Roschelle, J., Kaput, J., Stroup, W., & Kahn, T. (1998). Scalable integration of educational software: Exploring the promise of component architectures. Journal of Interactive Media in Education, 98(6), 256-266.
Technology-rich learning environments can serve the pressing need for core curriculum reform in science and mathematics by enabling more diverse students to learn more complex concepts at a younger age. Unfortunately, today’s technology research and development efforts result not in an richly integrated environment, but rather with a fragmentary collection of incompatible software application islands. In this article we ask: how can the best innovations in technology-rich learning integrate and scale up to the level of major curricular reforms? A potential solution is component software architecture, which provides open standards that enable plug and play composition of software tools produced by many different projects and vendors. We describe an exploratory effort in which four research groups produced software components for the mathematics of motion. The resulting prototypes support (a) integration of the separately produced tools into the same windows, files, and interfaces, (b) dynamic linking across multiple representations and (c) drag and drop composition of activities without requiring programming. We also summarize an extended Internet discussion which raised critical issues regarding the future of component software architecture in education, and look ahead to the prospect of scalable integration of components beyond the desktop computer and for virtual communities that coordinate design teams.