MET:WYSIWYG Applications and Their Impact on Education

From UBC Wiki

This page originally authored by Bill Colorado and Ken Stackhouse (2011).

WYSIWYG (pronounced wizz-ee-wig) is simply an acronym for What You See Is What You Get. The general principle behind WYSIWYG is that the user sees what will be printed or displayed while they are creating and editing on a computer. The application creates the characters, spacing, formatting, line breaks, etc...and makes changes for the user without the user having to know or follow specific computer codes such as html or ASCII.

WYSIWYG applications often use a tactful marketing ploy by claiming that they are as easy to use as Microsoft (MS) Word. This strategy appeals to the consumer because of his/her familiarity to an existing product but in fact MS Word is a WYSIWYG application itself. Bravo was the first WYSIWYG application and it was produced in 1974 (Markoff, 2007). The definition of a WYSIWYG application has changed since its inception but currently it describes an application whose product is very similar to the application’s user interface (The Free Dictionary).

A New Generation of Learners

File:Moi 21st century skills 2.PNG
A word cloud depicting 21st Century Skills. Source:

Since the increased and wide spread use of computers and the internet, it has been recognized that the way students are learning has changed and will continue to change. Students are being prepared for a work force that is much different than before. A distinction has been made by Friesen and Jardine in their publication 21st Century Learning and Learners between the Industrial and Post-Industrial ages of knowledge (n.d.). There are new literacy skills that arise from the technologies available to today’s learner. These skills have been particularly stated as 21st Century skills.

Many initiatives have been developed to meet the needs of today’s learner, such as New Brunswick, Canada’s commitment to 21st Century education (see video below) and The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Support for such initiatives have been developed byThe Council For Global Education who feel there is a need for change in delivery and participation in education. Today’s learner will need to be able to collect information, work collaboratively, reflect on experiences, and make changes in their thinking based on their participation in learning.


Benefits for Learners

Applications that incorporate WYSIWYG allow teachers to alter their teaching practices to meet the needs of today’s students. Teachers are able to establish courses and activities that lend towards the changes made in Bloom’s Taxonomy (Anderson & Krathwohl, 2001), especially focusing on opportunities for evaluating and creating.

With WYSIWYG applications teachers are able to create class websites or wikis. Many sites are free for educators (i.e., weebly, wikispaces) to establish and use with their classrooms. The WYSIWYG features of the sites allow the teacher to quickly create a site for their class. On the sites teachers can provide electronic information for students (and parents/guardians) about learning documents, assignment deadlines and real-time academic progress, which improves communication between school and home. Teachers can incorporate youtube videos, social networking sites (i.e., twiducate) scrolling text/images, and photo galleries into their sites.

Through WYSIWYG applications students are better able to work collaboratively through: creating class wiki entries, using Google docs, posting blogs, peer editing, and viewing peer work published on classroom websites. Students can gather information, reflect on their experiences, and make changes in their thinking based on their active participation in learning. Students benefit from the sensory rich environment that they have helped to create.

Changing Educational Practices and Benefits for Teachers

The 21st century learner that sits in the classrooms of today has been raised in an environment that is very different from the environment that their teacher was raised in. According to Marc Prensky, today’s learners are described as “digital natives” meanwhile their teachers could be referred to as “digital immigrants” due to this difference (Prensky, 2001, p. 1-2). This difference or obstacle must be bridged by altering educational practices, but with the average age of Canadian educators at 45 (Canadian Teacher Magazine), more teachers are thinking about retiring rather than retraining.

File:21st Century teacher.jpg
The Characteristics of a 21st Century educator. Source:

WYSIWYG applications provide a user interface that allows teachers to learn quickly, adapt to the needs of the learner, and thus take risks in the classroom. All of which describe the characteristics of a 21st century educator (Educational Origami). Web 2.0 applications afford collaboration and interaction between users but they can also be described as WYSIWYG applications.

As well, with the restructuring of Bloom’s Taxonomy educators are looking to provide learners with an environment in which they can reach the highest level; creating. WYSIWYG applications give educators the opportunity to guide students through collaborative learning communities where they will be able to learn, reflect and create new bodies of knowledge.

Enabling the Technologically Challenged

Before WYSIWYG applications came to the forefront, small businesses, educators, or individuals looking to make their own personal website faced a dilemma. They either had to hire a computer programmer or spend numerous hours learning a computer programming language. Neither of these options were too appealing.

WYSIWYG applications can be learned to the point of proficiency in a very short time and this reduces the amount of money spent on training staff members. Using an interface that looks familiar reduces the stress of a new user and being able to observe one’s own achievements in a short period of time is rewarding and motivating.


Anderson, L.W., and D. Krathwohl (Eds.) (2001). A taxonomy for learning, teaching and assessing: a revision of Bloom's Taxonomy of educational objectives. Longman, New York. Retrieved from

BRAVO. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved from

Canadian Teacher Magazine (2011). Pacific Edge Publishing Ltd. Retrieved from

Characteristics of a 21st century classroom. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Churches, A. (2009) Bloom's digital taxonomy Retrieved from

Markoff, J. (2007). The real History of WYSIWYG. The New York Times. Retrieved from:

Prensky, M. (2001). On the horizon,NCB University Press, Vol. 9 No. 5 Oct. 2001. Digital Native, Digital Immigrants. Retrieved from:

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. (2009). Retrieved from

The Council for Global Education (n.d.). Retrieved from

WYSIWYG. (n.d.). In The Free Dictionary. Retrieved from

Yuen, K. (2011). Best computer languages to learn. Retrieved from:


21st Century Skills:

Bloom's Taxonomy Revised:

Characteristics of a 21st Century Educator:


21st Century Education on New Brunswick, Canada: