When reading, you should see context. You should easily find out what others say; whether there is any evidence to claims being made or if statements have been debunked; if there’s new information since the text was written; and so on. With Factlink we set out to solve this, by making a browser extension that lets you add sources and comments to any statement on the web.
Unfortunately, few people used our browser extension, so we pivoted to being an in-line discussion platform for websites. This way we hope to get more traction, and reach our goal of discussing and adding sources to any text on the web. We wrote about this change of direction on our blog, 4 Lessons You Can Learn from Factlink’s Pivot .
Computers have the potential to improve education, in many different ways. One way is having deeper interactions with the subject matter, such as exploring physics simulations or anatomical models; practising your language skills with dynamic exercises, like a game; or tracing routes of the crusades on a map, complete with stories and paintings along the way.
Now that mobile computers become more usable in the classroom, it is the perfect time to push for more interactive education. The key is teachers, who know best how to engage their students. I had a great teacher who wanted to making learning vocabulary easier by adding images and sounds, based on theories of learning. Together we created Audivididici , a program still used by many students in the Netherlands. Most teachers lack the technical skills to create engaging digital experiences, but know, like my teacher, how students learn best. We need tools to leverage this experience to create great courses.
When studying, I wrote a research proposal for building such tools for teachers, Building and Evaluating an Interactive Textbook Platform . I ended up creating jsdares instead, but the idea stuck.
Now I’ve joined a great team — and with an amazing track record — at Versal . I’m working on the core technology that lets developers create interactive “gadgets” that authors can use to create great interactive courses.
One of the things Versal is doing right, is using our own product for teaching from day one. There is a team dedicated to creating educational content, even before we actually started making the course builder. So one of the first things I worked on, was importing Word documents into our course builder. While not very glamorous, it was important to get a feeling for the requirements. The part that converts Word documents to Markdown is open source: word2markdown .
My dissertation in Computer Science was an interactive programming course, jsdares . In the original proposal, A Novel Introduction to Programming , I propose teaching the basics of programming with a real but reduced language, to make possible compiler and interface features that support learning.
Wikipedia is too hard to contribute to, so I made an editing interface that is both usable and works with their crazy parser, which I wrote about in Help, I want to change Wikipedia! . After that I briefly worked for the Wikimedia Foundation, where I contributed to WikiLove: An experiment in appreciation , which got lots of media attention.
For the first hackathon ever to be held in a parliament, I showed which political parties in the Netherlands vote the same, Vriendenpolitiek . For another competition I built an online portal for safe swimming in outdoor water, Zwemmen in Noord-Holland .
I worked on huge multitouch tables at Cantouch ; made a scalable marketplace at Worldticketshop ; created bicycle light art in full colour called PimpMyBike ; made a fun Briefcase computer ; wrote some satire on useless testing, duplication.js ; found some solutions to Self-enumerating pangrams ; wrote about shorter meetings by doing a One-legged standup ; and volunteered at the great technical youth center SCN . For more lists and bullets, check out my Curriculum Vitæ .
In 2008 I made an instrument out of wine glasses. I took some pictures of the Glass harp construction , and some videos, Auld Lang Syne and Sound of Music . They were seen by two artists who were hired by MTV to create a video with glass harps, and they ended up using my instrument, in Make a big effort to sound like MTV .
I also like to play the piano, and occasionally record it: Jerry Martin — The Simple Life ; Legend of Zelda ; Philip Glass — Mad Rush ; Philip Glass — Metamorphosis Three ; Linkin Park — Numb ; Pokémon — Elite Four ; and Metal Gear Solid 2 .