Squeaky Tales

The Etoys end-user programming environment is becoming tremendously important because of its inclusion with the One Laptop Per Child XO. Etoys was invented by Alan Kay's research group and is in continuous development and use as an integrated feature of Squeak Smalltalk. The Squeak/Etoys community includes lots of researchers, programmers, teachers, and kids around the world.

Squeaky Tales is a series of short tutorial screencasts designed to each people to program with Etoys. I'm very excited that this may be what's needed to make Etoys programming easy to learn for people at home. My experience has been that it's easy and fun to teach Etoys programming face-to-face with everybody using their own laptop, but that it's very slow and frustrating to try and learn Etoys by yourself just by installing it and clicking around. If Squeaky Tales makes it easy and fun to learn Etoys all by yourself at home then it's quite a contribution to the world!

If you try learning Etoys with Squeaky Tales then do leave a comment to say how you get along!

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What is easier for a kid to

What is easier for a kid to understand: (1)to make the turtle draw you tell it "pendown"! or (2) Set the "penDown" property to "true"?

Pens and turtles

I plan to do Squeak with my kid (now age 8). This is the same kid I tried the alligator experiment on. I taught logo to my daughter at age 6. I should mention I don't know smalltalk.

I'm not sure syntax matters too much and if it did I'm not sure logo's is helpful. She definitely would have liked a unix command line type syntax

pen -width=5 -color=blue -position=up
pencolor 255,0,0
penwidth 5

There were constant issues about remembering the names of commands in logo. So while I don't have any actual data regarding Etoys (yet) and even when I do it will be a bit biased (8 vs. 6) I have to say that if she had been able to conceptualize the notion of a penDown property then this would be easier. On the other hand there is a conceptual leap there and at 6 I'm not sure she could have made it. When we first started, she liked to learn logo by pretending to be the turtle and walking around the room "drawing" things.

Does the OLE Nepal project use Etoys?

The OLE Nepal demo looks very impressive, but it doesn't look like it's programmed with Etoys.

I wonder if you could add a few more details about it, such as, how easy would it be to change the language of a learning activity, and if any libraries are being built to make implementing learning activities easier?

Etoys in Nepal

True: the demo was prototyped in Etoys but then implemented in straight Smalltalk. Now I've come back and experimented with refactoring the functionality from Smalltalk into Etoys and it turns out that it's possible to do a LOT this way. I posted a new version of one activity that's now mostly Etoys. I left flaps showing the Etoys scripts but that's really "under the hood" and will be hidden in the finished product (Etoys is just an implementation technology to us).

The plan is to use Etoys as the primary development platform and extend its vocabulary with Smalltalk whenever necessary. We've chosen Etoys just for its rapid development and easy learning characteristics -- we want to teach a lot more people to work in this way because we think lots of groups will want to develop computerised interactive curriculum in the near future (due to OLPC and the desire to make it suitable for classroom use).

For libraries etc we've got our common Smalltalk codebase and it looks to me like scripted Etoys objects lend themselves very well to sharing via project files, i.e. you just serialise them into a file and import them somewhere else, and they come with all their dependences (sound clips, animation frames, etc) automagically.

Early days but quite exciting :-)


I forgot about language -

One of the main purposes of using Etoys is remixability by non-programmers. We hope that teachers and other curriculum-developers will take our activities and change them around to suit another environment: new language, new pictures, new sound clips, etc. So we're trying to cover this base with our Etoys-emphasis but we don't have experience of it yet.

Language of the future...

I asked awhile back what's going to be the language everyone will talk about in 3-5 years. Now that Luke has decided, I guess we know. It's going to be Etoys...

Activity representations

This is interesting, I guess we can think of languages like Logo and Etoys as activity representations.