[IAEP] Why is Scratch more popular than Etoys?

Alan Kay alan.nemo at yahoo.com
Fri Sep 2 23:33:49 EDT 2011

Both Etoys and Scratch were done by some of the same people (especially John Maloney), and both are on top of Squeak Smalltalk. The original Etoys interface was more like Scratch's (small area for action results, most of the screen area used for showing tools, tiles, etc.). The first Etoys was aimed at the web (at Disney), and making the start up more obvious and using more screen for it is a good idea I think. The projects for the first Etoys were also like Scratch projects: effects, jokes, postcards, simple animations, etc.

The next version of Etoys was for classrooms that would have much more help and do more ambitious projects. So we went to a full screen with flaps for the tools. This worked well in this setting.

The OLPC XO presented a problem in that it had lots of pixels but a very small visual angle.  We decided to stay with the classroom version, and I think this was a good idea on the one hand, but it went against the general lack of help that might be available in many of the XO's destinations.

Then we handed Etoys over to the Squeak Foundation, and the version they put out online retains the classroom UI with flaps.

Personally, I think the Scratch UI is better for many things than the Etoys UI, especially first encounters, which are so important for so many beginners these days. And I think the Scratch people have done a fantastic job on their web presence, including their gallery, the emulator for Scratch projects so you can see what they do, their online materials, etc.

On the other hand, Scratch lacks a real media system, a massively parallel particle system, and many other features that are really needed and useful for learning things beyond simple programming. Etoys is much more complete in many more ways.

Both systems have strong and weak points as to their language choices. Both lack nice extensions into more sophisticated programming. Both need to be greatly improved.

And so forth.

But I think in the world we live in, it is initial experiences that count in a non-classical culture (and this is most cultures around the world including the US). So we have to praise Scratch here, and wish that it had more depth. Etoys could easily be set up with a more useful exposed UI, and this would help tremendously in initial impressions.

As to how many features to include, this is a tricky one. Scratch has quite a few features -- such as the thought balloon one -- because it was primarily initially designed for the "Computer Clubhouses", afternoon drop in experiences for junior high and high school kids. 

Etoys has fewer built in features because part of the "real deal" is to learn how to make your own features. It could have clip art, but we left it out because it is cognitively a good thing for children to learn how to draw. This is good for a "learning tool", but is not good for a "productivity tool".

There is no question that both systems could be improved along the lines of their current styles.

One could also imagine taking the lessons learned from both systems and inventing a new environment that is quite a bit better than either. I like this option the best.



>From: Steve Thomas <sthomas1 at gosargon.com>
>To: iaep <iaep at lists.sugarlabs.org>; naturalmath at googlegroups.com; squeakland <squeakland at squeakland.org>; scratched at scratch.mit.edu
>Sent: Friday, September 2, 2011 7:04 PM
>Subject: [IAEP] Why is Scratch more popular than Etoys?
>I have taught both Scratch and Etoys to kids and hands down most kids prefer Scratch.  I also prefer Scratch for certain things, but prefer Etoys for most learning and teaching.
>What can we learn from Scratch (and TurtleArt et al) to improve Etoys?  And vice versa what can be done to improve Scratch?
>I have ideas, which I will share later, but I am curious to hear the thoughts of others (as mine add nothing to my current understanding and repeating them will simply further ingrain incomplete and incorrect assumptions and prejudices ;)
>P.S. I fully believe kids should learn multiple languages and am not looking for the "one ring to rule them all."  Each language/environment has its advantages and we need multiple.
>IAEP -- It's An Education Project (not a laptop project!)
>IAEP at lists.sugarlabs.org
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