I'm wondering if there is another criteria - something like "extensibility". The old idea of "no floor, no ceiling." I hate learning something new and then finding that there is no way to extend it, add options, go under the hood, etc. Not that everyone wants that, but in an educational setting, having tools that you only have to learn once yet can accommodate different learners and different styles seems like important criteria. Maybe there's a better word for it?
Of course, there are at least two good words we can use to describe this concept, or at least a big chunk of it: freedom and openness. I'm not going to belabor that point; follow the links if you're confused.
After an exchange of comments, Sylvia states that some activities which have what she's looking for are HyperCard (entirely defunct), HyperStudio (it lives!), Flash (which is both expensive and not designed for K-12 students at all), Microworlds (a commercial Logo which I'm sure is lovely) and good old coding HTML by hand (yes, it is good to know the rudiments).
Doug continues, incongruously:
First, it was a good reminder that teachers' resistance to technology is less about technology itself but more about unfamiliar ways of teaching. Learning HyperStudio is not an issue; adopting a new teaching philosophy in which students learn by creating instead of absorbing is an issue.
Perhaps he didn't notice that her list is really pretty weak, and the best candidate in there, MicroWorlds, isn't exactly universally available to teachers. We really should have better tools for this, and we do. And they are free (some libre, some just gratis). The problem is that they aren't well known.
I could point to various projects by leading researchers in our field like Mitchel Resnick at MIT or Randy Pausch at CMU, but the best example for what Sylvia is talking about is Squeak, which was started at Apple in 1995 by Alan Kay as an extension of many of the ideas first seen in HyperCard. The project was booted from Apple to Disney and then into the void, but because it is more or less open source software, the project has survived and grown, despite the fact that the US ed-tech community has chosen to ignore it. Squeak is highly platform and OS independent. It is widely used in classrooms in Spain and is integrated into the OLPC environment. Its foundations in the SmallTalk programming language are sufficiently robust that it has been extended to be used for a variety of new and cutting edge projects like Scratch and Croquet, the not quite ready for prime time open alternative to Second Life.
I'm simply baffled by the argument that the quality of the tools schools currently have is sufficient, particularly when there are superior, mature, free alternatives that aren't even being considered.