Wolfram Alpha is a browser-based computational engine that can be used for parsing through data in seemingly limitless subject areas. First popularized for its use in solving differentials and integrals in calculus, Wolfram has expanded in its niche to become useful in applied sciences such as physical chemistry, but also as a research tool in the social sciences.
By engaging the engine to process “Phenolphthalein”, we were given an overview of the organic molecule’s physical characteristics such as chemical bonds, boiling point, reactivity, and uses in organic chemistry.
In other subject areas such as Social Sciences or the Humanities, it can give brief summaries of prominent historical figures such as Pierre Elliott Trudeau, or more recent celebrities like Justin Bieber.
In Applied Mathematics we see it handle a simple calculation of compounding interest. It utilizes multiliteracies by expressing the output in both a graphic and a numerical form to reach as wide an audience as possible. There is also potential with Wolfram-Pro to engage users in manipulative three-dimensional models.
While Wolfram should not be considered as a primary learning resource such as Khan Academy, it can be a useful supplement by making “systematic knowledge immediately computable and accessible to everyone”.
Wolfram is a classic example of how technology evolves dramatically from its initial use. As computing capabilities become more powerful, so does the boundless potential of programs such as Wolfram. During its early years, Wolfram’s use primarily was in the realm of math and calculus classrooms. Today, teachers can harness Wolfram’s capabilities in chemistry, physics, and history classes to support the learning of students. The rate of expansion of Wolfram is staggering, and it’s exciting to see what this program is capable of in the future.