Michał Sapka's website

Where Is the Interactive Education?

When I was still young and pretty, CD-Roms were all the range. Six hundred fifty megabytes were nothing short of magic. It seemed crazy to be able to fill that. Nowadays, a single webpage can weigh 50 MB, so the size no longer excites anyone. But back then? Oh, boy!

So people came up with inventive ways of filling this space. One of the most popular was adding shareware games. So you got the primary program which could fit on a floppy and a few games.

But others added multimedia. And from that, an entire genre of edutainment apps aimed at kids was conceived. Computers were not the annoying beeping tracking devices they are now, so everything around them was cool - even learning. A parent would often opt for getting a multimedia encyclopedia instead of Quake II, and everything was good as those things were amazing.

Most were lazy but still cool. A movie here, a narration there:

The Ultimate Human Body 2.0 - All Animations + 3D Models on Youtube
Eyewitness Encyclopedia of Science 2.0 - All Animations on Youtube

Some were excellent, interactive, and though thorough. Just look at my favorite one, “The Way Things Work”:

The Way Things Work, The 1994 Dorling Kindersley on Youtube

I still remember the few I got my hands on. Paper encyclopedias had more information, but they were boring. Suitable for school work, not for playing. On the other hand, those computer ones contained relatively little knowledge (let’s ignore Encarta), but their presentation was engaging. Twelve years old me would click on everything and be amazed. It was almost a game! Have I learned something? Maybe not. But my curiosity and thirst for knowledge jumped to the roof.

What took its place in the modern world? Wikipedia is static - nothing cool will happen if I click a random spot. Youtube is passive; you can’t interact with the movie. Yes, there are educational games for kids. But they often focus on a single skill - counting, naming colors, etc. But they fail at making exploration cool.

Really, is there something filling this gap in 2023?