It Could Be Beautiful: Aspirational vs Operational EdTech


creative commons licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by ellyjonez1

This is a bit of brainstorming for a presentation I’m doing in a few months. It’s a bit of a remix of some stuff I’ve highlighted before but there are a few new examples in the mix (bolded below). I think they’re well worth looking at more deeply- especially Math Box and Keshif.

I like Math Box because it tightens up the equation/interactive visualization connection in math. It’s one of the reasons I love Fluid Math. Math Box is not for the faint of heart (javascript library) but it starts to lead towards different expectations around how we might see and interact with math concepts.

Keshif incorporates many of the elements that have had me chasing Simile Exhibit and FacetWP. It does it in a really slick visual package that enables some really interesting options. I really believe there’s depth to the different kind of understandings we can come to when data can be quickly sifted and sorted. It is interactive data visualization that can change the kinds of questions we ask.

Have better examples? Am I getting too flaky? Throw some feedback my way in the comments or write in the document.2


A great deal of energy and attention has been focused on using technology to automatically grade quizzes, to “capture” lectures, to make the most massive MOOC . . . to McDonaldize education. There is another path. Technology can humanize. It can augment, extend, and empower. There is real transformative power for students and instructors when they interact and build with these tools. The ability to make useful products, to unite the abstract and concrete, to compress action/feedback cycles, to allow for fluid and interactive presentation of data towards new and deeper understandings – this is where technology starts to matter.

These are new possibilities that should not be ignored. We can rethink what we see as educational, consider how interaction shapes understanding, and take advantage of new ways to build what we really want. The work and worth of the academy can be more visible and powerful than ever before.

A few of the sites/resources/tools/communities that will be highlighted include-


1 Thanks to Alan for making the Flickr attribution helper which is really slick in all sorts of ways. I finally got around to reinstalling it.

2 Seriously. Write in the document.

Comments on this post

  1. stanlyam said on January 22, 2015 at 3:47 pm

    I think building interactive text ( Explorable Explanations) on the web is pretty amazing, at the same time I wonder if instructors might be more willing to use such tools if they are more accessible in terms of use? For example the tools that Knightlabs create lower the bar in such a way that make them fairly seamless to use. Tools like Tangle in order to really catch on need to be that seamless to for the average instructor to use.

    • Tom Woodward said on January 22, 2015 at 4:26 pm

      No question ease of authorship is key. I like these other tools because they set a higher bar for what might be made. Scale demand for that possibility starts to change the kind of tools are built. I hope that’s the relationship anyway.

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