The 2018 ISDDE Prize

for Excellence in Educational Design

Nick Jackiw for the Geometer’s Sketchpad

This year’s prize is for Design of a single product that has had great impact in terms of educational design: the Geometer’s Sketchpad.

Perhaps Nick’s background is a little surprising given the nature of the product: Nick graduated in the late 1980s with a degree in English and religious studies and went on to design software that is as the eventual publisher says is “compelling—almost addictive”.
He goes on to say that, as his boss, collaborator, and student, “I realized that while most educational software around was teaching software, in a profound way, this software was learning software. It was created not in the interests of the teacher who wanted to pass packaged knowledge on to students (although it can surely be used for this purpose), but every feature was designed to for the active learner, allowing them to build on their own base of knowledge and go further and further in endless directions of the user’s choice.”

When the first version of the software was released in 1991 there was no generic name for such exciting software that fully embraced the emerging graphical user interface of Mac computers. Nick and the publisher of the software that we know as the Geometer’s Sketchpad came up with the term dynamic geometry and as we now know such software can and should be used in various formats in classrooms round the world.

Other products were being developed at the same time – notably Cabri Geometry was a competitor in some ways. The author of that package, Jean-Marie Laborde, wrote in support of Nick being awarded the ISDDE prize, generously saying, “It is clear that GSP and Cabri have also been competitors, this sometimes interfering in our discussions! Nevertheless, every time (they met) Nick and I continued to respect each other profoundly. So, it is easy for me to explain how much I value the work of Nick who has pioneered the spread of Dynamic Geometry in the US and in so many other places in the world. What I particularly admire in Nick is his thirst to learn. I think not to be mistaken in saying that the first inclination of Nick towards Geometry and Mathematics is from his sensibility to art and visual art.”

There is perhaps no greater recommendation than such words from a competitor.

Nick’s work on the Geometer’s Sketchpad has provided many students, teachers and explorers around the world, new ways of thinking about and seeing geometry and has set the bar high in educational design.

The support for this award was high with many strong words of recommendation, including:

“I remember my eyes widening and my jaw dropping as I made sense of the little program I was seeing. It was magical and transformative.”

“Several of us immediately started researching how this tool would affect students’ learning. “ It is not many designs that spark a whole area of research!

“Speaking for myself and my journey as an educator, I feel that Nick Jackiw is responsible for changing the landscape of mathematics education.”

“Seeing the remarkable levels of engagement and insight demonstrated in [my research], has led me to appreciate and admire the groundbreaking creativity and technical mastery of Nicholas Jackiw.”

There are many others indicating that Nick is indeed a most worthy winner and we look forward to the 2019 ISDDE conference at which Nick will give a plenary address that no doubt will provide further insight into the beautiful world of learning that Sketchpad provides.