[Etoys] some comments

Offray Vladimir Luna Cardenas offray.luna at javeriana.edu.co
Sat Sep 1 06:43:53 EDT 2007

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Hi all and Bill,

Thanks for your elaborations and thoughts. The talk about
Universals/Non-universals is aldo one of the most interesting ones I had
the opportunity to read. Here are some comments.

Bill Kerr wrote:


> I sort of agree with this approach but am also torn. Game Maker is
> unashamedly populist, the focus is absolutely clear from its name. So kids
> end up programming on an inferior platform - no morphic, no late binding,
> Windows only, proprietary code. It would be nice if more young people
> spontaneously picked up on etoys / squeak, that it could generate that sort
> of appeal. The way kids view school these days to promote something as
> "educational" is almost the kiss of death!!

Your words reminds me about a chapter of The Simpsons, where Bart was
destroying cities in a video game, and the game said of which state the
city was the capital. After a while and in despite of the violence, Bart
realized that it was and "educative game", so he drop it. Playing is a
powerful way to learn and games and toys (or using/building them as in
the approach of GameMaker or Squeak, respectively) are engaging for most
of the students. We "intuitively" know if the game/toy is fine, so we
can use the link between intuition and the things that we want to teach
in a emotional and cognitive sense. But is also true that games, science
and art exist for their own sake and there is and intrinsic pleasure and
beauty in "making/playing" them. So my main question is how can use The
Link to get people becoming part of a community of practice (the one
which makes Science, Art or even games) in a way that people develop the
aesthetics and epistemologies of their communities in the process of
belonging and participate in them.This other link between community and
the individual is important to me because at some point, when passion is
legitimate it exceed the individual and reach the culture (the other way
is also true).


> I would see Etoys / Squeak as more powerful than either Scratch or Game
> Maker. I wouldn't see young students moving over from Etoys to Scratch as a
> step upwards, it seems more like a step backwards to me.
> I like the low entry, high ceiling approach. You don't need the high ceiling
> for all students but in any group a small proportion of hackers emerges, say
> 5%,  which does need the high ceiling. One aim ought to be to encourage that
> advanced group, one thing they do is drag the general level upwards
> For the students I teach (secondary) the quality of their sprites is very
> important. I have seen them abandon their game making projects simply
> because they couldn't find the sprites they wanted on the web.

I was using Scratch as a beginning of the programming part this semester
instead of Etoys in my course of Introduction to Informatics (for first
semester undergraduate students) and because of the clean and explicit
interface I can use with my students even with the particular situation
of being outside of the country for two weeks in the very start of the
classes. They catched the interface quickly and get this first hand
experience with interactive programming and all of them liked it. But
now we're going to move to Bots Inc and trying to "go down" to Smalltalk
at least in an introductory fashion, the one allowed by Bots Inc,
because I try to emphasize that informatics is not programming or
computers and so we need to cover other subjects; instead programming is
a way to modeling and this is a way to interpret, deconstruct and
understand the world. The key is again how to go from a "production"
environment to a "education" environment and from classroom to the world
so, education is not that particular thing that happen "inside"
schools/universities and life and culture is everything else "outside".


> What I'm saying is that it would be good to have multiple pathways into
> etoys, not always starting with a painting, which is a v strong default at
> the moment. This would probably mean the ability from the start to select a
> variety of morphs from a supplies or widgets tab, which is a feature of eg.
> my squeak 3.8 full image but not a feature of the OLPC/etoys image. You only
> get the paint option. I can't find the world menu to access morphs in that
> way at all in the etoys image so I'm wondering about the design decisions
> that have been made in this case and the rationale behind them.
> I think what you and alan will say is that the target group for the OLPC is
> ages 6 to 12, one of the core_principles:
> http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Core_principles
> Fair enough but I think for this group my comments still do have some
> relevance, so I'll send to the list as well

And my interpretation of what you say about multiple pahtways to etoys
is that we need to make Squeak a "place of continuity" (sometimes the
Squeak multiverse seems so fractured) and this is not because of the
sake of Squeak of programming itself, is because powerful ideas are
connected ones, these that let us made translations (in the sense of
Jhon Maxwell, if I'm understanding him well). (Re/)Deconstruction of
really to bring new understanding or aesthetic experience (or both)
would be an important objective of powerful media. One of the first
translations and bridges that we need to make is from popular culture
(and its use of technology) to Science/Art and even other ways of
understanding. If we don't make that bridge, we have a lost battle for
the souls and minds of the young people against MTV, Xbox, Nintendo,
Messenger/gtalk, MySpace/Facebook etc. Deconstruction is a guide in that
bridge and is not only about "having the source code", is about making
the path an elucidative one, a path that changes the user, so the user
can change the path.


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