[etoys-dev] (SQ-749) and Kathleen's question on "What do you mean by Artifacts?"

Steve Thomas sthomas1 at gosargon.com
Mon Aug 23 08:54:36 EDT 2010

On Mon, Aug 23, 2010 at 7:57 AM, Alan Kay <alan.nemo at yahoo.com> wrote:

> if you send the Elluminate video to me, we can certainly do a transcript
> (there is a very speedy and reasonably inexpensive transcription company
> here in LA).

Go to this page http://mathfuture.wikispaces.com/Important+questions and at
the top is a link to the video

Full recording: voice, web tour, text

> *From:* Steve Thomas <sthomas1 at gosargon.com>
> *To:* Alan Kay <alan.nemo at yahoo.com>; Bert Freudenberg <
> bert at freudenbergs.de>; Kathleen Harness <kharness at illinois.edu>
> *Cc:* etoys-dev <etoys-dev at squeakland.org>; squeakland <
> squeakland at squeakland.org>
> *Sent:* Sun, August 22, 2010 8:37:21 PM
> *Subject:* Re: [etoys-dev] (SQ-749) and Kathleen's question on "What do
> you mean by Artifacts?"
> Hi Alan,
> On Thu, Aug 12, 2010 at 12:54 PM, Alan Kay <alan.nemo at yahoo.com> wrote:
>> A good slogan for teaching, pedagogy, and curriculum design is "When
>> should it be easy, and when should it be hard?".
> This, for me at least, is hard to figure out ahead of time when designing a
> lesson. I am much better when I interact with the kids and can improvise on
> the spot.
>> The notion here is that for education to be transformative, you wind up as
>> a different "better" person than you were, and this means that certain
>> difficulties were very important to your learning -- the stuff that was
>> "easy" you could already do (and some of the easy stuff is not what you want
>> to aim at). Building knowledge and skills to get fluent at handling
>> difficulties (and in some case rendering them non-difficult) is a key for
>> much important learning.
>> On the other hand, gratiutous non-productive difficulties are to be
>> avoided because they generally both distract and occupy " thinking chunks"
>> that one needs for the important stuff.
>> (I don't recognize my quote that was paraphrased)
> It comes from a video I found in the Bell Labs library around 84-86 (not
> sure of video date). You were talking about User Interface design and my
> biological memory recalls you refering to using a mouse and saying "If I can
> do it in one click, I'll do it.  If it takes two clicks, I might do it. If
> it takes three or more clicks, I probably won't do it". I have used and
> attributed it to you a number of times since. If I am in error please let me
> know and I will self correct.
> I really could use Gorden Bell's E-Memory. Hopefully you are heeding his
> advice and collecting your E-memory so that we may search and study it. One
> way to do this is anytime you give an interview, presentation etc where it
> is recorded, request a copy of the recording and all rights to distribute as
> you see fit.  Also be sure they video your presentation and not just you so
> we can see what you are referring to.  It would be nice if we had text
> versions of those interviews. I am working on transcribing the interview you
> gave at Natural math<http://mathfuture.wikispaces.com/Important+questions> and
> its time consuming. I have a friend who works on Google speech recognition
> software and would try and send him a copy, but Ellumintate doesn't seem to
> have a way to extract the audio.
>> Adults tend to be the biggest problems when trying to help children learn
>> things. It's the adults who generally don't want to do the work and don't
>> see many things as fun. Kids (and people in general) can spend a lot of time
>> focussed and doing when they are having fun.
> If not Adults, who? If the goal is transformation I see Adults as part of
> the solution.  So does labeling them as part of the problem (which I am NOT
> disagreeing with) help or hinder transformation?
>> I ask this because I see a lot of teacher bashing which I believe hinders
> our cause much more than helps it.
> Another choice besides adults is older kids, I have seen this succesfully
> used in Scouting and in a public speaking conference my kids attended this
> past weekend. They tend to listen to older kids more and the older kids
> realize the importance of fun. The key here, as with adults, is guidance and
> training.
>> Constructivism (one of many such terms I don't use because they have lost
>> their meanings) doesn't mean discovery from scratch (this is a huge
>> confusion many people have), but does mean "understand and clarifying by
>> making a careful descriptive model".
>> This can be done with English and writing (it is what descriptive,
>> expositional, and argumentative writing are supposed to be about). It can be
>> done with mathematics. It can be done in many cases with physical
>> construction materials. And a lot can be done in terms of computer programs.
> Thank you I really hadn't thought of this before and it is an excellent
> point (ie: something I can use with my kids).
>> I will look for ways my kids can learn this.
>> I like the Montessori curriculum approach of making a carefully designed
>> environment for the chilldren that allows choice on their part and allows
>> limited the degrees of freedom on the educator's part.
> The problem I struggle with is how to design the environment and what
> games, playthinks, problems, etc to use.
>> One of the best projects we've ever designed is the Galilean Gravity one
>> -- and it illustrates what you have to do with guidance on the one hand and
>> space to play on the other to enormously raise the probability that most
>> children will be able to see and understand what is going on without having
>> to give them the "answer" to memorize.
> I love that project and I find it extremely frustrating. Frustrating
> because I really want to do it with my kids, but it is really really hard to
> do in Etoys.  The hard part being importing the video. The reason for this I
> believe is that the video player only supports MPEG.
>> The idea that kids take their own videos and then analyze them is an
> excellent approach. Avigail Snir had a wonderful example of using video at
> Squeakfest.  But as I understand it, even she had a lot of problems trying
> to convert the video into MPEG and even more frustrating is she is having
> trouble sharing it with the world so other teachers could see it and be
> inspired.
> One of the keys in the early Montessori schools was the intense
>> comprehensive training of the Montessori teachers -- and the lack of the
>> equivalent of this in most of today's schools is a huge problem.
> I have also been thinking about using scripts (the theatrical kind) and
> cue's to look for with scripted responses as a way of teaching. Perhaps
> Actors would be good teachers hmmmm need to flesh out the idea more.
>> The scripts in Etoys are independent of the visible appearance of the
>> object they are attached to (the objects' "costumes" can be changed at will
>> -- and this is how "frame animation" is done in Etoys).
> I'm not quite understanding what it is that you would like for teachers
>> beyond a repository of projects with extensive notes about how they were
>> made and how to make them.
> A repository of projects is good, but I would add a repository of objects,
> sets of objects and scripts. Ie: I think unit of "things you can
> share/store/easily re-use" is too large. I write this then ask myself, why
> do I feel this way?  I think it goes back to the point you verbalized much
> better than me "It gets annoying after the first few times".  I may be
> thinking of what you refer to later in the email as "packaging up" a
> solution.
> I would like to be able to re-use and share those solutions (especially
> since Etoys lets me look inside and modify them). The ability to look inside
> and modify them is why I would prefer "artifacts" (as discussed in previous
> emails and built by Hilaire as part of iStoa) be created with scripting
> tiles as opposed to doing so in squeak.  This would allow teacher to build a
> set of virtual manipulatives that others could modify or just look inside
> and figure out how they work. One response I received was that this would
> not scale, but frankly I don't understand why not.
> "Packaging a solution" would also let you develop a curriculum where kids
> built their own tools (ex: a graphing tool) and re-use them in other
> projects. The one tricky part of the graphing tool is labeling the number
> lines (trying to align the text is hard, at least I have not found a simple
> solution) so perhaps a number line object would be needed.
>> If "learning by making" is a good idea, then shouldn't teachers learn new
>> ideas about Etoys by making them (but with lots of guidance)?
> Okay my turn to not quite understand: Yes I agree "learning by making" is
> a good idea. But should teachers and learners have to make everything from
> first principles?  Who has the time?
> Would teachers not benefit from using "great literture" created by people
> who were PUFx's (ie: had a Profound Understanding of Fundamental <subject
> matter>)?
>> I have a friend at work who while at Stanford and did very well in Organic
> Chemistry, he thought the reason he did so well was he had 7 or 8 core
> concepts from which he could derive the rest.  He decided to try and teach
> those concepts and when and how to use them to some of the other students to
> see if they could use them and "transform".  It worked well and I think this
> idea has some merit. Unfortunately he had a head injury and can't remember
> them. My challenge is to find sets of core ideas and how to use them, then
> figure out how to present them in an age appropriate manner.
> I also think you made a good point in the Natural Math interview when you
> mentioned Seymour Papert's comment that it doesn't much matter what
> mathematics we teach them as long as they are learning to reason like a
> mathematician.
> On the other hand, there are any number of things in the Etoys design
>> itself that could be vastly improved to help both adult and child learning,
>> and also for them to make better extensions.
> Yes, the question I am struggling with are which are the important ones
> worth doing first. To think about that I am considering imposing upon myself
> something similar to the Warren Buffet advise to "give myself a ticket with
> only twenty slots in it so that you had twenty punches - representing all
> the investments I could make in a lifetime". I think instead I will try and
> limit myself to three requests for the rest of the year. Those who know me
> know how hard it will be to impose that constraint. But one way would be
> allow myself to discuss many possible improvement (which helps me think
> about them) and then only pick three to request.
>> For example, I do all my talk presentations using Etoys and I write
>> scripts to sequence "builds" of additive visual material to the slide
>> (Powerpoint has a feature for doing this that is more convenient for some
>> goals and simply won't allow others). It is very instructive to do this by
>> hand a few times, and then gets annoying.
> Agreed.
>>  Etoys does not have a good extension mechanism for "packaging up" a
>> solution to "slide builds" that can then be used as a feature. This is a
>> real sin against our own precepts. The lack of it is due to EToys being
>> thought of as temporary and of limited scope at Disney. It is terrible that
>> we don't have it now.
> I think Ricardo's GSoC Morph I/O may help solve at least part of the
> problem.  You can save an object (including a playfield and its embedded
> objects) in a file and import it later. I have used it a number of times and
> find it very useful.
> Why don't we do it now? Because we've been trying to move on to the next
>> design since before OLPC came along. And so forth.
> I look forward to seeing the next design (I have only caught glimpses from
> what I have read on the VPRI site and reading into emails and
> discussions). Is there a time frame when we can expect to see it?
> All that said, I think the most important thing to work on now is great
> content (projects, lesson plans, screencasts, etc.)
> Many Cheers for all you have done and continue to do,
>> Stephen
> ------------------------------
>> *From:* Steve Thomas <sthomas1 at gosargon.com>
>> *To:* Bert Freudenberg <bert at freudenbergs.de>; Kathleen Harness <
>> kharness at illinois.edu>
>> *Cc:* etoys-dev dev <etoys-dev at squeakland.org>; squeakland <
>> squeakland at squeakland.org>; Alan Kay <alan.nemo at yahoo.com>
>> *Sent:* Thu, August 12, 2010 8:11:46 AM
>> *Subject:* Re: [etoys-dev] (SQ-749) and Kathleen's question on "What do
>> you mean by Artifacts?"
>> I have been reading Alan Kay's Thoughts About Teaching Science and
>> Mathematics To Young Children<http://www.vpri.org/pdf/m2007003a_thoughts.pdf>
>> :
>>> I think one of the trickiest issues in this kind of design is an analogy
>>> to the learning of science itself, and that is *"how much should the
>>> learners/users have to do by themselves vs. how much should the
>>> curriculum/system do for them?"* Most computer users have been mostly
>>> exposed to "productivity tools" in which as many things as possible have
>>> been done for them. The kinds of educational environments we are talking
>>> about here are a*t their best when the learner does the important parts
>>> by themselves, and any black or translucent boxes serve only on the side and
>>> not at the center of the learning.* What is the center and *what is the
>>> side will shift as the learning progresses, and this has to be accommodated.
>>> *
>> By exposing everything in Etoys as "First Principles" (which in this
>> particular case I understand to mean, that we have a minimal set of
>> scripting tiles and objects from which everything can be built) we avoid the
>> "productivity tools" issue because everything is exposed.  It is also a
>> beautiful, elegant and exposes a powerful idea.
>> The challenge in a system where everything is done from "First Principles"
>> is that when you are designing an"educational environment"  "lesson",
>> or "Artifact" ( better terms might be "playthink" and/or "tool to think
>> with"), it can take a lot of work to build those preferably translucent
>> boxes.  And to paraphrase another Alan Kay quote on user interface design:
>> "If it takes one step I'll do it, If it takes two steps I might do it, if it
>> takes three or more steps forget about it!"
>> No, I am not arguing to make things easy for everyone, we need find ways
>> to get kids to have "hard fun." Hard work and ragging a problem are good
>> habits.  I also strongly believe that giving kids a "blank canvas" and a
>> great set of brushes and paints is an excellent and preffered method, but
>> not the only one we should use.
>> I am arguing (and struggling) with is how in a "First Principle" system
>> like Etoys, we can find ways to make it easier for teachers/designers (ie:
>> make them more productive).  I fear I see in some folks (none on this email
>> list of course) a tendency towards what I initially saw (and fell into
>> myself) as the constructivism trap. Where I encountered people who thought
>> kids should construct all knowledge themselves from Scratch (pun intended
>> ;).  As I recall Alan (and others pointing out) we can't expect kids to do
>> that, they will repeat the same mistakes people did over thousands of years.
>> My initial thoughts are a repository of Artifacts that teachers can use
>> along with a set of scripts (the problem with the set of scripts idea is
>> that the scripts in Etoys are not decoupled from the ?morphs? (not sure of
>> the correct term here, but basically the pixels visually representing the
>> object). Bert's idea that we have a Player Variable and the scripts that
>> operate on it is a good one, but I think there may be some bugs there, need
>> to test more.
>> Now I will more directly address Kathleen's question: "What do you mean by
>> "Artifacts".
>> I will switch from "Artifacts" to the term "Playthinks" (which I
>> encountered in the "The Big Book of Brain Games<http://www.amazon.com/Big-Book-Brain-Games-Mathematics/dp/0761134662>"
>> by Ivan Moscovich).
>> One of the best and simplest "Playthinks" for teaching I ever encountered
>> was Robert B. Davis' classroom warm-up (which I showed at Squeakfest and
>> have wrote about here<http://mrstevesscience.blogspot.com/2009/12/taking-tic-tac-toe-to-next-level-if-you.html>.)
>>  Basically it involves drawing on the board a 4 x 4 grid
>> . . . .
>> . . . .
>> . . . .
>> . . . .
>> Then having kids pick two numbers and using those two numbers as X and Y
>> counting from 0 at the origin point in the lower left and then If they land
>> on the board marking an X or O until one team wins.  Some of the keys to
>> this "Playthink" are:
>>    - you let kids puzzle it out for themselves, they figure out the
>>    rules, you don't tell them
>>    - it contains a powerful idea
>>    - it can be easily extended to other concepts (negative numbers, a
>>    number is all the ways you can name it, is this game fair ...)
>>    - *its fun *
>> Other examples of "Playthinks" would be cuisenaire rods, pentagrams, area
>> blocks, other good "virtual manipulatives" and my feeble attempts Circle
>> Explorer <http://www.squeakland.org/showcase/project.jsp?id=10212> and Pattern
>> Blocks and Tools<http://www.squeakland.org/showcase/project.jsp?id=10216>
>> .
>> *Bert*, your comments on SQ-749 sparked my writing this, I will address
>> it more specifically in a separate email after some more thought.
>> Including *Alan* so he can correct any misinterpretations and hopefully
>> comment
>> FYI: A lot of other excelent writings from VPRI are here<http://www.vpri.org/html/writings.php>,
>> most are Computer Science related but a number deal with educational issues
>> and Etoys.
>> Stephen
>> On Thu, Aug 12, 2010 at 5:02 AM, Bert Freudenberg <bert at freudenbergs.de>wrote:
>>> On 12.08.2010, at 10:32, Steve Thomas wrote:
>>> > On Thu, Aug 12, 2010 at 3:32 AM, Bert Freudenberg <
>>> bert at freudenbergs.de> wrote:
>>> >> This would likely be simple to implement, but could break existing
>>> projects. E.g. the morphing stuff in the showcase. Maybe you could take a
>>> look?
>>> >
>>> > Checked "Morphing" by Kazuhiro Abe and that should be fine. Each
>>> Polygon in the holder has the same number of vertices and the script simple
>>> changes the positions of the vertices one at a time.
>>> >
>>> > "The Walkers" and associated remixes by P.A. Dreyfus uses a special
>>> category "morphing" which would be great to get into Etoys (although I would
>>> suggest the addition of some way to show/manage the frames) to make the
>>> invisible more visible and to make it easier to create these kind of
>>> animations. Anyway, whether this would be a problem or not depends on how it
>>> is implemented.  If he stores complete information about the polygon in each
>>> frame, I see no problems. If he only stores differences and
>>> adds/removes/repositions each vertex that MAY cause a problem.
>>> >
>>> > Anyway if it is a simple change and you can make it, I think I can
>>> easily test the change by opening the project, then file-in the changes and
>>> see if anything breaks. Or you could also ask P.A. Dreyfus (master of
>>> polygon's and connectors) what he thinks as he knows and can check the
>>> changes against his implementation.
>>> >
>>> > Stephen
>>> Thinking about this more I do not like the proposal. It would makes the
>>> system less predictable.
>>> Having the new vertex remain at the same position is the only sensible
>>> choice. It matches the "copy" behavior of regular objects, which also appear
>>> in the same position. It would not scale anyway - see this image where I
>>> only inserted 4 vertices. The position quickly converges to the next vertex
>>> position.
>>> Also, I'd argue that "add a vertex at beginning" and "add a vertex at
>>> end" tiles are not needed in the first place. To be useful they would, as
>>> you noticed, have to be "set cursor to beginning and insert vertex" and "set
>>> cursor to end and insert vertex", because otherwise one cannot assign their
>>> position immediately. But that makes them perform two operations that are
>>> available separately. There is no good reason to coalesce those steps into
>>> one.
>>> In any case, inserting a vertex should not change the cursor. If you want
>>> a cursor change to occur, insert a tile.
>>> So my counter-proposal is: remove the "add vertex at beginning" and "add
>>> vertex at end" tiles. (to not break existing projects, the tiles would only
>>> be hidden)
>>> - Bert -
>>> _______________________________________________
>>> etoys-dev mailing list
>>> etoys-dev at squeakland.org
>>> http://lists.squeakland.org/mailman/listinfo/etoys-dev
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