[sugar] Education?

Simon Forman forman.simon
Mon Mar 12 05:27:11 EDT 2007

I've got something I think may be useful and relevant to this discussion.

I have been toying for several years with a system that I eventually
named "xerblin" that provides a metaphor for computation that can span
high level "Desktop" activities down to assembly language.  By that I
mean that it puts grep and MOV into the same seamless framework.

It works by presenting the user with a super-simple (yet Turing
complete) model that permits creating new commands out of preexisting
ones in a straightforward easy to understand direct manipulation

This model can be taught to non-computer-literate people; I explained
it to my dad in about 30 minutes over coffee (he was 72 at the time
and not very computer literate.)

It also functions as a sort of user-manipulable AST.  There is a
partial parser that transforms a subset of C into this xerblin model
and permits exploration and modification of it on the fly.  That part
is not included in the current demo as it makes use of a GUI widget
that's being reworked, and because the C parser was in fact terrible
as it was written under deadline for a conference.  I did manage,
however, to turn a C for loop into a xerblin model, modify it using
the mouse, and then execute it immediately with a click.  That went
over well.

In the current demo there is a much simpler parser for a much simpler
little language that works the same way.

As I said, this is strictly a proof of concept demo.  The concept it's
proving is that you can use it with many languages and levels, it
integrates them into one conceptual world, and then lets you play
around and discover how to make things with it without getting in your

Also, as a sort of curious serendipity, it resembles the sugar
interface:  it makes use of a user-visible "stack" that is very
similar to the sugar Clipboard and, at least in it's more mature
forms, it was to make use of a Log to record user history, not unlike
the sugar Journal.

I plan now to implement it for sugar and then to use it as a platform
to create some sort of "Children's Garden of Cybernetics" as an
educational Activity for the XO.

Anyway, there's my two cents.  Nice to meet you all, and if you want
to look at xerblin, I've spent part of the weekend getting the site
and demo in shape to mention on this list, but I must warn you that
this is a simple little hobby project that I made as a proof of
concept and I'm not too proud of the code quality.  Also, I haven't
tested it on other platforms, but it should work on linux.  You can
check it out at www.xerblin.com (sorry about the dot-com, it's not..)

There's a lot more I could say about it, but I don't want to spam the list.


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