[IAEP] Etoys, is it difficult or easy?

Alan Kay alan.nemo at yahoo.com
Mon Sep 27 19:58:25 EDT 2010

Hi Caroline,

I think that each of them is at its best for just a few years. Each of them was 
specifically designed (for different reasons) for relatively short term use.

Etoys can be used longer, but mostly because it also has a particle system, and 
an integrated media system. Still, I think that the programming system should be 
done a bit differently for good use over a 5 or more year period.

I think that a new system needs to be designed and made that is set for much 
more longitudinal learning (and we are trying to get funding to attempt to make 
such a system).



From: Caroline Meeks <caroline at solutiongrove.com>
To: Dr. Gerald Ardito <gerald.ardito at gmail.com>
Cc: Alan Kay <alan.nemo at yahoo.com>; Cherry Withers <cwithers at ekindling.org>; 
danielgastelu at yahoo.com.ar; Tim McNamara <paperless at timmcnamara.co.nz>; Steve 
Thomas <stevesargon at gmail.com>; iaep <iaep at lists.sugarlabs.org>
Sent: Mon, September 27, 2010 4:46:45 PM
Subject: Re: [IAEP] Etoys, is it difficult or easy?

First let me say that based on my experience working with second and third 
graders in an inner city public school, eToys, Scratch and Turtle Art, none of 
them are inherently too difficult for elementary school children, especially 
with 1:1 help at the start and all of them have the potential to be very 

But we can still think about what makes it easiest and gives us the best ramp up 
at which age levels.

When I think about challenge I am thinking about it in terms of game design. 
 Like the graph on this 
page: http://mashable.com/2010/07/13/game-mechanics-business/

Game designers think there is an optimal level of challenge at each point to 
keep people engaged.

So my hypothesis is that in 5th grade the drawing in eToys is in that optimal 
zone, of not too challenging but not boring either. However, by 8th grade the 
drawing is falling toward the boring side and the bricks are in that optimal 
zone of challenge.

Another question is, once they have gotten engaged and past that first session, 
to a "hello world" sort of level, which system makes it easiest to progress and 
learn?  Which is best for which learning goals and content areas?  Just because 
kids like it better on Day 1 doesn't mean that system will be a superior 
learning tool two months later.

Which is sort of a long +1 to Gerald that challenge is good. I was incredibly 
impressed with students ability and willingness to keep applying effort in 
working with content and concepts that challenged them.  That is a key part of 
learning to learn.


On Mon, Sep 27, 2010 at 7:31 PM, Dr. Gerald Ardito <gerald.ardito at gmail.com> 

>First, I just want to clarify that I meant "challenged" in a positive way. The 
>5th graders dove into Etoys first through painting, and then through scripting. 
>However, I agree with what you say about artifacts of a pedagogical approach. We 
>saw this, too.
>Our learning situation involved 4-6 student "experts" with whom I spent time 
>showing them the key elements of Etoys needed to begin the project. Then, when 
>we introduced this project to larger class, these "experts" were free to move 
>around the room helping other students.
>We found this model to be a good one for generating a very productive classroom 
>environment with the XOs (in fact, it was the topic of my dissertation which I 
>completed last May). However, I wished we had spent more time with the scripting 
>piece. We had not developed those skills enough.
>On Mon, Sep 27, 2010 at 7:10 PM, Alan Kay <alan.nemo at yahoo.com> wrote:
>I'd be curious to hear what the process is with the 5th graders. These were our 
>main subjects. We worked only through regular classroom teachers (who had been 
>carefully coached). You will not see any "challenged" 5th graders if you use a 
>one on one session with them for about 20-30 minutes. The best way to do this is 
>to teach a few this way, and then use "a spreading wave" of one on ones. We 
>found that this was much better with both children and adults than to try to 
>teach all of them in mass.
>>So you might be seeing artifacts of pedagogical approach here (and a lot of 
>>"challenged" students result from such artifacts).
From: Dr. Gerald Ardito <gerald.ardito at gmail.com>
>>To: Caroline Meeks <caroline at solutiongrove.com>
>>Cc: Cherry Withers <cwithers at ekindling.org>; danielgastelu at yahoo.com.ar; Tim 
>>McNamara <paperless at timmcnamara.co.nz>; Steve Thomas <stevesargon at gmail.com>; 
>>iaep <iaep at lists.sugarlabs.org>
>>Sent: Mon, September 27, 2010 2:29:57 PM
>>Subject: Re: [IAEP] Etoys, is it difficult or easy?
>>You are remembering well. And I agree with your hypothesis.
>>The 5th graders took pretty well to Etoys. It is the drawing piece that hooks 
>>them, and then the scripting part that really challenges them. And the 7th and 
>>8th graders love Scratch. It is interesting to me because they also do plenty of 
>>"painting" of sprites and backgrounds, but something about the bricks seems to 
>>match their thinking process.
>>I am getting ready to introduce my current 7th grade classes to Scratch and am 
>>looking forward to that.
>>On Mon, Sep 27, 2010 at 12:21 PM, Caroline Meeks <caroline at solutiongrove.com> 
>>Gerald did some interesting work last year introducing both Scratch and eToys to 
>>5th and 8th graders.
>>>Gerald please correct me if I am misremembering.
>>>I think the results were the 8th graders took to Scratch more and the 5th 
>>>graders took to eToys more.
>>>Our hypothesis is that the first thing you do with eToys in draw and that is 
>>>very accessible to 5th graders. They can engage with the system before they have 
>>>to start understanding programming. 
>>>On the other hand 8th graders were directly ready to engage with programming and 
>>>had a easier/faster time picking that up with Scratch.
>>>This is very much a hypothesis, not proven and not based on much data but it 
>>>would be interesting to explore further.
>>>On Sun, Sep 26, 2010 at 12:22 AM, Edward Cherlin <echerlin at gmail.com> wrote:
>>>OK, I'll send it to you separately. Anybody else is still welcome to join in.
>>>>On Sat, Sep 25, 2010 at 20:47, Steve Thomas <stevesargon at gmail.com> wrote:
>>>>> Edward,
>>>>> Thanks, please send me the outline and what you think needs to be more
>>>>> "easily discoverable" and I will work on it.
>>>>> Stephen
>>>>> On Sat, Sep 25, 2010 at 6:06 PM, Edward Cherlin <echerlin at gmail.com> 
>>>>>> It is true that you can do all of these things in EToys, if you know
>>>>>> where to start. It is also true that the start screen of EToys could
>>>>>> be improved by providing a path to each of them, and to other
>>>>>> education modules, and Etoys could be improved with a few more
>>>>>> introductory modules.
>>>>>> Since children and untrained teachers cannot be expected to discover
>>>>>> these paths, and paths in other Activities, on their own, I am in the
>>>>>> middle of writing a guide to Discovery on the XO. The starting point
>>>>>> is my Wiki page,
>>>>>> http://wiki.sugarlabs.org/go/The_Undiscoverable
>>>>>> http://wiki.sugarlabs.org/go/Sugar_on_a_Stick
>>>>>> The undiscoverable  is an unofficial FAQ for tips, tricks, and
>>>>>> solutions to common problems that may otherwise be tricky to find.
>>>>>> These are being considered for inclusion in the official SoaS
>>>>>> documentation.
>>>>>> The Etoys section needs vast expansion. I have an outline in mind,
>>>>>> which I can share with anybody who would like to work on it.
>>>>>> On Fri, Sep 24, 2010 at 15:59, Tim McNamara <paperless at timmcnamara.co.nz>
>>>>>> wrote:
>>>>>> > The analogy doesn't quite fit, as it's possible to do complex things in
>>>>>> > all
>>>>>> > of those tools and it's easy to do simple things in EToys. Each 
>>>>>> > can
>>>>>> > be used in this learning model, e.g. training wheels to motorbike.
>>>>>> >
>>>>>> > Tim
>>>>>> >
>>>>>> > On 25 September 2010 05:48, Cherry Withers <cwithers at ekindling.org>
>>>>>> > wrote:
>>>>>> >>
>>>>>> >> And Scratch? ... don't remember where I read it,  but it sounded
>>>>>> >> logical
>>>>>> >> to me.
>>>>>> >> Use progressively difficult tools for progressively difficult tasks.
>>>>>> >> To confirm this statement,  I add the phrase: "Visible learning,
>>>>>> >> invisible
>>>>>> >> technology".
>>>>>> >> Children would first learn TurtleArt.
>>>>>> >> When they outgrow it switch to Scratch.
>>>>>> >> When all its possibilities are exhausted, continue with eToys.
>>>>>> >
>>>>>> > _______________________________________________
>>>>>> > IAEP -- It's An Education Project (not a laptop project!)
>>>>>> > IAEP at lists.sugarlabs.org
>>>>>> > http://lists.sugarlabs.org/listinfo/iaep
>>>>>> >
>>>>>> --
>>>>>> Edward Mokurai (默雷/धर्ममेघशब्दगर्ज/دھرممیگھشبدگر ج) Cherlin
>>>>>> Silent Thunder is my name, and Children are my nation.
>>>>>> The Cosmos is my dwelling place, the Truth my destination.
>>>>>> http://www.earthtreasury.org/
>>>>>> _______________________________________________
>>>>>> IAEP -- It's An Education Project (not a laptop project!)
>>>>>> IAEP at lists.sugarlabs.org
>>>>>> http://lists.sugarlabs.org/listinfo/iaep
>>>>Edward Mokurai (默雷/धर्ममेघशब्दगर्ज/دھرممیگھشبدگر ج) Cherlin
>>>>Silent Thunder is my name, and Children are my nation.
>>>>The Cosmos is my dwelling place, the Truth my destination.
>>>>IAEP -- It's An Education Project (not a laptop project!)
>>>>IAEP at lists.sugarlabs.org
>>>Caroline Meeks
>>>Solution Grove
>>>Caroline at SolutionGrove.com
>>>617-500-3488 - Office
>>>505-213-3268 - Fax

Caroline Meeks
Solution Grove
Caroline at SolutionGrove.com

617-500-3488 - Office
505-213-3268 - Fax

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