[Squeakland] Re: Squeaking Homeschoolers?

Alan Kay Alan.Kay at squeakland.org
Mon Feb 2 08:26:35 PST 2004

Hi Aaron --

This would be a nice email to send to the squeakland.org list. I'm 
copying over there.

At 1:20 AM -0500 2/1/04, Aaron Lanterman wrote:
>On Sat, 31 Jan 2004, David T. Lewis wrote:
>>  You are on the right list for the kinds of student you have in mind,
>>  but you should also be aware that Squeak is being used for some very
>>  innovative educational purposes for younger kids. See www.squeakland.org.
>When I picked up the Squeakers DVD, which shows BJ Allen-Conn's work with
>Squeak, I also picked up a couple of copies of their "Powerful Ideas for
>the Classroom" book.
>Just curious: has there been any effort to "market," so to speak (in the
>sense that one markets something free) Squeak to the homeschooling
>population? (My wife and I don't have kids yet, but when we do we plan to
>homeschool. My wife taught 7th and 8th grade French for three years, and
>then went into tech support to get good pay and respect... after she left
>teaching she started researching homeschooling.)
>I've read every one of Alan Kay's essays on the squeakland.org site. I
>doubt he intended this, but if you really put together his arguments, they
>form an incredibly powerful argument for homeschooling, which emphasizes
>personal exploration of ideas on one's own timetable. Homeschoolers tend
>to be all about "getting their hands dirty" - i.e. if you want to learn
>how to make pots, you don't really get far by reading about making pots,
>or even by watching someone else make pots. You won't really get anywhere
>until you stick your fingers in the clay - and I think Squeak could be
>characterized as a "Clay of Ideas."

The first aims for the Squeak etoys were at what we called "lapware" 
(a parent with a child on their lap). And we have been wanting to do 
a major push for homeschoolers for quite a few years.

I think we now have enough content for the K-5/6 range, but we really 
lack enough of the direct and ancillary materials that parents need. 
This is especially acute in the earliest ages, where the advice to 
parents needs to be particularly rich in order for them to be good 
scaffolders (this is also true for teachers in the earliest grades). 
We've found that moderate levels of help (such as BJ's and Kim's 
book) seems to work fine with 4-6 graders. To take a later example, 
7th and especially 8th graders can cover a tremendous amount of 
ground, and here again we need lots more scaffolding for the helpers 
in areas such as science and math. So the effort graph kind of looks 
like a smile with 5th grade being a pretty good sweet spot in which 
to get started.

I have been toying around with notes for a more complete "5th grade 
for homeschoolers" curriculum but even this is daunting with our 
small resources (also we like to test our curricula for 3 years 
before thinking we have results that can be trusted).

>When I showed my wife the Squeakers video, she said two things that really
>struck me:
>1) "Wow, if someone had taught me math _that_ way, I would have really
>gotten into it!" (she historically hated math in school, all the way

That's because most schools in the US simply don't teach math. They 
try to teach pattern-matched calculation skills which are not much 
fun. Math is beautiful and fun.

>2) "They could NEVER have done that at a public school like the one I
>taught at." That was in reference to the gravity experiment - she said in
>disgust that at the school she taught at, one could never get permission
>from the various powers that be to do such a thing. In particular, there
>was a kid who stayed writing down his obervations once the experiment was
>over. My wife said that at the school she taught at, and probably most
>public schools, someone would have been screaming at the kid to get his
>butt inside along with all the other kids according to schedule.

A neat side note is that the Open Charter School is a public LAUSD 
school, but was set up as a Magnet school when busing was a big 
issue. And Magnet schools in LA were allowed to have much more 
control by the parents, teachers and principal as to how they did 
their thing.

>It seems to me that what lets Squeak take hold in BJ Allen-Conn's world is
>the philosophy underlying the Open School that she teaches at. In a world
>of public school mediocrity, particularly in the realm of math and science
>- which Dr. Kay so eloquently exposes in his essays and in the speeches
>I've seen on line - a world strangled by things like the No Child Left
>Behind act (i.e. Every Teacher Screwed Over Act) - the power of Squeak
>will have trouble taking hold.
>Sorry, I got a bit overexcited there... it's just so thrilling to find
>people so dedicated to creating new educational experiences to share ideas
>with. I was very glad to meet Mark Guzdial, who was the first person I met
>at Tech that I could seriously sit down and talk about these issues with.

Nice to be working and playing with you!



>- Aaron
>Dr. Aaron Lanterman, Asst. Prof.       Voice:  404-385-2548
>School of Electrical and Comp. Eng.    Fax:    404-894-8363
>Georgia Institute of Technology        E-mail: lanterma at ece.gatech.edu
>Mail Code 0250                         Web:    users.ece.gatech.edu/~lanterma
>Atlanta, GA 30332                      Office: GCATT 334B


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