[etoys-dev] Etoys documentation TOC

K. K. Subramaniam subbukk at gmail.com
Thu Sep 3 09:01:55 EDT 2009

On Thursday 03 Sep 2009 4:31:55 pm Rita Freudenberg wrote:
> 2. Getting started (technical description on how to install and start
> etoys on different operating systems)
IMHO, we should separate technical reference from learner's reference. 
Installation is something that is done once while learning happens all the 

Existing guides (e.g. Powerful Ideas, help) use a prescriptive style (press 
this, do this etc.). Many beginners get into a mechanical action mode. IMHO, 
children (and teachers) need a conceptual style that helps them transition 
from real world to digital world. A lesson I learnt the hard way :-(.

Nowadays I introduce Etoys as a kit containing thousands of 'tiny powerful 
automatic computers'. They have a button panel (halo buttons) and keyboard 
(for text entry) but no 'form'. We paint a shape or stick a graphic label to 
recognise and manipulate them. These computers can memorize stuff and follow 
instructions but they have no will or consciousness of their own. So we have 
to "think" for them and give them right instructions. We can also get two or 
more "computers" to work together  as a team ("pick up your heading from 
wheel's heading", align next to, move towards etc). Such a team of computers 
can be used to tell a story ("water cycle"), calculate magnitudes ("if I walk 
10 units north and then 10 units east, how far am I from the starting point?") 
or model things around us ("seeds on a sunflower") to discover patterns.

I hope I am too off the mark here. Originally, the term "computer" referred to 
a smart person who did calculations. Later, electronic machines were designed 
to mimic their operations and these were dubbed "automatic computers".


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