The notion of generic organizer was first introduced in my PhD thesis (1986). It was intended to complement Ausubels notion of advance organizer:
An advance organizer is: Introductory material presented in advance of, and at a higher level of generality, inclusiveness, and abstraction than the learning task itself, and explicitly related both to existing ideas in cognitive structure and to the learning task itself ... i.e. bridging the gap between what the learner already knows and what he need to know to learn the material more expeditiously.
Such a principle requires that the learner has the appropriate higher level cognitive structure available to him. In situations where this may be missing, I suggested the notion of a generic organizer, which is an environment in which the learner can explore examples of a concept to encourage reflection on the underlying general idea. In my thesis (1986), I wrote:
I define a generic organiser to be a microworld which enables the learner to manipulate examples of a specific mathematical concept or a related system of concepts. The term generic means that the learners attention is directed at certain aspects of the examples which embody the more abstract concept.
Concrete examples of generic organisers include Cuisenaire rods and Dienes blocks. Computer examples include various programs I designed for exploration of concepts of the calculus, such as organizers to magnify a curve to see if it is locally straight, or to construct the numerical gradient function, or the numerical area function, or the solution sketcher to sketch solutions of first order differential equations. A more recent example is Kawskis Vector Field Analyzer.
Generic organizers are better used with guidance from a mentor, usually in the form of a human teacher, but possibly in the form of multi-media support. Such a support I call an organising agent. A generic organisational system is defined to be the combination of a generic organiser and an organising agent (Tall, PhD thesis,1986).
Papers about generic organizers:
1985c Using computer graphics as generic organisers for the concept image of differentiation, Proceedings of PME 9, Holland, 1, 105-110.
1989e Concept Images, Generic Organizers, Computers & Curriculum Change, For the Learning of Mathematics, 9,3 37-42.