[Etoys] some comments

Bill Kerr billkerr at gmail.com
Thu Aug 30 01:21:04 EDT 2007

hi paulo,

Thank you for the link to squeakcmi, it looks great, I'll spend some time

I'm a secondary teacher and in the past few years I've mainly been using
GameMaker - but now think Squeak / Etoys is potentially more powerful for a
variety of reasons which I have articulated a little but it needs

The Game Making approach is flavour of the month and is good for motivation
and engagement of many students (not all). Also many teachers are engaged by
the concept. I received hundreds of emails from teachers in just one state
of Australia when I initially promoted Game Maker a few years ago. However,
it is also true that many teachers oppose Game Maker because they don't see
a clear link to curriculum, some see it as pandering to populism.

Both you and alan have mentioned this outlook, to quote from alan in this
thread: "a productively environment (Scratch is aimed at productivity) and
an educational one (EToys is more aimed in this direction)"

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!!

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'm still a beginner with etoys / squeak but have done more study recently
and now understand how the morphic approach fits in to etoys (the Player
class, prototyping approach).

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:

Fair enough but I think for this group my comments still do have some
relevance, so I'll send to the list as well

- Bill
Bill Kerr

On 8/27/07, Paulo Drummond <ptdrumm at terra.com.br> wrote:
> On Aug 26, 2007, at 10:07 PM, Bill Kerr wrote:
> On 8/25/07, carla gomez monroy < carla at laptop.org> wrote:
> However, for some people it can be quite intimidating to get a blank
> > screen when they click on "Make A New Project."
> I'm wondering why the first step is always to make a painting - and then
> when you keep the painting you have an object and can then do more powerful
> things at that point.
> Imho, the first step is to understand a little of this environment and
> what was the idea behind Etoys. Depending on the age/grade, the deepness
> varies. However, the teacher has a crucial role here: to understand it
> first. The book "Powerful Ideas in the Classroom" is of enormous value.
> The next expected step for a child (in this environment) is to create an
> object. Children usually like to pictorially represent their world. They
> need to express it as they need to situate themselves in the surrounding
> society. Contextualize.
> They can also use other predefined objects like ellipses/circles,
> rectangles/squares etc to complement  their painting, or give a more
> "realistic" display of their object-symbols. Conversely, they may use the
> paint palete to "personalize" some geometrical primitives they've place in
> their world.
> It has been demonstrated (http://www.squeakcmi.org) that kids at initial
> grades can use Etoys as a starting point to understand it and to express
> their ideas, paving the way to more advanced representations using the very
> same environment.
> A naive user might think it is just a paint program. Also some people
> don't like painting or are not good at it, eg. me. Also it's hard to paint
> well with a mouse.
> Children can use Etoys as a mapping tool. Actually they don't give a penny
> about accuracy, just because they don't need to. Adults generally do, even
> not knowing a bit of its usefulness.
> Why not have prepackaged sprites which can be loaded immediately (as well
> as the painting option)? Then the user is one step closer to the more
> powerful stuff. It also sends a message that it is not just a paint program
> - there has to be more to it than just loading a sprite
> LogoWriter, MicroWorlds and GameMaker all have prepackaged sprites
> Then Squeak Etoys would be another thing. When not-so-young kids need a
> more sophisticated expression-driven, more in the realm of productivity
> authoring tools — with many of the programmatic aspects of Etoys, they may
> go to another great tool: Scratch.
> I have given to the teachers in printed form
> >    * powerful ideas in the classroom
> I think *all* of the book, Powerful ideas in the classroom, should be
> available on the web. The car tutorial on squeakland is great but it's not
> enough. There are some good pdfs on squeakland too but the site is poorly
> organised
> Afaik, a new squeakland website is in the works.
> and it took me ages to find them. I wrote a blog about the frustrating but
> eventually successful search for etoy resources here:
> http://billkerr2.blogspot.com/2007/04/frustrating-but-eventually-successful.html
> It would be good to have a comprehensive help manual in one place. Pop up
> help is good but sometimes more detail is needed. Such a manual would
> probably be used more by teachers than by students but that is still useful.
> I could not agree more. Etoys documentation is really very scarce and
> sparse. With the help of the Squeakland community worldwide, these things
> are starting to show up here and there. It has been posted in laptop.org's
> [Community-news] that the Etoys dev team has started a discussion about this
> issue.
> — paulo
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