If you'd asked me a few years back, say around 2001, what I thought of Macromedia (now Adobe) Flash, I'd probably have been quite rude about it. Not without good reason, mind - at the time, Flash content was generally seen plastered over the sites of "web designers" and ad agencies and existed only to look snazzy, generally reducing the usability of the site in the process.
These days, I'm actually quite a fan of Flash, used right. The web is a little different now - for certain segments of the population, access to broadband Internet is maybe 90%. Flash actually makes what are now relatively small downloads, assuming you stick to vector graphics and don't go overboard on the bitmaps or video. It's still a propriatory format, although the client is available for a wide range of platforms - indeed, the Flash plugin is the one plugin that you can almost garuntee will be available in most people's web browsers. Yes, Java is much better designed as a language, but just doesn't seem to have been spread quite as far as the Flash plugin.
But the thing that impresses me about Flash is its ability to enable Rapid Application Design. Forget the fact that Flash can do animations, just think of it as an IDE. Want a new control? Draw one, right there, associate it with a code file, done. Okay, ActionScript is limited, but it's quite capable, and there isn't too much of it - the beginner or occasional user isn't left feeling at sea, instead you get the feeling that you know every part of what the package is capable of.
I've been doing a bit of work with a teacher, designing some little Flash widgets to do some quick psychology tests (see on the toolbar over on the left). It's so nice for both of us to have a development tool that enables me to create a program, the user to go "hmm, can you change that bit..." and to be able to do it right away.
Note that the above praise for Flash as an IDE and all-round jolly good package is from the point of a view of a programmer looking for good tools. From the point of view of a teacher teaching either animation or programming, Flash is probably not quite the thing.
Wellington Grey, a physics teacher here in the UK, has written an open letter to AQA and the Department for Education (link via BoingBoing) pointing out that physics as a subject is being watered down, with questions along the lines of "How does global warming make you feel?".
Reading the article, I had a nasty feeling I'd heard this before somewhere. Turns out I was thinking of Fallen Angles, a novell written in 1991 by Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle and Michael Flynn (read it for free at the Baen Free Library).
The novell's plot revolves around the green movement going over the top, with proper science being replaced by vauge waffle. I read it and thought "nah, it'll never happen", but hey, turns out you just never know...
That reminds me of another of Larry Niven's books, The Long Arm of Gil Hamilton, which predicts the world of the future (bearing in mind that the book was written in 1976, so "the future" is basically now) to be a place where wandering down a dark allyway late of an evening might result in you being knocked over the head and turning up as component parts in the black market organ replacement business. That could never happen. It also contained a memorable (to me) quote about how population pressures had resulted in micro-apartments stuffed with high-tec space saving devices, as "in today's world, technology is cheaper than elbow room". That could never happen either.
In common with a bunch of other author's stories, the book has an unshakeable belife that The Future will see us travelling everywhere via a mixture of moving walkways and helicoptors or floating cars (the main propellant of which would seem to be dry ice). That could never happen.
Welcome (yet again) to SanSay.Co.Uk. I think the front page / software for this site has now changed at least half a dozen times. Most recently, it was running Moodle, a Virtual Learning Environment, and it still is, just not as the front page handling system. I figure that's more appropriately handled by Drupal.