The Back Page(18)

Q&A with Roger Wagner

Big Idea: Invented multimedia authoring software HyperStudio, released by Roger Wagner Publishing in May 1989.

K-12 Cred: Before founding his software company, Wagner taught math and science at Mountain Empire Junior-Senior High School in Pine Valley, Calif.

Owner: PBA Galleries, a San Francisco-based rare book auction service

Q: What was your inspiration for HyperStudio?

A: The arrival of the Apple IIGS, one of the most amazing computers to come along, and in some particular ways, never replicated. The IIGS had color available at an affordable price before the Mac or Microsoft-based computers. In addition, it had the potential for recording the user's own voice, and even a MIDI synthesizer with 16 stereo voices. In fact, the musical capability was so radical that the Beatles' Apple Records filed a suit against Apple, and they never put a hardware synthesizer in a computer again. When this remarkable computer appeared, it was compellingly clear that for the first time, a new form of writing could be done where every imaginable form of information could be used, as though from an artist's palette, to explore a subject and tell a story.

Q: What have been the biggest boosts and obstacles to technology-driven education reform?

A: The biggest boost in the past decades has been the combination of highly energetic, enthusiastic, and dedicated educators with funding that supported their vision. Unfortunately, one of the obstacles has been an actual lack of faith in proven educational theories such as constructivism. As the political side of education shifted to an emphasis on test results, and funding for technology was questioned and cut, too many educators, apart from the early pioneers, did not adopt the belief that constructivism and other "educational reform" techniques do improve test scores. Even if the assessment isn't any deeper than a multiple choice test, the truth is that sound educational techniques yield a better educated student and even better test results.

Q: Where do you see education headed in the next decade?

A: Educational institutions in the United States have a sobering array of challenges before them. I share with other educators the puzzlement that more parents don't place a higher priority and concern in the matter of the quality of their children's education. However, I also think that this continues because of a lack of clear communication of the essential elements and principles of educational theory and practice between educators and their parent communities. Educators can read numerous articles in magazines, books, and scholarly works that they all share with each other, but how often do they share these ideas with the parents? The local paper has extensive sections on gardening, car maintenance, and even playing cards and chess, but how often do we see a regular space for educators explaining the ideas behind what they want to do in their schools? In the absence of that, it's not surprising that the limit of some parents' imagination for a better future is "just make the test scores go up."

Back in Time

Issue: May 2000 Technology & Learning

"Beyond the Digital Divide: Pathways to Equity"

"The Skinny on Thin Clients"

"Software Review: The Headbone Zone"

"Cool Science Tools"

News and Issues:

President Clinton proposes a multibillion dollar program to help bridge the digital divide, with $150 million earmarked for training pre-service teachers to use technology effectively.

Georgia Tech's Amy Bruckman talks with T&L about the potential of multi-user dungeons, or MUDs, for teaching reading, writing, and computer programming.

Educators and industry experts debate the pros and cons of the Application Service Provider model.


Russian President Vladimir Putin is sworn into office.

The "I Love You" virus wreaks havoc on computer systems worldwide.

Celera Genomics announces the company has completed sequencing an entire human genome.

Santana's Supernatural album tops the Billboard charts.