Being Mobile Blog

Is There an Uncrossable Chasm Between Research and the Classroom? Part 2

HTML5 Is the Bridge!

In Part 1 of this blog post, we talked about the virtually uncrossable chasm between what researchers do and what classrooms do. We pointed out that Logo, which came out of research, did not cross the chasm. While it did garner support from educators, it didn’t solve a problem in the existing curriculum. By contrast, the graphing calculator, which was introduced into math education by two university professors, did address a pressing problem in the existing curriculum: Graphing was exceedingly hard to do manually, and the little graphing calculator made that process easy to do, which in turn made the teaching and learning of mathematical ideas much easier.  

The lesson we can learn from this tale of two research-initiated, technology-based innovations is to support the existing curriculum and pedagogy. Why? Changing the existing curriculum and pedagogy in order for a technology to address its needs is really hard to do!

But, but, but … timing is everything, and education is at a point in time where curriculum and pedagogy are changing!

The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and, to a lesser extent, the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS, which are newer and even more, gulp, radical, but shhh…) are driving the change. These standards are pushing the notion that learners need to be active, with each child building her or his understanding. The standards posit that learning is a construction process, not a receiving process; learning is engagement by a child with ideas, by children with each other, with teachers and, yes, with technology — computing technology, and not just dead-tree technology.  

The opportunity for technology to become truly intertwined in a classroom’s curriculum and pedagogy is at hand! The opportunity to cross the chasm is now! And — ready for this? — the bridge between what researchers have been saying about learning and what teachers and students do in a classroom is spelled HTML5.

Do we hear a “HUH?” Okay, buckle up. Here goes: HyperText Markup Language 5 (HTML5 to its friends) is, like, Fortran, Cobol and Java, a computer programming language, the definition of which was finally accepted, after 15 years of turmoil, by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) in October, 2014. It will enable curriculum developers, working in concert with HTML5 programmers, to create curricular resources that virtually all computers,  from Dell desktops to Apple laptops, from tablets made by Samsung to tablets made by Apple, from Lenovo/Huawei/Xiaomi smartphones to Asus/HP Chromebooks, can run.

Put another way: When curricular resources are implemented in HTML5 (or its derivatives), the dream of BYOD is no longer a dream: Students can bring virtually any computer device into the classroom and a teacher can count on the fact that the learning activity for today’s lesson will be executable on all of those devices.

HTML4 enabled developers to create Web pages with only some interactive elements, such as dialogue boxes. But HTML5 opens the floodgates of interactivity by enabling developers to create Web pages that have the same types of interactivity that computer programmers have created using core computer programming languages. Note carefully: An application written in HTML5 is just a fancy sort of Web page. And Web pages are displayed in virtually any major browser, such as Microsoft’s IE or its new EDGE, Google’s Chrome, Apple’s iOS or Mozilla’s Firefox.

Thus, one student can open and use, say, a concept mapping application written in HTML5 on her Lenovo Windows laptop in Firefox, while another student can open and use that concept mapping application in the Safari browser on her Apple iPad, while a third student can open and use that concept mapping app in Google’s Chrome on her Acer Chromebook, while a fourth student can open and use that concept mapping application on her Huawei smartphone in the Opera browser.

Now do we hear a “Holy Toldeo! OMG! OMG! OMG!”?

Yes, HTML5 is that big a deal. Why? Because it has come along at just the right time. Curriculum and pedagogy are changing; new curricular materials are being developed that meet CCSS and NGSS. If those materials are developed in HTML5, then the curriculum developer and the teacher can expect those materials to work in her or his BYOD classroom or his or her iPad/Chromebook/laptop classroom. And, for the researcher, there is the opportunity to influence curriculum development and have those research-based ideas embodied in curricular resources that virtually every learner in the U.S. can use on their computing device! Holy Toledo indeed!

Are there caveats? Sure. They take up a list longer than even Shreck’s arm! But those are for another day. We've caused enough trouble for one post. 

About the Authors

Cathie Norris is a Regents Professor and Chair in the Department of Learning Technologies, School of Information at the University of North Texas. Visit her site at

Elliot Soloway is an Arthur F. Thurnau Professor in the Department of CSE, College of Engineering, at the University of Michigan. Visit his site at

Find more from Elliot Soloway and Cathie Norris at their Reinventing Curriculum blog at