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Interactives are software tools that facilitate computer to human interaction. In other words, communications are sent between the human and the computer forming a relationship. When people design learning spaces for this type of computer-based interaction, they're sometimes called interactives.

In an article titled Online Storytelling Forms, Johnathan Dubein suggests that people "use print to explain. Use multimedia to show. Use interactives to demonstrate and engage."

Most commonly these interactives are designed in software such as Flash that combines, text, graphics, audio, video, and animation with interactive elements such as buttons, drag/drop, and media controls.

read Read Flash: Engaging Learners Through Animation, Interaction, and Multimedia (PDF) by Annette Lamb and Larry Johnson in Teacher Librarian April 2006, 33(4), 54-56.

readRead Interactives: Dynamic Learning Environments by Annette Lamb and Larry Johnson in School Library Monthly January 2010, 26(5),

readSkim 50 Open Source Tools that Replace Popular Education Apps. This article explores the increasing opportunities for free software and resources.

Examples of Interactives

An increasing number of groups are creating free interactives. Explore interactives at learner.org and at PBS.

The Concord Consortium are designing free, interactive science software. These interactives combine tools with problem-solving activities. Try the Broken Calculator. In this interactive, users are asked to solve problems with keys on the calculator are broken.

Go to Flash: Exploration. Browse through the online simulation and games.

Explore examples of interactivity including Approximating Pi, Destination: Modern Art, Dogs Around the World, Pauly Playhouse, and Nobel Prize. What different types of interactivity can you identify?

Explore how tools are incorporated into Flash projects.
Artist's Toolkit
Design a Parachute
The Drake Equation
Forces Lab
Let's Make a Microbe
Loads Lab
Making Vaccines
Materials Lab

Read Write Think Student Materials
Thumb Piano Tunes
Invention at Play: Cloud Dreamer, Puzzle Blocks, Tinker Ball, Word Play

Do some comparisons. Seek out similar interactives and compare how they work. For instance there are many online typing programs such as TypeRacer and Keybr.

Not all interactives use Flash technology. For example, NoodleQuest is a tool to help users do academic research. Through a series of questions, users are provided with some good places to start their exploration.

Check out some of these other related tools:

Interactives can serve many purposes. In Interactive Visual Explainers-A Simple Classification from elearningpost, Maish Nichani and Venkat Rajamanickam explain that interactives "are brief Web-based interactive visual explainers. They are designed to explain complex concepts or ideas. Of late, they are usually created in Flash or Director. Since the practice is new, different names are used to describe it -- 'Flash Infographics', 'Motion Graphics', and 'Interaction Graphic' are some we've come across. We like "Interactives" because it embodies interaction--the building block of the Web--and thus does not bring across any preconceived notions from the print world."

Nichani and Rajamanickam have identified four types of interactives and examples:

Interactives in Learning

Interactives are a wonderful way to engage learners of all ages. Look for interactives to support content that is difficult to teach using traditional methods.

readRead Engaging Interactives for eLearning: 25 Ways Awake and Intrigued (PDF) by B.J. Schone (a contributing author of eLearningWeekly.com and co-creator of eLearningPulse.com). Then go to Engaging Interactives for Elearning blog to see lots of other examples

There are many different types of interactives. Rather than using them in isolation, look for on- and off- computer connections to extend the experience. Go to Tale of the Fairytale to see an example of combining an interactive with other classroom and library ideas.

Use the following resources to explore the spectrum of possibilities.

The Myths is a website that explores world creation mythology. Each interactive includes an overview of the culture, the pantheon of the gods and a series of exercises based on that culture.

An educator might use this website along with other websites on mythology such as 42explore: Mythology and Encyclopedia Mythica.


Television programs like CSI have spurred interest in forensic science. Read Stiff : The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach. The BBC Interactive Body provides users with experiences exploring different aspects of the human body through games. A variety of techniques are applied including puzzles, matching pages, questions, and demonstrations. Go to a pathfinder for other ideas.

HabitatsThe Build a Panda Habitat interactive is an example of tools for building. There are many of these types of "creator" interactive. Look for ways to connect to off-computer activities. For instance, children might read fiction or nonfiction books about the ocean, use the interactive, then write a fiction story containing facts. Create a display containing books, a laptop, and a bulletin board of student-generated stories and projects.

Books might include Sand, Leaf, or Coral Reef: A Book about Animal Habitats by Patricia M. Stockland; I See a Kookaburra!: Discovering Animal Habitats around the World by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page; All Kinds of Habitats by Sally Hewitt, Crinkleroot’s Guide to Knowing: Animal Habitats by Jim Arnosky, Kids’ Easy-to-Create Wildlife Habitats by Emily Stetson, and My Very First Book of Animal Homes by Eric Carle.

Include websites such as 42explore: Animal Homes, Enhanced Learning Biomes, National Geographic Habitats, Ocean Habitats.


Explore the following examples of how interactives can be used in learning

Interactives in Learning and Libraries

There are many ways that interactives can be integrated into library programs, promotions, and displays.

Lego Fun. Connect Lego books, Lego hands-on activities, and online Lego Games with learning activities across the curriculum. Or, simply focus on fun! Go to Lego Games for online ideas.

Book Cover Promotion. According to Leigh Ann Jones in her article "The Great Cover-Up" in School Library Journal, people do judge a book by its cover. She found that middle school students use book cover art as their main reason for selecting a book. Below are two covers from the award-winning book Birdwing by Rafe Martin. Which would you choose?


Some books in your library have old, unattractive covers. Get young people involved with creating book covers. Use the ReadWriteThink Book Cover Creator interactive to get patrons involved in designing and creating innovative book covers. Ask people to create graphics that capture the theme of the book.

Extreme Makeover Promotion. Get out your interior design, Feng Shui, architecture, and other design books and have some fun. Set up a display with books related to room planning and design, add a laptop with one of the many room planner interactives (Dulux), set up a television with your HGTV DVDs, create a pathfinder with websites and have some fun. Set up a bulletin board to share favorite designs. Invite a local interior designer to speak to the group.

Music Promotion. Create a display of instruments, books, how-to videos, and instrumental audio CDs. Incorporate a laptop into the display for people to try out online instruments such as the PBS thumbpiano page. Go to the Thumbpiano wiki for other ideas. Check out the Guitar (PDF) brochure for an example of how you could incorporate the Guitar interactive into your display.

Dinosaur Days Promotion. Get young people excited about exploring dinosaurs. Use the Dinosphere website from the Indianapolis Children's Museum as the focus of a learning center in your children's section.

Underground Railroad Learning Station. Build an interactive display incorporating picture books, chapter books, primary source documents, videos, and interactive activities. Interactives might include Pathways to Freedom. Go to Learning the RUN way for examples that incorporate all these elements.


Links to the materials in this section can be found in the navigation bar on the left side of this page. Continue to the arrow means an internal linkLearning Spaces: Interactive Technology: Widgets page.

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