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  • Writer's pictureAmy Burvall

Interface Innovation: From MashUps to McLuhan-esque Metacognition


The other day my dear friend @Braddo posted this little jewel of a link on the user interfaces that have really made an impact in the ways we work, play, and, well, live:

It struck me that this would be an excellent springboard for an inquiry project, particularly for older students though I never underestimate the mind power of the younger ones.

Idea 1: Mash Up Makery

Mash up two more more of these innovations to create something new. Take the best bits from each and develop a product or technology that supersedes any single one. Sketch and label- make any type of prototype you can think of. Go the extra mile and give it a catchy name or film an advertisement, complete with jingle.

Idea 2: Media Metacognition

I’ve long been fascinated by Marshall McLuhan and in particular his Tetrad of Media Effects from the posthumously published Laws of Media.

I’ve sketched out some icons to help visualize the concepts:

What does the medium enhance / amplify / intensify?


What does the medium make obsolete or drive out of prominence?


What does the medium retrieve or recover that had been lost or been obsolesced earlier?


What does the medium reverse or “flip into” when pushed to its extremes?


Another great source on the Tetrads:

What I think students could do is explore new technology / platforms (particularly social media) / interfaces by applying the tetrad questions. Here’s an example of someone who has done just that:

McLuhan’s Tetrad Applied to Internet

In my experience, students find such philosophical discussion intriguing and relevant, as most use these technologies on a daily basis and are often genuinely concerned about the effects.

Both of these challenges involve critical and creative thinking, yet because they use “real world”, mundane examples of things we often take for granted, they seem less arbitrary than many of the contrived examples I’ve seen in project-based learning and thought experiments.

Chime in if you try these out – and if you get a patent for your new invention, you can thank me later 🙂

#interfaces #tetrad #digitallitearcy #technology #PBL #innovation #McLuhan #media

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