Mobile App Reviews for Educators

Each month we'll review a highlighted app for iPad/iPod/iPhone or Android devices. We also invite you to add your comments and share with other educators how you used the highlighted app in your school.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Flash Content on the iPad

Recently I delivered a training session on using the iPad in the classroom. I was especially  excited to inform my participants about one specific to view Flash content on the iPad.

Whenever I hear discussions on the "iPad vs. Android tablet" debate, there is always the one definite dividing factor, the iPad's inability to play Flash. My first attempts to view flash on my iPad were a little too complex and way too unreliable for either myself or other teachers to want to deal with in a classroom with 20-30 impatient faces watching. I was finally able, however, through long internet searches and lots of trial and error able to come up with three different ways to easily view flash content on both my iPad Classic and my iPad 2. The three apps that make this possible are Skyfire, Splashtop Remote and Cloud Browse.

Skyfire is a browser app. It offers a couple of features that the Safari browser app that comes standard on the iPad does not. It offers different sharing options for images, links and content beyond the very limited list given in Safari. The biggest difference is that it also will play most flash movies embedded in a web site. The app isn't perfect however. The way it works is to go to the website, then click on the little "movies" icon on the bottom left of the screen. This will switch to analyzing and then tell you if there is a movie on the site that can be previewed. If there is, a small box with a thumbnail of the movie will appear and then it is possible to click on it and another screen will open to view the movie outside of the website. Basically, you are not looking at the flash content within the website but pulled out into a viewer separate than the site. It doesn't seem to recognize Flash or Java-based games like "Lemonade Stand" from the Cool Math Games website, for instance.  This was disappointing as I know many of the teachers would want students to be able to access some of the great learning games on the web that are flash-based. If you're looking for something to just view movies, then this app is pretty decent for the $4.99 but still has a way to go in recognizing other web-based flash content such as learning games.

The second way to view flash is to use an app that will control your desktop computer or laptop. An app such as Splashtop Remote works quite well and was easy to set up. Download the Splashtop app on your iPad and then install the free Splashtop Streamer onto your PC or Mac. It works very easily if you're in the same network as the computer you want to control. There are directions for firewalls and proxies if you want to try remoting into one while on a different network but for the purpose of showing something on the iPad that your computer can do easily, using a computer in the same network works well. I was able to completely control my computer and my iPad appeared to be a Windows-based tablet as it showed all content and actions happening on my PC. The downside is you may not always be somewhere that allows you to remote into your PC and your PC may not always be turned on.

The third option that is right now my absolute favorite is Cloud Browse. This is another browser app that was priced at $2.99 when I purchased it recently. Although the browser itself does not have a lot of advanced features found in other browser apps such as Ultimate Browser that has the ability to open multiple tabs, emulate other browsers and share out content in social media platforms, it does do one thing very well.... play Flash and Java content. I was able directly within the browser look at websites with flash movies playing such as Even better, I was able to go to the same site, Cool Math, and successfully play flash and java-based games such as Snorzees or Lemonade Stand without any special setup or additional steps to follow which means it would be intuitive for the teachers and the students. It isn't completely perfect either as it can suddenly knock you out and close the app on occasion and it has to constantly connect to a server due to how the app is set up. The way the app works is a company by the name of Always On Technologies has to host a desktop Firefox browser on an independent server. For the basic $2.99 app, you have a 10 minute connection to their server and then it can drop and you need to refresh which can be annoying when conquering the final level of that game you were playing. They offer an upgrade to the service which states will take care of these minor glitches but the upgrade is currently a little steep for most educators at $5.99/month. I've been using the basic app just fine and don't intend to upgrade currently as its competition, the release of HTML5, could make the need for such apps obsolete and perhaps their premium prices might drop. For now, I will remain using the $2.99 basic app happily watching my flash content and playing Flash games on my iPads.

What do you use to view Flash or Java content on the iPad? Join my blog and let me know.