Help me teach him to fish - er - Flash.
November 15, 2010 2:09 PM   Subscribe

I've been volunteered to teach an artist at another one of our locations Flash tomorrow. I'm self-taught, and not a teacher. How can I ensure he leaves here with a little bit of knowledge?

His boss doesn't want to spring for real training so my boss said, "oh, ladygypsy can show him what he needs to know!"

I consider myself a "feral" Flash user, self-taught through YouTube videos, help files and online tutorials. He already knows Photoshop, InDesign and Illustrator, which is a plus. But I'm not a teacher. I only have one computer available to us - the one at my cubicle - so we'll have to take turns.

I asked him what he expected to learn and he said anything, since knows nothing about Flash to start with. So I'm guessing I'll stick with symbols and classic motion tweens. I use Flash to make simple animations in online ads, so ActionScript beyond onRelease{blah} and stop() won't need to be touched.

So how do I teach this guy? Do I let him self-direct it or do I come up with a plan? I'm guessing I'll have about 5-6 hours with him and I don't have time tonight to come up with worksheets. Not that I would even know what to put on a worksheet.

posted by ladygypsy to Media & Arts (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I used to teach Flash to artists, although it was quite a while ago. It's good that your "student" has experience with other graphic software; this won't be completely alien to him.

I'd break it down into a bunch of small chunks, perhaps like this:

1. The basics of the interface; where the various tools are located; how to open and save files; working with the drawing tools.

2. Making symbols, using keyframes and the timeline to make simple animations.

3. Basic action scripting, making buttons.

4. Writing out and testing swfs.

If you have 4 - 5 hours, make each "chunk" an hour. Build 5 or 10 minute breaks into each hour, or the two of you will be exhausted by hour 3. Set things up in such a way that you demonstrate something, and then he tinkers with the software for the rest of the hour. Try to keep your demo time to 20 minutes or less. Or, you demonstrate for ten minutes, he tinkers for 20. What's important is that he has his hands on the software for as long as possible. While he's tinkering, you're nearby to answer questions. If he makes a mistake, try to avoid taking the mouse out of his hand to show him (although I know there will be times when you'll have to.) Be patient and talk him through things, instead of grabbing the mouse.

There's no way you'll get through everything he needs to know in 4 - 5 hours, But you can get him started, and get him over that initial, tentative period. Leave him with some of the same resources you used to teach yourself.

Once the day is over, he will probably call on you from time to time for help. Make sure your employer knows you're continuing to tutor him, especially if it's eating into your productivity. And if he does call on you, don't jump to answer every question right away. You taught yourself; if this guy has a brain, he can probably figure out a lot on his own. It's ok to tell him to RTFM (Read the Freakin' Manual) if he's being lazy about learning on his own and asking you easy questions that can be learned in the software's documentation.

Good luck!
posted by cleverevans at 3:27 PM on November 15, 2010

Best answer: Try to remember some of the resources you used to teach yourself and provide him with a few at the end of the time.

You mentioned some graphics programs, do I assume if he knew anything else that had keyframed animation or a timeline you would have mentioned it? Because that's conceptually a good thing to understand and if there's a similar thing you can use for analogy it will help.

Also, working off cleverevans' list, I'd say #1 will be really familiar to anyone who has used Photoshop. I'd also probably make a very basic image and export the .swf right off the bat, just to understand what the overall process is. Then #2 add some animation to that. And distinguish between how a graphic and a movieclip handles nested animation; that seems to trip up a lot of people.
posted by RobotHero at 4:08 PM on November 15, 2010

Best answer: In teaching people how to do computer things, general rules:

1. Let them drive. Their hands on the mouse, their hands on the keyboard.

2. Once you've given them the most basic basics, make it project-driven. Invent a couple of simple projects that you will do (maybe you want to make a website that can do x, y, z things), and let that guide the order in which you work through concepts. Let them suggest the logical next step, or hunt through menus to try to figure out what to do next.

3. Mostly go at their pace. Let them take notes on paper if they want to. Don't rush (trying to get through your set list of tasks) if they're feeling lost.
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:57 PM on November 15, 2010

Response by poster: I marked you all as best because I used all of your suggestions. It was very low-pressure for the both of us. He appreciated having the opportunity to use the software with me nearby to answer questions and I think the outline (which only took me about 20 minutes to come up with before he arrived) impressed him.

We made a few nonsensical movies, with bouncing cows and morphing words and shapes that whizzed by and buttons that switched from "click me" to "ouch!" when you clicked on them.

Anyway, for someone else's future reference, in our four hours we went over:
  • the .fla and .swf file extensions
  • layers and timeline
  • the 3 types of symbols: graphic, movie, button
  • shape & motion tweens
  • masks & motion paths
  • using simple actionscript to hop around the timeline
  • what a clickTAG is, for ad purposes
Thank you!
posted by ladygypsy at 4:15 PM on November 16, 2010

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