Michael Douma is keenly interested in how technology and interdisciplinary presentations can give the public both a broader and a more nuanced understanding of the world.
He builds products and tools that utilize technology to achieve educational goals. Some of these products are inherently educational, such as web sites (WebExhibits, one of the first virtual museums) and apps (WikiNodes). Others are more generic tools that enable people to communicate or share information in new ways (SpicyNodes). As the Founder and Executive Director of IDEA.org, Michael leads a core team of developers and designers, along with a fluid team of artists, writers, and subject matter experts, to shepherd complex initiatives from concept to launch. He uses an iterative process to assure that all elements of complex projects sing in harmony.
Good work in this field requires understanding audiences, insight about how to harness technology to serve them, and production skills to get the job done. Michael’s empathy leads to effective user interfaces, whether the audience consists of students studying vocabulary words, Native American cancer patients learning to speak more assertively to their doctors, or graphic designers gaining a better understanding of color.
Michael leverages the best of current and emerging technologies for the educational field. In the late 1990s, he was innovating in 3D modeling and interactivity in order to explore the context of a Renaissance painting. Today, he is applying artificial intelligence techniques to determine how topics in Wikipedia are related, and using the latest computer graphics techniques to present those relationships is an engaging way.
Finally, Michael produces. He has led his team to create resources that inform and engage millions, that encourage people to create as well as consume, and that increase scientific, artistic, and cultural literacy.
Through this work, there are many lessons to share. In addition to product development, Michael strives to support the field of educational outreach by sharing data, observations, and trends in the blog at IDEA.org, as well as occasional papers and conferences.
Currently, Michael is working to entice students and the public to explore information found in encyclopedias and dictionaries via word games and concept maps.
When Michael is not tweaking user interfaces, polishing code, or writing blog posts, you can find him outdoors tending the green roof on his chicken coop, biking and hiking, or stoking the fires in his wood-burning outdoor pizza oven.