmers because it uses the Eclipse IDE. Eclipse is widely used for developing in other programming languages. By combining Actionscript 3 with the pre-built components available in Flash Builder, students can quickly get simple applications up and running which can motivate them to dig deeper and learn more.
Flash Builder is also a powerful tool for creating rich educational content. Here are just a few ideas where Flash Builder really shines in developing engaging content:
Interactive Data Visualization
Allowing students to see charts of complex datasets and allowing them to interact with those visual components can be a very effective learning activity. From a programming standpoint, binding datasets to charting components is incredibly easy and fun! Adobe has announced that the charting components are now free and available in the Flex SDK. We should see a lot more use of these great libraries in education!
Interactive Video and Audio
The Flash Platform has a great API for interacting with web video and audio. Combining text, images, with a video or audio stream can aid in learning new concepts. Being able to auto stop a video at a specific time, jumping to a specific point in a movie, using cue points to fire off events during a movie, or even applying advanced filters on a video are all possibilities inside the Flash Platform.
Flash Builder with Flash Media Server
Coupling Flash content with Flash Media Server can be a tremendous tool for language learning and performance analysis. Having the students listen and compare their recorded voice to a voice of an expert, or having them view their own performance in a video can be very effective.
I’m definitely excited about the release of Flash Builder 4 and the Flex 4 SDK. I think there are some great new enhancements in the update that can help developers in education. If you feel like I missed a home-run quality of Flash Builder in education, please add it to the comments below. I’m looking forward to seeing how these enhancements take the Flash Platform to the next level.