These are the messages posted by Alan Kay to the Squeakland mailing list between 2001 and 2012.
This mailing list was intended for teachers and parents to discuss Etoys.

To see the context for a message, click on the date. Some links have been updated.

This archive is also available as a printable PDF.

From: Alan Kay

As all of you know, is currently "under construction" 
and due to open "any week now". Our plans have been to have at least 
three sites, one for each of the authoring environments in Squeak 
that we've been working on. So:

   * is primarily for children, parents and teachers 
who use "etoys"

   * is for "Omniuser Squeakers" -- sort of from 
Hypercard to Lingo and beyond

   * is for "Expert Level" Squeakers -- the bolts, nuts and 
guts of the system

The middle site and the middle authoring environment are quite a few 
months away from birth.

The first goals for are to make sure that the plugin 
can be downloaded and run everywhere with as little difficulties as 
possible. We enlist your aid to help do these tests.

The mailing list --  -- is hoping to attract 
people who are interested in elementary education and play and how 
computing might enhance them. Specifically, we are looking for enough 
day to day users of the site to create a forum for our next stages, 
which include a sample curriculum, and the next round of etoys. It 
would be nice to generate about10-50 emails a day about these issues. 
We at SqC plan to develop a trial curriculum this summer with several 
teachers that we've been working with, and we will do most 
correspondance using 

Though an important part of this mailing list is to get bug reports, 
we plan to copy all technical emails to the regular Squeak mailing 
list. Squeakers, please don't scare off the parents and teachers -- 
after the children, they are our main intended users.

We will send out quite a bit more information about how to use the 
site as it gets closer to completion. For now, please try downloading 
the plugins and then try navigating around, both at the top HTML 
level of the site, and the entirely within Squeak levels below.



From: Alan Kay
Subject: Introducing children and/or school to Squeak
John --

There is no reason (cognitive or otherwise) why a child of 9 or 10 
shouldn't use Squeak on a computer.

There are many reasons why children of  various ages shouldn't do "X" 
on a computer, but both the ages of the kids and the X's have to be 
taken into account.
      There is quite a lot of parallelism between the desirable 
percentages of time spent learning from books at various ages with 
similar activities on computer. Basically, the younger the child, the 
more they should be messing about with the physical world. (Of 
course, most parents don't do a very good job of dealing with their 
children's physical world experiences either. For example, the kinds 
of toys that children play with in the physical world are quite 
important, but very little effort on the part of most parents goes 
into learning about desirable toys.)
      But, even with young children, having them get familar with 
books and reading (especially via "lapware") is good for all. The 
same applies for thoughtful uses of computing.

      Finally, though having anyone look at CRTs up close for any 
period of time is not terribly good for them (research supporting 
this was done by us at Xerox PARC in the mid70s), there is absolutely 
no harm incurred by having children look at the typical flat-screen 
XVGA screens found on current day laptops.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: Introducing children and/or school to Squeak
John --

I just read the article in question that you mentioned below. It is 
really quite bogus and completely mixes up stuff that is more or less 
true with lots of stuff that is simply alarmist and most quite wrong. 
It's like blaming the printing press because of comic books or that 
Hitler wrote "Mein Kampfe". I could not find a shred of understanding 
about what children really do need to experience at an early age 
(it's neither hands off intellectual stuff, nor is it mini-university 

In any case, it quite misses all of the important points about 
children and just about anything -- moreover, it could just as well 
be about books -- highly isolating (that's part of the point), 
"intellectual", etc. --  and musical instruments -- repitative stress 
injuries (you bet) -- rather than computing.

The biggest problem is that those holding these sentiments and those 
of the faction they oppose -- both are very large groups -- are both 
quite wrong about early childhood -- *and* the possible uses of 

I would not recommend this article to anyone (except as an egregious 
example of special pleading).


From: Alan Kay
Subject: Introducing children and/or school to Squeak
Cathleen --

This is why this summer I'd like to collaboratively have us generate 
a sample curriculum for 4th through 6th (or possibly even through 
8th) grade.

The way I have this in my imagination is to think of the deep 
knowledge ahead and to try to build the deep intuitions that are 
needed to understand that knowledge when it is encountered.
      So, to me, I would like to have "math" be "real math", and (a) 
have the emphasis be on learning how to do mathematical reasoning on 
the one hand, and (b) for the kids to learn vectors and geometry as 
the main ways they have to think about numbers and arithmetic, and 
for them to learn how to use differential (tiny little) vectors that 
can be pasted together to make complex mathematical structures of 
many kinds.
      Similarly, I'd like to have "science" be "real science", and to 
(a) have the emphasis be on learning the scientific ways to look at 
the world and also the limitations of trying to "know" that world, 
and (b) for them to make real contact with some of the deep 
scientific ideas that can be made completely understandable to them 
at various ages.

So my first pop at any curriculum design is always to think about 
these ideas and how they might be taught using the best pedagogy and 
most fruitful materials. The computer is just one of these, and it is 
best used for the parts of a curriculum where it is quite superior to 
physical media. We have a friend at the Exploratorium (Modesto Temez) 
who is a positive genius in organizing science learning just using 
easily obtainable junk in the outside world. This is where science 
learning has to start. The computer can be useful in motivating and 
being the instrument of the "mathematical music of science".

I will try to put out sketches of curriculum ideas for math and 
science on the squeakland list over the next few weeks to stimulate 

A sketch at the computer part of the curriculum can be done by just 
organizing the etoys as "starters" that have progressions to more 
complex versions. For example, it's a good idea to do uniform motion 
before doing accellerated motion (and this obtains for all the 
different motions: in space, though images, audio samples, etc.).
      In the accellerated motion examples we have experimented with, 
the progression seems to be: model the dropping of a water balloon, 
then model shooting it (shoot the alien), then do the Lunar Lander 
game, then do the roller coaster. Then do Spacewar. Then do orbits of 
planets and spaceships. A progression like this might extend over 
more than one year of school, etc.

I think the tricky part of doing a math and science curriculum in 
elementary school that really looks ahead to the "deep content" of 
both these areas, is the amount and kind of teacher coaching that 
needs to be done to help elementary school teachers who may not have 
concentrated on math or science (in my experience, most have not).


From: Alan Kay
Subject: Successful use of in-class Active Essays
That's great Mark!

"really natural" is what we are aiming for. All on this list should 
try their hands at active essays on ideas they particularly like ....


From: Alan Kay
Subject: Tamika Know Tutorial
Hi Diego --

That's a good suggestion. I've been waiting until the college kids 
have made their project before I put my example on line (heh heh).

Also, I've been traveling extensively the last month so have been 
lagging in finishing the tutorial. I will try to get more done over 
the Thanksgiving holidays coming up. I'll probably put the example 
project online in December.

Meanwhile, you might just try to build it. Let me know if you have 
difficulties, because it will help the tutorial.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: I don't know
Right now it is a "" thing only (not for 
folks). It was just a demo of antialiased fonts, and doesn't actually 
have an editor attached to it. But you can copy it using the green 
handle, and change the string that is displayed by clicking on the 
debug handle (the one with the little wrench) and choose "inspect". 
In the inspector that appears you can click on "string" in the left 
pane to see the string that is being put into TrueType. You can 
change this string in the right pane and "accept it" with a cmd-s. 
Then, I think if you move or adjust the size of the morph, the new 
string should appear.

Direct editing of TrueType fonts is very desirable and is "on a list" 
of things to do. Tansel Ersevas of SqueakNews uses these for all of 
his titles --  BTW very worthwhile looking at for ideas and examples 
of active essays -- and they are not too onerous for just that.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: Distances.
How old is your son?

I did a very simple Newton's algorithm in the Etoys. This is a good 
project for 12-15 year olds. It is not very long and it shows them 
yet another way to think of feedback and searching and averaging.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: Hello. My name is Thom Gillespie. I write for a magazine called
Thom --

One of the necessary parts of "literacy" is fluency. So it's not 
enough to read a little, or do math a little or program a little. 
There are important thresholds that have to be crossed. As with the 
older thresholds of reading and writing, most children haven't 
crossed the ones that would allow them to be literate.

The other consideration is that one can get fluent in lots of things 
that don't confer much benefit: television watching, videogames, pop 
culture, etc.

Taking both of these together, nothing really interesting has 
happened yet, but the technological parts of the new literacy are 
pretty close to being what is needed.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: Reply
Thom --

At 12:39 AM -0500 3/3/02, Thom Kevin Gillespie wrote:
>  > From: Alan Kay <>
>>  Subject: Reply
>>  Thom --
>>  One of the necessary parts of "literacy" is fluency. So it's not
>>  enough to read a little, or do math a little or program a little.
>>  There are important thresholds that have to be crossed. As with the
>>  older thresholds of reading and writing, most children haven't
>>  crossed the ones that would allow them to be literate.
>>  The other consideration is that one can get fluent in lots of things
>>  that don't confer much benefit: television watching, videogames, pop
>>  culture, etc.
>Not sure if this is actually fluency in a language-like sense.

They aren't -- that was part of the point I was making.

>Again the
>reading writing problem. I have a real interesting response from John S on
>the Squeak list, actually about 3 good responses from John and a good one
>from Michael Rosenblum from NYU who really blasts the illusion that
>watching TV makes anyone literate

It doesn't.

>  and the fact that we would never
>tolerate the lack of writing literacy in books that we tolerate in TV.
>Also a bunch of good stuff from Howard  Gardner, a bunch of his grad
>students and Chris Crawford who as usual comes in so far from left field
>that he changes the game completely but in a very interesting way.
>>  Taking both of these together, nothing really interesting has
>>  happened yet, but the technological parts of the new literacy are
>>  pretty close to being what is needed.
>The phrase I keep coming back to is 'mediajazz'  Since this stuff shifts
>constantly and shows no sign of not shifting  it makes a lot of sense to
>look at it in a jazz/improv frame and just add on the fact that it is
>media which is jazzing. Going back to John S I think you just shift the
>focus to the aesthetics and away from the differences among Squeak, html,
>Flash, Director, iShell, Blender, etc.

I think you are missing the difference between "productivity tools" 
whose main goal is to get something manifested, and "learning tools" 
whose main goal is for big important changes to happen in the 
learner's mind. Also, in the list that you gave, Squeak is the only 
real programming system and the only one that covers the range of 
what computers can do.

>Big question seems to be that there are so few people equipped to 
deal with
>this combination of technologies and this combination of arts (2d, 3d,
>storytelling, video, animation, sound, music and flat out spacial design.)

The technologies are generally poorly done. That being said, there 
are fewer good drawers and painters out there than one would hope. 
There are fewer people who can play musical instruments *and* compose 
than one would hope. There are lots fewer who can do all four things 
mentioned above. There are an even smaller number that are fluent in 
math and science. And an even smaller number of those who are fluent 
in the arts. Since the first thresholds of fluency in most things is 
a 5-7 year process, we have to look to our own culture to wonder why 
people don't get fluent in more that a few things in a lifetime.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: Fill in the Blank
I'm curious as to your prefered choice. Also you might try to fill in 
this blank first:

     "Music is not in the piano" as "(blank) is not in the book"

You could also ask yourself what is (are) the special thing(s) about 
humans that the computer might be great at amplifying.

I'm terrible at titles ... but good luck and let me know of your next 
set of ideas about this ....


From: Alan Kay
Subject: Fill in the Blank
By the way, one of the ways that I characterized the Dynabook years ago, was:

      "An instrument whose music is ideas"


From: Alan Kay
Subject: Fill in the Blank
... like "Idea" ...


From: Alan Kay
Subject: Are there any folks on the Squeak list who are either ...
Thom --

I don't know of any, but it would be a very interesting collection of 
venues to investigate.

Currently, we think that most people need a fairly detailed guide 
about projects, the system, the significance, etc. There are 
interesting real-estate limitations and other distractions from 
today's screens that make creating a separate "good old paper" book 
about this to be a worthwhile project. We're in the process of doing 
this over the summer, and will start sharing drafts of several 
documents in a few months. In any case, we will also supply this 
material as active essays online.

Given our pretty successful school year just completed, I think the 
biggest gap to be closed right now is to give more people more of the 
information and context they need to start trying this stuff for 

P.S. We are also very interested in home-schoolers, who also use 
libraries and online a lot ....


From: Alan Kay
Subject: Are there any folks on the Squeak list who are either ...
Thanks Jimmie --

I think making materials that could be used by home schoolers to 
teach math, science, computing, etc., using Squeak is a very good 
next step for all. We are trying to create a (much smaller than open source list of home-schoolers who would be 
interested in helping make and package Squeak materials. Sounds like 
you might be the first of this list!


From: Alan Kay
Subject: Laptops, Learners and Powerful Ideas Conference
Well, I got started on this path by meeting Seymour in 1968 and many 
of my first insights into this area came from Seymour. We've been 
colleagues and friends now for more than 30 years.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: Factors
Edwin --

You might also be interested in the Reggio Emila schools and some of 
their books about learning by authoring at a very young age. One has 
the title: "The Hundred Languages of Children".

I don't think adults who have never programmed are challenged in the 
least by OOP. But the first paradigm that one learns seems to have 
quite a lasting effect these days. It was easier in the early sixties 
when I learned because there were no orthodox machine or language 
architectures, and one had to learn at least 20 or so. This helped 
quite a bit when a new idea came along .... By the end of the 
sixties, all had changed, and data structures and procedures had 
quite taken over.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: Book for gifted 12 year old.
The first question I'd ask is "what is she interested in?". It's 
almost always best to come up with projects that have some 
interesection with a learner's interests.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: Link: Education in the Digital Age
Sounds great Dave!

(It's also nice to hear from you!)


From: Alan Kay
Subject: Helping my nephew with collision detection
I don't think so, but it is possible to overlay embedded transparent 
patches (not really recommended for children's programming).


From: Alan Kay
Subject: Is it alive?
Yes. Kim, Roxanne Maloney and I are in Japan where the city of Kyoto 
is planning on putting versions of the "etoy curriculum" in 6 schools 
in the Spring (2 each of elementary, middle and high school).


From: Alan Kay
Subject: Squeek for O SX?
Joel --

Squeak creates its own world and does not use any of the host 
interfaces (this is one of the reasons it runs bit-identically on 
more than 25 platforms).


From: Alan Kay
Subject: Squeek for O SX?
However, you can use one of the UI skin packages to do a complete 
imitation of Aqua or Luna, etc. Jim Benson's Zurgle is excellent.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: Squeak ideas for a classroom/clubhouse
Hi Jahanzeb --

I'm going to write two replies to your very nice and interesting 
letter. This is the first, and I'll try to follow up with a more 
thoughtful one in a few days.

At 7:20 AM -0800 1/11/03, Jahanzeb Sherwani wrote:
>Hello all,
>I'm a research associate at LUMS University, Pakistan, and am working on a
>research project here where we're trying to use low threshold/high ceiling
>software environments to enable schoolkids to create and learn, and have
>fun while doing so. I'm interested in giving the fifteen kids (aged 7 thru
>14) the flexibility to create whatever it is they want to create: 
>music, games, stories, building their houses or other aspects of 
reality --
>such that their learning is made personally meaningful (along the lines of
>Papert's Constructionism) in ways that are rarely found in education 
in the
>Third World. However, we'd also like to give them challenges that will
>bring out the most learning (such as learning about feedback through the
>cars, as shown in the elementary school gallery by BJ). Our main 
reason for
>choosing to do such a project is to enable the kids to think outside the
>hold of a curriculum that holds little to no relevance to their 
daily lives
>or the world around them, and to help them do stuff that's educational,
>fun, and personally relevant.
>I was initially using Alice2 as the major environment to work in, although
>I'm running into quite a few problems (namely, it's not running on the
>school's PCs for some reason!) so I've been looking at other options, and
>discovered Squeak (which many at the MIT Media Lab recommended when I
>visited a month ago), and I believe it perfectly fits the bill.
>I managed to go over parts of the mailing list archives before 
asking these
>questions, so I hope you'll forgive me if they were already addressed
>before. My questions are:
>1) How does one act as a facilitator in such an open setting with Squeak,
>so as to allow diverse views of what each wants to do, but still make sure
>that there is some learning (and not just air guitaring) going on? 
There is
>so much you can do with Squeak (no ceiling), but how does one try to nudge
>it along lines that will lead to good learning -- or is that a
>contradiction in terms?

What we try to do is inspired by Montessori: to come up with projects 
that the kids absolutely treat as toys and play, that also have (we 
think) beneficial cognitive side effects.  So all the stuff about 
cars and driving, the car races, etc., teach about vectors, velocity, 
accelleration, the idea of "random", the idea of feedback (to make a 
robot car that can stay on the road), etc. Our experience over the 
last 3 years has been that virtually every child in a classroom gets 
really interested in this stuff for their own reasons. Recent 
experiences in Japan indicate that these projects and the process are 
pretty independent of simple cultural distinctions.

Another area that children love is nature, especially regarding 
animals. And it is a source of delight to them to find out that they 
can make a new costume for their car and turn it into a fish or 
horse, etc.

Last year we tried a more ambitious project in science. This involved 
having the children (10 years old) first learn about velocity and 
accelleration using their cars. This is a very nice project all by 
itself. Then we had them do some measuring (for example, a bike tire 
circumference) using different tools. This helped them understand 
that measuring is likely to not produce the exact same numbers, but 
is likely to produce numbers similar in magnitude.

Then we showed them various objects (two shotputs of different 
weights, a croquet ball, a foam ball, some apples, etc.) and got them 
to speculate as to which would fall faster or slower. Then we took 
them outside and dropped the objects from the roof of the school. We 
took videos of these drops. The videos were imported into Squeak and 
the kids could look at every 5th frame and measure what a dropped 
object was doing. They could see that the pattern was the same one 
they had seen when they were doing accelleration with their cars. 
This led them to write similar scripts to accellerate a painted 
object to match the movie. (We have a nice video clip of this 

Thus they were able to experience a phenomenon of the real world, 
measure it, put a model to it, and make a mathematical simulation of 
it. (Most American college students are not at all successful at 
learning this using standard methods.)

Once they had a script that would move objects as gravity moves them, 
they had a new tool and toy to make gravity games, etc.

>2) How does one introduce the medium as something that is infinitelly
>malleable, and that it is ok to add/change something if you don't like it?

Most children have a big revelation about this in their first few 
hours of doing stuff. We've noticed it happening many times when they 
put a new costume to their car object and realize that they can make 
anything and make it do anything.

>For instance, the lack of a 'move sideways' tile (like the 'forward by')
>tile means that kids will have to start off controlling their
>game-characters with a move forward/backward, turn left/right instruction
>set, and so can't start off by making a Pac-Man type game (which needs to
>move left/right, and not turn). Should I create a 'move sideways' tile

I would suggest not.

>, or try to help them make it themselves as they require it?

There are two approaches here and both are worthwhile in the end. The 
first is that using "object forward by" and "object turn by 90" will 
do what you want. The second is that there are x and y location 
properties in the viewer of all objects. It is very worthwhile for 
the children to see that:
       object's x increase by 10
will move the object 10 pixels to the right, and that this is exactly 
equivalent to
       object forward by 10
if the object is pointed to the right.

      object turn 5
is exactly equivalent to
     object's heading increase by 5

>3) The main reason I pushed to have classes of diverse ages was that the
>young ones will be able to learn from what the elder kids are doing, and
>will also get a sense of self-respect by working on the same 
environment as
>elder kids. Should we be giving different problems to the younger ones to
>solve, or not? Could anyone on the mailing list (who has experience with
>such age ranges in such classes) tell me about their own experiences, if

Teach the older ones a few days before the younger ones. You can 
start with the same set of projects, but the older children can go 
quite a bit further and faster. So it's a good idea to have more 
project ideas for them.

>4) The social relevance of education is something that is touched 
upon most
>by Paulo Freire, who said that imported curricula aren't adequate because
>they lack relevance to the sociocultural environment, particularly in
>developing countries.

This is an interesting claim. I think it is true at one level, but it 
rapidly misses the point once education starts to happen (and this is 
the great difference between "education" and "training"). Perhaps a 
milder view is that in any kind of user interface experience, the 
designer has to start in the world that the endusers live in.
      However, the learning of powerful ideas is not just a new tool 
that one wears on one's belt, but an actual change in how the world 
(especially of ideas) is perceived. It's a change of perspective as 
well as one of knowledge. A child who learns science starts to become 
part of a different cultural environment, and this is why scientists 
quite resemble each other and can easily communicate with each other 
all over the world regardless of their initial background.
      This isn't the same thing as impressing "Western Civ" on other 
cultures -- it's partly an accident that science was invented in 
Northern Europe (it could just have easily have happened one or two 
thousand years earlier in the Mediterranean or in China or Japan).

The simple bottom line here is that young children especially are 
interested in things they can *do*. So you will have no problems. 
Freire was talking much more about trying to educate adults who had 
grown up in traditional cultures (and here, I think, he was most 

>  Does anyone have any experience in addressing these
>concerns best through the use of environments such as Squeak?

I think Mitchel Resnick of the Media Lab has had more experience than 
we have, with his various LOGO in schools projects in Latin America, 
and his more recent computer clubhouses around the world.

>Our twice-weekly sessions with the kids in their school labs begin this
>Tuesday, so whatever you could tell me before then would be 
extremely helpful.

I hope this helps. Also Kim Rose has had the many experiences 
teaching Squeak etoys to children and teachers around the world. She 
can provide quite a bit of guidance as well.

Best wishes,

From: Alan Kay
Subject: Squeak ideas for a classroom/clubhouse
Hi Jahanzeb --

At 7:58 AM -0800 1/15/03, Jahanzeb Sherwani wrote:
>  >The rule is: If you drag a tile out of the viewer, it *will* create a
>>new script. If you drag it out of an existing script it will *not*
>>create a new script. I know this is slightly inconsistent but it seemed
>>to be the best solution considering all the other tradeoffs.
>Yes, this makes sense... but the problem I was having was that dragging a
>tile out of the viewer was creating a script half the time, and not
>creating a script the other half. We (sheepishly) were running the plugin
>in a browser, and thus had not updated it -- could this have caused the

I don't think so. I think all this is the result of a few decisions 
we made several years ago that made some sense at the time, but 
perhaps don't at all now. For example, when I first demoed etoys to 
Disney in '97 or so, I wanted it to look like magic, and having the 
tiles turn into a script when tossed on the desktop did just that. 
But this created a huge violation of good UI design because it 
produced a conflict that should never be there: at odds with how to 
show the scripts made by the kids. We just decided to have them open 
up on the desktop rather than create a new script for the tiles to go 
into. Thus the conflict with making a new script.

The other problem that needs to be solved and fixed is when to do 
something when tiles are dropped. I think what is happening to you is 
that you might be dropping tiles somewhere other than the desktop 
and the system is not reacting to this. At an earlier point in etoys 
all drops did the same thing and this was changed (I can't remember 
just why). Another example is that playfields are now made sticky and 
can't be picked up directly with the mouse because children would 
often miss when trying to touch something in the playfield and would 
pick it up instead. However, this means that playfields can only be 
moved with the black and brown handles, and this is yet another rule 
to be learned (amongst too many rules already).

I think the right thing to do with regard to the tile drag and drop 
cases is to have a better way to create a fresh script and then make 
all tiles open up when tossed on the desktop. For example, we could 
have a new handle in the halo make a script. This doesn't seem like a 
good idea because there are too many handles in the halo already. A 
better idea might be to put a new script button at the top of a 
player's viewer so that it is really easy to make one whenever the 
viewer is open. There is one of these inside the top of the viewer 
menu, but this seems too hidden to me. What do all think about this?

Also, I think while we're at it, we should also expose the "make a 
new variable" button that is also hidden in the top of the viewer 
menu. ??

Fortunately, our experience over the last few years has been that the 
children very quickly learn what to do in the UI, even with 
inconsistencies in the UI (I think they all have built-in talents for 
this since the real world of human cultures also has quite a few 
inconsistencies(!)). However, my belief is that the only difficulties 
that should be in a child's learning environment are ones that all of 
us have put there to help the child -- there shouldn't be any 
gratuitous difficulties from bad design ....


From: Alan Kay
Subject: Etoy issues
How old are these children? 10 year olds on up have no trouble with 
"x" and "y" (and that is a good convention for them to learn in math).

Pull out the

      car's x <- 5

tiles. Click on the caret in the "<-" to turn it to "increase by" so you get:

     car's x increase by 5

This is the same as
       car's heading <- 90
       car forward by 5

"Increase by" is a very powerful idea in mathematics and this is an 
excellent way for 10 year olds and up to start to learn it.

Don't give up on the running the maze problem. Do a few simpler 
things first. Get the kids to try to go around the inside of the room 
with a blindfold on by feel. You can usually help them discover that 
a good way to do this is (in English) something like:

     student move around room              ticking

      Forward by a little
      Test wall touch
        Yes turn a little away from wall
         No  turn a little towards the wall

This is a nice feedback program. Draw a road (say <brown>)with the 
paint system. Draw a dot of some color (say <blue>) on the front of 
the car. Try:

            car followroad

           forward by 5
           Test car's color <blue> sees <brown>           You can pick 
these colors from your paintings
              Yes car turn -5
               No car turn 5

This will make the car move about the outside of the road. I think 
there are some examples of projects kids did branching out with this 
idea on the site.

A good next project is to figure out ways to make a car go down the 
middle of a road. Children have come up with many solutions to this 
that include different colored stripes, more than one sensor 
(sometimes they use the two headlights, etc.)

Once this is done, then one only has to realize that a maze is a kind 
of road ...

Then there are some very nice ways of thinking about how to get out 
of an arbitrary maze. A good start to this is first just make a 
script (or two) that will move the car through a maze and around 
corners. Then think about trying to explore the maze with the car.

Here's another way to think about "bounce". Ask yourself about what 
is the change of angle that happens when your player senses an 
obstacle. Do it for horizontal and vertical lines first....


From: Alan Kay
Subject: Etoy issues -- Keyboard Control of etoys
You could also try a joystick player. Look in the supplies bin to see 
what they do.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: A Question about Croquet's Philosophy on Multi-user 3D Environments...
Hi Darius --

This email list is for parents, teachers and children who are 
concerned with the "etoys" part of Squeak. Croquet stuff can and 
should be discussed both on its own list and on the list.

To answer your question: remember what has happened to the 
"Victoria's Secret" website on the occasion of special promotions 
they've done, especially connected with TV. At some point capacity 
gets exceeded. So there is nothing new here. The first practical 
limit in Croquet is in the number of polygons that can be displayed 
by one's own 3D accellerator. This limits both the scene complexity 
and the number of people who can be in view. This is why Everquest, 
even with its farms of servers, trys to spread visitors out over the 
world so there are never more than a few in view at any given time.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: Partial List of Etoy Projects
The list below is not meant to tantalize unfairly (because we haven't 
yet put out hints and project books for most of them). The reason I 
put out the list here is to encourage people who have gotten 
interested in etoys to look further before trying to find out what 
Squeak can do outside of etoys. (But for those who do want to find 
out and are well versed in computing, please visit

Our impression is that most folks who have started in etoys have 
tended to stay with projects that are like the examples given on the 
website and have not gone much beyond those examples. This is just to 
point out that there are lots of really interesting mathematical, 
scientific and theatrical projects for which etoys are a pretty neat 
authoring environment.



Partial List of 2D Etoy Projects for grade 5-8

Many Illusions for various ages
Drive a Car
Collaborative Car Races
Sensing the Road
Robot Car
Robot Car Races
Change of Position = Speed
Random and its uses
Change of Speed = Accelleration
Simple Animations & Movies
Hairdos and Faces
Sound Synthesis
MPEG, MP3, MIDI, etc.
A Dixieland Band
Gravity and Objects
Off a Cliff
Water Balloon Cannon
Lunar Lander
Roller Coasters
Gradient following - Salmon and Clownfish
Tree Growing
Multiple Mentalities
Grey Walter Conditioned Response Learning
Circuit Models


From: Alan Kay
Subject: problem from a beginner
Hi Mark --

You need to return the value of answer.

You can do this by adding

        ^ answer.

at the end of the method.

(Don't forget to put a period between the "]" and before this line.)

Having said this, let me refer you to This 
site is for people who program in Squeak proper.

This site is for teachers, parents, and others 
who are working with the etoys part of Squeak for children.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: Partial List of Etoy Projects
Do you have a good algorithm or strategy for TicTacToe? Let me know 
and I'll see what I can do. There are some very interesting 
distributed system approaches that might be good here -- somewhat 
similar to the biological tree growing schemes in etoys that don't 
require recursion, but are "recursive" none the less.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: Repeat?
Hi Phil --

At 11:00 AM -0500 2/19/03, Phil Firsenbaum wrote:
>Thanks much for the help with repeating a script...I think I've got 
>the idea now. Any script can be repeated by using a conditional 
>(test) statement (if that's the right nomenclature).

Not exactly. Any script can be repeated (period). You can get it to 
repeat by clicking on the clock (on the script, in the viewer, or on 
the go, step, stop button found in "Widgets"), or by holding down 
where it says "normal" and choosing "ticking", or by sending it a 
message - to start up script "car foo":
                  car start script foo
These tiles are found under the category "scripting".

Looking at your picture, I see that the scripts "startRepeat" and 
"setup1" are both paused, which means they must once have been 
ticking. But neither of these scripts should be looped. They are both 
designed to be run once, they should be set to "normal".

>So, here's my project thus far. Activating the first script moves 
>the object (Roam1) based on the value of the slider (light blue 
>rectangle). Now, I'd like to be able to show that value without 
>using the object's Viewer.

Go into the viewer and look at the menu associated with the slider's 
"numericValue" property. The menu includes choices for a "simple 
watcher" and a "fancy watcher". The first just gives you a number 
that will reflect the the value of the property, the second will give 
you a UI for this value that includes a label and the ability to set 
the value from the UI (this is the option that is usually most useful 
for children).

>  My initial goal with this project (in addition to learning how to 
>create it for myself) is to have 1st and 2nd graders work with 
>estimating distance and number values...they will set the value of 
>the slider as they attempt to get the object to land in the box at 
>the top of the track.

forward 30 is too long a distance -- it will be about 1/3" on some screens.

>I've also been trying to slow down the movement of the object so 
>that kids can see more clearly what is happening. Haven't figured 
>that one out yet either.

Press down on the clock in a script and hold it until a menu appears. 
This will allow you to set how many ticks per second the script will 
execute. (This can also be programmed by hand using a variable to 
hold a delay count.)

Another way to slow it down and get some precision would be to just 
do "Roam1 forward 1".

I think there might be a somewhat richer approach to this project, 
that allows the children to do some scripting rather than just use 
what the teacher has provided. Let me know if you are interested in 
exploring this.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: Repeat?
This allows the pages in a book to be of a difference size. However, 
there is also a menu command on the book to make all the pages in the 
book the size of the page that is currently showing. I would advise 
looking at the balloon help in the book UI (at the top), to click on 
the "more options" button (diamond shaped to the right) and to look 
at the main menu (the big dot in the center).

If you want to have separate environments for etoys on each page, 
these can be obtained from the "widgets" flap and have the label 


From: Alan Kay
Subject: Repeat?
Hi Phil --

At 9:22 AM -0500 2/21/03, Phil Firsenbaum wrote:
>Once again your advice is invaluable, however, I also see that I 
>could be using Stack/cards instead of Book/pages. What's the 

The Stack stuff is quite experimental, you are better off with Books.

>I'm inclined to use the Stack since I used to work in and teach HyperCard.

Except, that the Stacks here are not enough like Hypercard to help you.

>Alan has referred to the "widgets" flap several times. Is that 
>synonymous with the Supplies flap that I see?

It's another flap that is hidden in the children's version that you 
are using. However, try typing a cmd-o (alt-o on a PC). This should 
make a "useful-object" palette visible. Click on "scripting" and you 
will see the object in question (called "scripting") on the right 
side of the second row. Drag it out to get one.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: Oops re the reminder for the Kay/Papert talks....
BTW, Sheine deserves *great applause* for being such a positive force 
for advancing Squeak for children, and especially for doing an 
enormous amount of work to set up our talks and bring Seymour and me 
to Toronto. I was especially impressed with the atmosphere, children 
and teachers I met at the Don Mills School, especially Sebastian and 
Donna. This was great fun!

Best wishes to all,

From: Alan Kay
Subject: turtle trails
This used to work. And still should be working .... Scott? Mike?


From: Alan Kay
Subject: I want to document but I need to learn first!
Jerry --

I think you should first separate out the Squeak system -- an 
experimental version of Smalltalk that is quite beyond the scope of 
this list, which is for parents and teachers -- from the Squeak 
"Etoys" which is aimed at children and *is* discussed on this list. 
So complaining about 2000 posts to SqueakDev on this list is just 
confusing for most of the folks here -- it's like complaining that 
LISP is big and comprehensive -- it's not an enduser system, etc.

I will confine myself to the tradeoffs with the Squeak etoys. First, 
we really do need better documentation, even for a system that is 
still being tested by us. We have found that it takes about 3 years 
in a classroom to get a good set of tests and we are just now in that 
3rd year. The results of these 3 years have been written up by 
teacher BJ Allen-Conn and Kim Rose in a "book of 10 projects" -- they 
have done a great job! -- and drafts of this book will be available 
online not too far in the future. Another terrific contribution is 
from Sebastian Hergott's 8th grade class in Toronto. They did lots of 
projects and he got them to write them up as documented examples. 
These two books together supply lots of examples and should help to 
bridge some of the gaps in documentation.

However, I should say a little about the history of etoys. They were 
originally not aimed at classrooms but as 10-20 minute projects 
supplied on the web for parents and their children to do together. I 
stripped out as many features as I could and tried to come up with a 
system that could do "100 examples" pretty straightforwardly. The 
documentation that was intended here was to have been to teach 
parents how to do the examples so they and their kids could have a 
good experience. For several reasons, this plan did not work out at 
Disney. But BJ saw it and wanted to try etoys in her 5th grade 
classroom. I was initially against the idea because I thought that 
etoys were not complete enough for that venue. But she and Kim Rose 
decided to do it anyway. Six weeks later they started to show me some 
really good results, and I realized that it would be worth doing a 3 
year experiment to see how well the etoys -- even with some of their 
lacks -- would work out with 10 and 11 year olds.

The results have been excellent -- in the proper environment most 
children have no trouble getting joyously creative and fluent -- and 
hence the forthcoming book by BJ and Kim to help other teachers and 
parents achieve the same results.

Our previous plans to make a kind of "superhypercard" and then get 
version 2 of etoys from that much more comprehensive design did not 
work out at Disney, and it wasn't until recently that we've been able 
to get that plan going again. I think this is more like the system 
you want, and you'll have a chance to try it out this summer.

To zero in on a real critique of today's etoys, it is helpful to 
confine discussion to 10 year olds and up, since essentially all the 
experience that we and others have had are in this age range. The 
etoys have changed very little in several years, in part because of 
the testing that is going on, so comments such as "too fast moving" 
really have to do with the larger Squeak community over at Here I think the problems are not so much lack of 
documentation as lack of particular kinds of documentation, such as 
detailed tutorials and project workbooks. The user-tested books 
mentioned above should  help this.

Let me turn to another area, and tell a story that I witnessed 
recently. I was visiting a classroom with a really terrific teacher, 
who was truly ecstatic when his children could figure out something 
before him (we need more of these kinds of teachers!). But he brought 
up a problem that he couldn't see how to do. He wanted to general 
random colors, and had seen that the red, green and blue blends are 
given in the color picker. In etoys colors are not manifested as 
three numbers (we possibly should, but don't) though they are in the 
larger Squeak system (and in many other ways). So he didn't see how 
to make up colors, especially random ones. My thought was to put a 
bunch of objects (such as ellipses) into a holder, give them 
different colors and then do random picking by moving the cursor
                 holder's cursor <- random
to get an object whose color can be gotten at.
      We did that and he was happy. But then we saw a child who came 
up with a much better way to do this. He just put splotches of paint 
on the desktop and ran a Squeak player (like a car) over the 
splotches in a random "drunkard's walk" and used "color under" to 
pick up the color as a value.
      My thought on seeing that was that it was the child who found 
the "etoys way" of solving this problem, and that the general 
solution in this fashion would involve using the color rainbow of a 
color picker to supply a wide range of colors for the car to wander 
about on.
      My second thought was that both the teacher and I were somewhat 
trapped in our pasts. The teacher had done something with color 
numbers in the past and wanted to do it again. I went to a table 
lookup solution that I had done many times in the past for other 
kinds of problems, and this worked. The child went at the heart of 
the matter with a completely simple and concrete approach that was 
quite brilliant and original.

One of the reasons I'm telling this story is that today's etoys -- 
that lack a wide and comprehensive range of features that "they 
should have" -- are best approached through the kinds of projects 
that *can* be done really nicely using the features that are there. 
There are more than enough such projects to occupy a full year 
(really more like 3 years) of work and play by children. As for the 
larger scope that is eventually needed, I'm hoping we can accomplish 
this by the time today's projects are used up.

Now to another one of your comments in yesterday's email. You wrote:
At 6:44 PM -0800 3/10/03, Jerry Balzano wrote:
>Get a load of these (the total "partial" list was almost 40 lines long):
>Gradient following - Salmon and Clownfish
>Tree Growing
>Multiple Mentalities
>Grey Walter Conditioned Response Learning
>Circuit Models
>Anyone who could create projects like these in any programmable 
>medium, I'd say, would have a serious leg up on "real" programming 
>by anyone's hard-nosed definition of that elusive (and 
>ever-changing) concept.

I think I agree here. I've done each of these strictly in etoys to 
see what the process is like and to understand how one would explain 
the process to both teachers and children. Most of these projects are 
aimed at older children (such as Sebastian's 8th graders and older), 
and I think are quite doable, but they haven't been tested yet with 
adults and children of a good age and mindset. Just to provide a few 
more comments on some of these:

*Orbits* is easily done in etoys if you understand Newton's inverse 
square law, vectors (and that each etoy player -- like a logo turtle 
-- is a vector and can do vector arithmetic). The script that does 
the work is about 4 lines of tiles long and is a pretty direct 
translation of the inverse square law using "increase by" of vectors. 
It's a very clean script.
      Here quite a bit has to be worked up to for most teachers and 
other adults. There are hurdles of mathematics, science, and learning 
more about how to use etoys. The scaffolding would require many 
projects to be done earlier, including the accelleration and gravity 
projects that were easily done by BJ's 5th graders. I think a good 
next one is to do a spaceship floating in space without a gravity 
field to get a sense of how velocity is often (usually) in a 
different direction than the ship is pointing.

*Springs* are fun to do, and easy to script in etoys if you go 
through the exercise of deciding that the force on a spring is 
proportional to the displacement and in the opposite direction. I 
think there is quite a bit of scaffolding needed to do the science 

*Weighing* is part of doing a real roller coaster in etoys. An 
insight is required here. Most people get stumped about needing sine 
and cosine, etc., to find the forces on an inclined plane. But in 
fact, you can "weigh" them using a postal scale on an inclined scale. 
You can make up a simple table -- using a holder -- of the forces 
every few degrees and this is quite good enough to make a real roller 
coaster in etoys.

*Gradient following* If you make a gradient using the graphic 
properties sheet you can do tests on it using "Brightness under". 
This allows a simple feedback program to be written (very much like 
the follow the road ones) that will cause a simulated object to 
follow and find the darker or lighter regions of the gradient. 
(Gradient following is a feature in starLogo, but I think people 
should learn about it by actually scripting it.)

*Tree Growing* Most people have cognitive difficulties with 
recursion, but one nice way to look at trees is recursively. This is 
a conflict. Because etoys can make new objects via copies (see below) 
it is possible to bypass recursion altogether in favor of a branching 
activation. This turned out to be a very clear script and a good 
model for other kinds of "recursion changed to branching activation" 

*Epidemics* have a wide range. The easiest ones are just having 
infected objects bump into noninfected ones and transmit the 
infection. This is just a few lines of script to do.

*Multiple mentalities* comes from the Vivarium work we did 15 years 
ago. Here we have separate scripts or even objects that represent 
parallel and mostly independent drives of the simulated animal. The 
main thinking that is needed is to figure out which of the drives 
should be allowed to control the animal. This is easy for two (a 
simple comparison) and needs something like a sort for more (it is 
actually just looking for the one with the largest "urgency", so it's 
a matter of using the "max" operator to perculate the largest urgency 
one in a holder.

*Grey Walter* conditioned reflex learning model. Here it is hard to 
guess about the appropriate age for this wonderful etoy. My guess is 
high school since Grey Walter's model is nicely subtle. (He did this 
with a single vacuum tube in 1949, so parsimony was the order of the 
day. He got all of his power from very careful reasoning and clear 
thinking about a simple model to do this.) Once you understand how he 
did it (I made a diagram to show the 7 steps you have to go through) 
it was quite easy to do in etoys and generated a nice set of dynamic 
graphs for the animal's "state of mind".

*Circuit Models* I've not quite figured out an appropriate approach 
here. One way is to use the connectors stuff of Ned Konz and 
propagate signals though his objects. Several folks have done this, 
most notably a high school student who is working with us -- he went 
to the heart of the matter and decided not to do batteries and bulbs 
per se but to see about simulating logic.

>   My students (same ones as above) wrote programs in NetLogo, 
>Microworlds (a descendant of Logo),

This is a product

>and Stagecast Creator

so is this. Etoys is an experimental system that is still quite a 
ways from being a finished packaged product.

>, including a "Turtle Epidemic" model in NetLogo for which I wrote 
>the tutorial (see 
> and a "Food 
>Fight" game in Stagecast Creator, for which I'd love to be able to 
>write the "etoys tutorial", if I could only see how to do several 
>simple things in Etoys, for example
>   * have an agent (smiley) create another agent (burger) in the 
>space next to him

Let's suppose that smiley is in a playfield called "fastfood".

smiley create
     smiley's temp <- burger copy
     fastfood include smiley's temp
     smiley's temp's x <- smiley's x + 25
     smiley's temp's y <- smiley's y

I found "copy" and "include" just by going through the views of the 
two objects and seeing what the balloon help told me. This is the 
documentation that is there, but most people don't use it. I found 
that I could make a player valued variable by looking at the menu 
item "change data type", etc.

>   * have an agent (smiley) send a message to a counter agent (count 
>down) each time he "uses up" a burger, and another message to a 
>counter-scorer agent (count up) each time one of his burgers hits 
>his opponent

burger scoring
   Test burger's color sees <color of boundary>
      Yes smiley's score decrease by 1
   Test burger's color sees <color of opponent>
       Yes smiley's score increase by 1

>...just to name two.
>So, speaking of "viable learning paths", does anyone have a 
>suggestion for one for *me*?  Who wants to respond to all the 
>questions my teacher-students raised in my field notes?

I do.

>  Who wants to help me complete all the projects on Alan's list?

I have done these projects. I need help in explaining them in a way 
useful to parents and teachers.

>If *I* can't figure out how to do this stuff on my own, there's no 
>way any of the teachers I teach -- even after they've been 
>thoroughly Balzano-indoctrinated to the virtues of programming and 
>completed my 
>more-rigorous-than-99%-of-other-teacher-ed-computer-courses course 
>-- will be able to figure it out either.

I don't necessarily agree here, but your point is well taken. I think 
that quite a bit of success for different kinds of people is the 
match up between types of thinking, types of motivation, and the 
kinds of materials and scaffolding available. Some teachers have been 
amazingly successful with our inadequate documentation and others 
have been less successful that one would expect, given the amount of 
documentaiton that is there. Many children who like to explore and 
don't want to read documentation have done even better. Some children 
are quite stumped without explicit help (but that's what teachers are 
supposed to be for.)

But the clear lesson is that we need to provide enough coverage for a 
wide range of styles of learning. Please continue to be interested 
and to help.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: I want to document but I need to learn first!
Thanks Brent --

At 9:44 AM -0500 3/11/03, Brent Vukmer wrote:
>Jerry --
>Could you post your field notes from your eToys demo?  Also it would 
>be great to see what the teachers' questions were.
>You may have already found this on the Web, but Alan Kay did a 
>fairly detailed tutorial/exploration of eToys-and-Squeak for Tamika 
>Knox's class problem.  See .

I hate to say this but I pretty much forgot what I did here -- even 
that I did it -- and certainly did forget this link (life has been 
complicated the last 2 years ...). This is actually a pretty good 
start at some of the things that Jerry wants and needs. I think the 
reason that I didn't link this up is that I didn't get done with the 
general stuff and didn't hand it off to anyone else .. then it got 
forgotten. But, it's on a swiki so it is open to be added to and 
changed for the better ... Maybe we should link this into the site even in its unfinished state and hope someone 
(perhaps with the energy of Sebastian's students) will add to it.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: I want to document...slightly off topic
Hi John --

Again, this is really a question, since is 
*only* about the etoys part of squeak. The short answer is the 
universal tiles were one of several experiments we did to investigate 
making an enduser scripting system of much wider scope than etoys. 
Some of it worked very well, but we judged the gestalt to be below 


From: Alan Kay
Subject: Etoy Viewer Commands Handout
Hi Eric --

Most email clients have a size filter that stops large downloads 
until you say you want them. Does yours have this feature?


From: Alan Kay
Subject: Volunteering for the documentation team
You just did, and you're "hired".

Let's chat more off this list.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: Limited palettes (was RE: I want to document but I need to learn first!)
None of the limitations in etoys have *any* effect at all on really 
high quality projects by 10 and 11 year olds. That's who we wanted to 
test with over 3 years and (a) really good results happened, and (b) 
only about a third of the stuff we came up with easily covered a 
whole school year -- so there is plenty more that can be done.

I think one problem here is that you, like many adults, really want 
the next version of Hypercard with lots of features and wide range. 
This is good. That's what we want to do also, and we have been 
working on this for a few years. But this is not what etoys are 
about, as I've said many times over on this list. Etoys are an 
experimental authoring environment for kids around the age of 5th 
grade, done solely to allow us to test a bunch of ideas that seemed 
fruitful and needed testing. We made the work open source to attract 
potential colleagues, not to be a vendor (Squeak and etoys are not 
products, we are a nonprofit public benefit corporation operating on 
a shoestring for the public good, etc.)

Forgive me for saying this, but there's a certain amount of  special 
pleading and rhetoric in your recent remarks. At one point you're 
using LOGO as "something that can't easily be learned", at another 
point you're invoking Seymour against BASIC. Neither of these have 
much to do with etoys -- in part because neither has a powerful 
dynamic object system with automatic graphical update. They simply 
aren't comparable and shouldn't be compared. The real heart of the 
matter is that children with pretty minimal help can do a wide range 
of projects that are engaging and empowering to them and that we 
think are intellectually interesting in the context of "real 

The one place I agree with you is that "a new thing like Hypercard" 
(with even wider scope and higher ceilings) is what is eventually 
needed. But until that comes, a fabulous range of ideas can be pretty 
easily explored with children using etoys. (I.e. you shouldn't wait 
for the "76 Trombones" before you start a music program in a school. 
The children can sing and make instruments and a musical adult can 
bring them to very above threshold musical experiences with just 


From: Alan Kay
Subject: Pendulum
Hi Bert --

That is a very good point! I'd forgotten that embedding makes an 
object live in the coordinate system of its owner -- and that is what 
it is supposed to do. However, it's clear from this and other 
examples that I can think of that this perhaps should be the default, 
but it might be a good idea to put a flag on a player to "use the 
coordinate system that its owner uses".

Let me think about this over the weekend ...


From: Alan Kay
Subject: "All the Real Math To Which School (Including College) Refused Yo u Access."
Hi Bert --

At 6:57 PM +0200 4/19/03, Bert Freudenberg wrote:
>Am Donnerstag, 17.04.03 um 21:24 Uhr schrieb Alan Kay:
>>I think lots of insight can be gained by seeing what the "weighing 
>>angles" illustration is all about.
>>Notice that when the angle is 90° the scale will measure the full 
>>weight of the dumbell and wheels. When the angle is 0°, the scale 
>>will show zero weight. In between, the scale will show the weight 
>>of the dumbell and wheels in the direction down the inclined plane. 
>>"Weight" is actually defined as the mass of an object times the 
>>force of gravity on it ( w = mg ).
>If I were picking nits I'd point out that actually weight is a force 
>(measured in Newtons), not gravity. Force is mass times acceleration 
>(Newton's second law). So in this special case, weight is mass times 
>gravitational *acceleration*. Weight is only another term for 
>gravitational force. But you knew that ;-)
>>  So what we are seeing on the scale is the differential effect of 
>>gravity down inclined planes at different angles.
>>If we use a protractor to tilt the inclined plane (say) every 5° 
>>then we can write down the different forces down the plane. If we 
>>divide these numbers by the maximum weight when the angle is 90, we 
>>will get numbers between 0 and 1. These numbers can be put into a 
>>holder as a table of values and used in a wide variety of projects, 
>>including making a roller coaster. So there is no need to use the 
>>idea of "sine" -- and this makes projects that need these ratios -- 
>>like roller coasters -- much more in the range of 5-7th graders.
>What do you think of measuring the forces in the Etoy itself (for 
>example, by taking the vertical extent of a rotated line)? Of 
>course, I can see the value of using real-world data.

I think this is really important at this stage. This is one of the 
relatively few phenomena that is both very interesting, useful, and 
measurable by the kids. This "weighing angles" idea cuts through a 
lot of steps and gets right to a way to determine the differential 
accelleration down the plane by directly referring to the phenomena.

>  Do you think it's too large a step to "see" the height of the 
>angle, which is proportional to the force?

It shouldn't be too hard for adults ... heh heh. But kids are just 
learning about proportions (in the US they generally don't learn 
proportions successfully and operationally). I think this is a very 
good thing to point out after they have their simulated cars 
successfully going down different planes at the correct 
accellerations (Note that this can be done via one of the touch tests 
between the sim car and the sim plane.)


From: Alan Kay
Subject: "All the Real Math To Which School (Including College) Refuse d Yo u Access."
Actually, what the 10 and 11 year olds do is:

1. measure from the bottom of a ball to the bottom of the ball in the 
next frame using the height of a rectangle that is stretched to fit.

2. They stack up the rectangles to see that the incremental change in 
height is constant. They know this is constant accelleration because 
they have played with it using their painted cars a few months 

3. they paint a small simulated ball

4. they then adapt the script they wrote for the cars to drop the 
ball in the vertical direction with constant accelleration:

5.     ball drop      ticking
             ball's speed increase by -1
             ball's y increase by ball's speed

6. then they tinker with the constant to find the accelleration that 
matches what is happening in the movie

7. Then they figure out a way to "prove" that they have "captured gravity"
     a. one way is to leave a little mark at each position of the real ball
     b. another way is to run the movie and their simulation frame by 
frame to show that the simulated ball tracks the movie

In other words, these children actually derive the dynamic 
relationship of (very near) constant accelleration near the surface 
of the earth in the form of a discrete 2nd order differential 
equation. It is quite remarkable to see this (especially for me, 
since I designed this project for 9th through 12th graders).

The key here is to spread out the various ideas and parts that have 
to be learned over several months in the midst of doing other things.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: Pendulum project update
Hi Folks --

A good side point about pendulums is that the motion is harmonic only 
for small excursions, since harmonic motion is roughly the spring law 
which is proportional to x, and pendulums are proportional to sine x. 
Sine x and x are close to the same values only for small angles.

All these subtle details are reasons why we don't do pendulums with 
5th graders. Compare this to gravity near the surface of the earth 
where the accelleration is constant to about 1 part in a million 
(note that it isn't really constant because it is inversely 
proportional to the square of the distance and this is changing a 
little bit -- about 4 meters in the ball drop example).


From: Alan Kay
Subject: Pendulum project update
Thanks Christopher --

A few years ago I did newon's method for square roots in etoys and it 
worked quite well.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: Remembering Philip Kniat
Thank you Sheine --

When a child dies for any reason it is hard to find any words that 
are adequate to express the tragedy.

We plan to make a memorial for Philip on the Squeakland site. Perhaps 
Philip's classmates might like to help.

Best wishes to all,

From: Alan Kay
Subject: Pendulum
There are many ways of doing frame by frame, but why not do it the 
way the children learn how to animate? Check out the project "Sam's 
Face Ball" on the Squeakland website. I think there is also a 
tutorial about how to animate.

But, again, I ask, why not do this with a real model instead of "just a story"?


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [OT] Pendulum
Try this with television and see what happens ...


From: Alan Kay
Subject: "All the Real Math To Which School (Including College) Refused Yo u Access."
Thanks John --

It would be great if you could list the "language stuff" that causes 
the glazing. Do you mean terms like "vectors"? What other terms are 
offputting?  One of the reasons this stuff works so well with the 
kids is that they just do the models, we don't employ terminology 
with them.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: "All the Real Math To Which School (Including College) Refused Yo u Access."
I think lots of insight can be gained by seeing what the "weighing 
angles" illustration is all about.

Notice that when the angle is 90? the scale will measure the full 
weight of the dumbell and wheels. When the angle is 0?, the scale 
will show zero weight. In between, the scale will show the weight of 
the dumbell and wheels in the direction down the inclined plane. 
"Weight" is actually defined as the mass of an object times the force 
of gravity on it ( w = mg ). So what we are seeing on the scale is 
the differential effect of gravity down inclined planes at different 

If we use a protractor to tilt the inclined plane (say) every 5? then 
we can write down the different forces down the plane. If we divide 
these numbers by the maximum weight when the angle is 90, we will get 
numbers between 0 and 1. These numbers can be put into a holder as a 
table of values and used in a wide variety of projects, including 
making a roller coaster. So there is no need to use the idea of 
"sine" -- and this makes projects that need these ratios -- like 
roller coasters -- much more in the range of 5-7th graders.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: Anyone seen Croquet working?
Hi Jim --

Croquet is a prealpha system, but it works very well on various 
Windows versions (with updated OpenGL), Macs (also with latest 
versions of OpenGL) and Linux (you guessed it).

I pass this along to Andreas who can give more details if you'd like.

P.S. This listserv is only for the Squeak etoys. There is a croquet 
listserv, and also the main one has correspondance about 


From: Alan Kay
Subject: Pendulum
Hi Phil --

At 5:38 PM -0400 4/17/03, Phil Firsenbaum wrote:
>Interesting...I actually saw this message on the Squeak archive. i 
>didn't receive it on the mailing list, though.
>Anyhow, even if the pen were down and the pendulum simulated reality 
>i think it would draw lines on top of lines  unless the area under 
>the pen was scrolling. Do you see what I mean?

Well, here's a little exercise in relativized thinking ...

Embed a round little object like an ellipse to be the bob of the 
pendulum, call it "bob". Make another little object called "plotter", 
put its pen down. See what happens when you do:

                 plotter's y increase by 1
                 plotter's x <- bob's x


From: Alan Kay
Subject: Pendulum
There are many ways of doing frame by frame, but why not do it the 
way the children learn how to animate? Check out the project "Sam's 
Face Ball" on the Squeakland website. I think there is also a 
tutorial about how to animate.

But, again, I ask, why not do this with a real model instead of "just a story"?


From: Alan Kay
Subject: Importing a graphic
A simpler way for a number of picture formats is to just drag the 
jpeg file from your desktop into the Squeak window.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] pen trails
Hi Randy --

At 8:44 PM -0400 5/7/03, Randall Caton wrote:
>Does anyone know how to get pen trails to write on top of an imported
>graphic (e.g. jpg)? Can it be done?

Yes (see Andreas' suggestion).

Interestingly, pen trails were originally on top in the first version 
of etoys, and I'm not sure just why they aren't now.

However, it's also pretty clear that a more appropriate 
implementation would be to have them actually make an object of some 
kind (a SketchMorph or a PolygonMorph) that works like any other 
object. We will probably do something like this in a future version 
of etoys.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] Has anyone played with Karel's World?
Ned --

I love it! Besides being "a good thing" it is also a tour de force of 
etoy programming.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] Has anyone played with Karel's World?
Squeak is very platform independent.

At 10:43 AM -0700 5/24/03, Doris Cassidy wrote:
>I'm a new squeak user.  Should Mac users be able to download projects
>and games created on computers using Windows OS?

Yes, this happens all the time.

>  I have tried but am
>unable to do so!

What are the symptoms? Can you download projects created on the Mac 
(how can you tell they are created on the Mac? etc.).


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] flaps in the scripting presenter
On the other hand, using just the etoys, you can make perfectly 
working flaps (nonstandard, but functional) and use them anywhere. I 
have done this several times with good results.

It's worthwhile to contemplate how this might be done. And it would 
make a nice piece of documentation of one kind of media construction.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] Launching squeak
What happens when you just double click the image icon? This should 
work just like any other Mac app (where the image plays the role of 
the "document").


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] Pen Trails and Sensors
Thanks Ned --

At 8:27 AM -0700 7/4/03, Ned Konz wrote:
>On Thursday 03 July 2003 07:20 pm, Jeff Longland wrote:
>>  I've been using
>>  penDown to create a pen trail behind the snake, but my major
>>  problem is that the sensor on my object is unable to view the pen
>>  trail.
>Welcome Jeff!
>Some context for the rest of the list: unless the Squeakland image has
>a fix that isn't in the Squeak 3.5 image, the turtle trails aren't
>visible in the color:sees: test.

That's odd and interesting -- they used to be, and should be -- for 
just some of the reasons that Jeff needed them. There are many 
wonderful things that can be done if the color sensing can see the 
turtle trails. Any idea of how this got lost? Can Scott Wallace 
easily put this back in?


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] Pen Trails and Sensors
Thanks you very much Bert!


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] RE: "transparent skin" (new user Q)
Nancy --

I think what happened is that we changed over to a new website for 
Squeakland about two weeks ago and modernized a few things but didn't 
catch up to all of them in the tutorials. We'll get the tutorials 
redone and more usable over the next week. For now you could try a 
new tutorial that is in HTML, so you can print it out from your 
browser. It's also on the Squeakland site at:

Comments, suggestions and criticism welcome ...


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] Squeak 'non-starter' in U.K. schools?
Hi Jim --

At 10:55 AM +0100 7/7/03, Jim Ford wrote:
>I'm a science technician in a U.K. Independant (non-State) Secondary 
>I've had experience of several programming languages (including Logo) and
>when I came accross Squeak became a convert to the concept of it being an
>excellent learning tool - not only for children, but adults as well.
>I've tried introducing Squeak to science teachers, but encountered the
>problem that I've come across with other ideas I've had, which is: if it's
>not in 'The National Curriculum', it won't get taught.

The US is definitely moving in a similar direction: towards extremely 
rigid national curricula.

>  As has been mentioned
>many times in the U.K. national papers, our schools are so focused on
>gaining good published examination results - the so-called 'League 
Tables' -
>(in spite of the protestations of some Head Teachers), that _nothing_
>outside 'The Curriculum' has the remotest chance of being taught. The
>pressure on teaching staff to 'Deliver the Curriculum' is such that whilst
>they may show interest in Squeak, there is not the tiniest slot in the
>teaching day for it to be introduced.
>I believe that as long as the U.K. education system remains tied to the
>stultifying influence of examination orientated 'League Tables', 
>ideas such as Squeak will never be introduced, unless (as is _most_ 
>as officially part of the National Curriculum.

There are various ways to look at this. In the US, it's really a 
mixed bag, because the "official curricula" are poorly taught and 
learned, and so, looking on the bright side of things, it's good that 
important subjects like music, art, and real math and science aren't 
official and thus don't get ruined for the children. However, I can't 
quite get myself to be that happy about the current situation, since 
the names of important and interesting subjects such as math and 
science are ruined in the children's eyes, and this taint can remain 
for many years.

When we started this effort many years ago in the 60s -- inspired by 
Seymour Papert -- pretty much everyone then thought that most gains 
would be somewhat subversive and outside of formal schooling, and 
that the advent of personal computers and the Internet (both of which 
were well underway) would provide something more like nonschool 
books, libraries, bookstores, etc., from which anyone could learn by 
themselves and in clubs with others. It is likely that this set of 
envisioned processes will be what is required -- and to have quite a 
bit of child to child mentoring -- in order for any real changes to 
happen in the next decade.

By the way, in the US at least, things would be helped tremendously 
if scientists and mathematicians were much more strongly involved in 
elementary schooling (and in clubs etc). This is one of our biggest 
problems: not enough people who actually understand the real content 
are involved and want to be involved.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] Squeak 'non-starter' in U.K. schools?
Hi Sheine --

I didn't actually decide on the bookstore approach to the reading 
list. The list is many years old (and probably needs updating). The 
kind folks who volunteered to do the new website took a lot of 
materials and decided to provide secondary and tertiary links to most 
of the stuff. I think this helps a lot and provides more depth to the 
site. The links to amazon are quite helpful even if you don't buy a 
book, since more can be found out about the books if you are 
interested. So I think this was a good idea. I find I use amazon 
about 60% of the time for the same purpose: to find out about a book 
rather than buy it. Historically, I grew up poor and thus virtually 
all of my reading was from the free public libraries -- so I'm a big 
supporter of this way of learning. In particular, I have very fond 
memories of the wonderfully generous folks at the Queensborough 
Public Library in Jamaica, Queens, who really went all out to help 
the young teenage me to find out about things I was interested in. A 
lot of our interest in making the Internet and keeping Squeak free 
came from my experiences with free public libraries.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] Squeak 'non-starter' in U.K. schools?
Hi Darius --

I'm pretty sure that Jim was treating Squeak as a medium for certain 
kinds of content just as you suggest, and I certainly was. In any 
case, as long as we are being really careful about terminology here, 
even "Squeak" is not quite accurate, since we are only using the very 
restricted etoy environment (that is one of many facilities within 
the Squeak system) with children to help them learn powerful ideas by 
authoring models of them.

I think Jim was expressing the difficulty of introducing ideas and 
processes (whether good or bad) that are different than the 
officially sanctioned ones. To me, a very important characterization 
of the problem in the US is that if the children were getting 100% on 
their tests in "math" and "science", they still would have learned 
almost nothing concerning "real math" and "real science". Helping the 
current processes won't help real education in these areas. The real 
difficulty is getting the real processes and ideas understood and 
underway. It is not at all necessary to use computers for this, but 
computers can be very useful "real math stuff", and perhaps they can 
be subversive enough to get the real ideas under the radar screens of 
the misled establishment.

If you are interested in the actual effects of media on thinking 
(they aren't neutral), McLuhan and Postman are two good places to 


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] Squeak 'non-starter' in U.K. schools?
Hi Darius --

Two things worth checking out here.

First, is "The Analyst" done in the early 80s by Xerox EOS in 
Pasadena in Smalltalk (originally for the CIA) but then sold as a 
product. Its main feature is just as you suggest: a spreadsheet 
composed of views of Smalltalk objects - it was quite nice and very 
powerful (and probably still exists somewhere).

Second, is "Agentsheets" done at the U of Colorado over the last few 
years. This is a pluggable cell spreadsheet system with complete 
objects as cells done for children.

There are strengths and weaknesses with this view of enduser 
computing. Some of the strengths are obvious, but can you spot the 


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] Etoy: Saving, Publishing
Hi Nancy --

At 11:15 PM -0400 7/9/03, Nancy Head wrote:
>How do I save a squeak etoy project?
>How do I "Publish It!"? Can I place this in "my own" web space (i.e. my
>account on my isp's server)?

Yes you can, and there are a variety of ways this can be organized. 
For example, in one of the LA schools we work in, the classroom has 
quite a few computers but not nearly as many as there are children. 
The children's projects are published to school servers and they can 
bring them to whichever computer they are working on that day. The 
basic idea is that you should be able to author, publish, and find 
projects anywhere on the net with as close to a "one button" UI as 

This also gives children something most adults wish they had, which 
is a WYSIWYG full media authoring and publishing system for the web 
that can do all from within or without a browser.

As Andreas mentioned, some care has been taken to protect projects 
from being used as viruses. For example, they are encrypted when sent 
outside the child's machine and signature protected against being 
corrupted. Projects brought in from the outside can be run safely in 
Squeak in part because they are confined as to the resource access 
powers they have on the child's computer.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] decompress file
Hi Nancy --

I don't have a clear visualization of just what you've got.

If you have a .pr file, then just put it in the Squeaklets folder 
where your plugin image resides and you can get it with "Find" on the 
Navigator bar.

When I downloaded Diego's project in IE, it automatically 
decompressed and made .pr files. You can just use these directly.

But remember that the plugin version has resrictions on it for what 
it can see in the larger file system. This is why you should put 
these external .prs in the local Squeaklets folder as mentioned above.

Diego's instructions don't have anything directly to do with the 
plugin version.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] Logo vs. Squeak
Hi Diego and folks --

There is no "versus" here. Logo is great, and it was the inspiration 
for much of what we've done over the years. In fact, I've been 
encouraging the Logo folks at MIT -- Seymour Papert and Mitchel 
Resnick have been long time colleagues and advisors -- to actually 
put a Logo on top of Squeak -- pretty much everything is already 
there except the syntax and UI.

Before I mention a few differences in point of view, let me say that 
the main aim here is to teach children real math and real science, 
and this can be done just fine with Logo. However, with both Logo and 
Squeak it really helps for the teachers to already understand real 
math and real science beforehand, or to really try to learn the real 
subjects and processes along with the children. (In the United 
States, most elementary school teachers are not fluent in real math 
and real science, and the official curricula are not about the real 
subjects, but about "rules for calculation" instead of real math, and 
"science facts to memorize" instead real science.)

There have been many variants of Logo, all with a fairly similar 
syntax. There have been several versions that are more or less object 
oriented, with a number of different syntaxes to deal with addressing 
messages or commands to different objects. The more recent versions 
of Logo have sprites with costumes, and these are basically objects.

In the late sixties, influenced by Logo and by some previous 
object-oriented work I'd done, I started thinking about 
object-oriented languages for children. One simplifying idea was to 
have everything the child encounted be an object, so there was only 
one coherent world view to understand and use and just one way to get 
objects to do things.

In Squeak, this simplification goes even further, so that every 
object is also "a turtle with a costume" -- (make a script in Squeak, 
get its halo, and look at its viewer. You will seen "forward" and 
"turn". Look at the "pen" category, and you will see that the script 
itself has a pen. Thus you can easily make a script for the script 
that will make it move in a circle!) The basic ideas here are 
simplicity, uniformity, a glimpse into the metanature of computing, 

Another noticable difference in Squeak is the tiles UI. This has 
turned out to be great for beginners of all ages. It really 
encourages rapid experimentation early one without worries about 
syntax, spelling, etc.

A current "drawback" in the Squeak etoys is that they were an 
experiment aimed at a particular age group -- 9 to 12 year olds -- 
for particular purposes -- about 50 etoys in math and science. The 
good news is that, in this range, they really work extremely well, 
and are learned by virtually all children and adults who try them. 
That was the experiment. The downside is that there is not a lot of 
extension in the current system, and it gets awkward for older 
children and experts.

For the last several years, we've been working on a version of this 
that starts out as easy to use as the Squeak etoys but is much more 
graceful in how it expands as a learner gets more fluent. We will put 
this new version out as an experiment this Fall for those who are 
interested. This version can carry multiple syntaxes, and it's likely 
that one of them will be a variant of Logo -- that would be fine with 
us -- this would make a large world of Logo documentation available 
to all.

Just a pause for a thought here ... Neither the current Squeak syntax 
nor the Logo syntaxes are ideal for children and other end users. We 
really should be thinking about what improvements in UI should be 
made to help them. Andreas Raab has pointed out that the syntax of a 
programming language is actually part of its user interface -- and I 
think this is a really important observation. If we look at the 
difficulties of having children understand (say) parameter passing in 
Logo, we should be thinking about how it should look.
      (It should probably look more like explict assignments to the 
internal variables of the procedure than the blind magic that now 
exists. I left parameters out in the first version of etoys for this 
very reason. It is much easier for the children to make exlicit 
assignments to the local instance variables in the parent object 
before calling the procedure. But this doesn't work for recursion, so 
what should probably be in there is a tile that bundles up the 
assignments and the call. Etc.)

"Functions" and things like functions are a powerful idea. So we 
should be thinking about how to make this stuff better, not just how 
to make use of it or to ignore what the children have difficulty 
with. It's not that difficult to make languages and UIs for different 
ages and sophistications, but it is quite difficult to make the 
graceful blend and path from the simpler to the more sophisticated.

In the sixties, there were lots of computers and lots of different 
computer languages. Most practitioners back then quickly got 
"multilingual" and learned to program in many languages. Nowadays, 
different syntaxs seem to be a much greater barrier, and it seems 
worthwhile to cater a little more to this barrier in order to try to 
teach the underlying ideas.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] Logo vs. Squeak
Hi Ken --

There are definitely a lot of good ideas in ToonTalk -- and, as you 
know, I've been interested in various kinds of iconic programming for 
many years. I think some nifty combination of iconic and symbolic 
elements (yet to be discovered) will indeed be part of a much better 
authoring system for all.

Your knot example is a good one, but so is the fact that you used 
English to state your case below. I think you would agree that a 
combination of English and pictures and actual manipulatives would be 
even better, just as quite a bit of math is difficult to express only 
in pictures, though pictures and manipulatives are a great way to 
start off.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] Logo vs. Squeak
Hi Anindita --

As I said in my original email, the etoys were aimed at a very narrow 
experiment, range of children's ages and range of both subject and UI 
problems. So I would agree with many of the comments below. And some 
of the disagreements I have below are our own fault for not 
documenting well or widely enough. For example, the assertion:

At 11:55 AM -0400 8/9/03, Anindita wrote:
>In Etoys, one cannot create a new class of objects-- just new instances of
>objects. I can create and program an object, then copy it so that it has
>the same characteristics, but I cannot define a class, then create and/or
>modify instances.

is much stronger than is the case. The object system in etoys is not 
the same as Squeak's (partly for good reason and partly for 
experiment). It's much more of a prototyping system and as such 
allows quite a bit of flexibility. The way to think of it is that the 
vanilla "Player" is  like a class Object that just happens to know 
about graphics, etc. It would be easy to put a few more things in 
"Player" to make it fully general, but that was outside the 
particular experiment here.

Ditto "complex code". This was outside the experiment, but it really 
does limit older children's range.

All the stuff on the net was done via BJ-Conn's classroom, and she 
started her kids with a blank environment. If you don't want a blank 
environment, then just make one and store for children to start with. 
All the media stuff you mention in Squeak is there for just that 
purpose. Why complain about this when you can do something to help?

BTW, you can set a preference to have the halo of handles come up on 
mouseover: many teachers use this, some don't. There is balloon help 
on most things in the interface that is delayed one second so it 
doesn't get in the way of those who have become more expert. IOW, 
there are things you can do to deal with these problems. E.g. most of 
the many hundreds of children we've had experience with don't have 
any problems here, so I think it's more a style of approach that is 
affecting things.

I do think the tiles are a double-edged sword, especially on slower 
machines. I also think there are better ways to do this kind of 
scripting, especially when more elaborate expressions are desired. 
Here's a good opportunity to contribute to this opensource system. 
We've already gotten some good ideas from our colleagues at CMU's 
Alice project, who also have similar design goals and difficulties.

At 11:55 AM -0400 8/9/03, Anindita wrote:
>At this point, it might be good to take a step back and rethink how to do
>scripting in Squeak so that children can access the powerful ideas and
>flexibility of Smalltalk more simply. Just as Logo serves as a simplified
>Lisp, there could be a simplified Smalltalk for children to use. Ken
>raises some good points about using icons. The two could also be combined,
>as Alan stated.

I think this is the right thing to do as well. We have been doing 
this quite deeply in the new (Tweak) system that Andreas Raab is 
making, and I'm hoping that the new (Scratch) system from MIT will 
shed light on all this as well.

At 11:55 AM -0400 8/9/03, Anindita wrote:
>How can one transition from being an Etoys programmer
>to a Smalltalk programmer? Right now, the gap is rather wide, but ideally,
>the ceiling should be that high.

That is our favorite question. Let's all try to answer it in the most 
comprehensive and wide-perspective fashion possible.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] Don't forget about Boxer
As long as we are being ecumenical, don't forget about Andy diSessa 
and his (and earlier Hal Abelson's) Boxer work that has been going on 
for many years at Berkeley. A recent deep book about this is:

Changing Minds: Computers, Learning, and Literacy

There are many great ideas and valuable insights here.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] Logo vs. Squeak
Hi --

What Andreas meant *starts* with the Hypercard Level 5 and works its 
way up to much deeper ideas. This is the part that hasn't yet been 
done well (or pretty much at all).


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] Logo vs. Squeak
HI Mikael --

Thank you very much for your email. I have several somewhat 
overlapping reactions to this.

First, I think it's great, and is a great approach in general -- 
especially for early learning stages and for explanations. The idea 
of using a comic book style has come up several times over the years, 
but we've never pursued it -- and it's terrific to see what you've 
done so far.

Second, my larger opinion about this is pretty similar to my larger 
opinion about the place and relationship of comics to more text-based 
writing. On the one hand, I think comics are an art form all of their 
own, and they can have quite a bit of evocative power. On the other 
hand, I think there is something special and unique about 
"disembodied text" and what is required to read it and produce one's 
own internal realizations of the ideas. So I'm always very interested 
in helping children learn the harder stuff because I think quite a 
bit of it is really good for them.

In the world of programming, we have more than one kind of goal for 
the endusers, and this definitely influences the kind of designs we 
put before them. Two of the most important partially overlapping 
goals are (a) as a productivity tool, and (b) as a tool to shape the 
learner's mind.

For (a) we would generally try to maximize quick success in a 
project, often by putting in lots of built-in functionality that can 
be hooked together to make the end result. For (b) say, for math 
learning, we might rather want to have fewer and more primitive 
building blocks and try to motivate harder, more difficult work and 
play from the learner because our main goal is not just getting a 
project done, but to effect a real and often qualitative change in 
the learner's mind.

These two areas overlap a bit, because a lot of the motivation in 
both areas for the enduser is "reasonable success for reasonable 
effort" -- so it would be ridiculous to make (b) painful, or to have 
stupid gratuitous difficulties that have nothing to do with the 
learning we're hoping for. But I do think that a lot of making a good 
(b) is about "finding good difficulties" whose surmounting will help 
the learner and motivating the learner to surmount them. And, in the 
end, the productivity tool approach in (a) starts to fall down 
because it is very difficult to provide all the plugin features (and 
very little deeper learning is happening while the features do cover 
the space).

An interesting example for me is Photoshop. It has a zillion features 
and is very useful. But, the user never learns anything about image 
filtering and is simply blocked if the filter they want isn't there. 
Mitchel Resnick and his group at MIT are doing a system for teenagers 
in Squeak (called Scratch) that tries to bridge this gap by e.g. 
combining the use of filters and the learning of the "computer math" 
of filters (by making their own filters from the start) as the kids 
make projects. In other words, the idea here is to keep the children 
"in the conversation" of the tools they are learning, not to "help 
them to death" by providing opaque features. This seems very good and 
important to me, and is an important part of how real computer 
literacy will eventually be learned.

These transitions are part of the ongoing conversations about how to 
help learners move from one comfort zone to a further higher level of 
sophistication. The relation of picture books for the very young to 
comic books and other picture and text books to mostly text books is 
a possible model to look at. The relation of your work to "computer 
math" seems quite important to me because, at least right now, the 
target for most children is a visual scene and objects that are 
usually manipulated kinesthetically. A lot of the power of the model 
is in symbology of one kind or another, and it is also helpful to 
have comments and other expressions in one's native language. This 
begs for a little more form and organization. I'm very interested to 
see what the next stage of these ideas will be.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] Book and DVD
Hi Jimmie --

Kim's and BJ's book is on schedule and is being printed as we write. 
It is supposed to be available on Aug 20th.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] Book Information: Powerful Ideas...
Hi Jimmie --

I think homeschooling is generally a very good idea -- and we have in 
our plans to try to do quite a bit more to help homeschoolers over 
the next several years.

I think any parent and/or teacher should be able to start from 
scratch with this book -- that is the intent. All the projects can be 
done by a single student.

One of the things you might consider as part of homeschooling is to 
set up community clubs in certain areas (like science) where a number 
of children can learn and do projects together.



From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] Logo vs. Squeak
Hi Folks --

Mitchel Resnick just showed me "Howtoons". Check this stuff out, it's 
really terrific!


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] Music and Squeak
"Real Guitar" is ultimately more fun to learn and play than "Air 
Guitar" (and much better for all learners, especially children).

At 12:12 PM -0700 8/15/03, Doug Wolfgram wrote:
>I just got back from Tech Fest and was fortunate enough to spend 
>some time with Tod Machover of MIT Media Lab. I was completely 
>impressed with Toy Symphony's HyperScore program 
>( and have been composing music with it ever 
>since downloading it.
>Basically, it is an application that allows children to 'paint' 
>music. One does not need to understand music notation or theory. It 
>is all done visually and aurally.

And, to make an analogy, the invention of the tape recorder and other 
audio technology would allow children to just "paint their voice. One 
does not need to understand writing notation or the theory of how to 
use written language. Etc."

So, the other way to look at this is to try to understand why it 
might be beneficial for children to learn certain difficult arts: to 
read and write and do mathematics and play and compose music. What 
good is there in surmounting the difficulties of these arts? What are 
the real trade-offs here between ease of initial use and actual level 
of understanding after a while? Do we want a person+tool to be just 
the simple combination of the two, or do we want to qualitatively 
change the person for the better and the deeper?


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] Music and Squeak
Thanks Ken --

For those who are interested, you could try to see what you can do 
with the very easy two line script that will sample in real-time at 
any pitch. You can also try to use "color sees" and other devices to 
get parameters from the world that can be used to control sound. 
Squeak itself can synth about 100 parallel real-time stereo tracks, 
and there are synth methods in there for sampling, FM, wave shaping, 
etc. There is the ScorePlayerMorph which can play midi files and 
allows you to both orchestrate and to compose, etc.

This is a big interest of ours, but we didn't quite get the music 
part of Squeak up to being smooth enough and documented enough for 
general consumption and play. However, I've done lots of music stuff 
in demos, and lots can be done. One example that was particularly 
interesting was to play Beethoven's Fifth with normal instrumentation 
and then replace all the instruments with the clink sound (that has 
just enough pitch to work). The result is mostly the rhythmic part of 
this great piece and many nontrained musicians have found it 
particularly insightful as to how Beethoven goes about his art.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] A somewhat silly suggestion for Andreas
Why not call a Tweak object an "Idea"? This would be even more Greek, 
and more appropriate.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] A somewhat silly suggestion for Andreas
John --

Actually, our main partners are children, teachers, and parents, and 
none of them will be interested in knowing how Tweak differs or is 
similar to other object systems. They just want to do stuff, and we 
need to show them and help them. Computer jocks can ask questions 
about the model on the Squeak list.

This is why my answer was facetious .....


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] [FUN]Maze constructor
It might be a little more intuitive if you put in a special player 
that signifies "empty" -- this was often used in the sixties for 
stacks, especially in mathematical explanations of stacks, etc.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] Squeak For a First Grader?
Hi Dave --

Six is pretty young -- not so much intellectually, but in terms of 
"what seems neat". Some six year olds love "camoflage games" (like a 
painted animal in an environment where it can't be seen until it 
moves) and visual illusions (like a dynamic version of the Mach 
contrast illusion, etc).  Many of these have been done in Squeak. 
Take a look at an illusion book and see if she likes them. If so, I 
can suggest how to do dynamic versions in Squeak.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] Q: Leverage Overlapping Player to Etoys?
Hi Ned --

At 11:13 AM -0800 1/5/04, Ned Konz wrote:
>On Monday 05 January 2004 8:25 am, Markus Gaelli wrote:
>>  Did we overlook some other way to find out with Etoys which of the UFOS
>>  have been hit by our shot?
>Well, there's the colorSees: test.
>>  If not, should be put it to miscellaneous?
>>  Is it a problem that we only
>>  return one of possible many overlapped players?
>How would you return more than one?
>I've been thinking about making a CollectionPlayer that can apply 
commands and
>slot setters to its members; if we had one of these it could be returned.
>However, there's a problem with slot getters, and with the display 
of such a
>collection (what should it look like if it's visible?).

It should look like (and be) a Holder.

>>  Should I send the changeset?
>Of course, though it may be of more interest to squeak-dev
>>  Another question: How do you destroy Players with Etoys? Is there
>>  something there and hidden?
>You'd have to get rid of all the costumes.
>In the case of players with identical behavior, you'd probably want 
them to be
>siblings, so there isn't the problem with class duplication. The "copy"
>pseudo-slot getter gives you one of these.
>>  We created the bombs of the UFOS by copying the "mother of all bombs".
>>  But we also wanted to
>>  destroy them, if they hit the ground.
>You could do
>	theBomb doMenuItem: 'delete'

This is a good way.

The way I do this is to do everything in a Playfield (which is a kind 
of Holder or vice versa).  Then I set up another playfield "PF" to 
use as temporary trash. So:
                  PF include theBomb
                  PF removeAll

When I'm doing stuff that results in lots of "atoms" in a Playfield, 
I reset by taking everything out of the playfield that I want to save 
(like the mother of the bomb)
                         PF include bombMother
and then do a Playfield removeAll.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] New User
Hi Pat --

The "Powerful Ideas In The Classroom"  book that is available on the 
website is a tested curriculum of the first dozen or so Squeak Etoys 
projects for elementary aged children. This would be an excellent 
place to get started, and please don't hesitate for a second to ask 
for more help if needed.

The DVD might give you some insights into the physical processes and 
children's reactions to this kind of "hard fun".


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] [Q]Some questions about scripting an eToy player
Hi Darius --

Here are some answers from the enduser's point of view.

At 1:07 PM -0800 1/14/04, Darius Clarke wrote:
>Dear Squeakland team,
>I've developed a couple questions recenty:
>- Which Morphs/eToy players have extra scripts attached to them?
>Here is such an example, the Text morph whose menu is attached here 
to this
>- Where is this documented so I can find out such things for myself?

For endusers, it isn't. It's assumed that the EU will get a viewer 
for the object in question and look at the bottom of  the category 
menu. This was more of an experiment than a feature, and we intended 
to make such a category for most morphs. We will do this in the next 
version of the system.

>- How can I change the #rotationCenter in an eToy player's script?
>- The the #rotationCenter in relation too what point in the player?

I'm not sure what you mean here -- change the rotation center using 
an etoy script? If so, there is no route for this. To change the 
rotation center "by hand" you can shift drag it.

>- Does the Croquet mailing list still work?

I think so.

>- Where do I send my "SqueakDebug-3251534861.log" files?

Michael Reuger or Scott Wallace.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] Re: Squeaking Homeschoolers?
Hi Aaron --

This would be a nice email to send to the 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
>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 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!


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] Re: suggestions for pedagogical examples in Squeak
Here's an email that's been waiting for me to add some examples. But 
I won't be able to get to this until next week, so am sending now.



Hi Richard and Marsha --

Here are a few suggestions for using etoys.

First, though I'm guessing (hoping) you already are using "Powerful 
Ideas in the Classroom" by BJ Allen-Conn and Kim Rose, I need to 
mention it just in case. It contains ideas and directions for about a 
dozen projects that children like to do, are "good" for them 
epistemologically, and have been thoroughly tested. Another very 
useful collection of projects that have been written up nicely are 
from our friends in Toronto in the 8th grade of Don Mills School with 
teacher Sebastian Hergott <>.

Here are some comments on Marsha's email.

Squeak etoys are in the form of a scriptable multimedia environment, 
so what gets authored can range from presentations (such as in 
powerpoint), stories and games (such as in MS Word, Director and 
Flash), to mathematical and scientific simulations. Each of these can 
have a little (to a lot) of overlap with various kinds of educational 
goals (including good ones). This is rather like introducing a word 
processor into a classroom "plus plus". That is, the authoring system 
needs to be really open-ended to deal with all of its genre (a word 
processor in which one could only write stories but not essays about 
important ideas would be a terrible use of technology). To continue 
the analogy, writing is much much more than just putting words down 
on paper, and having paper and pencils (or hightech word processors) 
is not much help if the teachers don't know what writing is and have 
some ideas about how to teach it.

Children don't know much about writing or math or science, but they 
do know a lot of stories and games, and a bit about stories and 
games, so they tend to plunge fearlessly into using a dynamic medium 
like Squeak etoys to make representations of stories and games of 
many different kinds. This simply follows previous observations of 
children with LogoWriter and Hypercard. There is nothing wrong with 
this, it's an easy way for them to learn the mechanics of using the 
system, and they can occasionally learn something beyond stories and 
games (e.g. a little about math) in the process. There is a part of 
NSF  and the National Research Council that thinks this is worthwhile 
all by itself because learning to "do multimedia", especially with 
scripting is thought to be an important part of "technological 

At 6:06 AM -0600 2/17/04, RATZEL, MARSHA wrote:
>  I'm now working with the head of the math department on the sligh 
>to create a summer just seems to me that I understand 
>enough that I could help them do some neat things when they teach 
>the "Moving Straight Ahead" module of the Connected Math Program 
>module.  This seems like a perfect language and integrated piece of 
>technology for helping kids to "get" linear equations.  They could 
>experiment and see the what "if"s of all that.  (I taught math and 
>science before becomeing the computer teacher).

This is a very good thing to do, and there are really two parts to 
it: "real math" and "school math", which are not the same thing in 
most school systems in the US. It is critically important for the 
children to have some "real math" and "real science" experiences  -- 
which include actually being mathematicians and scientists themselves 
-- doing the stuff -- as opposed to the "math appreciation" and 
"science appreciation" that is most of school math and science 
(analogous to the difference between playing and composing music and 
"music appreciation", which is about what other musicians have done).

Real Math is the easier of the two because "math is about itself", 
and a full experience can be had with very simple media (including 
simple computer media, such as LOGO). One really important point 
about real mathematics is that it is about completely understanding, 
deriving and reasoning about relationships. "School math" tends to be 
about "remembering results and methods" not about understanding, 
deriving and proving. So to most real mathematicians like me, "school 
math" isn't actually math in any important sense. This is a serious 
problem because it pits large systems of millions of nonmathematical 
adults who are committed to a particular theory of schooling against 
a few thousands of people who actually do and understand mathematics 
(we have been losing badly for more than a hundred years).

The two big things that have to be done to help children with 
mathematics are to (a) have the mathematical experiences be real and 
above threshold, and (b) to have the mathematical experiences be 
consonant with children's abilities and motivations to represent and 
reason in beyond commonsense ways.

So, as Papert pointed out in the 60s, one good thing about children 
learning how to program a computer is that they are actually doing 
real math: they are representing ideas in formal structures, learning 
some tricky tools (such as functions with arguments), reasoning about 
ideas using representations, using the computer to help debug their 
reasoning, and exhibiting the equivalent of constructive 
demonstrations and sometimes proofs of what they are trying to do. 
What seems to be a bit of a struggle here is actually a virtue: an 
embodiment of the real process of mathematics that requires the 
practitioners to understand the relationships and be able to say why.

However, quite a bit a computer programming can be done that, while 
"real math", is not above any worthwhile threshold. For example, the 
LOGO turtle can be used to make simple drawings (and this is real, 
though pretty trivial math), or it can be used as Papert intended to 
have children gracefully and easily learn about the differential 
geometry of vectors (the main mathematical language of science that 
is full of profound and above threshold ideas -- and is rarely even 
touched on in school math an any level). In spite of many books about 
how to teach this and other kinds of above threshold math using LOGO, 
most K-8 teachers did not understand what it was about and did not 
make the effort themselves to learn enough to help the children.

In the US, the further the children progress in school, the harder it 
is to help them learn real math, both from the interference with the 
non-math they've already learned, and also the interference with the 
high stakes tests they have to take in high school. This is why we 
concentrate most of our energies with 4-6 graders where there is 
still a little flexibility. For example, many of the most important 
ideas in mathematics -- such as counting and arithmetic, calculus, 
vectors, geometry, probablity, feedback and control theory, etc. -- 
do not require algebra to understand or work with, and important 
parts of these can be well taught much earlier than "school math" 
supposes. For many of these, a computer can really both enhance the 
experience *and* also connect motivations from stories and games, 
etc., to motivations for learning math.

What we've done in the Squeak etoys is to take as many of the ideas 
we think are great for children that have appeared over the years 
from many different sources and combine these with extensive 
multimedia to make a kind of a "superhypercard" that we hope will 
appeal to many different kinds of children and adults for their own 
reasons. This seems to have worked for our target group of 4-6th 
graders (more needs to be done for both older and younger children). 
A good project in Squeak etoys is one that first "appeals as art" and 
then has some serious nontrivial content that has to be worked out to 
get the whole above threshold. The "serious nontrivial content" could 
be mathematical, scientific, theatrical, musical, visual, etc., or 
some mixture. We've concentrated on mathematical and scientific, in 
part because these two areas are the most weakly represented in 
schools today.

For those who are interested in creating this kind of content, please 
let me point you to books and papers  by Seymour Papert and many 
other LOGOites, Jerome Bruner (especially his ruminations on trying 
to make an intellectually honest version of cultural anthropology for 
5th graders: a masterpiece), etc.


Now for Richard's email.

First, I think pretty much everything you will need for your three 
day experience is in the "Powerful ideas in the classroom" book.

In what follows, I should mention that I was the one who made up the 
unfortunate term "object-oriented" in the mid60s (I should have 
called it something else). In any case, I have some strong ideas 
about what this term means and should mean.

You say:
At 9:21 AM +0100 2/16/04, Richard Borge wrote:
>We have decided not to focus on code as we feel there is
>a risk this can get boring. Instead we are focusing on general OO 
>understanding and
>the use of a graphical tool therefore seems like the way to go.

I'm not sure what this means. 5th graders typically do the car and 
steering wheel project in less than an hour and they do it by writing 
code. And it is definitely not boring to them. My suggestion here is 
to avoid "music appreciation" ("object-oriented appreciation") and 
just have the children make interesting and above threshold things 
using objects.

Another suggestion is to take into account the way children think and 
do and know, and how these are different from adult thinking and 
doing and knowing. There is quite a bit known here, and this context 
can be found in the works of Montessori, Piaget, Vygotsky, Bruner, 
Papert, Brown (Ann), etc. For example, it seems much less important 
to me for children of this age to know *about* objects than to see 
computers as "personal powerful artistic material" for their ideas 
that they can shape using language, planning, reasoning, esthetics, 
etc. In other words, what "personal computing" was supposed to be 
about when we invented it many years ago.

It's very hard to understand a framework without having something to 
contrast it with, so I think I would avoid trying to get your 11-12 
year olds to think categorically about objects in their first 
encounter. See if you can get them to love the experience, feel the 
power of expression, delight in the reasoning, and take happiness 
from being able to track down an bug and fix it, etc. The rest will 
surely take care of itself.

As there are already many 10-12 year old Squeakers all over the 
world, another part of your experiment might be to see what they 
think they are doing. Etc.

Best wishes,


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] collaborative uses
Hi Randy -

There are also a number of immersive UIs in Squeak. All are experimental 
(but have been successfully used at long distances (such as from LA to 
Japan and to Germany). We will shortly be releasing a new version of all of 
this and will let those who are interested on this list know when this happens.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] Charles Stark Draper Prize
Thanks Sheine!


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] drive-a-car newbie questions
Hi Ken --

What tack did you take in your thesis (Andreas -- Ken`s thesis, called 
Director, was one of the first to use various kinds of clocks to tick 
processes along)?

Also, if you look in the menu in the etoy scriptor, there is an entry 
called "fires per tick". This is a somewhat kludgey but useful way of 
relating the animation time (ticks per second) to the number of times 
through a script per tick.Normally, these are 1:1, but can be as fast as 
10000:1, which is fast enough to write an etoy that will step through and 
play samples at audio rates (see the Sampling etoy).

And, the Croquet stuff we are doing uses some of Dave Reed`s ideas (he is 
one of the 3 main folks), and this involves some interesting relationships 
between pseudotimelines and realtimelines.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] getting code from a .txt file into a script
Hi Gary --

You are between two different worlds. The etoys part of Squeak has 
been artificially restricted and carefully designed to make it easier 
for children to make *etoys* using various kinds of media. There is a 
fair amount of design thought and testing in those decisions, and 
some of these are reflected in Kim's and BJ's book "Powerful Ideas in 
the Classroom". My strongest advice is to work through these projects.

(For example, you say "This is an etoy. How do I point it at the car 
object?" But it isn't an etoy. In an etoy you get an object by 
drawing or from one of the parts bins, get its halo, and click on the 
light blue "viewer" button, to open its viewer on the right hand side 
of the screen. This viewer holds all the phrases that have meaning to 
your object, and these phrases are already "pointed to the object". 
If you make scripts from these phrases, they will work. This is how 
etoys are programmed in the world of the child.)

Trying to do "other things" is quite possible, but I wouldn't advise 
trying to do it in etoys. The full blown Squeak can run the gamut 
from the very simple to writing its own OS, so it ranges from about 5 
years old to Computer Science PhD projects. For example, it is quite 
easy to implement LOGO or any other language system in Squeak -- but 
there is still a fair amount of work and thought involved.

For most users, including many experts, it is the UI that determines 
in their minds just what they think they can do and whether they 
think they will like the experience. The UI in the full blown Squeak 
is *not* set up for children, and the first thing to do here if you 
wish to go your own way, is to make a suitable UI environment for 
children that gives them access to your ideas in a way that works for 
them. This is quite a design and testing task, but is definitely 
doable. However, if this is not done, then the children wind up with 
the worst of both worlds.

BTW, the best way to get children attracted to any of this stuff is 
to first get them to make a project of their own -- such as the 
"Drive a Car" project in etoys. There is a certain kinesthetic and 
visceral satisfaction to making things on the computer, especially 
things that involve programming. This is what the kids need to 
experience first and foremost. Showing them what other children have 
done should come later.

Best wishes,

From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] getting code from a .txt file into a script
But what does this have to do with children and the UI they need?


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] Question: delays, collections, object instance variables
Hi Thomas --

At 7:28 PM +0100 3/23/04, Thomas Oeding wrote:
>forward for Poster at Kinetium dot Com <>:
>Five questions from a newby.
>1. It appears that tiles placed in a script are executed as sequential
>Smalltalk statements. Is this correct?

Sort of. The general intent is that everything done in one tick of a 
script is one set of mostly parallel effects and what you will see is 
the results of these at the end of the tick. But this was never 
carried through all the way, so ....

Statements that write into variables are executed sequentially.

For moving objects you have a choice of "batching" or not. If 
batching is turned on (it's a preference that can be specific to 
individual playfields), then all movements of an object are done and 
then the placement is shown. This is most noticable when the pen is 
down. For example, if you are plotting a curve by changing x and y in 
separate tiles then you will get the expected staircase with 
"batching off", whereas you will get a single line to the endpoint 
reached if batching is on.

>2. Some tiles (e.g. make sound) appear to involve asynchronous calls to
>outside services, returning before completion of that service. For 
>if I put 2 make sounds in sequence, they get garbled together.

Actually, they are just mixed.

>  Is my
>understanding correct, and is there a way to synchronize on the completion
>of the sound or to insert something like a delay between the calls so they
>are heard as two sequential sounds?

I'll defer to Scott Wallace here. This is certainly possible (and 
sometimes even desirable), but I don't know if it is currently a 

>3. Is it possible to use collections? e.g. can I make a collection of
>ladybugs and then use collection methods? I don't mind using text 
instead of

As I said in a previous email today, the etoys were made to do etoys 
things. As some of the Squeak hackers have mentioned, there are 
various ways to get past the fences, but then you are in a UI 
territory that is not particularly good for 10 year olds.

That being said, if you look in the Supply bin, you will find a 
Holder, and this has a collection protocol that can be found by 
looking in its viewer. Read Kim's book to see how a few things are 
done using the Holder. If you look in the viewer of a text object you 
will see what can be done there. I.e. look in the viewer of an object 
to see what has been set up for etoys. .......

>4. If I paint two eToys objects (sorry, don't know the right term), 
how can
>I set an instance variable of one to point at the oher?

Make the instance variable of type "Player". Look in the halo of an 
object and look at the balloon help on the different halo items. The 
brown one on the left hand side will give you a reference to the 
object. This can be used to set an instance variable to the this 
object. (We have never done this with children. It is generally much 
better to not use indirection when the children are learning.)

>5. Lastly, I noticed that if I view the text version of a script and edit
>it, then switch back to the tile view, I lose the edits I made. Is there a
>gradual way to transition from the tiles, drag-n-drop programming 
version to
>full(er) Smalltalk or is it an all-or-nothing abrupt jump?

We should turn this off, since it really has nothing to do with 
etoys. It is there for certain adults to play around with, but it 
isn't a supported feature of etoys. I don't think this is the best 
route to make the transition to full Smalltalk. One of these days -- 
not too far off but still a little unpredictable -- we will release a 
system that is inbetween the etoys and full Squeak, that should be 
nicely suitable for most adults and teenagers, etc.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] Re: Squeakland Digest, Vol 11, Issue 17
Hi --

At 7:28 PM +0100 3/24/04, Thomas Oeding wrote:
>Forward for Steve Gutierrez <>:
>I've been following this discussion with interest.  I'm very interested
>in getting sketch morphs to follow sequential commands a la the Lego
>Brick rather than running Forward 5 and Turn 5 simultaneously, so an
>object could complete a series of steps and then based on the results
>fire off a new script. Would this be done with text scripting?

No. As I mentioned, just turn off "batching" in the playfields you 
want to affect. The world is a playfield and you can turn off 
batching for your project by:
  - getting the world menu
  - clicking on "playfield options"
  - make sure that "batch pen trails" is set to off.

This can also be done for individual playfields.

Also, it would be good if you could say more specifically what your 
larger goal is here. There might be a nice way to do it in etoys .... 
Are you trying to run a maze, etc.?


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] Real beginner's questions!
Hi Shelagh --

At 1:53 PM +1100 3/26/04, Shelagh Manton wrote:
>In the various books on Squeak and Smalltalk that I've read, they 
>use a vertical stroke to delineate variables. where is this on my 

It's usually on the right hand side above the return key. It should 
show on the keyboard of any PC or Mac.

>  Is it a character that changes in Squeak when you type it like the 

No. It's a regular character.

I can tell by your question that you are not looking at the Squeak 
Etoys, which is what the Squeakland site and this mailing list is 
about. If you haven't done much or any programming before, you might 
find a really great start by doing the etoys stuff. Get the book 
"Powerful ideas in the classroom" or look at the tutorials on the 
site and try the examples.

If you have had some experience programming and want to learn the 
full blown Squeak, then the site is, and there are many 
books available about how to program both in Smalltalk in general, 
and in Squeak in particular.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] Real beginner's questions!
Hi Shelagh --

At 4:48 PM +1100 3/26/04, Shelagh Manton wrote:
>Thankyou, I found it. It looks like a colon on my keyboard.
>PS.  I know I should really look at the e-toys world. But I'm a 
>compulsive reader and wanted to get a little background on the 
>language itself before I got in the deep cold water.

The etoys world is pretty separate from the larger Squeak world and 
the water is kept warm there. You can get started without worrying 
about the colder waters behind the dam ...


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] Assessment
Hi Doug --

Interesting comments ....

The simplest thing I can say here is that there are now enough 
examples from the last 100 years or so to convince at least me that 
children are generally capable of much much more than most adults 
(and especially most schools) suppose. Thus, there is a very sad 
sense in which "adults are children's worst enemies" since the adults 
tend to control the environments in which children can learn things.

I see the Squeak etoys as trying to build on the idea that children 
are capable of much much more. However, I think there are many 
routes, including low-tech ones, in which much better assessment of 
what children are capable of learning can be done.

Another truly important idea about children which should be part of 
any learning environment, is that different children learn 
differently and for different reasons. Though this seems like an 
unremarkable observation, most learning environments do little to 
nothing to deal with these most important facts.

At this point in time it would be great to have either much better 
teaching (which includes much more understanding by teachers of the 
arts they are supposed to be teaching) or much better computer 
environments that can help children better than most adults can. 
Right now, we have neither, and there is great need for work and 
resources for both.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] Computer as Tutor
Hi Doug --

Al Bork is very well known in this area going all the way back to the 
60s. There is a great old book called "The Computer as Tool, Tutor, 
and Tutee" which contains seminal papers by Bork, Papert, and others.

I couldn't find "Blowing Learning to Bits" on Amazon.

One of the original ideas about all this stuff back in the 60s was 
that some form of AI would develop enough to allow the computer to 
"understand" enough of a subject to be able to gently correct and 
steer. This just didn't happen. Some of the near misses (many done at 
CMU) are quite interesting. Plato (at the U of Illinois) was a huge 
system in the 60s and 70s that did a kind of tutorial on many 
subjects. It's worth studying, but it never got up to what Seymour 
and I thought would be at all reasonable.

There have been some proposals for making a tutorial interface for 
the Squeak Etoys that use a number of techniques to handle the 
detecting and gentle correction of errors. I'm hoping to get at least 
one of these started towards the end of the year.

It would be great to hear from people on this list just what "the 
computer as tutor" means to them.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] Computer as Tutor
Hi Gary --

Where is the furrowed brow or the cheer for comprehension in a 
printed book? I don't think you can get rid of the dedicated educator 
(and I don't want to), but I learned a very large part of what I 
think about from reading well written and not so well written papers 
and books. And, I would also say that a good book beats the average 
not-so-good and not-so-dedicated educator hands down if one has 
gotten fluent in reading and learning from prose.

So, I think there is a very important role for much better computer 
tutors than we now have. For example, today one could really do such 
an intermediary for playing a musical instrument -- especially for 
classical music.
      An interesting setup would be to see one's human teacher about 
once a week and be able to practice all week with one's "practice 
helper". The state of the art is high for computers being able to 
flexibly listen to music, to follow the human player's changes of 
tempo, to note various kinds of phrasing, etc., and would be 
especially useful for practicing chamber music where the computer 
takes the other parts in a flexible manner.
      Of course, this would not at all replace playing the piece with 
human players -- computers don't and won't feel music (at least not 
in my lifetime) -- but musicians use metronomes quite a bit of the 
time when they are practicing, and a flexible computer rendition of 
the other parts beats a metronome any time.

The reason this works for music (especially classical music) is that 
many (but not all) of the important goals can be characterized well 
enough for the computer to notice what is going on, and also quite a 
bit of what it means to be flexible about these goals also can be 
characterized. Once you decide to use it for practice and not 
performance, you've found a sweet spot where most of the computer 
involvement is overwhelmingly positive.

We can constrast this with programming (which is a bit more like 
creative writing). There have been several computer tutors for 
teaching programming, and even the best one's I've seen feel 
crushingly oppressive (basically like a bad teacher with Skinner box 
approach to teaching). In one of the earliest etoy classes with 20 
children, in one of their "figure this problem out for yourself" 
sessions (creating a road and a car that will drive down the center 
of it) we got at least 7 distinct workable solutions to this, 2 of 
them extremely elegant.
      Now, it's easy in this case to imagine a computer tutor that 
could watch to see if the car did indeed stay on the road, but right 
now, giving good advice about what the children actually did do 
(instead of trying to get them to do a mythical "standard good 
solution" (which I hate)) is beyond what anyone knows how to do with 
a computer tutor.

But there is one area in which a really great job can be done, and 
this is on some "nugget of goodness" (especially in the beginnings of 
learning) in which "everything is known". For example, the "Drive a 
Car" project is an excellent way to start learning etoys. There are 
about 30+ things that are learned, there are quite a variety of 
routes, and there are lots of known snarls that beginners need help 
with. Years ago there was a tutor for positional notation subtraction 
that really worked extremely well, and this was because the designers 
made a net of every possible route the kids could take and every 
possible bug they could encounter.
      This works on a 15-30 minute project that is deemed important, 
but is much too much work and much more difficult in other ways for 
even a weeks or months long set of ideas.

  So one of the things that I think would be interesting to do, and 
that would help people all over, would be to simply do such a brute 
force but nicely flexible job on "the first experience with etoys". 
Most people finding this stuff on the net don't have your "dedicated 
educator"s to ask for help, so a computer tutor that was "pretty darn 
good" just to get people well started would be a tremendous aid all 
over the world.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] Computer as Tutor
Hi Diego --

Then what does the phrase "book as <fill in the blank with a word 
like tutor>" mean to you?

The *love* idea is really important (I loved my mentor Dave Evans), 
but he didn't "tutor me", he "illuminated me" on how and why to be a 
scientist in the service of humanity. Most of the "simple knowledge" 
I've picked up has come from reading, thinking and doing by myself.

But, I would really agree that for most personality types, the 
interest of other humans, especially adults, is one of the most 
important motivators for putting in effort for learning. I was 
already extremely interested in learning, and had been doing it for 
my own reasons for many years by the time I got to grad school, but 
still, having Dave be genuinely interested in me made a tremendous 
difference, especially in loosening the amount of self-criticism I 
was inflicting on my ideas.

So, I think the best environment involves people who really know and 
care, and various kinds of tools. The miracle of the book is how well 
it can work when one is not lucky to be around people who know and 
care (and even when one is). This is in part because a good writer 
can transmit more that just information, a lot of their basic 
humanity and caring glows through their words (good examples are the 
writings of Seymour Papert and Jerome Bruner which have affected 
millions of people they have never met -- these are "good guys" with 
"good ideas" and both shine through).

I still think that helping children to be fluent readers is the top 
priority in education, both because of the change of access and who 
can now do what, but also because of the change in how people think 
that comes with fluent reading.

It has been known for some time what has to be done with a computer 
screen to allow it to be as readable and portable as a book, and the 
actual technology does exist today in labs. So we are within a few 
years of having this next level of display be able to encompass all 
previous paper works without loss of legibility. However, just as 
there are tactile differences between vellum and paper that we've 
lost since printing got cheaper and superceded writing by hand, there 
will still be some tactile differences between books and the next 
generations of personal knowledge machines. The ones that are 
important will need to be dealt with.

But the most important thing is to discover what new special content 
can be manifested because we have the new medium of the computer to 
help us represent special ideas, and then to put forth this content 
so that as many people in the world as possible can think their own 
thoughts after "reading and doing" with it.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] very new etoys user question
Hi Sue --

All the images in Squeak can overlap.

So they should paint their rockets separately from their backgrounds 
-- these should be separate objects. Then just picking up the rocket 
and putting it on the background painting will get the rocket "on 


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] The "Triple Crown" for Alan Kay!
Thanks very much Sheine!


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] [NEWBIE] Video Streaming w/ Squeak Client?
Hi Joseph --

Squeakland is for teachers and parents. Check out 
which is for questions like yours. The simple answer is "yes", Squeak has a 
multiplatfrom mpeg player. Its best trait is that it is multiplatform. 
However, it is more limited than most of the commercial players, and needs 
to be worked on to keep pace with the commercial world.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] spiral
Hi Randy --

Try first with circles and changing the angle and then the distance. Note 
that the smaller the angle, the large the circle (the smaller the curvature 
of the circle). The longer the distance traveled the larger the circle. You 
will probably want to use the little menu in front of the property 
"heading" to give it more decimal places. Make variables to hold the 
changing quantities. Try:

forward by 5
turn by angle
angle decrease by 0.1

and see what happens.

This is a constant decrease of the angle.


forward by distance
turn by 5
distance increase by 2

and see what happens. This is a constant increase distance.

Try accelleration in each of these examples and see what happens.

Then try a scheme in which the angle and the distance are both changed in 
the same script.

This should provide some insight about spirals.



forward by 5
From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] spiral
To John and Randy

By the way, headingTheta is part of the vector category in etoys, has a 
different purpose and orientation than "heading", and is not needed for 
making spirals or other LOGO like geometric figures. "headingTheta" (and 
the rest of the vector stuff) is usually not visible in a vanilla Etoy 
system. How did you get it to be visible in yours?


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] spiral
Thanks Kim --

... we should probably write up something about what they mean and how they 
can be used ...


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] spiral
Hi --

Generally speaking, 5th graders get along very well without a repeat tile 
(but more and more older children are using etoys and thus we will include 
a loop construct some time this year).

But all the different kinds of loops are easy to make from two scripts, one 
to initialize, and one to do the loops and terminate. Use a variable if you 
are doing a "for" type loop.

So for player foo, "For i from 1 to 100 do mumble" would be:

foo loopInit
     i <- 1
     foo start script loopBody

foo loopBody
     Test foo's i > 100
        Yes   foo stop script loopBody
         No    mumble
                 foo's i increase by 1

This is somewhat cumbersome, but is quite clear about what it does and when 
it does it. It has not come up as an issue with 5th graders because they 
stuff that we are encouraging them to do has either unbounded looping (the 
normal case) or the looping is stopped by some test of an external 
condition (as Phil suggested).


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] 2 questions - embedding text box and keystroke listener
If you put the object to be embedded on the object which you want to be the 
holder, then the embed popup will show you all the layers you can embed in 
down to the world. If you want to be completely clear about what is going 
where, you can do one of two things.
  . you can name the object that will be doing the holding by clicking on 
the name that shows up with the halo, typing and hitting return (and this 
name will then show in the embed popup), or
  . you can look at the red menu for the holder object and choose "open to 
drag and drop". Now it will act like a playfield. The object will now 
capture any object dropped on it (but this can be too much of a good thing, 
so it is often good to turn this option off after you've done your desired 

Perhaps Scott or Ned can tell us about the current state of keyboard 
listening in the etoy system (the feature is there but turned off, again 
for good reasons).


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] spiral
Shashank --

See below ...

At 10:42 AM 12/12/2004, Shashank Date wrote:
>Hello Alan,
>Alan Kay wrote:
>>Hi --
>>Generally speaking, 5th graders get along very well without a 
repeat tile 
>>(but more and more older children are using etoys and thus we will 
>>include a loop construct some time this year).
>Great ! Yes, we were doing fine without the repeat tile so far, but now 
>our kids (6th and 7th graders)  want to do more :-)
>>But all the different kinds of loops are easy to make from two scripts, 
>>one to initialize, and one to do the loops and terminate. Use a variable 
>>if you are doing a "for" type loop.
>>So for player foo, "For i from 1 to 100 do mumble" would be:
>>foo loopInit
>>     i <- 1
>>     foo start script loopBody
>And here we had to add:
>         foo stop script loopInit
>without which the clock kept ticking and the loopInit scipt kept 
>over and over again. (There is an implicit infinite-loop on all the 

No, there isn't. E.g. if you just say in another script
            foo loopInit
this will fire this script once (this is why there is an explicit "start 
script" to start a script looping).

If you want to do this by hand, just click on the (!) on the left top edge 
instead of the clock.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] cannot publish a file anymore
Hi Arvind --

Squeak has an interface to multiple external joystick ports (which could be 
made available in Etoys). This would be a lot better than trying to drive 
things around with keys. Mike Rueger is the source here.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] spiral
At 04:18 PM 12/13/2004, Shashank Date wrote:
>Hello Alan,
>>>without which the clock kept ticking and the loopInit scipt kept 
>>>executing over and over again. (There is an implicit infinite-loop on 
>>>all the scripts).
>>No, there isn't. E.g. if you just say in another script
>>            foo loopInit
>>this will fire this script once (this is why there is an explicit "start 
>>script" to start a script looping).
>Oh, yes. Thanks for correcting me.
>>If you want to do this by hand, just click on the (!) on the left top 
>>edge instead of the clock.
>I keep forgetting about the execute once (!) option.  Is there any way
>to NOT have the clock icon on the script?


>Alternatively, is there a more elegant solution to "stop script"
>regardless of which icons we click on (clock on the !)?

Why? (I don't understand your question here. Why would you want a clock on 
the (!)? It will only run the script once and then stops by itself.)

You can stop any script with the "stop script" command in "scripting". You 
can stop any ticking script by hand by clicking on the clock that is 
visibly showing ticking. You can do the same in a viewer. You can 
stop/start all scripts that are ticking by using the  stop/go buttons (and 
these will also show you all the scripts in the environment, etc.).
From: Alan Kay
Subject: Script control (was Re: [Squeakland] spiral)
Hi --

Having a script pause for a certain number of ticks is the same as having 
the script run for a certain number of ticks. If you use the looping 
mechanism I mentioned a few emails ago, you can see that a counting loop in 
etoys is the same as a counting clock or timer. Each tick is one clock 
time, and you can keep track of how many in a variable. You can test the 
variable and make another script start or stop ticking when the variable 
gets to a certain value.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] Where can I find a description of make siblings
Hi Folks --

Actually, this is all being thought through once again as we try to design 
and build the "Omniuser Authoring System" of which the next version of the 
kids' etoys system should be a subset.

I think that copy actions are too cavalier on the one hand, and classes are 
too top down and rigid on the other. We need something in between these two 
extremes. E.g. I would like to be able to "promote" an example player to 
being a "source" for instances. I think this will call for several UI 
changes, including ways to mark and find the "sources".



From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] Drawing lines
Hi Gustavo --

Etoys has a preference for this: called "Batching" and "unBatching".

There is a global one that affects the world, but each playfield can be set 
one way or the other. Get out a playfield from supplies, go to its red 
handle menu, look for "playfield options" to get a submenu, and then reset 
the batching item.

Both of these are useful. However, it's clear that this preference should 
be on each line drawing object, and the set and reset should happen in the 
"pen use" category. We will make that change sometime this year.

Best wishes,

From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] reflection symmetry
Hi Randy --

I think this one is a bug (or in this case more accurately: an 
unimplemented feature). It should perform the way you want (and I think we 
should put in this feature). But there is a way to script in etoys what you 
are trying to do.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] PPT presentation
Thanks Bob!


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] selecting colors
The color picker will pick from anywhere.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] selecting colors
There are several ways of accomplishing this. First, the paint box is 
supposed to put recently selected colors at the bottom. So the color you 
used for one object should be available. Also, the "paler shade" is an 
onion skin object that can be moved out of the way, resized, etc. There is 
also a preference for whether this onion skin is full screen or only part 
screen. In any case, with the Squeak you are using, you should be able to 
alt-click the onion skin to get its halo, and thus be able to move it or 
resize it. Also, let me know if the paint box is NOT caching recently 
selected colors.

Hint: this is an object oriented system in which every graphic object 
shares many properties. So if you can see it, you should be able to select 
it, get its viewer, etc. Also you can change colors (so the onion skin can 
be made transparent like any other object, or more opaque).


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] joining objects
Joining is done by embedding.

Objects can be set to automatically embed dropped objects (see red halo 
menu). Playfields are already set that way. So a transparent playfield can 
hold many objects. If the objects are made sticky, then ordinary mouse 
clicks will not pick them up (but atl-clicks will still get the halo). If 
the objects are locked, then they will be indifferent to the mouse (and 
will have to be unlocked to be accessed). Finally, if you drop any object 
on any other object, you can embed it via the embed button in the red halo 
menu. The popup will give you choices if there are various stacked objects 
to choose as the holder, etc.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] resizing objs in playfield
Randy --

Try exploring the resources more. For example, under geometry in a viewer, 
you will find many properties and behaviors. One of these is called 
"scale". Try changing the number in there to 0.5 ... etc.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] Some questions regarding 'supplies'
I'll be glad to answed your questions, but for some of them I need to know 
what version of Squeak/Etoys you are using.

At 09:25 PM 2/24/2005, Suna Ryu wrote:
>1. How can we combine two tools in supplies flap?
>    e.g. Text and line, or Text and on.

I think I understand this question. If you want to put a rectangle that 
contains text into a supplies flap, you first get out a rectangle object, 
and then a text object. Place the text object over the rectangle, and look 
in the text object's red dot menu. You will see "embed ...". Choose this, 
and then choose "rectangle". Now the text object is a part of the rectangle 
object, but can still be edited. Now pick up the rectangle object and drop 
it into the supplies bin. It will show up there in a reduced size. Now you 
can drag copies out. (BTW, any playfield can be converted into a supplies 
bin. Look in its red menu for "playfield options".

>2. How can we make tables and graphs with using squeak?

This is a good thing for children to learn. Each object in Etoys has a pen, 
so you can construct a grapher by making a small paint dot or pulling out 
an ellipse from the supplies bin (make it small). Put the pen down and 
choose the size and color of the ink. A simple graphing script is then:
     dot graph  ticking
          dot's x increase by 1
          dot's y <-   <whatever value you want to graph, etc>

>3. What is the "graph"'s function?
>    I can see only one graph looks like a sine or a cosine graph.

This is a different kind of graph that is used for sound. These can be made 
in etoys but are more cumbersome than above.

>4. What is the "ruler"'s function?

We haven't used this with children.

>5. I tried to use "arrow editor", but i don't know exact function of "sample".

Are you using Etoys or regular Squeak. If Squeak, then these questions are 
best asked on the Squeak list (you can sign up on

>    How can we drag out a shown arrow to the world?
>    I can drag out a word to the world though.
>6. How can we make screen print?

Each object has an "export" in its red menu.

>7. In "starsqueak", how can we use "slimemold" and "trees"?
>    are they existed a sort of model? or can we use them for other 
>     It seems to me that the couple of models looked like from logo

StarSqueak was derived from Resnick's StarLogo. We now use Yoshiki 
Ohshima's "Kedama", which is a particle system that can be programmed 
almost identically to the Etoys.

Best wishes,

From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] Ubuntu Squake issue
Hi --

The Squeakland list is for teachers and parents and children who are 
learning to use Etoys. I think that you might want to go to
to ask these technical questions about running Squeak on a version of Linux.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] Squeak competitor analysis (once more, please help me to improve my research)
Hi Andre --

This could be Apples compared to Oranges.

The Squeakland etoys system is not a productivity tool for animation, but a 
learning environment for children.

A productivity tool -- like Flash -- would have features for for many of 
the elements that we wish children to create for themselves -- for example, 
we have the children actually write the script that does the animation, 
whereas this routine is built into animation productivity tools.

So it is a little more work for children to make an animation, but they 
wind up understanding how computers are able to animate.

This general approach is followed in the other curricula done with etoys.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] EToys Experience Report
Hi Kevin --

Let me see if I can help.

There are two somewhat opposite observations about Squeak/Etoys.

First, it is a demo system aimed at 9-11 year olds for helping them 
understand math and science (and a little bit about computing) via 
investigations and authoring. So some things are quite easy and some are 
awkward. Later this year we plan to release a larger scale version of this 
kind of authoring that should fit wider needs better.

Second, there is much more that can be done with the current Etoys than 
easily meets the eye or is easy to find in our inadequate documentation. 
But a little sleuthing will help.

For example, your first category has as an example a need for collections. 
If you had tried one of the animation examples on the squeakland website, 
you would have found an object called a holder, that functions as a kind of 
flexible array. You would also have seen how to do these animations in The 
Powerful Ideas in the Classroom book, that is available on the website, etc.

You mention the need for 10 projects that are ordered. That's what the 
Powerful Ideas in the Classroom book contains. You said that you ordered 
it, so this will help.

I don't have much of a comment about teaching computer science concepts to 
a 9 year old (you should be able to if you want regardless of whether this 
is a high priority for a 9 year old's time).

 From your email, I think you will have a better time with the larger scale 
version to be released this year, since you have already picked up many 
habits from your previous experiences with computing.  I think you realize 
that these are a double edged sword, particularly when dealing with 
children. If you are really trying for learning then you want an 
environment that is less like a productivity tool (with lots of prefabbed 
parts) and more like a classic tinker toy with a few parts that can be 
assembled in lots of ways. This should be combined with a sense of what can 
be really understood by the child vs recipe following. For example, an 
enormous number of interesting things can be done with simple addition and 
this will help the child get much more numerate about how numbers can be 
taken apart and put together.

It can be difficult for many adults (who are interested in learning things 
themselves) to scale back the number of tools and principles (but not the 
depth) to a useful level for children. We use the old Model T Ford as a 
motivating artifact. It was a real automobile, but anyone could take it 
apart and put it back together.

For example, one thing you might think about is all the ways "increase-by" 
can be used to model phenomena over time, from simple counting at different 
rates, to uniform and accellerated movement on the screen, to sampling 
images for animation and sound samples for synthesis, etc. All of these are 
easily doable by the current system. "Increase-by" is the powerful idea of 
a first order differential equation and it is a great "powerful idea" for a 
child to absorb deeply. We have found that 5th graders can easily deal with 
2nd order DEs and thus be able to model accellerated motion of various kinds.

So one way to get the fullest quality from what is available is to aim at 
curriculum ideas that the current system is set up to handle (and hope that 
we can make good on our plan to release a first look at the larger scope 
version later this year.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] EToys Experience Report
Good suggestions!

There are also some very good project write ups done by an 8th grade class 
in Toronto (pointer on the Squeakland site).


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] Recursion supported in etoys script ?
Hi Folks --

This brings up an interesting pedagogical question about recursion and objects.

Smalltalk (and hence Squeak) has full capabilities for recursion, and etoys 
could (and maybe should) also.

On the other hand, let's take an example, such as drawing/building a tree 
shape. A LOGO-like recursive approach would be to make a procedure that 
draws a V shape, and then write a recursive procedure that invokes this V 
at different sizes and angles to draw the tree.

Another, more object oriented, approach that is a little more biological is 
to make a branch object with a non-looping method that creates sprouting 
further branches (copies of itself) of the tree and gives them "life" to 
create limbs of their own using the sprouting method. This is much simpler 
to think about and do, it actually creates a tree of branch objects, and 
the technique generalizes much better to massively parallel structures that 
are more complicated than simple nested structures.

The interesting dualism here was noted when objects where invented, that 
because objects have a full copy of state (whereas procedures don't), there 
often no good reason for using an invisible stack of contexts where a 
visible collection of objects would better serve ....

Not that there aren't some nice and neat things that can be done with 
recursion, but it seems to me, where kids are concerned, there should be 
big payoffs for each concept that is trying to find a place in the kids' 
7+-2 chunks used to think with -- and recursion doesn't make the initial 
cut in my opinion.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] Recursion supported in etoys script ?
There is also an example in a project called "Biobob", probably on BSS 
somewhere ...


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] Random
This is why there is no parameter on the random tile. It is good for 
children to realize that they can get a random number in any interval by 
simple addition.

The random number tile generates numbers between 1 and the number that is 
set on it. So if we want to generate random numbers between 15 and 21, then 
we can do this by the sum: 14 + random 7. Often it is a good idea to make a 
new variable to hold such calculations:
                    newRandom <- 14 + random 7
would be a typical line in a script.

In general it is good to help children to do "automatic arithmetic" 
whenever they see numbers. There are other places in the etoys where one 
might also put "a feature", but where having the children do a simple 
relationship from scratch is better for them.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] Random
Ah, now I understand what you were asking! Good question!

I'll ask Scott Wallace for his opinion here also.

I think the simplest answer is that this should be like the feature 
"forward" (which can be made from simpler stuff in etoys but is not worth 
putting the children through the process early on -- so it is provided as a 
feature). That we can't simply drop a variable name on Random (and extend 
it for arithmetic) is a bug and should be fixed in this version of etoys or 
the next.

It is possible (and illuminating) to make a random number generator by hand 
in etoys, but I don't think this should be an early burden on 11 year olds!

What do you think Scott?


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] (no subject)
Hi Aimee --

Not to put you off here, but this list is for the etoys that are aimed at 
10 year olds, and my guess is that you are not trying to use that, but 
Squeak itself (which is aimed at fairly sophisticated programmers and has 
its own website ).

However, I think I remember that Dan Ingalls, one of the creators of 
Squeak, did the Crostic stuff, and I'm copying him here.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] Beethoven
This can be done by finding a MIDI score on the net, playing it with the 
Squeak MIDI player, and then using it with the clink sound on all of the parts.

There used to be some excellent timbres around for the Squeak player. We 
should put together another batch. Volunteers could look at the net to see 
about free sampled timbres. Should be quite a few that we can use.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] clear object-specific pen trails
Hi Folks --

You know, in Tweak, we should probably just extrude real objects for pen 
trails (or maybe paint a separate object ....)


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] clear object-specific pen trails
Tweak is the next version of etoys, and will have considerably more range 
of users and use. We have been working on this for the last several years.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] clear object-specific pen trails
Suggestions for better UI would be most welcome.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] Multiplayer network game programming with Squeak
Also look at

I haven't tried the Etoys screen sharing stuff recently, but it could be 
used for simple shared Etoy games (it works similarly to Timbuktu, but has 
"badges" to make rendezvous easier).


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] random numbers in etoys
If the variable is called "car's foo", the min is 6 and the max is 17, then 
how about

            car's foo <- 6 + random 17

I'm not sure what version you are using, but you can find the random tile 
in every scriptor's menu, and very often there is one in the Supplies bin.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] Squeak Etoys and preschoolers
Hi Leonel --

We have done little in this age group with Etoys.

The UI should be changed for this age children in a number of important 
ways (some of this was in the original Etoys design but didn't get 

You are probably aware of Radia Perlman's work in the 70s at MIT with a 
"button box LOGO"? This was pretty interesting, and we duplicated her 
equipment and did many parallel experiments. I have heard recently about 
very young children and Etoys (some of them will be at SqueakFest next 
week) but I don't know the details. Kim Rose might. We also have a grad 
student working with us who is interested in this age group.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] make sibling from script
Hi Randy --

Just put the copy in a variable, and then you can tell it what location to 
have ....


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] Pausing animation?
Not an accident, heh heh ... All fractions work here. This is used in the 
Sound Synthesis project to get all the pitches.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] 1st Grade
They love illusions. Get an illusion book and think of ways to make simple 
projects for them to do.

For example, the Mach illusion has two a large white square next to a large 
black one. Two smaller same gray squares are placed in the middle of the 
larger ones. The grays suddenly seem quite different.

Etoy version can use copying. Start with a rectangle, make it into a large 
square, copy it and then use the color tool to make one white and one 
black. Copy another one, make it smaller, and color it gray. Copy it. Put 
the small squares in the middle of the large ones and you will see the 
perceptual difference even though the two gray squares were copies. Now 
write a script for one of the gray squares to move horizontally at some 
speed and use "bounce" to reflect. Make a similar script for the other gray 
square with a different speed. Start them moving. They will intersect with 
each other and prove they are the same color, and they will move into the 
larger squares and seem to be different colors.

Another one for 6 year olds is the camouflage one that is on squeakland, 
with a grasshopper and grass. Make the hopper and grass the same color and 
the grasshopper will be hard to see unless it is moved. This works for 
fish, etc.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] Question about mouse on Windows
Another option is to have "mouse over" bring up the halo. Many elementary 
schools use this.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] a question about siblings
Hi Randy --

The idea of siblings is to make parametrically similar objects. So it's an 
interesting question just which parameter values should be transmitted or 
remain distinct. If the "graphic" is repainted on a sibling, we certainly 
don't want the change to be automatically propagated to the rest (any more 
than we want the position or heading be automatically transmitted). OTOH, 
we might want to selectively transmit some of the values from one object to 
all. E.g. we might want to say "let all my siblings have my graphic".

Right now we are pretty much restricting this to control state rather than 
property values ....


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] Folder of friends?
Squeak has a Timbuktu-like screen sharing facility with a chat and VOIP 
interface, and "badges" that can hold the pictures and addresses of others 
who are using Squeak on the net. It works and has been demoed many times, 
but we've never been satisfied with it for a number of reasons, and are 
currently in the process of replacing this using the mechanisms of Croquet 
(  which is much better supported, deals with 
transmitting events rather than screen bits, can be used on very low 
bandwidth connections, etc.)

My advice would be to treat this as a currently unsupported feature and not 
try to use it.



P.S. A more supported use of networks in Etoys is Netmorphs, which 
logically connect up remote PCs using Squeak so each screen is a tile in a 
much larger virtual screen. So, e.g., a child can make a car and drive it 
off the screen and it will appear on someone else's computer screen. Here 
is a recent message from the author, Umezawa-san:

From: Masashi Umezawa <>

Hello all,

NetMorph 0.3 for Squeakland 05 is finally available.

Pre-installed image:

How to use:

This is the first official version for Squeakland 05 image.

If you found some bugs, please send a report to me!

[:masashi | ^umezawa]
From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] Copying from one project to another?
I thought you had already asked this...

Any object can be copied by using the red halo menu. In the 2nd project, 
use the "new morph ..." menu item in the world menu.

BTW, pretty much every feature you have asked about so far are things we've 
put in the system to experiment with but are not generally used with children.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] Question about Powerful Ideas Project 5
Hi Mark --

Every Etoy object has a pen (they are all "turtles with costumes"). So 
instead of having an opaque plotting feature, we just have the kids use a 
small object (like an ellipse), put the pen down and write a ticking script 

            ellipse's x increase by 1
            ellipse's y <- <the value to be plotted>

This is nice and simple, and also makes plotting understandable.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] player variable
Hi Randy --

At 10:57 AM 10/30/2005, Bert Freudenberg wrote:

>Am 30.10.2005 um 16:33 schrieb Randy Heiland:
> > When I have a variable that's of value type 'Player', is it possible
> > to get a 'handle' to that player/object and use its tiles in a script?
>You have to built the script using the tiles from a concrete player,
>and later substitute the references to that player in the script with
>your variable.

And this is pretty ugly from a UI perspective. This is why we don't really 
mention it. But it does work. Ted Kaehler has been working on a much better 
UI for complex expression building with tiles in Tweak.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] un-embedding
The black handle will "lift" out of an embedding.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] How can I use Bouncing Atoms?
Hi --

Bouncing atoms was a long long ago hack, But look in the red halo menu ...

A better start with particle systems in Squeak Etoys are the Kedama objects 
by Yoshiki Ohshima, which are an Etoy slant on Mitchel Resnick's starLogo.

Linda Kao did some terrific documentation for Kedama at:


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] feature request: color selection
This used to happen. Looks like a broken feature to me.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] Squeak & Mobile Phones
I think Yoshiki Ohshima did do a port to a mobile phone a few years ago. 
The current screen sizes are not very good for development ....


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] resizing doesn't stick in holder animation
Instead of resizing the drawings in the holder, try resizing the player 
that is changing its costumes. I.e. if the script looks like:

holder's cursor increase by 1
ball look like holder's player at cursor

then resize "ball". Whatever scaling ball has is applied to its costumes.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] resizing doesn't stick in holder animation
What happens if you change the size of the ball (or change its scale factor)?


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] multiple authors?
The chat badges are actually functional, but they are "not civilized". I've 
been giving demos for years using them. And they do much more, they can 
also do real time screen sharing with multiple cursors. There is a form of 
VOIP that can be used to talk back and forth.

But this is not currently a "supported feature". There is not a good UI for 
setting up the badges. And the badges need the IP address rather than a 
name in a registry, etc. We expect to have a much more flexible and 
supported version of these features by the end of 2006.

The second paragraph indicates that your students might be working in 
Squeak rather than in the children's etoys system which is on top of 
Squeak. If so you should probably go to instead of using 
squeakland for these kinds of questions. Squeak has an extensive 
development system, and there are some interesting packages for it, 
including one by Umezawa-san in Japan that is set up for joint development 
over a network.

For the ultra version of all this (and a peek into the future a few years 
from now) look at .


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] multiple authors?
HI Bob --

The Etoys are at their best for 5th graders. Our experience with 8th 
graders is that they can do most of the existing 5th grade centric 
curriculum in 6 weeks or so. And then they need a superset of either or 
both of curriculum and what the language can do. We've been working on the 
supersets for a while (and are a little behind our plans as to when they 
will be supported.)

But now I'm curious as to the development model you'd like to use. If it is 
ABABABABA then the kids can simply email the existing project back and 
forth or store it on the web (there are even swikis (e.g. from GaTech) that 
allow projects to be uploaded and downloaded).

If you are talking about kids independently working on the "same" project 
at the "same time", then they are either working on different objects -- in 
which case you would like to merge the changes -- or they might be 
modifying the same objects (more likely some of the time) -- in which case 
forking is really going on and the merge is not trivial.

I'd like to hear how you think this would work with your kids.

In the latter case of forking it is probably more useful for them to be 
sharing the very same single project so the changes are going in directly 
and the clashes will be quick and usually obvious. The "Nebraska" sharing 
mechanism (through the badges) *can* do this since it is essentially a 
Timbuktu like client-server on the same project on one of the machines. It 
might be interesting to try some experiments to see if this works.

"In the future" this will be solved using the undermechanisms of the 
Croquet system ( )operating through the superset.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] multiple authors?
It needs a better interface and a name server, etc.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] generate a movie?
But, if I read the original question -- it seems that it is about making 
movies that are playable in Squeak from other formats, including those that 
cameras use.

There are a variety of SW apps that can do this, and some of them are free, 
depending on which platform you have.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] generate a movie?
Oh ... Well, Takashi Yamamiya has done this, and I think he did use Wink.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] feature request: rotation center help
For older children, you should do real inverse square orbits. Squeak Etoys 
does these very well. Don't forget that you can choose to have the "origin 
at center" in any playfield. This means that any player put in a playfield 
will also act as a vector, and this can make it very easy to model 2D 
accelleration, velocity and position. (There is also a vector vocabulary 
for players which can be turned on to allow simple + and - vector 
arithmetic to be done between players, etc.)

A fun thing to do (especially since it is intractable with classical math) 
is to do the 3 to n body calculations. Turn the pen on for the third body 
and you get beautiful chaotic curves, etc.

Also, when using embedding, think about what it means for each player to be 
a coordinate system for the players embedded in it.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] Copy an object programmatically.
Also consider that you can put objects into a playfield both by hand and by 
program and clear the playfield.

I usually put my seed object into a separate little playfield before doing 

One way to look at this is that the playfields act as variables for single 
objects and sets of objects. (If you put 0 at center of a playfield and 
drop in a player, then you have a very nice visible representation of a 
vector -- and there is a vector arithmetic trait that you can turn on, etc.)



  03:56 AM 3/3/2006, Randy Heiland wrote:
From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] graduated fill
Hi --

  07:44 AM 3/3/2006, Sholom Eisenstat wrote:
>With some experimenting in class, we've determined that a morph created 
>with the draw tools does not have the same set of color/border tiles that 
>a morth grabbed from the supplies tab has. The latter's tiles enable the 
>fill stuff whereas the former's don't.
>So, that appears to be the end of that thread though I don't understand 
>why the difference is programmed in as such.

Yep, it shouldn't be. The plan for the new system is for everything 2D to 
be made from polygon/curves, and that bit-map painting will essentially be 
a texture. We have also been experimenting with freehand painting that 
results in vector graphics objects on the fly ...


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] Linking projects
The link that Randy points to below discusses how to use Squeak Etoy 
projects as "better than Powerpoint" slides.

But there are three other ways to make links to projects. As usual, the UI 
could combine this better .... there could be better documentation ...

1. Look at the submenu New Morph from the world menu. The last item is Make 
link to Project. This will give you a list of all the projects in your 
image and choosing from this list will give you a thumbnail of the project 
that can be resized and used.

2. Any player can be a button. Go to "Extras" in the World menu and choose 
"Mouse Up Action". In here you can type any Squeak expression. The one you 
want here to e.g. go to a project named Gas Tank is: (Project named: 'Gas 
Tank') enter: false. This will produce a surrounding rollover frame and 
will take you to the named project on mouse up.

3. You can take any text object and choose part of it to make a hyperlink. 
Suppose you have "go here to see this" and you want to sensitize "here". Type
"go here<(Project named: 'Gas Tank') enter: false> to see this". Select 
"here<(Project named: 'Gas Tank') enter: false>". Alt (or control if you 
are on a Mac) 6 will bring up a menu for text options. "Choose Do It". The 
result will be "go here to see this" with the "here" colored blue, pressing 
on this will execute the Squeak expression "(Project named: 'Gas Tank') 
enter: false" and will take you there.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] I want to introduce squeakland to my Chinese friends
Hi Jim --

Squeak runs exactly the same on more than 25 platforms, including MS.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] I want to introduce squeakland to my Chinese friends
Oh,.... well, we have the same problem in the US at very deep levels ....


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] I want to introduce squeakland to my Chinese friends
Hi Milan --

Yes, what you describe is what I've called the "driver's ed" (DE) view of 
computing -- and this goes back at least as far as the "Nation At Risk" 
manifesto in (I think) 1983. It's the simplest way for school people and 
parents to feel they are doing something modern and relevant with computing.

The kind of computing that Seymour and (a few years later) I have been 
espousing since the 60s is in the same epistemological camp as real math 
and real science -- and most school people and parents don't understand 
what these are and why they are important.

I think people who are interested in Seymour's insights will have a simpler 
time if they just lump real math, real science and "Seymour Computing" 
(I'll call this s-comp) into one composite subject that is not associated 
with DE-computing. My generic term for this would be "real science" -- the 
reason for this is that "school math" has been aimed at simple arithmetic 
(the "driver's ed" of math) and there are now huge schooling standards and 
testing for this, just as with DE-computing.

Science is a little more vague for most people (and a little scary for 
others) so there is much less force behind standards and testing right now. 
This allows much more of the real stuff to be done (and combined with 
r-math and s-comp) if we could get parents and teachers to understand it 

So I would advise focusing on r-science as a way to help teach children 
thinking (and debugging of thinking) and powerful ideas and ways to 
represent them (including r-math and its sibling s-comp).


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] I want to introduce squeakland to my Chinese friends
Hi Bob --

At 08:38 AM 4/23/2006, Robert Parks wrote:
>Is anyone in the Squeak community developing tools for language literacy.

We should be. One of the more interesting and early attempts at this was an 
Apple II program designed by Chris Cerf (son of Bennett, working with 
Sesame Street at the time). It was a sentence maker for young children and 
each sentence was then carried out by animated figures. We thought a little 
about this when we designed the scripting language for Etoys, but never got 
around to making the very young child's version. This has come up again wrt 
to the 100$ laptop (where it would be a very useful part of "scripting as 

>   I have developed a children's dictionary ( and 
> am working on an early literacy dictionary.  In particular, I'm 
> interested in the intersection of tools for programming with variants of 
> controlled English, and tools for teaching reading and writing.

Any good sources for "controlled English for children"?

>  Teaching the "debugging of thinking" would be easier if we started with 
> the core tool - language.

More like vice versa. Human language is wrapped in metaphor and allegory, 
and it has been shown that most people have as little sense of how 
imprecise they are in language as they do of what grammatical components 
they are using. One of the reasons math notation moved away from attempts 
at careful use of language (for a good example of the "before" see Newton's 
Principia which is pre-algebraic) was that the way meaning has to be 
inferred from math is quite different that ordinary use of language. 
Scripting is somewhere in between. Many people tried to use Hypertalk in an 
imprecise way (like their normal use of language), but there was some 
anecdotal evidence that they learned to get more precise in both Hypertalk 
and normal language as they did more scripting.

>   I'm reminded of one of the first Apple II programs for children - 
> Rocky's boots.

One of my favorites of all time.

>   It involved creation of a logic circuit for distinguishing shapes and 
> colors. Too bad it wasn't developed further to find other areas for 
> applying core logical concepts in the context of analogical reasoning.

Actually it was, in it's follow on "Robot Odyssey".

More is needed here.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] Looking for good souls
Hi Markus --

I don't think this would be a great idea. Squeakland is explicitly for 
teachers and parents (and they are very shy as it is). I think it would be 
very confusing to convolve discussions about Etoys with discussions about 
Squeak (especially since most of these users think Etoys is Squeak).

Let's set up a separate list please.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] Looking for good souls
How about Logo? It had a real vogue in the UK some years back.

Cheers, Alan
From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] TinLizzie wiki
Hi --

Good prowling.

We plan to make this new plugin available sometime this summer -- right now 
it is "experimental".

The current link to this on the LogoWiki site says:

"TinLizzie" is a WYSIWYG wiki that implements Etoys using a special 
document format (and it needs a plugin that is not yet generally 
distributed). To test it go here. 

I put this link in to have a nice jumping off place for some demos I'm 
giving over the next few months.

TinLizzie is essentially a re-engineering of important parts of the Etoy 
environment to try to put together a more efficient and accessible 
architecture for the $100 laptop project, and a big yet to be started 
educational project in South Africa.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] Etoys: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (was Re: Whither Squeak?)
Hi Markus --

Good list!

But a better way to look at Etoys is that it was supposed to be a subset of 
a more comprehensive system for all programmers (as comprehensive as 
Smalltalk but a more advanced set of ideas). So, if we were to make a 
better system and do a special children's interface for part of it, that 
would be a better way to deal with "bad and ugly".


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] Question about how to run an animation only once
Hi --

The basic idea is that animation in Etoys is something for the children to 
learn how to program it (it's one of many uses of the powerful idea 
"increase by"). So it's not a "feature" or "productivity tool". If you look 
in the "collections" role of a holder, you will find a property "Holder's 
count" which keeps track of the number of elements that are in the 
particular holder. You can test this against the "Holder's cursor" position 
to see if you have gone through all the contents of the holder. The control 
of scripts is found under the role "scripting".



From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] Can EToys Teach Me How to Program in Squeak?
Hi Greg --

Please tell me more about your aspirations. There are a number of styles of 
programming, and there are a number of programming languages, each of which 
addresses one or more styles.

Squeak Etoys is a style that we made up based on 35 years of experience 
working with children. We have had very good results with 8-12 year olds 
over the last 10 years, and this has accounted for its spread around the 
world. If you did a few things in Etoys, you would be (a) programming, and 
(b) get some of the feel of being able to make dynamic constructions via 
programming (c) be learning a few things that would transfer to other 
programming languages (the overlap is not large though).

I strongly suggest that you get the book "Powerful Ideas in the Classroom" 
by B-J Allen-Conn and Kim Rose (available through the website or at 
Amazon). This plus other materials on the website should help get you launched.

Squeak is an open source version of the Xerox PARC Smalltalk (from the late 
70s) that we made as a general tool for constructing large scale designs. 
It is very powerful, but the introductions are certainly more geeky than 
you might like.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] Computer Language Definitions and Intelligibility
Hi Greg --

Here's how I think of "extreme late-binding".

Suppose you are working on something and at some point you realize that 
you'd like to change it or some part of it. If you can do that pretty 
easily, then that change would be called "late-binding". If you can't do it 
easily, then whatever it was would be called "early-bound".  Some materials 
are erasable and some not. Some forms of images are more erasable and 
changeable on a computer than on standard physical media, etc.: they are 
more "late-bound".

For example, many operating systems and applications will require you to 
reboot your machine after certain kinds of updates. (I just got a new 
MacBook and was surprised that after it updated its apps from the net that 
it required a reboot -- this would be more expected on Windows than on a 
Mac.) These updates were "early-bound" and something major had to be done 
to rebind things.

Lots of programming and apps 40 years ago were early bound (one had to go 
back to source text, recompile, reload, rerun, etc.). Interactive systems 
started to try to late-bind as much as possible, so that a change by a user 
would be immediately reflected. Compare the late-bound changing of a 
picture in a graphics app or some text in a word processor or a Hypercard 
script to the to the much more tedious task of using a blog or wiki which 
requires the text to be typed one way, and only later do you see how it 
turned out. That this situation obtains today in the web is terrible (most 
especially since there is no good reason for this, just really bad design 
by the people who did the web browsers).

Lisp was one of the first programming languages to experiment with 
late-binding much more than had previously been done. And we took this up 
as one of our goals at Xerox PARC in the 70s: to see how much you could 
allow to be changed on the fly without killing the entire system. The 
Smalltalks went rather far in this direction (and could go further). 
(Squeak is a Smalltalk.)

For kids, we wanted them to have instant feedback on everything they did, 
so we took the Hypercard model and tried to remove its various modes, 
enrich the graphical landscape, and simplify the programming. We aimed at 
8-12 year olds, and Etoys works pretty well for them.

Etoys was a demo that was supposed to be reimplemented as a wider ranging 
system for children from about age 5 into high school. But this didn't 
happen, and the result is that Etoys remains mostly useful for the original 
age group. For example, it would be pretty frustrating for you to try your 
project in Etoys.

Squeak on the other hand is a full blown programming environment (like 
Java) and your project could definitely be done in it). But it is much less 
suited to the kind of user you say you are. (I think you sell yourself 
short a bit because anyone with a good command of writing skills -- and you 
certainly have these -- can learn to program in the general non-iconic 
forms used today.)

The biggest problem in programming is not so much the strange seeming 
nature of the raw materials, but that as things scale up, architecture 
dominates the materials. I.e. design starts to become more and more of a 
factor. And design is not learned in a day, even with the best materials 
and environment. The very best programmers and computer scientists I know 
-- who have absolutely no problems with raw materials -- still have great 
difficulties with design for most systems that are worth doing. This is one 
of the reasons we like to make things late-bound: we don't know what we are 
doing half the time, and are constantly finding out things that we needed 
to know earlier.

One analogy (that might be unsatisfying) is that many people have 
complained about the ad hoc nature of standard musical notation and of the 
layout of the piano keyboard (which leads to lots of scale patterns, etc.). 
And, it's true they are a pain when starting, and do turn lots of beginners 
away. Many suggestions have been made to improve both of these.

Once one gets into the stuff, one realizes right away that real fluency 
doesn't depend much on the actual notation or keyboard layout. This is 
because fluency in the human brain is done by flattening structures into 
thousands of special cases. There are real similarities here to reading and 
spelling. It helps to have phonetic spellings in the beginning, but they 
are completely bypassed by fluent readers.

In the case of designing computer stuff, there really isn't enough of a 
body of great design yet to provide thousands of applicable patterns, and 
so even seasoned professionals tend to flounder. And, again, better 
late-binding of everything (extreme late-binding) really helps us flounder 
our way towards some of our goals.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] Test if script is running ?
Both of you are right ... it would be a good addition to have an Etoy 
test for the status of a script.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] Lack of documentation frustrating
Hi --

Yep, we should have more complete documentation in English, 
especially on the media objects. (E.g. the Japanese and Spanish 
documentation includes translations of ours, plus some very good 
stuff done in those languages in those countries.)

But the book "Powerful Ideas in the Classroom" is still a very good 
idea as a starting point because most good Etoys are thought up as a 
way to help children learn an idea (and generally not as a way to 
learn a particular programming technique -- the programming style in 
Etoys is different).

The tradeoffs are interesting. On the one hand it is pretty easy to 
get 7th and 8th graders to do a dynamic ecology of fish and food 
sources from scratch, whereas the AP version of this in high school 
in Java is deemed difficult enough that the high schoolers don't get 
to program it but are giving the programs to study and change parameters on.

Etoys is all about children being able to make fun working versions 
of interesting ideas from scratch, and learning much more about the 
ideas than when force-fed with them. Considerable thought on the part 
of the children's mentors is often required to set up a curriculum 
that is a nice balance between the way children think and do, the 
ideas, and what is most natural to do in Etoys.

Basically, every object in Etoys "is the same" for most things, plus, 
for some objects (such as playfields, etc.) there will be a few extra 
categories in their viewers for idiosyncratic behaviors. Just poking 
around and trying things (which is what the kids do) will reveal a lot.

For example, the "world" (the desktop object) is a kind of playfield, 
and all playfields have a "playfield" category, and in this category 
are variables that hold the mouse coordinates relative to that playfield.

Every script can do a loop in parallel with other scripts, so there 
are an unlimited number of parallel behaviors possible. These scripts 
can be controlled by other scripts (look in the "scripting" category 
for each object). Typical loops can be done by initializing in one 
script and then telling another script to start ticking (and this 
script can have a test tile that can decide if the loop should stop, etc.).

A little context: Etoys is kind of a "demo that wouldn't die". It was 
originally aimed for a particular age of children (from about 7-8 to 
about 11-12) to be an authoring medium for fun projects that could 
have an underlying "powerful idea" or two, that could be absorbed 
Montessori style. So the goal was not to teach anything like standard 
programming, but to make it easy for children to e.g. use and learn 
the ideas of vectors, calculus, feedback, systems ecologies, media 
models, etc., while pursuing projects that seemed fun to them.

Human beings (even really smart ones) have a hard time coming up with 
ideas that are better than mediocre. For example, if you put a piano 
in a classroom, the children will explore it, and develop a 
"chopsticks culture" with it, but they won't invent for themselves 
how to play a keyboard instrument (it took centuries for experts to 
work it out). But every child can be taught to play the piano. 
Similarly, the children will not invent or discover important ideas 
in mathematics by themselves. But every child can be taught a 
powerful version of the calculus of vectors, and many other kinds of 
advanced mathematics. And both of these can be taught as a kind of play.

If you give children a medium to explore, they will generally wind up 
doing stories and games with it (in large part because that is how 
nature has set all of us up to learn when we are children). For 
example, Etoys is used widely in a number of places in the world. The 
places that emphasize "creativity", "discovery learning", "free 
exploration", etc., all wind up with lots of stuff done by children, 
but virtually all of it uses simple animations and multiple tasking 
to act out stories and games. This is no surprise (it took humans 
100,000 years to invent math and another 2000 to invent science). If 
we are interested in having children learn non-obvious powerful ideas 
-- e.g. in math and science -- we have to scaffold their learning and 
discovery by careful curriculum design.

This teaching doesn't have to feel like the kids are being put in a 
lock-step chain gang. It can be much more like teaching and learning 
an established sport or musical instrument. There are parts that are 
almost impossible to invent, and thus have to be shown and practised. 
But with these parts there are large elements of free joyful play.

We suggest using at least 3 phases for each idea.
- The first is a guided creation of something interesting -- for 
example, how to make a robot vehicle on the screen that will follow 
edges. This can be done in a number of ways including Socratic 
leading questions, but basically it is giving the children something 
they would not think up for themselves.  But as David Ausubel pointed 
out "People learn on the fringes of what they know".
- Now that the children know something, they can be given a specific 
challenge -- such as "Come up with a car and a road where the car 
will stay on the road". There are 5 or 6 ways of doing this and most 
children working singly or in pairs will find one of them. A few of 
these are elegant, and a few children will find these. Sharing the 
solutions as demos gives the children a sense that such problems are 
not only solvable, but there is more than one solution.
- The third stage is open play, where the children now know enough to 
think of many different fun ways to use what they've just done (and 
many of their ideas will be in the forms of games or stories). For 
example, some of the "middle of the road" solutions lend themselves 
to making a multilane racing track with multiple vehicles and using 
the random number tile to generate random speeds to make the race 
difficult to predict.

The way we've set up Etoys is with a uniform rich object model and a 
very simple set of scripting abilities, but with easy multiple 
tasking. From this we've asked ourselves what projects that involve 
powerful ideas can be relatively easily made from the simple 
ingredients. There are lots, and they fill more than a school year's 
worth of time. This is why the project based documentation is not 
such a bad idea. It's worth while to look at the kinds of things that 
have been done with the current ingredients, and this will help with 
the different style of programming that is used.

However, children younger than 7 really need a somewhat different 
interface. And children older than 11 need more ingredients (both 
scripting features -- such as case based control structures, better 
event structures, etc. -- and expression building features -- e.g. to 
more easily build complex expressions from left to right instead of 
just from the top down, etc.). We are going to do the latter over the 
next year, and the former a year after that. But for (say) 5th 
graders, the current set of materials seems rich enough (for powerful 
idea purposes).

The documentation is going to get a little more useful and detailed 
because Etoys will be on the "$100 Laptop" project of the One Laptop 
Per Child organization ( ) . The test builds of 
this machine are just starting to happen, and we are starting to 
write more detailed documentation on the OLPC wiki ( ). This is not worth looking at 
today, but should have quite a bit of useful stuff a few weeks from now.

Please don't hesitate to ask more questions. We are happy to help.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] Making a Copy of an eToy from a script and using the mouse pointer to activate an eToy script
Hi --

First, how old are these children?


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] Making a Copy of an eToy from a script and using the mouse pointer to activate an eToy script
Hi Offray --

Etoys was designed for 9-11 year olds, and it has 
worked very well with them. However, even 8th 
graders are able to use more features, and high 
schoolers should be using a pretty complete 
programming environment (like Squeak).

You are not the only one to want to do more with 
Etoys, and I think this is because the basic 
notion of Etoys' universal objects, easy 
scripting and multitasking are things every 
programming environment needs. In "a year or so" 
we will have something more like a full spectrum 
system that can be used by a much wider range of users.

Squeak itself is very easy -- as Tony Hoare once 
said about Algol, Smalltalk was a great 
improvement, especially with its successors! -- 
the problem for beginners is that the library has 
only one organization, which kind of lumps 
everything together, and this is a large lump. 
This is powerful but can be quite frustrating 
(other comprehensive systems have similar 
problems). Etoys is kind of a demo that quite a 
bit can be done with much much less in the 
end-user's world, but the aim at 10 year olds 
limits its range. Our original plan was to wind 
up with a more Hypercard-like system, still small 
and simple, but much more comprehensive.

But, since Squeak is "live" and includes all of 
its parts and tools written in itself, much can 
be done with the existing system. For example, it 
is quite possible to make up an end user view of 
a system by making a special code browser for it 
that would only show the relevant useful classes. 
Morphic itself was designed to be quite simple 
and to allow quick naive presentations driven by 
Squeak methods. Etc. E.g. instead of trying to 
make the tile scripting system do things it 
wasn't designed to do, you might look at how 
morphs and players could be programmed in the Squeak code browser, etc.

This would produce a system with a simple and 
easy to learn syntax, huge expressive power, and 
a number of useful graphics classes to do things 
with on the screen. Not the very best thing that 
could be done for high schoolers, but would still 
allow a lot to be learned without huge expeditions into the library.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] Help needed on reply about squeak
Hi --

We could use lots more documentation in lots more languages most 
certainly. It would be nice to have all the writing systems of the 
world available and usable (the OLPC machine will probably force us 
to do that).

I think he missed the book "Powerful Ideas in the Classroom" which 
would give him a start with his daughter (and for himself). Etoys is 
not at all about widgets, just the opposite. He also seems to have 
missed the tutorials that are on the website.

I don't understand the comment, "squares aren't resizable".

He should be encouraged to try a little harder.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] Bouncing?
Well ...

Perhaps what should happen is that when you drag the "bounce" tile 
line to the desktop it should show its meaning as an Etoy script.

Bounce is more or less writable directly in Etoys so it would be easy 
for a user to see just what it does and how. Interesting question 
would be what to expose about "forward" in order to make this happen. 
Probably the Snell's law way of looking at things is the most 
intuitive for end-users.

It could also be renamed to avoid bad guesses about what it might do 
(but simply showing an Etoy version of it would be good).

The simplest thing to do would be for this scriptor to resist editing 
and just tell the user so -- or, it could even allow itself to be 
edited (with the modifications running much slower than the internal 
def of bounce did).


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] e-toys project
Hi --

Etoys uses 2D graphics. Are you in 3D? If so, you aren't in Etoys. 
Can you tell me how you got to where you are?


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] Squeak fails to run after install: security problems?
Hi Simon --

Just for a little context ...

The Squeak you have been using (probably 3.6 or so) has a complete 
Etoys in it. It might still be the most useful vehicle for what you 
are trying to do. A shift-alt on any graphical object will bring up 
an Etoys halo of handles, and the blue eyeball will open a viewer for 
that Etoy player. Dragging out a behavior tile (like "forward 5") 
onto the desktop will make a script and put the "forward 5" into the script.

You can also get an Etoys developer image. This, again, is the 
regular Squeak with certain preferences set. Let us know if you are interested.

The Etoys version (from Squeakland) is aimed mostly at ages 9-12, but 
has worked well for younger children, and to a lesser extent for 
older children (they could use a few more facilities). Many teachers 
(especially non-technical teachers) have enjoyed using EToys.

Etoys and Squeak have no external security models, so the 
difficulties you are encountering are solely due to some combination 
of MS and the sysAdmins in your shop, plus where the Squeakland 
installer puts things so it can be run as a plugin.

Because the Squeakland version is also set up to be able to run as a 
plugin, it is sandboxed for safety. It is possible that you would 
like more control over things. Basically, the Squeakland version is 
pretty much a regular Squeak with a number of preferences set to 
limit the view that the end-user takes of what's available. You may 
very well want to relax these preferences. Let us know and we'll 
explain how to do it.

Basically, to take more control, you need to gather three or four files:
  - the image, which contains the system and the objects
  - the VM, which contains the equivalent of the Squeak OS and the 
interpreter, graphics kernel, sound, sockets, etc.
  - the sources, which contains the indexed text of all the source 
code in the system
  - the changes, which contains the incremental additions that have 
been made to the system and allows the Squeak developer to revert to 
earlier versions, etc. The Squeakland image is set to not write to 
changes, but this can be changed.

If you drop the image on the VM, then Squeak will start up. MS can 
also be told to use a particular VM as a default for a double click 
on an image.

You should be familiar with these already from your experience with Squeak.

We are interested in what you are trying to do and would like to 
help. Please ask.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] Doing a presentation of Squeak with Squeak as a presentation tool
Hi Hilaire --

Yes, I have given every one of my presentations since about 1998 only 
using Squeak. And, I mostly use the ThreadNavigator to sequence 
through sorted projects. This allows me to have an image with many 
projects in them and to make up a thread for each talk. Sometimes I 
will use a BookMorph in a project.

I don't use templates, but templating should be there in a more 
complete way than it is. Scott Wallace did quite a bit of work many 
years ago to investigate better template mechanisms that would do 
quite a bit more than Hypercard, but they only work in BookMorphs. We 
had planned to merge BookMorph pages and Projects but the lack of 
funds after 2001 prevented it. Your method of saving a template as a 
project and reloaded is the best way to go now.

It is not possible to merge two projects (and it's not completely 
clear what that would mean in all cases). Why not just have the 3rd 
party project be one of the projects in your presentation and go to 
it in sequence? That's what I do.

In any case, now that we have a little more funding, we are working 
on a better project architecture which will at least have a good 
template mechanism and (probably) allow very simple merging.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] Doing a presentation of Squeak with Squeak as a presentation tool
Please let me know any questions you have about 
talks in Etoys, the thread navigator, etc. We 
should document these (and actually are in the 
process for OLPC -- a good forcing function for many things).


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] Squeakland Digest, Vol 46, Issue 11
Thanks Valerie --

Yes, and something like this "should" also be a simple feature of 
Projects as well ... (maybe this year ...)


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] Squeakland Digest, Vol 46, Issue 11
The OLPC version of EToys (and I think the Squeakland version -- 
Scott will correct me if I'm wrong) has an option in BookMorphs (the 
dot menu) that will make a new page as a "scripting area". This sets 
up a little name space to make it more convenient to have a number of 
separate scriptign regimes on different pages (so they are a little 
more like a project). However, what we really need to do is to unify 
projects and pages (and hope to this year).


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] [Q] How to learn squeak
Hi -

What kind of educational material are you interested in making?

Squeakland is set up for children who are 8-12 years old.

There are tutuorials, examples, etc.

Take a look at
for a white paper about the educational approach.

Take a look at 
for a white paper about the media approach

There is a book for teachers: Powerful Ideas in the Classroom. is the main site for Squeak for adult computer 
folks. You will find quite a bit of stuff there.

Best wishes,

From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] [Q] E-Toy: How to hook a button to other object
Hi --

Actually, any script can produce a button to fire it, and also, any 
object in Etoys can serve as a button (including text objects).

1. Suppose you have a text object named Text that contains some text: 
'This is some text'.

Drag out Text's characters <- This is some text onto the desktop to 
make a script.

Do it again to make a second script. Name the first script "reset" 
and the second one "change".

Change the text in the "change" script.

These scripts can be tested by clicking on the (!).
A script will give you a button to fire it. Look at the menu item in 
a script

and choose the item button to fire this script.

Do this for the other script. Both of these buttons can be relabeled.

Here is what this example looks like

2. You can also use any object as a button. Get out a rectangle. Put 
an empty rectangle script on the desktop. Put the tiles:
Text's characters <- This is different text in this script. Now look 
at the normal menu and choose mouseUp.  This script will fire when 
you do mouseUp on the rectangle object.


You can make a toggle by adding a variable to hold true or false, etc.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] group objects
And of course, you can get out a playfield, fiddle with its options 
to allow it to be picked up, make it transparent, etc., then put it 
back in supplies, and it will form a prototype of this kind of playfield.

You can also use shift-drag to pick up a group of graphic objects to 
put them in the playfield. (This could be a smoother smarter 
operation than the current situation in Etoys.)


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] Bug on Bookmorph and a Question about Weasell Esay
Thanks Scott --

Hello Offray --

On the other question about Weasel ... the 
existing version was an experimental "active 
essay" that Ted Kaehler and I did quite a few 
years ago to experiment with the form and see 
about a next level version of Etoys. We are in 
the process of redoing this in the OLPC Etoys 
version and will replace it "pretty soon".



CheersAt 01:00 PM 3/25/2007, Scott Wallace wrote:
From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] Croquet fails to initiate OpenGL
Hi Eric --

The Squeakland list is about Etoys and is for school teachers and 
parents. The Croquet list is at and the Squeak list 
is at


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] MixedMorph for kids
Thanks Karl --

A nice simple fun Etoy!

(We definitely have to make the poly control points bigger for the 
OLPC screen.)


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] the concept of mass
But consider this Etoy (run in the OLPC version of Etoys) and also 
take a look at Takashi Yamamiya's site and work over the last few years.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] presentations / slide shows.
Hi Benedict --

Yes, all of the "slides" (they were actually Squeak/Etoys projects) 
were completely done in Squeak (I think only using the Etoys part of 
the environment).


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] When to define a local variable
Hi Folks --

This list is mostly for teachers, parents and children, and is about 
the Etoys part of Squeak. Please use either the or the (or one of the other Croquet lists) for these kinds of issues.

Thank you,

From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] ideas to promote squeak in telecenters in Brazil
Yes, Scratch is another Squeak based authoring 
system for young people. MIT did a nice job with 
it. It is aimed at teenagers and is more of a 
productivity tool than an educational authoring environment.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] Animation with displacement
Hi --

What do you want to do?


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] Lack of documentation frustrating
Let's see, Oct 31st 2006 to May 25th 2007 seems to be 7 months, not 18 ...

But you are certainly right that much more documentation is needed. 
And, it is actually happening, just slower than hoped. But more of 
various kinds is close to being postable, and will be this summer.

There is also a lot more documentation than you think on the
site. The site needs to be reorganized, but for example, there are 
literally hundreds of pages of documentation, tutorials, curricula, 
etc., done by the very active group at the U of Illinois. And there 
is quite a bit of "other" documentation. There is a book "Powerful 
Ideas in the Classroom" with a dozen or so sequential projects for 
5th graders, etc.

Now, please tell me what it is that you would like to do in Etoys?



P.S. I don't hate to write documentation, but I'm not very good at it 
and hence painfully inefficient.
From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] Weird Heading numbers
Our choice, which indeed goes against several longer standing 
conventions (like 0=East, +=counterclockwise, or 0 = N to 360 
clockwise), was adopted because we were looking for something that 
would be close to how a 7 year old child thinks and had a symmetric 
use of positive, negative and 0 (the original Etoys was for a younger 
age group). This has worked very well and has many merits for all the 
ages of children we work with.

And, of course one can assign e.g. 245 to heading and the player will 
point as expected.

I think the preference you suggest would be a good idea. There is 
already one for all playfields (including the world desktop) as to 
whether (0,0) should be in the lower left corner or the center of the 
rectangle ([] origin at center). Both have their merits. Similarly, 
both negative degrees and staying positive around the circle have 
their merits. And we should probably (and likely will) put in a 
preference for the school math system, now that we are starting to 
work with older children who are somewhat thinking along those lines.

I think starting with other than 0 would be a bad idea (and would 
also violate the compass convention). Similarly, school math starts 
with 0 pointing East, not 360.

If you want to see the regular compass headings you can write a 
simple script that ticks once or twice a second that does the easy 
conversion into a variable, then you can use a watcher to see the 
value on the screen.

The debates we have are not about your issue but the more critical 
one of whether we should have gone with the "school math" conventions 
for more coherence later on. I still like starting with the compass 
with N pointing up and clockwise for +. But there is a good QWERTY 
argument for the school math conventions. (This gets more pernicious 
with older children who have to learn the school convention -- and 
when vectors are used -- should they be in school math or in compass?)


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] Lack of documentation frustrating
Hi --

>Alan Kay wrote:
> >
> > Let's see, Oct 31st 2006 to May 25th 2007 seems to be 7 
months, not 18 ...
> >
>Sorry, Never was great at math ;)


>As I mentioned in another message, I was playing with an animation tutorial
>that uses the "holder" morph.  Well I've searched through 
this forum and the
>wiki and still haven't found anything that documents what a 
"holder" does or
>the fields that are exposed by it's viewer.

If you want to learn EToys, I strongly suggest going to the site and look at the tutorials. There are 
also some sample chapters from the "Powerful Ideas in the Classroom" 
book, and quite a bit of stuff from the active group in 
Champagne-Urbana. (I think I and several others have already mentioned this.)

Your example below is not in EToys but is in the underlying Squeak. 
There is a lot of Squeak documentation, but not much on how Etoys is 
implemented. But most people who program directly in Squeak use the 
Morphic graphics directly.

Etoys is really a different scheme with a different object and 
graphical semantics. It has some real strengths for children, but 
some real weaknesses for adults, especially somewhat sophisticated 
adults. Since it is aimed at children, this has not been a big problem.

One good ploy (which the children use all the time) is to exploit the 
fact that the underlying player object is essentially the same (i.e. 
highly polymorphic) for all graphical objects in Etoys. So exploring 
the standard viewer categories can be very rewarding. For example, 
one of the things you seek will be found in the viewer category 
called "Scripting". There are script lines to control ticking 
behavior, etc. for all the Etoy objects.

However, as I said, Etoys is not particularly complete -- it's more 
set up to have learnable structures by children. The way I program in 
it (and advise adults to program in it) is to use its features as the 
building blocks available, and this will bring to mind lots of simple 
fun structures, including many important parts of math and science. 
The way to be frustrated in Etoys is to bring a set of C-like or 
Java-like conventions from the outside and try to find the 
equivalents in EToys -- they might or might not be there.

(This was easier advice in the 60s when there were literally about 
3000 different programming languages and hundreds of different ways 
to program. Most people were not surprised if a particular language 
had a different paradigm and were used to simply learning it.)


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] Weird Heading numbers
Yes -- thanks Paulo.

Logo uses all child centric references such as 
right and left with the reference being up = N. 
One of the experiments early on in Etoys was to 
see how well + and - could be used in place of 
right and left with ~ 7 year olds. This was going 
to be part of a whole vectorized cuisinaire rods 
approach to numbers (that used some results we 
got in the Vivarium) that were unified with the 
number line way of thinking of + and - as 
directions (also right and left) of one dimensional vectors.

When the Etoys demo started being used in schools 
(instead of the home as originally planned) we 
found that grades 4-5-6 were a better fit with 
the tradeoffs between what children can do and 
what adults want to learn. So we never carried 
through the concrete number representations originally planned.

(However, now we are going to because the OLPC XO 
needs to have a K-12 range. This actually 
requires a somewhat different approach to Etoys 
than the demo version we have now, and we are 
working on it, which supporting current Etoys for the various XO builds.)

Most adult conventions and forms have huge QWERTY 
components which make learning more difficult for 
children. However, eventually the conventions 
need to be added in. It's imperative to start 
children thinking in the strongest and most 
intuitive way -- then we can figure out how to 
merge in the somewhat ad hoc conventions that 
adults have devised. Various ways of thinking 
about numbers, lengths, directions, magnitudes 
etc is a ideal way to eventually get to some of 
these conventions. But, e.g. trying to get 
children started into real numeracy with 
positional notation is really bad, even though it 
is a mainstream convention ... the general result 
in America is that children don't get numerate, 
even though they are forced to learn how to parrot a few of the conventions.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] Discovering Pi in Squeak
Hi --

Bert points out that it is easy to use forward by, turn by to make 
pologons whose diameters can be measured.

For example, you can make a big circle with a turn by 1 and sum the 
forwards, and also remember max y and min y to get the diameter. This 
will give you a pretty good value for Pi.

You didn't mention the ages of your children.

But it is always good to get them to do some reasoning about measures 
of various kinds and areas. I think that the manipulation of the 
strings, etc.,  might be too awkward (but see the discussion in the 
"Powerful Ideas" book about measurement).

I would just give them squares of different sizes and see if they can 
work out how a side might relate to the perimeter, and if so, why 
something like that would also work for a diagonal. The idea that the 
relationship is the same regardless of scale is a biggie for 
children. Discovering the relation for the area is even bigger.

Before that I would use rulers with different scales to make similar 
figures (starting with triangles), and get them to see that nature 
doesn't care how our rulers are laid out (a measurement taken with 
one ruler can be used to make a similar figure of a different scale 
using a different ruler). This is a very good way to show how and why 
proportions work (and many studies have shown that proportions and 
the normalizations associated with them are not learned well by most children).


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] Discovering Pi in Squeak
Hi Subbu --

And of course Pi is not at all required for "turn by" or "forward". 
It is one of many constants in the init method for float but is not 
needed for these behaviors. "foo turn by ang" is easily written in 
Etoys as "foo heading increase by ang" where "heading" is a simple 
property, so there is no Pi involved here. "foo forward by 5" is more 
complicated (because it involves a vector addition to foo's location) 
but still requires no Pi.

The other thing to think about that if it was "vectors all the way 
down to the display" (as indeed it was in the old days of 
calligraphic displays) then one would have a direct analog to a 
coordinate free system in the hardware. The artifact today of having 
to supply the display machinery with a 2D array of pixels forces a 
kind of transformation and a kind of coordinate system, but still 
doesn't require Pi.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] Value as Text
Hi --

There are two ways to do this. Texts have a setter for "numeric value".


Even simpler (though a little more kludgy) is to get a "simple 
watcher" from the viewer that holds the property you wish to see, 
click to the "Updating String" (called "Readout String" in OLPC 
version), and use red menu to make the changes.

In "regular Etoys" a shift-click will get you this component, and you 
can use the red menu to change the font and size, etc.

In OLPC Etoys, use the red menu to "Unlock Readout String", then 
select it and use its red menu to change font and size.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] OLPC squeak on OSX
And, of course, the OLPC Etoys runs fine on a Mac or Windows OS ...


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] Demoing Etoys to kids
Hi Luke --

Kim knows where this stuff is better than I, but there is quite a bit 
of material about introductory use on The "make a car 
and drive it" is always a good one to start off with. Most of these 
exercises are in Kim's book, and she can send you a pointer to some pdfs.

You could also look at the half-finished (but still 50 page) doc I 
did for OLPC. It has lots of different examples.

This is at .

Also, we just met some folks from Nepal who have been actively doing 
Etoys there for a few years. Kim might have their email addresses....


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] More thoughts - Re: Demoing Etoys to kids
In July I traveled around to a number of workshops in different parts 
of the US. While at CMU in Pittsburgh, I got a surprise invitation to 
talk to 11-14 year olds who were attending a summer computing day 
camp. There were about 25 kids and this was small enough for me to 
show them things and ask questions, etc. For projects, the lack of 
prep time led me to just use what I had been showing the teachers 
minus the philosophy slides. Here's the list that we went through in 
about an hour.

Most of the them are the standard examples I show. There were a few new ones.

Make a car and steering wheel and drive it around. Use a property 
(Wheel's heading). Use a scale (Wheel's heading/3)

Kedama epidemic while graphing the percentage of infected villagers: 
2, 1000, 500, 100. As what the diseases on the extremes look like. 
Answer from the kids: the fast acting one was like Ebola, and the 
slow one was like AIDS.

How to follow a road with a robot car
Ashley and Janae's middle of the road robot car
Middle of the road car with two headlights as sensors
Jenny's Pig Race

Salmon Sniff -- gradient following feedback with single and multiple salmon
Fish and Plankton (this could be omitted, it was just in this sequence)
Ant colony -- the classic ants and food feedback system

Speed and acceleration reflection on increase by (using dots and 
arrows to get visual picture of S and A).
Animation using holder and increase by
Bouncing ball animation (change "speed" increment to change rate 
through the images)
A movie is an animation (example is how the upcoming ball drop movie was made)
A music synthesizer is an "animation" (change "speed" increment to 
change pitch, etc.)

Computer Logic Game (Alex Warth's way to use costumes as visualizers 
of state and for state). Wires, Not, And, Or, etc. gates.
How to make a script (a visual Logo interpreter that uses Etoys 
polymorphism to do the interpretation)
A rule based programming system (another way to do interpretation to 
make a StageCast like interpreter and then do the epidemic sim)
ToyLog (a visual animated Prolog with English syntax and using the 
Simpson family as a database)

==== That was all we had time for ======== Naturally, they loved it 
and wanted to do things with it.

Some advice about teaching geometry to children. It's possible that 
the teacher may not understand geometry very well (and you didn't 
indicate what she meant by "geometry").

In any case, in general (and especially for 3rd graders) I would not 
center the learning on the computer to start with. There are three or 
four things that children this age can learn deeply that using the 
computer in an ancillary fashion with help make stronger. One theme 
to try is "map-making" starting with making models of objects and 
progressing to models of classrooms, school-yards, surrounding 
neighborhoods, etc. Our experience with this came from a highly 
successful adaptation of Doreen Nelson's "City Building" Curriculum 
for 3rd graders that we did in the LA Open Magnet School some years back.

Scaling and proportion are approached by having the children make 
"object costumes" (taking household objects and blowing them up into 
wearable costumes) and then having an "object parade". The Open 
School had made an garden and it was traditional for the 3rd graders 
to design it. So they had to measure it and make a model to let them 
think about it in the classroom. This got them to think about scaling 
the other way. One way to do both scaling is to have two measuring 
systems with equally spaced tick marks but with different distances 
between the ticks, etc. Make the ration between the tick marks 
something the children can compute in their heads (they don't need 
this to do the scaling but they do need it to start understanding ratios).

The scaling ideas can start to be used on the computer, etc.

This part of the curriculum leads to a very rich city of the future 
design effort stretching over many months that combines many kinds of 
math, design, and systems thinking.

Another thing that goes strongly with this way of thinking about 
measurement and scaling above is that nature doesn't care what rulers 
we use. We can use this idea to start talking about and using similar 
triangles to do scaling and indirect measurements (heights of school 
buildings, long distances, etc.). Forget about trig terms, etc. and 
concentrate on similar triangles as one of the most powerful ideas of 
all times.

For example, if we occlude a quarter with a dime and measure this 
carefully, we see that the distance in diameters has to be the same.

And if we then occlude the moon with a coin (as Aristarchos of Samos 
indeed did!) we will find that it takes about 110 coin diameters, and 
this means that the moon is 110 moon diameters away from us!


Children love this (too bad adults don't, or they would know about 
this and teach it to children).


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] More thoughts - Re: Demoing Etoys to kids
Hi Stephane --

At 12:11 PM 8/12/2007, stéphane ducasse wrote:
>Hi alan
>I always liked the way ancient measured pyramid using the shadow of a
>know piece of wood and use Thales theorem.
>At least it was a really practical example, I used to teach Thales

Yes, and it is even simpler for the children to 
think just in terms of similar triangles.

>>For example, if we occlude a quarter with a dime and measure this
>>carefully, we see that the distance in diameters has to be the same.
>Now I do not understand the "distance in diameters"

Check the picture. If it is 9 dimes from the eye 
to the dime, it will be 9 quarters from the eye 
to the quarter. If it is 110 quarters from the 
eye to the quarter that occludes the moon, the 
moon is 110 moon diameters from earth.

>>And if we then occlude the moon with a coin (as Aristarchos of
>>Samos indeed did!) we will find that it takes about 110 coin
>>diameters, and this means that the moon is 110 moon diameters away
>>from us!
>How do we get 110?

You measure the number of coin diameters from the 
eye to the location of the coin that occludes the moon.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] the non universals
Hi Bill --

There are various sources for "universals" on the net and off. Quite 
a bit more has been found out about these since the days of Lorenz 
and Tinbergen. One of the several fields that studies these as 
scientifically as possible is called "NeuroEthology" and there are a 
number of good books on the subject. T.G.R. Bower was one of the 
first to study very young humans specifically. An ancillarly field 
that has appeared in the last few decades is called "bio-behavior", 
and there also a number of illuminating books there.

I picked some of the "non-universals" that I thought were important 
(and some particularly to contrast items in the universal list).

To answer your question marks ...

"Theory of Harmony" is kind of like "Deductive Abstract Mathematics" 
in that most traditional cultures have some form of counting, adding 
and subtracting -- and some make music with multiple pitches at once 
(as did Western Culture before 1600). But the notion of harmony 
before 1600 was essentially as a byproduct of melodies and voice 
leading rather than a thing in itself in which chords have the same 
first class status as melodic lines. How and why this appeared is 
fascinating and is well known in music history.

Some of the most interesting composers in the Baroque period 
(especially Bach) tried to make both the old and the new schemes work 
completely together. Bach's harmonic language in particular was an 
amazing blend of harmonies and bass lines with voice leading and 
other contrapuntal techniques (quite a bit of his vocabulary is 
revealed in his harmonized chorales (some 371 or 372 of them)). That 
these two worlds are very different ways of looking at things is 
attested to by a wonderful piece by Purcell "The Contest Between 
Melodie and Harmonie".

As with "Greek Math", history doesn't seem to have any record of a 
separate and as rich invention of a harmonic theory. So it is really rare.

"Similarities over Differences" was to contrast with the standard 
processes of most nervous systems of most species to be more 
interested in "differences over similarities" (which is listed on the 
universal side). At most levels from reflexes to quite a bit of 
cognition, most similarities are accommodated and normalized while 
differences to the normalizations have a heightened significance (of 
"danger" or "pay attention").

Paying attention to differences is good for simple survival but makes 
it hard to think in many ways because it leads to so many cases, 
categories and distinctions -- and because some of the most important 
things may have disappeared into "normal" (in particular, things 
about oneself and one's own culture). So we unfortunately are much 
more interested in even superficial differences between humans and 
cultures and have a very hard time thinking of "the other" as being 
in the same value space as we are....

Part of the invention of modern math by the Greeks was their desire 
to get rid of the huge codexes of cases for geometry and arithmetic. 
This led to many useful abstractions which could be used as lenses to 
see things which looked different to normal minds as actually the 
same. For example, the Greek idea that there is only one triangle of 
each shape (because you can divide the two short sides by the long 
one to make a standard triangle of a given shape). This gets rid of 
lots of confusion and leaves room to start thinking more powerful 
thoughts. (The Greeks accomplished the interesting and amazing feat 
of using normalization to separate similarities and differences but 
paid attention to the similarities.) Calculus is a more subtle and 
tremendously useful example of separating similarities and 
differences. Convolution theory is yet more subtle ...

One way to think of my chart is that a lot of things we correlate 
with "enlightenment" and "civilization" are rather un-natural and 
rare inventions whose skills require us to learn how to go against 
many of our built in thought patterns. I think this is one of the 
main reasons to have an organized education (to learn the skills of 
being better thinkers than our nervous systems are directly set up for).

History suggests that we not lose these powerful ideas. They are not 
easy to get back.

The non-built-in nature of the powerful ideas on the right hand list 
implies they are generally more difficult to learn -- and this seems 
to be the case. This difficulty makes educational reform very hard 
because a very large number of the gatekeepers in education do not 
realize these simple ideas and tend to perceive and react (not think) 
using the universal left hand list .....


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] the non universals
Hi Bill --

I'm in a rush, so will reply more extensively later.

But, of course, the non-universals are easy for anyone who 
understands a fair number of the universals and who reads a little. 
Most cultures on Earth have not had writing systems (and probably 
still most today). Etc.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] the non universals
OK, a few more minutes ...

At 08:05 AM 8/15/2007, Bill Kerr wrote:
>hi alan,
>Thanks for extensive clarification of the items which I had left 
>question marks on
> From what you say the "non universals" group originates from you 
> (!) which sort of explains why I couldn't find other references to 
> it on the net

Gathering the behaviors that can scientifically be claimed to be 
universals is what requires diligent work by experts, since literally 
thousands of cultures need to be perused -- and a fair amount of 
experimentation with early childhood behaviors is critical. Once, 
gotten we can easily claim that opposites (like writing and reading) 
are not universal. Deductive math and model based science are also 
easy. As is "equal rights", etc.

>I have used your lists at a few meetings and it has provoked a 
>response of sorts. On the one hand some people say the "non 
>universals" is an interesting list. However, I've also noticed some 
>reluctance or inability to discuss the items on the list in any real 
>detail or to discuss the implications for the formal education 
>system. ie it seems to come at people from left field

It requires some "perspective and knowledge" (which was what 
education used to be correlated with) to do the discussion. E.g. if 
one is not fluent in math and/or science it is difficult to 
understand just how qualitatively different are the modern versions 
of these. Most educational reform stalls in large part from the below 
threshold educations of the adults in the system. For most people, 
most powerful ideas come at them from left field.

>In his dissertation on the history of the Dynabook John Maxwell asks 
>"what is a powerful idea, anyway?" and also argues that there has 
>been a  decline of powerful idea discourse

Well, "powerful ideas" is a nice metaphor that Seymour made up to 
heighten people's understanding (and the significance) of the 
relatively few and rare inventions that have made huge differences in 
how humans meet and think about the world. It is normal behavior to 
accommodate to what is present (especially what one was born into) 
and so most people think of the powerful ideas as part of normal, and 
since most Americans have not traveled in a way that gets them to 
appreciate the wide range of situations that humans are in around the 
world, they completely miss the wonder and mystery of "better 
intellectual architectures". This is why there are so few scientists 
(because most people take things as they seem and completely miss 
what deeper curiosity and better methods can find out).

>What I'm noticing in educational discussion groups, blogs etc. on 
>the web of late is much talk about "web 2.0", "school 2.0" but this 
>tends to take place outside of a framework that maybe there are 
>powerful ideas that really do have to be taught in some way.
>You do say that the major stakeholders don't get it. What I see 
>there is curriculum frameworks being used as blunt instruments of 
>control. I'm suggesting, too, that many of the "radicals", who 
>describe themselves as "web 2.0" are not getting it either.

Most of this is just a cargo cult.

>In this context I like the idea of your list of "non universals" and 
>John Maxwells' idea of the need for more powerful idea discourse. 
>However, I'm also left feeling a bit unsure of the status of the 
>"non universals" list, eg. how complete is it? have people argued 
>about it and disputed it?

Neither list is complete. But the important property of the 
universals list is that most the items are well vetted. The 
importance of my non-universal list is just that 5 or 7 items are the 
most important changes that humans have made in their 200,000 years 
on the planet (and most of these came very recently (even 
agriculture)). What more do people need to start thinking with? What 
more arguments about modern science need to be made? (And if they do 
need to be made, then what new kind of argument would work?)

In other words, if the items on my list are ignored then it really 
doesn't matter much what else could be on the list. For example, the 
notion that there are "powerful ideas" could be the number one 
powerful idea, since it should lead to trying to understand powerful 
ideas, and to trying to find more of them.

>I could think of some non universals / powerful ideas that are not 
>on your list, eg. Darwinian evolution, computer-human symbiosis for 
>starters ...

Sure. There are lots (and they should be paid attention to). But 
certainly Darwinian Evolution (and a lot of other things fall under 
Science), etc. Computer-human symbiosis falls under the larger topics 
of how human thinking can be changed by the use of media (for better 
or for worse), etc, For a short list, it's best to use the biggies. 
Similarly, if we listed every built-in human trait (especially the 
zillions of bad ones), the list would be too long for any discussion purposes.

>I'm also curious about its connection with using computers in 
>learning. Clearly etoys and logo can be used to assist teaching some 
>of those concepts in constructionist fashion, esp maths and science. 
>But for others I don't see a close connection at the moment (eg. 
>equal rights, democracy) - although the OLPC project is becoming a 
>part of that.

Some music needs to be sung by human voices, and the best instruments 
in the world won't help (and will usually detract). Similarly, some 
theatrical expressions have to be done directly in person live, and 
will be diminished by inserting even high resolution media. 
Similarly, even the wondrous nature of mathematics often is too 
visible so it can obscure what's most interesting about what is being 

We are talking about human thinking and perspective, not computers here.

However, consider this wonderful phrase from Marshall McLuhan "You 
can argue about a lot of things with stained glass windows, but 
Democracy is not one of them!" He meant that not just non-visual oral 
language, but only written, even printed language was disembodied and 
abstract enough to handle the critical issues and subtleties of this 
discourse. This itself is a powerful insight and a powerful idea that 
most adults in the world today have no notion of, and most would find 
it almost crazy.

In other words, as Neil Postman liked to point out, the relationship 
between human thought and the languages/media used to form and 
express it is not a separated one, but is a non-linear ecology. 
Dropping something like TV into a society is like introducing rabbits 
into Australia. Not really thinking about computing and networking as 
new kinds of rabbits for good and ill can lead (and has led) to 
disastrous effects already. On the other hand, geniuses (like 
Montesorri, Papert, Bruner, McLuhan, Engelbart, etc.) who have 
thought about how environments of any kind condition "normal" and 
thus much of human thought and behavior have come up with very 
powerful and positive ways to use new and old environments to help 
humans more successfully struggle with their less well fitted 
internal behavior patterns.

The basic approach here is to hold focus on what is really important, 
and to design new media and environments to help people learn what is 
important. As Seymour pointed out long ago, not even in the 
educational swamps of America do they use the phrase "paper based 
education" since it is patently ridiculous. But because people don't 
understand computers (and because magical thinking is one of the 
human universals) any new technology is treated as a talisman -- and 
they have no trouble in generating phrases like "computer based 
education" or "computer based curriculum" or "web based learning" 
etc. This is also cargo cult behavior.

Most people "take the world as it seems" as I mentioned above, and so 
they completely miss most of the important properties and issues. 
This is why having general discussions about powerful ideas often 
leads nowhere.

(And most discussions on the web similarly get nowhere -- opinion 
gets exchanged, but opinions have always been exchanged for 200,000 
years with nothing much happening. The concatenation of opinions 
almost never leads to a better set of ideas -- this is a big bug in 
"web myth" and "collective behavior myths" in general. This is 
because the opinions in order to be understood have to share quite a 
bit of the same outlook, but progress usually comes from big changes 
in outlook. What we need are not more opinions and endless 
discussions, but more hooks to find stronger outlooks (aka "powerful ideas").


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] the non universals
Hi David --

Someone once asked Mohandas Gandhi what he thought of Western 
Civilization, and he said he "thought it would be a good idea!" 
Similarly, if you asked me what I thought of University Education, I 
would say that "it would be a good idea!".

>There seems to me a desire among educators to help as many children
>and young adults as possible make the leap from arithmetic to geometry
>and calculus, from literacy to literary analysis, or indeed from
>melody to harmony.    So where is the difficulty?  A lack of proven
>agreed teaching methods, a perception of elitism, or the competing
>desire we all feel to make sure everyone leaves school with basic
>literacy and numeracy?

My perception of your first sentence is very different than yours. 
Most educators in K-8 do not seem to know anything about calculus and 
precious little about geometry or algebra (and their knowledge of 
arithmetic is rule-based not math-based) so I don't see whatever 
desires they might espouse about these progressions as having much 
substance. I do think that one is likely to get much better 
instruction and coaching from music teachers and sports coaches -- in 
no small part because they are usually fluent practitioners, and do 
have some real contact with the entire chain of meaning and action of 
their subjects.

I don't have deep direct scientific knowledge of the nature of the 
difficulties, just thousands of encounters with various educational 
systems around the world and educators over the last 35+ years. So I 
could have just been continually unlucky in my travels....

In the early 80's I went to Atari as its Chief Scientist to try to 
get some of Papert's and my ideas into consumer electronics. The 
Atari 800 and especially the 400 were tremendous computers for their 
price, and Brian Silverman made a great version of Logo to go on 
these machines. (There were also Logos on most of the other 8-bit 
micros.) And, there was a Logo-vogue for a time, both in the US and 
in the UK. Many early adopter teachers got Atari's or Apple IIs in 
their classrooms and got their students started on it.

This was exciting until examined closely. Essentially none of the 
teachers actually understood enough mathematics to see what Logo was 
really about. And for a variety of reasons Logo gradually slid away 
and disappeared.

We should look a bit at three different kinds of understanding:  rote 
understanding, operational understanding, and meta-understanding. If 
we leave out the majority of teachers who don't really understand 
math in any strong way, we still find that the kinds of 
understandings that are left are not up to the task of being able to 
see the meaning and value of a new perspective on mathematics. For 
example, it is possible to understand calculus a little in the narrow 
form in which it was learned, and still not be able to see "calculus" 
in a different form (even if the new way is a stronger way to look at 
it). Real fluency in a subject allows many of the most powerful ideas 
in the subject to be somewhat detached from specific forms. This is 

For example, the school version of calculus is based on a numeric 
continuum and algebraic manipulations. But the idea of calculus is 
not really strongly tied to this.

The idea has to do with separating out the similarities and 
differences of change to produce and allow much simpler and easier to 
understand relationships to be created. This can be done so that the 
connection between one state and the next one of interest is a simple 
addition. Actual continuity can be replaced by a notion of "you pick 
and then I pick" so that non-continuities don't get seen. This other 
view of calculus as a form of calculation was used by Babbage in his 
first "difference engines" because a computing machine that can do 
lots of additions for you can make this other way to look at calculus 
very practical and worthwhile. The side benefit is that it is much 
easier to understand than the algebraic rubrics. If we then add to 
this the idea of using vectors (as "supernumbers") instead of regular 
numbers, we are able to dispense with coordinate systems except when 
convenient, and are able to operate in multiple dimensions.

All of this was worked out in the 19th century and quite a bit was 
adopted enthusiastically by science and is in main use today.

To cut to the chase, Seymour Papert (who was a very good 
mathematician) was one of the first to realize that this kind of math 
(called "vector differential geometry") fit very well into young 
children's thinking patterns, and that the new personal computers 
would be able to manifest Babbage's dream to be able to compute and 
think in terms of an incremental calculus for complex change.

Any one fluent in mathematics can recognize this (but it took a 
Papert to first point it out). But, virtually no one without fluency 
in mathematics can recognize this. And surveys have shown that less 
than 5% of Americans are fluent in math or science. Many of the 95% 
were able to go through 16 years of schooling and successfully get a 
college degree without attaining any fluency in math or science.

This is not a matter of intelligence at all, but is more of a "two 
cultures" phenomenon. So I am not able to agree with this sentence of yours:

>This barrier is puzzling to me, as the key gatekeepers in education
>(teachers, head teachers, inspectors, government education
>departments) are products of the university system, which seems to me
>to exist to propagate and build on the hard ideas (greek math,
>relativity, quantum theory, sociology, musical harmony ... )

It is possible to learn about these ideas in university (and outside 
of university), but I don't know of any universities today whose goal 
it is to invest its graduates with fluency in these ideas or any 
other powerful ideas. That is, the concept of a general education for 
the 21st century that should include these ideas doesn't seem to be 
in any American university I'm familiar with.

>If Logo, Etoys and OLPC can teach calculus to 10-year-olds, and
>calculus is essential to every engineering craft, and teachers love
>encouraging students' creativity, why are so many schools teaching
>pupils to use word processors instead?

The problem is that Logo, Etoys and OLPC can't teach calculus to 10 
year olds. The good news is that adults who understand the subject 
matter can indeed teach calculus to 10 year olds with the aid of 
Logo, Etoys and OLPC.

If you put a piano in a classroom, children will do something with 
it, and perhaps even produce a "chopsticks culture". But the music 
isn't in the piano. It has to be brought forth from the children. And 
the possibilities of music are not in the children, but right now has 
to be manifested in the teachers and other mentors. (It took several 
centuries to develop keyboard technique, and much longer than that to 
invent and develop the rich genres of music of the last 6 centuries.)

Math and science were difficult to invent in the first place (so 
Rousseau-like optimism for discovery learning is misplaced), and both 
subjects have been developed for centuries by experts. Children need 
experts to help them, not retreaded social studies teachers.

One of the goals of 19th century education was to teach children how 
to learn from books. This was a great idea because (a) oral 
instruction is quite inefficient (b) you can get around bad teachers 
(c) you can contact experts in ways that you might not be able to 
directly (especially if they are deceased) (d) you can self-pace (e) 
you can employ multiple perspectives on the subject matter (f) you 
are not in the quicksand of social norming, etc. A small percentage 
of children still are able to learn from books, and similar small 
percentages of children can and do learn powerful ideas by themselves 
without much adult aid.

But since general education is primarily about helping to grow 
citizens who can try to become more civilized, the big work that has 
to be done is with those who are not inclined to learn powerful ideas 
of any kind.

Best wishes,

From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] the non universals
Below is a recent article from Education Week. In (only) my opinion, 
it should be impossible for 93% of American teachers to like their 
jobs if they had any perspective on what they are doing, how they are 
doing it, and what they are supposed to do. There are a few other 
mildly interesting tidbits at the very end of the article.

To me this is an example of how a field can and does select the 
personalities and skills that fit to its actual mission. I saw this 
very strongly when I was in the Air Force (whose general way of doing 
things I really did not like). I left after my required term, but 
many re-upped, and they were the ones that fit into that particular scheme.

Another example of the ecological power of environments and the 
co-evolution and selection of environments and traits.



Education Week

Published Online: August 1, 2007

Teachers Tell Researchers They Like Their Jobs

<>Vaishali Honawar

Ninety-three percent of teachers reported satisfaction with their 
jobs 10 years after entering the field, according to a new survey 
that also found attrition rates for teachers were actually lower than 
for other professionals.

The <>report, 
released this week by the National Center for Education Statistics, 
surveyed 9,000 graduates who received their bachelor's degrees in 
various disciplines in the 1992-93 school year. Nearly 20 percent of 
those graduates entered the teaching profession.

The findings from the survey debunk several long-held views on 
teacher pay, turnover, and job satisfaction. For instance, it found 
that only 18 percent of those who entered teaching changed 
occupations within four years of getting a degree. Given that other 
professions experienced attrition rates between 17 percent and 75 
percent during that period, the number of career-switchers from 
teaching was on the low end of the scale, according to the data. More 
than half those who became teachers were still teaching 10 years later.

Teacher advocates and unions have long claimed that turnover among 
new teachers ranges from 30 percent to 50 percent within the first five years.

"The take for a long time was that there is this incredibly high 
attrition among teachers from schools," said Mark Schneider, the 
commissioner of NCES, an arm of the U.S. Department of Education. The 
report, he said, shows that teacher-turnover rates are actually lower 
than those in other professions.

"I understand why schools and school districts are upset about losing 
teachers, but it is part of the normal sorting process" in a dynamic 
job market, Mr. Schneider added.

The survey also stands on their head some commonly held beliefs about 
teacher salaries. Teachers' unions have often cited low pay as a 
major reason for teacher dissatisfaction. But only 13 percent of 
those who left teaching by 2003 gave it as the reason for leaving. 
Forty-eight percent of those who remained in the profession said they 
were satisfied with their salaries.

Kate Walsh, the president of the National Council on Teacher Quality, 
a research and advocacy group in Washington, called the findings "explosive."

"What was surprising is how cheery the [teachers'] responses were," 
she said. Education groups, including the unions, she contended, 
often cite teachers' unhappiness in order to pressure districts and 
states for concessions.

Spokesmen for the National Education Association and the American 
Federation of Teachers said they were unable to comment on the report 
before the story was posted.

Racial Differences

The report's findings are based on the NCES' survey of 
baccalaureate-degree recipients conducted between 1993 and 2003. 
Participants answered questions via phone and the Internet and during 
in-person interviews. The report was prepared by MPR Associates in 
Berkeley, Calif.

Of those surveyed who were still teaching 10 years after earning 
their degrees, 90 percent said they would choose the same career 
again, and 67 percent said they would remain in teaching for the rest 
of their working lives.

The rate among African-American teachers, however, was significantly 
lower, with 37 percent saying they would choose to remain in the 
profession, compared with 70 percent of white teachers.

Nearly 20 percent of black teachers said they would leave if 
something better came along, compared with fewer than 10 percent of 
white teachers.

Ms. Walsh said the higher rates of dissatisfaction among black 
teachers could be due to the fact that more black teachers teach in 
high-poverty schools.

The study reaffirmed that attrition rates were higher among male 
teachers. While women (29 percent) were more likely to leave for 
family-related reasons, men (32 percent) usually left for a job 
outside the field of education.

A candidate's age when he or she attended college also appeared to 
play a role in attrition rates: Those 30 or older when they obtained 
their degrees were more likely than younger graduates to remain in teaching.

Those who earned better grades in college were more likely than those 
with lower grades to remain in teaching.

The study offers a window into how college graduates perceive 
teaching. For instance, nearly half of all bachelor's degree 
recipients in 1992-93 said they had never considered teaching or 
taken any steps to become educators.

Lack of interest, having another job in hand, and inadequate pay were 
the most commonly cited reasons for not pursuing teaching.

Math, science, and engineering graduates were among those most likely 
to leave teaching jobs to work outside education.
From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] the non universals
Hi David --

I'm not pessimistic. If I were, then I would pursue other ventures. 
I'm just thinking like a scientist (which is trying to figure out a 
near version of how things actually are). If you look closer, I think 
you will find that I'm being quite even-handed.

Bush and his administration (among many others) think scientists are 
pessimists because they don't make up stories "that are so nice they 
must be true" as most people do, but instead are skeptical (not the 
same as pessimistic at all) and try to be "realistic" (as science 
thinks of that term), and are certainly optimistic, since they think 
they can uncover mysteries and make models of important things in the 
universe that have baffled humans for hundreds of thousands of years. 
There's a certain amount of arrogation (and some plain arrogance) in 
science, but not a lot of pessimism.

>While for the next generation primary (K-6) teachers may be a lost
>cause, what I want to understand is why you (Alan) don't find large
>numbers of secondary (grades 7 - 12/13) math and science teachers
>becoming advocates and allies of the reforms you are proposing.

If mathematics shares some traits with language and muscular learning 
(and there is evidence it does), then the big disaster is in K-6.

7-12 has many of its own problems, judging both from what I've read 
and from participating in STEM workshops in many parts of the US this summer.

Most of the 7th and 8th grade teachers we worked with were retreads 
from non math and non science teaching. The simplest generalization 
is that almost none of them showed any heuristic sense and aim for 
math of any kind. They knew a few facts but did not know how to think 
about even what they could remember.

There is a wider range in high school teachers, and we found more 
than a few percent (maybe 10% to 20%) who could follow the 
relationships between familiar ways of looking at things and other 
ways of looking at the same underlying ideas. This is better and lots 
could be done with these teachers. This is not a high enough percent 
to make big changes but it would be a good start if the system would 
allow the goals and methods to be different.

Of course, this is far from a scientific survey ....

>1. Are the math and science teachers not aware that calculus is a
>'powerful idea'?

Not in the sense that Seymour uses the term. This is partly because 
almost no math and science teachers in HS were ever practitioners, 
and most were never math or science majors. Some may have majored in 
"math education" etc., but there is a huge qualitative difference 
there. Remember that most HS science is done without calculus 
(because it is still an optional AP subject that is taken usually in 
the last year of HS).

Also, there is the interesting survey result which I sent out earlier 
this morning which indicates that 93% of the teachers in the system 
like their jobs. This is quite incompatible with any real 
understanding of math and science.

>2. If they are, are they not sufficiently fluent in it ...

I think they are indeen not sufficiently fluent in it, especially in 
the "what it actually is" sense (as opposed to "this particular way").

>  to understand
>that their current teaching method (whatever that is) is not engaging
>and developing nearly as many pupils as have the potential to get it,
>enjoy it and use it?

This is strongly combined with the standards, SAT, and AP criteria to 
make the teachers who do have some sense of other ways to feel 
completely trapped in HS. But it's not just the teaching methods, 
it's the actual form of the knowledge for learners of mathematics and science.

>3. Or is there some other reason, such as suspicion of new methods,
>waiting for something better, or insufficient time after concentrating
>on basic numeracy?

Sure, and etc. Pretty much everything in American High Schools has 
high levels of trying to reteach virtually all of what the kids were 
supposed to have learned in the earlier grades. Hence, the need to 
look earlier for solutions. Couple this with the difficulty of 
learning new outlooks once you have already committed to outlooks 
that are not so fruitful, and the earlier grades are the place to work on.

>The reason for the question is my big worry, inspired by your original
>post: if Papert's ideas don't engage secondary school math teachers,
>they have few other advocates left.  There is no back door to get
>around these gatekeepers.

That is one of the big problems, amongst a dozen others. Cargo cults 
are difficult to reform once they get going. But what if the 
secondary math teachers complained loudly? I don't think they are in 
any decision process that I can find.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] the non universals
Hi David --

At 02:58 PM 8/16/2007, David Corking wrote:
>Thanks for wrestling with my questioning, Alan  (btw - it seems we
>forgot to share our last two exchanges with the mailing list - my
>fault - I refrained from repeating your responses extensively here in
>case it not your intent to post them.)

I didn't notice this, so just reposted the previous reply to the list.

>On 8/16/07, Alan Kay wrote:
> > Of course, this is far from a scientific survey ....
>You clearly know far more teachers than I do.  I am shocked to hear
>that so few US math and science teachers were math and science majors,
>or were even educated in any college level math and science.

As I said, my little survey this summer wasn't scientific ... it 
would be nice to have a much better assessment of this done in a more 
rigorous fashion.

But I don't think it is an exaggeration to guess that most teachers 
lack the kind of operational mathematical thinking that is the most 
important part of mathematical fluency. And it is very likely that 
"most" is almost total in the elementary grades and means "very 
sparse" in high school.

>I suspect it is normal worldwide to postpone calculus until the
>equivalent of  "Advanced Placement" courses in years 11 and 12 - I
>hope it is mandatory to know calculus before going to college for
>math, science or engineering (and perhaps for social science too.)
>Perhaps by the delay we then rob many kids the chance to (1) see its
>beauty and (2) see that it underpins so much of modern science and

"Knowing calculus" is a tricky phrase. An important idea here (that I 
originally got from Ivan Sutherland) is to ask whether skills are "10 
hour skills", "100 hour skills", "1000 hour skills", etc. Ivan once 
pointed out that e.g. learning to play piano was not a "10 hour 
skill" no matter how much latent talent you might have. And, though 
talent does play a part in time to learn and get fluent at something, 
it takes time for people's brain/minds to build the structures needed 
for doing the thinking in question, and doing it fluently enough, etc.

As I recall, this discussion came up when a bunch of us grad students 
and Ivan at Utah were working out the mathematical transforms for 3D 
graphics (much of which constitutes OpenGL today). We had some 
terrific French grad students, who were better prepared 
mathematically than most of the Americans. I had an undergrad math 
degree, etc. Ivan is quite a bit smarter than most people, etc. Yet, 
this was a real struggle for all of us to "get operational" in a 
theory that we all "kind of knew" really well: the transformations of 
vectors using matrices, with the addition of the homogenous 
coordinates idea from projective geometry that Larry Roberts had suggested.

Ivan's observation was that we had attained the "100 hour skill" 
version of transformations, but not the "1000 hour skill" version. 
And this led to discussions of other skills in other areas. This idea 
is particularly striking and easy to understand in sports and music. 
And also overlaps with some of the findings in cognitive psychology 
about habit formation and habit unlearning. For example, if you put 
in 10 hours a week trying to learn something (2 hours a day, 5 days a 
week) and take a two week vacation, etc., then you will be spending 
about 500 hours a year doing your learning and practicing. Two years 
of this is 1000 hours.

Lots of good things can be learned to the solid mid-intermediate 
level in two years. And 18 months to 2 years is also the time that 
cog psych says it takes to form a solid habit (or unlearn one). Also 
very interesting are the results from many studies of the attempts at 
educational reforms in the 60s which showed that one year of a super 
enriched experience didn't stick, but two or more years did.

So the concept of a "1000 hour skill" is worth contemplating when 
looking at instructional systems.

Back to calculus for a second: I really didn't understand calculus in 
worthwhile ways (that is, to think in terms of what it meant rather 
than just trying to apply the techniques) until I took Advanced 
Calculus with a very good prof (who was a fabulous mathematical 
thinker and teacher). This was quite shocking to me (because I didn't 
really have a sense that I didn't understand calculus until I 
understood it so much better). And all of us working with Ivan a few 
years later had a similar sense about transformations. We only 
thought we understood them until we understood them deeply enough to 
think in terms of them, not just try to use them.

I think there are also real analogies here to stages of learning a 
foreign language. Seymour and I have talked a lot about this, and he 
thinks so also. The differences between being able to use another 
language a little and being able to think in "its perfume" are profound.

This is where more longitudinal approaches and immersion are 
critical. One of the reasons I loved Seymour's ideas and approach was 
that it would be possible to have children immersed in "CalculusLand" 
in ways meaningful to them for years so they could gradually build up 
real "CalculusThink".

>As you point out, the algebraic model of calculus is not interesting
>to many people, but the difference model would, I imagine, be useful
>to every aspiring mechanic, lab technician or customer service

Its not that the algebraic model of calculus is not interesting (it 
really is) but it is much further removed from most people's 
fluencies. The difference model is just simple accumulation by 
addition, and the equivalent of higher order differential equations 
is just more accumulations by addition lined up. I have written about 
how Julia Nishijima (the first grade teacher who had a real 
mathematical sense) could set up projects that would induce the 
children to discover and derive second order discrete DEs (first 
order is steady growth, second order is quadratic, etc.), These are 
the very  same progressions that can be used for velocity and 
acceleration, F = ma, Galilean gravity, etc. so it is terrific to get 
started with these as tools one has derived in first grade.

We have a nice way to (later, perhaps in 7th or 8th grade) reconcile 
the easier incremental approach to the algebraic formulas by deriving 
the latter from the former. This is not just pro forma but is a very 
useful way to start thinking about what it is that is being said (and 
how universally) using quantification. It's also very illuminating to 
start thinking about integration and what it means in the universally 
quantified world (leading to the fundamental theorem of calculus).

But having quite a few years of calculus thinking and doing under 
one's belt is a much better way (in my opinion) to approach some of 
the deep and initially non-intuitive properties of calculus.

> > But what if the
> > secondary math teachers complained loudly? I don't think they are in
> > any decision process that I can find.
>I don't know the US systems very well.  I would like to think that
>school boards and education departments consult professionals first.
>Are there countries where that does happen?

It's very tricky in the US -- in part because there are 25,000 or 
more individual school districts. There are state and national 
standards. Professionals are consulted. Etc. I only have speculations 
on how the system has not managed to do better with mathematics curricula.

One thing that seems to be almost universal around the world, is that 
the notion of children learning some subject (like mathematics) is 
almost always posed as "how can children be taught the adult version 
of this subject?", rather than, as Montessori, Piaget, Bruner and 
Papert have shown "how can we find an honest children's version of 
this subject?".

Another important idea here is that there are likely to be other 
approaches that are also better than the standard ones. Seymour (and 
I and others in his footsteps) simply have worked out one set of 
insights that can allow children to actually be real mathematicians 
starting at an early age. This is not a religion, nor is it exclusive 
to "the Seymour way".

Over the last 30+ years of my own experience I have been greatly 
surprised at some of the things children have shown they can do (the 
4 year olds at Reggio Emilia, the 6 year olds of Julia Nishijima, 
that 5th graders could do the Galilean gravity project I designed for 
9th graders, etc.). Basically, we still don't really know what 
children can learn at different ages if the subject matter is 
properly formed. The experiments are very difficult to do, and lots 
of them need to be done (in part because there are so many things 
that can prevent a good reading of the children).


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] the non universals
Bob Taylor (the ARPA funder who later set up Xerox PARC computing 
research) was an absolute master at this.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] the non universals
Hi --

Yes, I used to visit the IAHP quite a bit 15-20 years ago. They have 
some excellent insights, and are certainly optimists about what 
babies and young children can learn to do.



05:02 PM 8/18/2007, Blake wrote:
From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] the non universals
Hi Bob --

At 02:44 PM 8/18/2007, Robert Parks wrote:
>I've been listening with interest, and I've got a couple of 
>questions and (possible) provocations.
>    1. would learning calculus as a "powerful idea" (rather than 
> through the duller algebraic approach) be counted as "using 
> discovery or inquiry based learning as a substitute for hard facts"?

I don't see why it should, but there are few bounds on rhetoric and 
innuendo. I like Bruner's term "scaffolded learning" because real 
discoveries are rare -- we've learned how to teach 10 year olds a 
good and mathematical version of calculus but no child has ever 
discovered calculus without guidance (and it took 200,000 years for 
two smart adults to do it with hints). Much of the "discovery and 
inquiry learning" curricula I've seen is pretty soft.

But learning and teaching would be easy if it could be transmitted by 
words or actions. Instead, some changes have to happen in the 
learner's mind/brain through some actions on their part (which could 
involve doing something or just sitting in a chair pondering). Things 
are sometimes not obvious because they are literally invisible, or 
because the explanations fall outside of existing commonsense 
thinking patterns. Or some new set of coordinations have to be 
learned/built that were not there before.

These have many of the trappings of creativity and the having of 
ideas that are not simple increments from the ideas of the 
surrounding context. The phrase I use for this is "Learning a 
powerful idea requires a lot of the same kinds of creativity as it 
took to invent it in the first place". This is because it has to be 
invented anew by the learner.

The good news is that learners for already invented ideas almost 
never have to be as smart and unusual as the original inventors 
(calculus can be learned by pretty much everybody, but Newton and 
Leibniz were unusual). On the other side, some real work has to be 
done to "cross the barriers".

Tim Gallwey (the incredible tennis teacher) use to say: you have to 
hit thousands of balls to learn to play tennis -- my method gets you 
to hit those thousands of balls, but feeling and thinking 
differently. A good method in mathematics (like Mary Laycock's or 
Seymours) still requires you to do lots of things (to get your 
mind/brain fluent) but can be and feel mathematical for most of the 
journey rather than painful in many ways. This is what we've called 
"Hard fun", and it is a process that is shared by any set of 
arts/sports/skills that have been developed.

Another way to look at it is "If you don't read for fun, you will 
never get fluent enough to read for purpose".

The big problem with the "standard algebraic route" is not so much 
algebra, but that the standard route requires lots of work but 
doesn't deliver "real math" very well. It's not situated in 
mathematical thinking, but much more in rule learning and following. 
People have turned Logo (and other computing) into rule learning and 
following, etc. It can be done to any initially terrific subject.

>    2. What IS a "powerful idea", and how does it become 
> powerful?   I'm particularly interested in asking whether ideas get 
> their power from abstraction (finding similarity in structure), or 
> generalization (finding similarity in features) - or from both.

Seymour and I have tried to characterize "powerful ideas" 
operationally rather than by structure. Even though there are not a 
lot of powerful ideas (hundreds or so) there are enough of different 
types to make simple structural definitions difficult. For example, 
"modern science" itself is a powerful idea: it is one of the greatest 
sets of processes ever devised for getting around many of the defects 
of the human mind/brain/genetic/culture system that has been so 
confusing and dangerous over our species time on the planet. On the 
other hand, "increase-by" as we use it in Etoys is the essential 
building block of the calculus (especially for children) and it is a 
"powerful idea" because it can be used in so many different kinds of 
"change situation" and it illuminates the change processes and makes 
them easier to think about and to calculate.

These two "powerful ideas" are on different scales and in different 
domains. But operationally they have the power to greatly amplify and 
channel our thinking processes. A phrase I've used in the past is 
"Point of view equals 80 IQ points". Choosing and using a context can 
be like adding an extra brain. This is why today's scientists and 
engineers -- who are not better endowed by nature to work in their 
fields -- are so much more effective than some of the great geniuses 
in the past.

Some of the most important "powerful ideas" can be drawn from 
Anthropology, Bio-behavior, Neuroethology, etc., (how History can be 
interpreted in the light of these, etc.) and have to do with insights 
about ourselves that are critical and have remained hidden for 10s of 
centuries. Our research project is ultimately about getting children 
to start learning these, but we decided that we needed to learn how 
to teach math and physical science (and what kinds of each of these) 
to children first. Jerome Bruner saw this earlier than anyone and 
pioneered one of the greatest curriculum designs for elementary 
school children in "Man A Course Of Study" (MACOS), an intellectually 
honest presentation of Anthropology to 5th graders. This was 
implemented in more than 10,000 schools in the US in the late 60s, 
was a masterpiece, and ultimately was destroyed by religious 
fundamentalists in Congress.

But it and other deep insight powerful ideas curricula need to be 
done again, better, and with more support.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] the non universals
Of course, Mark didn't look carefully enough at either the Squeakers 
DVD or the Kim Rose and BJ Conn book "Powerful Ideas in the 
Classroom" and other materials which show what we actually do with 
the kids (actually in 5th grade for this example).

We don't teach any abstractions, but work our way out from various 
kinds of animated movement in Etoys (constant velocity, random 
velocities, steadily increasing velocity, etc.). From a number of 
such examples the children gradually associate both a relationship 
"increase by" and a history of the movements (shown by leaving dots 
behind on the screen). Later (about 3 and one half months later, in 
the case of the first time we tried this) we got them to think about 
and investigate falling bodies. One example on the Squeakers DVD 
showed 11 year old Tyrone explaining just how he worked out and 
derived the actual differential equations of motion (in 
intellectually honest and mathematical version that computers make 
very practical). He did this by recognizing accelerated motion in the 
pattern of pictures of the dropping ball, measured the differences to 
find out what kind of acceleration (constant) and made the script for 
vertical motion partly using the memory of how he had done the 
horizontal motion in Etoys 3 months before. He explained how he did 
this very well on the video. Also, by luck, I happened to be in the 
classroom on the day he actually made his discoveries and 
derivations. Most the children were able to do this.

The important things about this experience was that Tyrone and the 
other children had learned a model of acceleration and velocity that 
was quite meaningful to them. Months later they were able to remember 
these ideas and adapt them to observations of the real-world. 
According to Lillian McDermott at the U of Wash, 70% of all college 
students (including science majors) are unable to understand the 
Galilean model of gravity (which uses a very different pedagogy in college).

The most important piece of knowledge from cog psych is a study done 
in the late 60s or early 70s that showed exposure to any enriched 
environment for less than 2 years was not retained. But two or more 
years of exposure tended to be retained. This also correlates to 
habit formation and habit unlearning.

So, I would argue that Mark's three examples are very different and 
don't really deserve to go together. And, in any case, all we know 
about the 5th graders is that using this pedagogy and Etoys they are 
generally able to be more successful in both the math and the science 
of accelerated change than most college students. This particular way 
of looking at differential equations has become more and more 
standard as computers have become more and more the workhorses of 
science (partly because they are in a form well set up for creating a 
simulation -- and for the kids, because they are much easier to 
understand than the previous standards for DEs).


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] the non universals
And they are concrete in the way they are precisely because children 
of this age don't generalize the way older children and adults do, 
but by "carrying a bushel basket of 'similar things that work 
similarly' ". They are not patterns from the outside but are more 
like analogies that the child gathers together from doing many kinds 
of thing with a powerful idea like "increase by". Later the bushel 
basket starts to become an idea of its own,  first as a heuristic to 
try when thinking in problem solving, and finally by enlarging itself 
into a kind of thing on its own. This is interestingly like 
Vygotsky's theory of concept formation in much younger children, but 
the resemblences could be accidental.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] the non universals
But here's where we should give the special cases amongst the much 
maligned (and quite a bit for good reason) teacher corps great 
credit. Every once in a while a great teacher does light the fires, 
and those that are affected by this never forget it. To me this is 
the way it should be, because many children are close to the intense 
interest that you describe, and contact with another person can be 
just what they need to give them a little more confidence and 
courage, to get them to look at something a little closer.

I've had just a few of these, but they were huge experiences in my life.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] the non universals
Hi Mark --At 05:01 AM 8/24/2007, Guzdial, Mark wrote:


>Tyrone is eloquent in his explanations--I believe he understands 
>what he's doing.  Here's my concern: Does he really understand 
>differential equations?  Let me break that down into two parts.
>- When Tyrone is faced with another problem related to rates (maybe 
>disease propagation, rates of decay, etc.) in eToys, can he use 
>those tools to analyze the new situation?

I think most of the children after a few months of using "increase 
by" in various ways, do recognize rates in many other contexts.

>   Does he recognize the situation as similar and that his same 
> tools would apply?  That would convince me that he has developed an 
> understanding of the powerful idea of differential equations.

I would doubt that his understanding of these kinds of DEs is total 
or even "supremely comprehensive", but it is "operational" very along 
the lines that any mathematician would characterize as "mathematical 
thinking". Our goal was to make an environment in which more than 90% 
of the children exhibited real fluency in this kind of thinking. 
"Real fluency" implies a degree of understanding above an important threshold.

>- When Tyrone gets to college and studies differential equations, 
>will he recognize them as the same thing?  I doubt that.  They won't 
>look the same.

A much more important question is "will Tyrone understand mathematics 
by the time he gets to college?". If the answer is "yes", then he 
will recognize them as the same thing. If "no" then everything will 
be special cases of rules (which they are to most college students).

>   His calculus course may not even relate to differential equations 
> to modeling gravity.  He will have too few cues to make that 
> connection.  A reasonable response to this should be that the 
> calculus course might be taught with eToys, too, and that would 
> help make the connection.  I would agree.  It's just unlikely that 
> many (any?) college calculus courses will use eToys.

Again, the question is whether he is actually learning math or not. 
It has nothing to do with Etoys.

>What I do believe is that the students in BJ's course have developed 
>an understanding of the power of computation (*programmable* 
>computation) in problem-solving and knowledge 
>transformation.  That's tremendous, and likely will transfer to 
>other situations using computers.
>I'd like to argue with your claim from cognitive psychology, 
>though.  "Length of exposure" is an ill-defined variable which has 
>since been better refined and tested.  What does "length of 
>exposure" mean?  One hour a day for two years?  One hour a week for 
>two years?  Here's a brief thought experiment to address this point: 
>I'll bet everyone on this list remembers exactly where they were and 
>what they were doing when they first learned of the 9/11 
>attacks.  That wasn't a very long exposure, yet everyone remembers 
it.  Why?

All I can say is that this was very thoroughly studied in the 60s (as 
was deep habit formation). What they were testing were not memories 
of isolated unusual incidents (nor of "movie recognition memory" 
which is also from one trial). What they were doing was testing 
changes of paradigms in outlook, and for most children these took 
immersion in an environment for well over a year to be strongly 
detectable years later.

>The two new variables that are more often studied are:
>- Time on task.  The more time you spend on an activity, the more 
>likely that you will remember the experience and lessons of that 
>activity later.
>- Amount of reflection.  The more often that you reuse an 
>association, the more often you think about and talk about an 
>experience, the more likely you will retain it.  That's the best 
>explanation I know for the 9/11 effect (or the Challenger effect, or 
>the JFK assassination effect).  You thought about that moment later 
>that day, and the next day, and you've discussed it with your 
>friends.  That leads to longer term learning.

To me, these are not as interesting (nor are they parallels) to large 
scale epistemological shifts.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] the non universals
Good question --

This is not really about Etoys but about what it takes to make use of 
a variety of perspectives on ideas in math, science (and elsewhere).

One of the big insights of Seymour Papert was that an incremental 
discrete form of differential equations that is extremely simple but 
computationally intensive would fit very well with the kinds of 
thinking that children can readily do. Babbage was one of the first 
who proposed that "these calculations should be executed by steam" 
because he realized that machinery could open up this way of looking 
at calculus.

Gauss upped the ante considerably by being one of several top 
mathematicians in the 19th century who moved geometry from a global 
to a local perspective. Papert realized that the child had this 
"coordinate system" of having all changes be relative to them 
wherever they were. And the additive form of DEs also applied here if 
you used vectors (and that vectors were a very good internal way to 
think about numbers).

Seymour proposed that you could use an interactive computer to make a 
"Mathland" in which a powerful mathematics could be situated as the 
way to talk about and cause phenomena of interest to a child (and 
most importantly to start building some ways to think about things in 
ways different than stories that would eventually constitute a new 
outlook on both thinking and phenomena).

So the key idea here is made of several important insights that 
include new ways to look at things, but also to make them happen. 
This last has partly to do with emotional payoff. For example, in the 
case of Galilean gravity it is possible to use something like 
Galileo's lute strings (see the afterword in BJ and Kim's book) or 
e.g. rolling a toy truck carrying a baggie filled with ink with a 
hole in it down an inclined plane to get the constant acceleration 
spacings that lead to the two stage incremental relations. This can 
all be done without a computer, but it is much more difficult to 
motivate the level of precision that we want the kids to employ, and 
to provide a vehicle for both checking their analysis (this is 
supposed to be science after all), and to make really fun things that 
now use the gravity model (like Lunar Lander, firing a cannon, shoot 
the alien, etc.). This is supposed to be fun after all.

Etoys is just one of a number of approaches done by people who got 
really interested in Seymour's insights (and Etoys itself is actually 
an amalgam of the ideas from many contributors outside of our 
immediate research group).

Right now, to get above threshold science and math, we need highly 
motivated teachers like BJ. But if the highly motivated teacher does 
not have an environment that situates the ideas and approaches (and 
curricula) then many (if not most) important things won't happen 
(except perhaps for a very few children).

An even rarer case is the highly motivated teacher who has a deep 
understanding of the subject and of the learners. For example, Julia 
Nishijima of the Open School (of whom I've written about elsewhere) 
showed what could be done with 6 year olds, and it is really 
impressive. Her curriculum was "almost perfect" in balance and depth. 
A small part of this curriculum used the computer (again for what 
only the computer could do as an "educational material").

If we look out in the world, in the US, Europe, Asia, and much wider, 
we do not find enough adults who can carry the powerful ideas of math 
and science and help children make them their own. This is especially 
acute wrt parents, because here we have a much better 
"student-teacher ratio" and we also have a great social environment 
for learning. Quite a bit of success in children learning to read has 
quite a bit of correlation with how parents deal with reading in the 
home. It would be great if this could be true for "real math" and 
"real science".

So utopian enterprises like OLPC really need to think about using the 
computer not just for an environment, but as a guide (something 
"better than no teacher and better than a bad teacher"). This is 
perhaps the most important and high stakes way to interpret "the 
computer as a dynamic book" (that is it could be a kind of book that 
can also teach people how to read and write it).

I think of this as one of the great and most important "Grand 
Challenges" for the 21st century.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] size of palette in OLPC version
Hi Randy --

You can set a preference to paint full screen. This has always been 
there, it's just that we set limited paint area option for the OLPC release.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] [Etoys] some comments
Hi Bill --

What follows is not an argument against (a) using 
a game making approach (great for some kids) or 
(b) the worth of getting all children to learn to 
program (probably a good idea).

What we need to contemplate is the probability of 
"gaining enlightenment" by being in contact with 
various kinds of environments and epistemologies.

If we look at the class of "those who know how to 
program" we see a generally unenlightened group 
(maybe similar to humans in general, maybe even 
less enlightened). In any case, we have to 
conclude there is nothing intrinsic about 
learning to program that leads to deeper 
thoughts. One of our rueful jokes about the Logo 
vogue in the 80s is that everything would be OK 
if we could just package Seymour on the floppies!

I think it would be even easier to justify the 
same generalization about gamers and game makers.

Or about archers ... There was an intriguing book 
in the 60s zeitgeist called "Zen and the Art of 
Archery" by Herrigel, that made a similiar point: 
learning archery doesn't confer any automatic 
enlightenment, but it could be used as a path if 
much were added to standard training.

Or about any activity that requires 
concentration, focus and learning. My grandfather 
Clifton Johnson (a writer and illustrator of many 
books and also an early photographer) once got 
asked in 1904 to write an article for the 
Saturday Evening Post on whether photography 
could be an art form. He said "Art enters in when 
one labors thoughtfully over a goal; that is, 
when one cuts loose from actions that are merely 
mechanical". It's in that space of "laboring 
thoughtfully" where there are opportunities for enlightenment.

"Enlightenment about what?" brings up the 
environmental influences. I don't think that 
archery or cooking (or photography) are 
cosmically interesting -- so the kinds of 
enlightenments in these environments are likely 
to be personal ones, but with some flashes of 
"the world is not as it seems". On the other 
hand, if science is the environment, and one is 
dealing with its huge epistemological differences 
with commonsense perceptions -- that is: science 
has much of cosmic significance in its purview -- 
then there are great and deep opportunities for 
enlightenment. (But no guarantees here either, just higher probabilities.)

My interest in education is not as a form of 
vocational training or preparation, but in 
helping children to become adults who are more 
thoughtful, and whose perspectives for thinking 
are much wider and deeper than the adults of 
today. The built-in "universals" that are 
destructive to human growth can be countered to a 
considerable extent by a modern "real education" 
that includes powerful invented points of view 
(the "powerful ideas") that act almost as 
additional brain/minds and can form a much 
stronger and less brittle heuristic base for 
thinking well under wider conditions.

In the end, the epistemology of science can lead 
to many more and better perspectives on the human 
condition, and this is where I think education 
should and must go. Whether children learn 
computers or not is not the issue for me (nor 
even whether they gain math or science knowledge) 
-- it's whether they can gain clearer 
perspectives on "us and what to do about us" that is critical here.

The established Arts -- including writing -- have 
as one of their main properties to provide other 
perspectives and wake-up calls, but they have 
been less effective than one would hope: they are 
generally too easily overwhelmed by distracting 
media, and they have enough story elements that 
they tend to be compartmentalized (as is the 
natural case with stories). On the other hand, 
even though our brain/minds want to make stories 
out of everything (and judge them by how apt they 
seem), science stubbornly tries to rise above our 
"storyminds" to help us make representations of 
the "what's out there" that are much more 
accurate "maps and models" (especially including 
accurate maps and models of ourselves). This is 
what we need to concentrate on when trying to 
design new educational experiences.

I don't think we are doing very well at these 
grand goals for education at the moment, but we 
haven't forgotten them in all the technical 
flurries that accompany the invention of new 
media to hold new ways to look at important ideas.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] Randy Pausch gives last lecture
Randy is a great guy -- no professor has done more for his students 
in every way.

Best wishes,

From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] Is our fondness for Cuisenaire Rods just nostalgia?
Hi David --

I was using the actual Cuisenaire Rods as an analogy to the need for 
concrete manipulables for magnitude and sense. When we found them in 
early classrooms we painted arrows on them to turn them into vectors 
and got the kids to start thinking about concrete ideas of 
accumulation in dimensions 1, 2, and 3. The best thing to use today 
is an extension of the original Rods ideas that aims very strongly at 
geometric vector representations for arithmetic and many other 
branches of mathematics.

A general comment about educational fluency is that most of the best 
ideas in education in powerful ideas for young minds go back more 
than 100 years -- and my opinion is that the best ideas of the last 
hundred years are enough to make great curricula for children today. 
This is not a conservative statement, but a radical one. (Almost none 
of the best ideas from the last 100 years are in most classrooms today.)



  05:20 AM 10/3/2007, David Corking wrote:
From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] Re: [Etoys] OLPC mass production started

Cheers to all!

From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] Re: A Hero for One Laptop Per Child (RE: [Etoys] OLPC mass production started)
I would be very disappointed, even appalled, to see my name as a hero 
here. The notion of a "Hero" seems to be partly built into human 
nervous systems and is a favorite trope in stories. This idea 
seriously distorted and masked how Xerox PARC actually worked, for example.

OLPC has been making progress because quite a few talented people 
decided to take responsibility for different needs of the project. I 
am very proud of the Viewpoints researchers who really got behind 
this because they believed in it.

So there are a lot of heros, if that is the word. I think of it more 
as "there are a lot of enlightened people" and it bodes well for 
humanity when they decide to take action.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] Panel discussion: Can the American Mind be Opened?
Hi David --

I think "constructivism" (like "object-oriented") has been so 
appropriated and redefined as to be a useless term today (I certainly 
don't know what it means -- and am not sure I ever did).

I think it's much better to simply try to puzzle out the nature of 
the desired learning, and then to find workable pathways for the 
different kinds of learners. This has been done quite well in 
(admittedly simpler) areas like sports and music, where the learner 
has the distinct advantage of being able to watch practitioners and 
gain some idea of what the subject area is all about and what might 
be fun and rewarding about it.

Two of the biggest barriers to math and science learner are (a) the 
prospective learner has very little idea what the activities actually 
are (though they still might think they could be "cool" because of 
"rocket ships", etc.), and (b) there are so few real practitioners 
around (available) to help give them a sense of how to get started. 
Schools (and many adults) introduce another barrier, which is a 
profound misunderstanding of what it means to be fluent in math and 
science (the misunderstanding is usually in the form of thinking that 
math and science are fact and pattern based, and that learning the 
facts and the patterns is what is required). I've used the " 'music 
appreciation' instead of 'music' " analogy for this misunderstanding.

Once we get some sense of what "the doing of math and science" is all 
about, the main question remaining is "for learners, what is the best 
balance between doing and being advised that should be set up?". This 
is pretty well understood for sports and music for both children and 
adults. As Tim Gallwey once said about teaching tennis: "the main 
problem with traditional tennis teaching is that the parts of your 
mind that learn to play tennis don't understand English!" (Of course 
he meant that a little English goes a long way, and a lot of English 
simply can't be translated into tennis action.)

It is almost certainly the case that different subject matters (and 
different learners) can tolerate more or less of direct instruction 
in English, so it is worthwhile to get a rough assessment of this 
when trying to invent a curriculum. However, I don't think it is 
controversial to state that learning to play music or tennis is 
really about lots of actual guided and coached (and uncoached) doing 
of the activities. Most mathematicians would agree about math 
learning, and most scientists would agree about science learning.

If we look at human history, we can see that "pure discovery" 
learning by children or adults usually results in weak ideas. On the 
other hand, rote learning usually doesn't work very well for any 
subject that has some art to it. (Playing lots of scales or 
memorizing chord progressions does not a musician make.)

So there has to be discovery and creativity of a sort, and this is 
done by good teachers and writers as a kind of "guided discovery" 
(sometimes by great environmental design as in classic Montessori 
education). Perhaps the most wonderful thing about human learning is 
that something that required a genius to invent or discover (like 
calculus) can very often be learned by non-geniuses if given help. 
One of the best accomplishments of the Etoys work over the years (and 
reaching back to Seymour) is that, while no 10 year old has ever 
invented calculus, we now know how to help most 10 year olds get 
fluent in a number of the most important ideas in calculus. This is 
real progress.

I think science is the most difficult of the "new thinking" to teach 
and learn because it is the farthest from normal commonsense 
perception and thinking. It is also the most critical of human reason 
because the nice crisp logic of math is only approximately mapped to 
considerations of the actual universe (it doesn't have to work like 
our current math or brains). So just what "doing science" should mean 
for children is not nearly as clear as for sports, music or math. I 
think that the "Galilean Gravity" project that is done so well by 5th 
graders is an excellent example of one of the "real science" 
activities children should be doing. But I would be surprised if it 
and projects like it are comprehensive enough to cover all that is 
needed. Part of the internalizing of the epistemology of science 
seems to come from so many examples from so many parts of science 
that show "the world is not as it seems", but also allow some pretty 
powerful generalizations to be drawn about many of the non-intuitive 
workings of the universe.

One of the paradoxes about many kinds of learning is that you can 
learn a lot about a subject by reading after you have learned the 
subject pretty well by lots of doing. But the subjects we've been 
discussing are not often (if ever) learned above threshold without 
lots of doing to provide a foundation of deep understanding for later 
listening and reading.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] Educational research
Hi Folks --

Books are a real technology. Most people think
that classrooms would be less rich without books
and the literacy of reading and writing about
ideas. (I do too.) And very few would disagree
with the idea that the fruits of the printing
press were one of the largest and most important
forces in bringing forth our modern era. Yet, in
the US where classrooms do have books, and there
are free public libraries in most towns,
education is failing. Should we blame the book or
should we blame the classrooms and what's behind them?

One of the deepest built-in traits of human
beings is "magical thinking" (superstitions,
rituals, similarities, contagions), elements of
which are found in most human behavior. This is
reflected in many parts of education e.g the
correct rituals will cause it to happen, or the
proper effigies and/or contact with substances
will cause it to happen. This is what "air
guitar" (and much of fashion) is all about. It's
always been a problem, and is likely worse today
because the combination of media and pop culture
is almost overwhelmingly focussed on form rather than content.

Some studies on the actualizations of
personalities suggest that the decisive step is
to take responsibility for what's necessary to
turn a fantasy into actuality. In the US this has
moved from a problem of individuals to a problem of the entire society.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] Need advice about teaching programming to children
Hi --

The biggest difference between elementary school children - and teens 
and adults - is in their ability to make plans and carry them out -- 
quite a bit of this seems to be developmental and thus somewhat 
related to age (where ages 11-13 are a pivot point between one kind 
of planning and more elaborate plans). A second developmental 
difference is in how certain kinds of abstractions can be learned and 
used -- one could easily divide up the elementary years into 3 or 4 
categories based on the kinds of abstractions and the forms for them. 
Some of these results have been used in both Scratch and Etoys to 
achieve a better cognitive fit.

The most important questions for you to ask yourself have to do with 
your ultimate goals for teaching programming to children. Programming 
can be a route towards learning lots of powerful ideas and thinking 
processes, but it is not sufficient all by itself (the class of 
programmers today doesn't appear to be necessarily very enlightened 
or knowledgeable about much of anything by virtue of learning to 
program). So you need some goals, and then some ways to possibly use 
programming to help children learn what you hope.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] Panel discussion: Can the American Mind be Opened?
Here's what we did for City Building, Playground, and then Etoys 
(I've written about this before, but I don't think on this thread). 
"City Building" is a wonderful (at that time non-computer) curriculum 
designed by Doreen Nelson that is very rich and has been used 
successfully for many age ranges - in our case we implemented it with 
Doreen's help for 3rd graders - which was the youngest group tried up 
to that point. Google Doreen and "City Building" for a wealth of info 
on this terrific curriculum design.

Playground was a different way to do Etoys (similar graphics model 
and a different programming model). This was implemented in a grade 
4-5 classroom (the school didn't have grades by age, but "clusters" 
by developmental level - which works a lot better).

Doreen helped in every step of introducing "City Building" to very 
willing "3rd grade" teachers. Still, it took 3 years before the deep 
quality in the curriculum was manifest in the classroom and in the 
students and what they did and how they did it. Photographs of each 
of the three years would not reveal much visible difference. It was 
what the children were concerned with, how they talked about it, and 
how they went about the processes that changed profoundly. Trying to 
trace all this back into "what happened?" we came to the inescapable 
(and not too surprising) conclusion that the teachers had also 
changed -- they had learned much more about design and systems over 
the three years, and this was manifested in a "well above threshold" 
assessment from Doreen and the rest of us in the 3rd year.

It's worth noting that assessments of fluency do not require control 
groups because what is being judged is not a teaching method or a 
curriculum per se, but results. Were the children doing deep "City 
Building"? No for the first two tries, Yes from the 3rd try onwards. 
Similarly, "are the children doing real math and real science or 
not?" Questions like these are easily answered by people who can tell 
the difference (just as musicians and coaches can assess their 
learners for degrees of fluency).

The City Building experience and our long stay in this school allowed 
us to try the same multiple year assessment for Playground 
programming and its curriculum (with similar results). Basically, 
there are just a lot of things that don't get normalized in single 
trials of even worthwhile curriculum ideas that get smoothed out over 
a few years. The teacher gets more knowledgeable and confident. The 
curriculum is improved from some of the bugs found. The software 
often requires tons of work over the three years before it is above 
threshold, etc.

When we started on Etoys 10 years ago, we had the three year trial in 
mind, and decided that all the initial curriculum would be tested 
over three years before we wrote it up (the substance of Kim's and 
BJ's book "Powerful Ideas in the Classroom" is about a dozen 
projects, each of which was tested over three years).

What we don't know from this methodology is whether there are better 
ways to teach Etoys and the math and science powerful ideas in these 
examples. And we don't know whether the choices of the math and 
science examples are the most appropriate. But what we do know is 
that the processes of their book are highly likely to result in more 
than 90% of a class of children getting fluent in what's in the book, 
and that includes strong elements of differential vector geometry, 
acceleration and Galilean gravity, etc.

This leads to interesting arguments, especially wrt young children, 
of the kind "if you can get 10-11 year olds to do real math and real 
science, then it doesn't much matter what the specific subject matter 
is". And "if the specific subject matter can be strongly related to 
adult uses and thinking about real math and real science, then all the better".

This bypasses the much more difficult problems of taking a given 
theory of subject matter (school maths, etc.) and trying to contrast 
different ways of teaching it. We do not do that at all, and the 
Etoys work was done as part of "science time" in these classrooms (a 
great place to teach real math given the difficulties with the school 
math goals and processes).

The main point here is that above threshold fluency for 90%+ of the 
children is one of the most important benchmarks -- and it can be 
done a little more easily than trying to use specific control groups 
if the subject matter is very different from school theories, yet 
still recognizable by experts.

A side comment. The reactions against "the new" take partial form in 
demands for "super scientific studies", and most of these are simply 
not feasible, if our "three years for a good experiment" is valid. 
But the largest most devastating studies in the US are the "whole 
country" results that show beyond a shadow of a doubt that the 
existing educational process is not resulting in more than a small 
percentage of children getting above acceptable thresholds in 
reading, writing, math and science (and thinking). This is the 
problem they don't want to even discuss. Contrastive studies are not 
interesting unless both are above threshold. If neither are, back to 
the drawing board. If one is, then a more detailed contrast is of little value.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] Panel discussion: Can the American Mind be Opened?
Hi David --

At 05:29 PM 11/23/2007, David Corking wrote:
>It was not my intention earlier in this thread to challenge the work
>of Viewpoints.

I certainly didn't take it that way - in part because we claim almost 
nothing. What we have been interested in is whether 90% of the 
children we've worked with -- taught by a teacher, not by us -- gain 
real fluency in what we are trying to teach them. We found that it 
took 3 years to introduce each new curriculum element (as described 
in my last post).

>Instead I wanted to get a foothold into understanding
>how the powerful 'progressive' and 'back to basics' movements could be
>rationally compared with alternatives.

I disagree with the simplistic versions of both of these. If 
"progressive" means what it meant long ago - "Dewey education" - then 
I am very much in favor of what he was trying to do and what he wrote 
about. If "back to basics" means "Bennet or E.D. Hirsh", then I'm 
very much in disagreement with what they are trying to do, and their 
general view of "education".

Subjects like real math and real science, with a goal to help 
children get fluent, are best assessed by real mathematicians and 
real scientists. Separate issues are: what parts of the real stuff 
should be taught to children, how should the teaching be done, etc. 
This is very important in its own right - recall the very bad choices 
made by real mathematicians when they chose set theory, numerals as 
short-hand for polynomials, etc. during the "new math" debacle. This 
is why Seymour Papert was so impressive -- he was that rarity, a 
first class mathematician who both cared about and understood 
important principles of how children think. He chose real math that 
was both deep and in rhythm with how children think about relationships.

>Thank you for taking my question as a provocation

I didn't

>  - it is very
>illuminating to read the work of Rose, Kay et al justified from this
>I need to confess now that I have read 'Mindstorms' but not yet
>'Powerful Ideas' - does the book address whether or not there is a
>'Hawthorne effect' in the trials?

"Powerful Ideas" is written to help teachers teach a dozen or so 
projects in real math and real science, using Etoys. It makes no 
claims and leaves a tiny bit of philosophy to the Afterword.

>  In other words, could simply the
>intensive attention of all involved, coupled with the novelty,
>willingness to persevere for the second and third year, and the
>involvement of real subject matter experts, have been sufficient in
>itself to produce a fluency result that is well above acceptable

Schools should be all about the Hawthorne Effect. The ones that 
aren't should be closed.

I think you misunderstood one part of my description of the process. 
The 3 years is with the same teacher but with three different groups 
of children. Each group deals with the materials and process for the 
same amount of time.

The other part of your question wasn't asked or answered by what we 
did (since we wanted the children to express the math and science 
they learned in terms of working Etoy models). That's what we tried 
to do, and that's what we assessed.

If the "it takes 3 years" story seems reasonable to you, then imagine 
what it would take to do a real longitudinal transfer experiment 
using control groups (about 7 years). We have never been able to find 
a funder that is willing to fund what it really takes.

>  Is it provable(*) that the student creation of computer
>models, for example, is a necessary condition of learning 'real math'

It's provable that it isn't (people have been learning "real math 
fluency" for thousands of years without computers). The important 
thing (Papert again) is what math and when? Computers make a huge 
difference here for pretty much everyone. Also, see the Afterword in 
the book for what science learning is really about (hint: computers 
are not at all required, but they allow more rich choices in the 
world of the child).

I've used many analogies to music in the past. You don't need musical 
instruments to teach music, they just help (and in no small part 
because there are lots of different kinds). A child who is not that 
interesting in singing might be very interested in learning the 
guitar, one that is not interested in guitar might be interested in a 
sax, etc. Different learners need lots of different entry points. 
Computers can provide many different entry points, and can be the 
medium for the kinds of mathematics that science uses. A pretty good 

>* By 'provable', I mean: "could a future experiment be designed to
>prove my assertion, or, even better, could a reasoned argument prove
>my assertion?"

No. But something might be done with a goal of more than 90% fluency 
-- computers could almost be indispensable here ...

>Further, but perhaps drifting off topic for squeakland, is it provable
>that 'back to basics' and 'progressivism' are equally as inadequate?

I said above that the simplistic versions of both are quite 
wrongheaded in my opinion. If you don't understand mathematics, then 
it doesn't matter what your educational persuasion might be -- the 
odds are greatly in favor that it will be quite misinterpreted.

>Or is the poor performance of public education in  some countries a
>consequence, not of the learning theory nor curriculum, but caused by
>the 'received wisdom' not being applied properly, or even some
>external factors, such as low resources, attitudes to authority, or
>the currently fashionable complaint of students' learning styles not
>being catered for?

If you like multiple choice tests, then (e) all of the above.




From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] Panel discussion: Can the American Mind be Opened?
Hi David --

At 02:25 AM 11/24/2007, David Corking wrote:
>Hi Alan, You digressed into 'new math' and I disagree
>You wrote:
> >
> > Separate issues are: what parts of the real stuff should be taught to
> > children, how should the teaching be done, etc. This is very 
important in
> > its own right - recall the very bad choices made by real 
> mathematicians when
> > they chose set theory, numerals as short-hand for polynomials, 
etc. during
> > the "new math" debacle.
>When I was 16 I moved schools, and joined a cohort who had been
>educated in the Schools Mathematics Project, a English incarnation of
>'new math'.  I had kind of a traditional classical math education up
>to that point, and I felt like a fish out of water for a few weeks.
>My first impression was that my new classmates thought much more like
>real mathematicians, and at first that seemed like a pointless stuffy
>homage to academia.

Of course, I was referring to elementary school new math in the US, 
which tried to teach arithmetic via set theory and polynomial bases 
for different numeral systems. It would not be at all surprising if 
the SMP were better.

The point is not about the worth of set theory and number theory 
(both good topics for high school) but about whether they are 
appropriate for younger children. I have degrees in both pure math 
and molecular biology, and I agree very strongly with Papert's view 
that various kinds of geometrical thinking, especially incremental, 
are better set up for children's minds, and also allow deeper 
mathematical thinking to be started much earlier in life.

One way to think about this is that "mathematical thinking" (like 
musical thinking) is somewhat separate from particular topics - so 
the idea is to choose the most felicitous ones.

>Later I learned to enjoy the math for its own sake, but I had another
>surprise a couple of years later.  The SMP kids seemed much better
>equipped for the world of applied math at university and technical
>college.  Set theory and number theory are vital for computer
>scientists (as I understand), matrix algebra and numerical methods for
>engineers.  So when I got to college (to study engineering), I was
>glad to have had a chance to try my hand at real nineteenth century
>math in high school.
>By the way, I never learned, even today, any kind of general algebra
>or shorthand for polynomials, so I cannot comment on that.

I think you did, since "356" and all other numeral forms of numbers 
(whatever their base) are shorthands for polynomials (the 3, 4, and 6 
are the coefficients for polynomials of powers of ten in this case).

>It didn't hurt that in those days, most math teachers in England were
>math major graduates (so perhaps an example of the benefits of the
>Hawthorne effect we discussed.)

Why call this Hawthorne? I don't think this is what you mean here.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] Educational research
At 07:32 PM 11/23/2007, subbukk wrote:
>On Thursday 22 November 2007 11:26 pm, Alan Kay wrote:
> > Hi Folks --
> >
> > .... Yet, in
> > the US where classrooms do have books, and there
> > are free public libraries in most towns,
> > education is failing. Should we blame the book or
> > should we blame the classrooms and what's behind them?
>It is a quantity vs. quality issue. Books are indeed numerous and 
>but well-written books are hard to find.

That's what libraries are all about, and why there are lots of books 
on all important topics. Different learners need different points of view.

>  I recollect my frustration
>in "understanding" electromagnetism during my school days 
till I stumbled on
>Maxwell's original article in a edited collection stashed in a dusty 
>of a library. Here, at last, was a spirited presentation written without
>recourse to circumlocutions, jargons or acronyms.
>Technology can help in keeping such "books" in active circulation 
>and make the
>term "out of print" obsolete.

I agree -- and, it's worthwhile thinking of libraries as an example 
of such a technology as well.
From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] Panel discussion: Can the American Mind be Opened?
Thanks Bill --

I think you make the central point about all this.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: However ...Re: [Squeakland] Panel discussion: Can the American Mind be Opened?
Hi Bill --

I just read Professor Wu's paper. I agree in the large with his 
assertion that the dichotomy is bogus, but I worry a lot about his 
arguments, assumptions and examples. There are some close analogies 
here to some of the mistakes that professional musicians make when 
they try to teach beginners -- for example, what can a beginner 
handle, and especially, how does a young beginner think?

Young children are very good at learning individual operations, but 
they are not well set up for chains of reasoning/operations. Take a 
look at the chains of reasoning that Wu thinks 4th and 5th graders 
should be able to do.

Another thing that stands out (that Wu as a mathematician is very 
well aware of at some level) is that while people of all ages 
traditionally have problems with "invert and multiply", the actual 
tricky relationship for fractions is the multiplicative one
                        a/b * c/d = (a * c)/(b * d)
which in normal 2D notation, looks quite natural. However, it was one 
of the triumphs of Greek mathematics to puzzle this out (they thought 
about this a little differently: as comeasuration, which is perhaps a 
more interesting way to approach the problem).

A few years ago I did a bunch of iconic derivations for fractions and 
made Etoys that tried to lead (adults mostly) through the reasoning. 
One of the best things about the divide one is that it doesn't need 
the multiplication relationship but is able to go directly to the 
formula. So these could be used in the 5th grade.

But why?, when there are much deeper and more important relationships 
and thinking strategies that can be learned? What is the actual point 
of "official fractions" in 5th grade? There are many other ways to 
approach fractional thinking and computation. I like teaching math 
with understanding, and this particular topic at this time - and 
provided as a "law" that children have to memorize - seems really 
misplaced and wrong. Etc.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: However ...Re: [Squeakland] Panel discussion: Can the American Mind be Opened?
Hi Bill --

I think the main thing in teaching "number" is to distinguish it from 
"name" or "numeral" -- and I think the rush towards teaching "base 10 
numerals" too early is one of the big problems in early elementary 
mathematics. Numbers are ordered ideas that can be put in 
correspondence and taken apart and recombined at will. Names and 
numerals are symbols for these ideas that have varying degrees of 
usefulness for different purposes. So one of the biggest questions 
any math educator should ask is: what symbols should I initially 
employ for numbers to help children understand "number" most throughly?

Most "child math" experts - like Mary Laycock, Julia Nishijima, etc. 
- would argue that a wide variety of analog (both unary and 
continuous) representations should be employed together (bundles of 
sticks, bags of objects, lengths of stuff, etc.), and each of these 
can have several labels attached ("one", 1, etc.). These can stay in 
use for much longer than is usually done in school. E.g. Some really 
great "adding slide rules" can be made from rulers, and then the 
children can make some really detailed large ones (even using their 
playground for baselines). These adding slide rules can add any two 
numbers together very accurately, whether "fractional" or not, and 
they can have scale changes to reveal what is invariant about two 
numbers (their ratio), etc. This can be used to make multiplication 
machines, etc.

Another use of number that uses names in a non-destructive way is the 
"equality game" of "how many ways can you make a number". First 
graders are very good at this an even though they don't know what 
"1000000" stands for (except it is large) they understand that they 
can make this or any other number many ways by a combination of 
additions and subtractions that add up to zero. This is a way to 
start algebraic thinking without needing variables. And so forth.

Wu actually makes a point against himself when he argues that phonics 
decoding is a good idea, even though no fluent reader decodes. This 
is similar to how sight reading is taught, especially for keyboards. 
Eventually the pattern results in a direct hand shape and mental 
"image" of the sound (or for text reading, a mental image of the 
idea). The question is how to get there, and teaching how to decode 
seems to help a little in early stages (maybe even just for morale 
purposes) rather than trying to teach either like Chinese characters. 
It takes 2-5 years to get fluent at such learning, so there usually 
need to be other supporting mechanisms (not the least is material 
that can be dealt with successfully after a few months or a year).

So, what Wu should be asking is "what framework do children need to 
get started in number and mathematical thinking about number?".

Another interesting example of what is not happening came out in a 
Mary Laycock workshop in which I was a "floor guy" (literally since I 
was on the floor with the children). One of Mary's games was to hand 
out a series of sheets of 10 by 10 squares, each divided in regions, 
with the question, "how many squares are in each region?" The 4th-5th 
grade children start by counting the squares in the regions. As the 
regions got more complicated, the children did not see that they 
could switch over to geometrical reasoning -- to see what fraction of 
the whole was occupied by each region and then divide -- instead they 
kept on trying to count the little squares and fractions of squares. 
Children who had learned to think mathematically would have had a 
strategy to look for the best representations for the problems, and 
these children had not acquired many (if any) math meta-skills.

To bring up a musical analogy again ... one of the best collections 
of advice about how to teach children to play the keyboard is in 
Francois Couperin's 1720 treatise "The Art of Playing the 
Harpsichord". First, he says, keep the children away from the 
harpsichord because it isn't musically expressive enough. And keep 
away from sheet music because it "isn't music". Instead, take them to 
the clavichord (loud, soft, and pitch modulation -- more expressive 
than a piano) and teach them how to play some of their favorite songs 
that they like to sing, and help them be as expressive in their 
playing as their singing is. This is music. Play duets with the 
children, etc. After they have done this for a sufficient time (from 
6 months to several years), then you can introduce them to the 
initially less expressive harpsichord (which, like the organ, can 
only be expressive through phrasing). But they will have learned to 
phrase very naturally from their clavichord experience and this will 
start to come out in their harpsichord playing. Finally, now that 
they have learned to "talk" (my metaphor), they can learn to read. 
Now they can be shown the written down forms of what they have been 
playing. And now they can start to learn to sight read music.

When I was teaching guitar long ago, I used this basic scheme as much 
as possible, because "real guitar" has to be both music and 
"attention out" (so that you can mesh musically in a conversation 
with other musicians). Also, the guitar has some serious physical 
problems which have to be addressed gradually over weeks and months. 
Getting the students to play real stuff while all this is going on 
makes a foundation for the next level of much harder work. Learning 
to play patterns by ear allows the player to concentrate on their 
musicality and accuracy. Then they can be shown the patterns as both 
shapes and as decoded mappings in members of a key, etc.

The egregiously misunderstood Suzuki violin method also follows these 
ideas. (It isn't mechanical -- read his books.)

Couperin's essay is a pretty good set of distinctions concerning the 
general confusions between art and technique, and between ideas and 
media. You eventually have to get to all of these, but leading with 
art and ideas tends to preserve art and ideas, and leading with 
technique and media tends to kill art and ideas. I think it is really 
that simple.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] looking for some advice on teaching Squeak to advanced high school kids
Hi Oscar --

Let's exchange a few emails about this.

First, what would you do if the kids were University students with 
the same experience? You have a day and a half, and you want to get 
them to see what is interesting about a dynamic object environment 
with a metasystem.

How much time (and how to use it) would you allocate to learning the 
language, debugger, stuff in class library, and metastuff? What kinds 
of dynamic changes would you get them to do? (E.g. how about changing 
the shape of objects that are dynamically in use? We once added a few 
instance variables to Morphic, etc., and it was interesting how well 
this worked ... .)

A problem with the short time (i.e. let's learn to play piano in a 
day and a half) is that it will be difficult to come up with a 
convincing example that is not fairly easy to do in a static early 
bound language (dynamic languages excel when dealing with difficult 
complex systems that are hard to debug otherwise). (One of the 
reasons Simula was not appreciated as it should have been in the 60s 
was that the example in their ACM paper (that was small enough to put 
in a paper) was fairly easy to do in Algol -- most people missed that 
Simula really scaled for many important problems where Algol did not.)

What are your thoughts so far?


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] music and math
Sounds as though the music teacher didn't understand math and what it 
is all about.

(By "music theory" he probably meant the kinds of ("keyboard") 
harmony that are covered in the first year or two of college.)

The kinds of thinking here are a lot like what is done in geometry. 
For example, one way to think of chords is as shapes whose "side 
lengths" are measured in semi-tone intervals (the smallest interval 
between two adjacent notes on a piano keyboard). These "distances" 
have been made uniform since the late 18th or early 19th century (not 
without musical penalty, see below).

So a major chord in closed position has the shape 4-3 and a minor 
chord has the shape 3-4. So a chord of any kind can be built by 
starting on any note and counting intervals. This scheme normalizes 
chords in the same way triangles are normalized by their shapes. 
Scales are normalized in the same way, and thus this also normalizes keys.

In harmonic theory, we are interested in how melodies can be 
harmonized by adding chords, how a sequence of chords (called a 
"chord pattern") "works" musically, how movements to other keys and 
returns can be made, etc. The first order and second order theories 
of these are very different. There is a famous 18th century piece by 
Purcell called "The Contest Between Melodie and Harmonie", and this 
sums up what Baroque music was all about. The golden age of Jazz 
(roughly, the 20th century until the late 50s or so) followed a very 
similar pathway in how melody and harmony were thought about (and not 
entirely by separate invention).

The first order theory is very much about how tensions are introduced 
and relaxed, how the notion of a "key center" can be used to provide 
stability (and length) for excursions, how bass lines can be used to 
solidify movements, etc. The second order theory was used very 
strongly by Bach then less so until roughly Wagner, and then in 
highly developed show and pop music (by stage bands, etc.) to try to 
intertwine melodic devices (like voice leading) with larger harmonic 
schemes that would force "emergent harmonizations" that are not 
easily described by the first order theory. What is called "chord 
substitution" (alternate harmonizations, sometimes of breathtaking 
beauty) in Jazz heavily rely on such mechanisms.

"Mathematics" is a plural because it is about many different ways of 
"thinking very carefully" with invented representations and inference 
rules. So this kind of thinking about music is mathematics (i.e. 
rather than "like math", it is math). And, within music, there are 
lots of ways of making generalizations that help with styles.

For example, my pipe organ and harpsichord have the older tuning 
schemes used in the 17th century. Why would anyone revert? Here's the 
problem (as first discovered to their horror by the Pythagoreans). 
Octaves are multiples of 2. The harmonic 5th is the third harmonic, 
which is a multiple of 3. So if you try to make a scale by running 
out the 5ths (of 5ths etc.) they will never come back to the original 
note (2 and 3 are relatively prime). One way of running out the 
"circle of 5ths" creates a discrepency of about 1/75th of an octave. 
The equal tuning system mentioned above divides out this glitch 
evenly by making every 5th a little bit flat (and this results in 
rather wide 3rds). This works (sort of) OK on a piano because it 
doesn't have a lot of harmonics and most people are not very 
sensitive to in-tune-ness. Here, every chord is equally out of tune!

On an organ or harpsichord (which are very rich in harmonics), the 
result of equal tuning is that major chords don't hold still, and 
minor chords are jangly. The older tuning schemes made some chords 
much more perfect and sacrificed others. This results in a harmonic 
theory that is partly about "sunlight" and "storms" depending on what 
keys you are playing in and how the harmonic progressions are 
devised. Because the harmonics are different on organs, harpsichords, 
clavichords, fortepianos, etc., it is not unusual for each to have a 
somewhat different unequal tuning to deal with the strengths and 
weaknesses provided. Some of the greatest music in the world was 
composed using these different bases for thinking, and much of this 
music loses much of its meaning in a modern tuning scheme.

And, there is a math to these other ways of thinking about how things 
go together, but it is a somewhat different math. The analogy is to 
the many kinds of geometries - all mathematical - that have been 
devised starting in the 19th century.

Referencing back to "art" and "technique". Learning all this doesn't 
necessarily make you into a composer or a better player, just as 
learning painting technique doesn't necessarily produce art. But if 
the artistic impulses are working then all this technique is 
tremendously helpful. Unfortunately for education, knowing technique 
is often all that is asked of a teacher .... oops!


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] Re: [Etoys] distributing squeak on a network
It used to work on all platforms ...


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] Etoys - create duplicate (not sibling) from a script?
Hi Mark --

We should have done this better.

Here is how I handle things that are "like this" 
this may or may not work for your case.

If you build a bunch of components on a Playfield 
it is smart enough to act as a little name-space, 
so when it is copied all the links between the 
components will be preserved in the new composite 
object. (Again, we should do this better.)

So e.g. if you have an object that is controlled 
by a joystick morph, you can put both of these in 
a Playfield, copy the Playfield, and the new 
object and the new joystick will be linked.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [Squeakland] Squeak's effect on Open School students
Thanks BJ!


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [squeakland] (SQ-749) and Kathleen's question on "What do you mean by Artifacts?"
Hi Steve,

A good slogan for teaching, pedagogy, and curriculum design is "When 
should it be easy, and when should it be hard?". 

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)

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.

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.

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. 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.

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.

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. 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)?

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. 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. 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. 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.

Let me know your views.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [squeakland] [etoys-dev] (SQ-749) and Kathleen's question on "What do you mean by Artifacts?"
One of the "Hypercard killers" was a knockoff called HyperStudio, 
which replaced scripting by features.

This was very popular in schools because most people (Americans especially) are 
driven by pragmatism rather than interest in understanding. They don't have the 
desire or will to try to understand if something already does a function.

Needless to say HyperStudio created a disaster of learning even as it seemed to 
be a good idea to many


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [squeakland] [etoys-dev] (SQ-749) and Kathleen's question on "What do you mean by Artifacts?"
Hi Steve,

Thanks for the thoughtful note!

By "when easy and when hard?" I meant parts of the pedagogical and learning 
processes that have been tested out ahead of time. For example, Ted Williams 
(one of the greatest hitters of the last 70 years) determined through experiment 
that using a batting tee (which he invented) would really help one very 
important aspect of learning to hit. On the other hand, it has also been 
determined by experiment that putting frets on a violin doesn't help, and is 
even retrograde. There are many such questions in mathematics, science, and 
especially computing. In writing, it is not thought to be a good thing to use a 
"library of already written sentences and paragraphs" to aid composing a piece. 
But it is done all the time in computing (and sometimes this is helpful for some 
of the reasons you list, and sometimes it is a very bad idea because it makes it 
easy to ignore building some of the important fluencies).

I still don't recognize the quote .... but 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).

Criticizing teachers and adults accurately is not bashing. And the real problems 
have to be faced. I was very lucky to have learned to read fluently and rapidly 
before I entered school, and this gave me a way -- via home and town libraries 
-- to bypass "the barriers of adults in learning" pretty effectively except for 
too many unpleasant personal interactions. That being said, I also had several 
exemplary teachers who made a big difference in my life (and you can't 
substitute books for these). But the ratios of bad vs good were horrendous, and 
books can be read and discarded rapidly to find the good ones. The wide range of 
personality and motivational types we find in children suggests that "better 
adults" are really critical for many of them -- not all of them will be as 
driven as I was to get around the barriers.

The "older kids" path is a good one, and can help a lot, and much more should be 
done with it.

The other thing to ponder is that it is philosophically possible to make a 
technology that lies somewhere between what books already do -- bring us 
important parts of genius teachers and minds in a form that can be replicated 
and distributed by the millions -- and what great human teachers can do. Exactly 
how far this can go and what kinds of people it can work with is yet to be found 
out. For example, could we imagine "a book that can help kids learn how to read 
it"? What if we took (say) Dr Seuss books and "did something" that could help a 
child to read them in a variety of ways? (And by the way, here is a perfect 
example of "when easy, when hard?", because an overshoot of giving too much help 
could remove the motivation of the children to learn how to read themselves.)

To pick neutral ground, a lot of really valuable help in learning music could be 
given by "superbooks" -- and this is partly (a) because there is a lot known 
about how to teach various aspects of music (especially learning how to play an 
instrument), and (b) because this is one area in which "good listening" can 
already be done by computer programs. ("Good watching" is not so easy to do at 
this point.) And (c) because the computer doesn't have to do all the listening 
-- it can help the learner listen as well in a variety of ways. This is a key 
idea in several language learning environments available now.

Some subjects will be quite challenging to do "good watching" in for some time 
to come. But quite a bit of mathematics and especially that which overlaps with 
special kinds of programming have the possibility of doing good watching, so we 
can expect to start seeing much better environments for children over the next 
10 years or so.

Re Maria Montessori -- she struggled to design her environment as well, but she 
stuck with it (and was a special kind of genius), so she got many good results. 
She is definitely a patron saint of ours ....

Re Galilean gravity ... For now, I suggest the much easier route of making "jpeg 
movies" (they are just a folder of images whose names sort in order). The Etoys 
movie player has an option for playing such jpeg files.

One of the projects for etoys that is illuminating is to make a simple movie 
player using animated images. (This is a perfect example of Etoys needing to 
have a way to package up objects (it actually does, but it is not very 
convenient -- the "world menu" has an option for saving morphs, and all the 
connections between them will be preserved if the objects are put in a Playfield 

That said, I completely agree that "objects should be easy to package, reuse and 
to share".

I think I'm not understanding your graphing example. It is "pretty easy" to 
position text objects containing numbers (you can adjust the centers of any 
object and the x and y coordinates can have some arithmetic done to them with 
results put in the numeric value). Please give me more info here.

I don't think "just everything" should have to be made from scratch in order to 
learn -- but I also think that one of the reasons that so many adults don't get 
fluent at this stuff is that they don't make enough things from scratch. 
(Analogies to drawing and painting, sports, music, etc. should be drawn here.) 
And, sure, they are already busy and there isn't a lot of spare time -- so the 
bootstrapping process is difficult when the adults start late, after they are 
already busy. There are chicken and egg problems also. The more fluency that is 
attained also changes perceptions and realities about easy and hard.

To go to science, most scientists learn most of their knowledge from reading, 
but it is the "real science" they do when they are starting out that changes 
what they are doing later from "believing in a new catechism" to "actually 
thinking as a scientist about scientific relationships". Similarly, there is a 
certain amount of "To know the world, one must construct it" (Pavese) that is 
absolutely critical in learning mathematics, where part of the main point is to 
chain together inferences and to understand how claims are preserved via that 

Re: the next Etoy-like environment. The current plan is to work on a "science 
and systems" curriculum for ca 8th grade and to make a computer environment that 
can really make a difference for this curriculum. This will not be an extension 
of Etoys, but will be more comprehensive in many areas, and will have new 
abilities in others. It should wind up being better than Etoys for the 5th 
graders that Etoys was originally aimed at, and it should fix many of the 
problems that we all agree are there in the current version.

Please do follow through with your plan of asking for 3 (or 20) things -- 
thoughtful comments like yours are like gold for us.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [squeakland] [etoys-dev] (SQ-749) and Kathleen's question on "What do you mean by Artifacts?"
Hi Stephen

It seems to work (see attached picture). 

Remember that "text is text", if you want to use it as a label then you can 
center it by using the FF menu.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [squeakland] [etoys-dev] (SQ-749) and Kathleen's question on "What do you mean by Artifacts?"
Sure ... one way to think of this is that you can start with a sample text 
object that you modify to make a "prototype" of the ones you want to use as 
numeric labels. Make them wide enough, center the text, make the background the 
same as the background of the screen (so it will make a nice space when it is 
positioned over a line, etc.)

You can put this in a variable and then make copies (instances) of it to 
actually use as labels.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [squeakland] [etoys-dev] (SQ-749) and Kathleen's question on "What do you mean by Artifacts?"
Thanks Steve!

These are very helpful (and many are on our list already). Please don't hesitate 
to suggest more as we go forward.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [squeakland] [etoys-dev] (SQ-749) and Kathleen's question on "What do you mean by Artifacts?"
Sounds good to me!


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [squeakland] [IAEP] Plan Ceibal y/and General Electric
GE is being congratulated for recognizing that the iPhone and iPad are pretty 
good ideas and technological realizations. But isn't this like the 
congratulations Bill Gates got for finally recognizing the Internet (about 25 
years after it had started working)?

Seems as though Apple had a lot more on the ball than Bill Gates or GE here 
(they used to do computing in the 60s, but couldn't see what it was).

And most of the ideas at Apple (and for personal computing and the Internet) 
came from research funding that no company or government has been willing to do 
since 1982.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [squeakland] [IAEP] Plan Ceibal y/and General Electric
Hi Chunka,

I've been challenged on this point more than once, and have challenged back to 
come up  with one invention that was done after 1980 that matches up to the top  
10 done before 1980. 

This has not happened. I've been able to show the prior art for all suggestions.

Essentially everything in the last 30 years has been commercializations  and 
other forms of "innovation" based on what was funded by ARPA, ONR,  and by 
extension, Xerox in the 50s, 60s, and 70s.

The important point here is that there are many new inventions needed,  and they 
can be identified, but no one has been willing to fund them.  It's not that the 
early birds got the worms, but that most of the needed worms  out there are 
being missed.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [squeakland] [IAEP] Plan Ceibal y/and General Electric
Hi Chunka

It's basically "hunting and gathering" vs. "agriculture". Or "parisitism" vs 
"symbiosis". These are built into human nervous systems by genetics, but it is 
still surprising given that we've had agriculture for more than 10,000 years, 
and one would think it would be more generally noticed and understood.

Here is an example from today that is like the impulse and vision that propelled 
the 12 year effort that invented personal computing and the Internet.

The idea reaches back to the 60s and 70s, but an above threshold invention was 
not accomplished.

Children need to be helped to learn important things, such as reading and 
writing, mathematics and science and engineering. The helpers need to understand 
the subject matter, and also how to help the learning process with individual 
learners. Studies have shown that for many learners, just lowering the 
learner-to-helper ratio makes an enormous difference.

For the US, it has been calculated that it is not possible to create enough 
knowledgeable K-8 teachers for math and science over the next 25 years, even for 
the 30:1 student teacher ratios we have today. It has been estimated that this 
problem is much worse in the developing world.

Vision: It is a destiny for interactive computers to become sensitive expert 
learning helpers for many important parts of human knowledge which children need 
to learn.

This is an extension of what the printing press has meant for learning. There 
aren't enough Socrates' and other great teachers to go around, but important 
parts of their magic can be captured in print, replicated and distributed by the 
millions. This allowed more ordinary teachers plus great-books to do some of 
what great teachers can do. And this changed the world.

Computers can represent books and all other media, and they should be able to 
actively help us learn to read them (even if we start off not being able to read 
at all). And we should be able to go much farther beyond the book, to make 
computer helpers that can also understand and answer many questions in ways that 
extend our learning rather than undermines the growth of our minds.

These computer helpers also help the human helpers. It's not about replacing 
humans (even if they don't exist) with computers, but making a more powerful 
learning environment using technology to help.

This is a hard vision to pull off, just as personal computing was. The funding 
needed to be long term in the 60s because much had to be done to (a) even find a 
version of the vision that could serve as "problem and goals", and very 
importantly (b) to "grow" the grad students and PhDs, who as second and third 
generation researchers, were able to frame the problem and do the inventions.

The payoff has been enormous. The inventions at PARC alone have generated about 
$30 Trillion dollars of wealth worldwide (and yes Xerox's return on their 
investment in PARC has been more than a factor of 200 (from the laser printer 

The great funding in the 60s was done mostly by the government, and for personal 
computing and pervasive networks was spread over more than 15 universities and 
research companies who formed a cooperative research community. (The story of 
this is told in "The Dream Machine" by Mitchel Waldrop).

The funders today do not have a lot of vision, and they have even less courage. 
A new kind of user interface that can help people learn is not just for the very 
important needs of education around the world, but will also open up learning in 
business, defense, and for consumer design and products.

How much would this cost? A critical mass of institutions and researchers could 
be supported starting at about $100M/year. By contrast, the estimated US 
spending for Iraq and Afghanistan for 2011 is about $170B. So we are talking 
initially about less than 1/10 of 1 percent of the cost of these wars.

What's the hitch. First there is risk. It is a very difficult problem. But I 
think a bigger hitch is that it is likely to take more than 10 years to pull 
off. This is longer than any corporate or government cycle. 

Perhaps a larger hitch lies in one of the biggest changes in funding today as 
compared to the 60s. There is no question that a funder of large research monies 
for high risk projects is "responsible". Today's funders are so worried about 
this responsibility that they confuse it with "control" and tried to insert 
themselves in the decision processes. This is a disaster (they are funders not 
researchers, and the more visionary and difficult the projects, the less their 
opinion can be at all germane.)

The 60s funders made no such error. They said "we can't evaluate projects behind 
the Beltway, so we'll fund people not projects". This required trust in both 
directions, but it is a proper and good allocation of expertise.

The other thing that the 60s funders pointed out when queried by worried 
politicians, is that they were "playing baseball" not "going to school", meaning 
that given the high risk and high payoff of the research, they only needed to 
bat .350 and "the world will be changed"). Today's funders want certainty, and 
this is engineering at best, and this does not change the world because the hard 
important problems never get worked on.

Best wishes

From: Alan Kay
Subject: [squeakland] [IAEP] Etoys Particles/Partículas Challenge/Desafío
The dynamics of this is pretty well modeled by using the "forest fire" particle 
simulation. Basically about 80% of the human population needs to feel that 
others around have already come to a conclusion before they will conclude. This 
inserts huge delays on ideas (sometimes 30 to over 100 years).

The forest fire particle simulation (originally done in Starlogo) allows you to 
choose the ratio of forest to clearings and start a fire to see if it 
propagates. One of these models requires at least 66% connectivity before the 
fire will spread.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [squeakland] [IAEP] Plan Ceibal y/and General Electric
I agree.

But now we have to figure out how "to help the helpers", because besides wisdom, 
many need much more knowledge than they have

Best wishes,

From: Alan Kay
Subject: [squeakland] [IAEP] Plan Ceibal y/and General Electric
I don't think of "teachers" or "teaching" as dirty words. And I don't separate 
them by age group, profession, or whether parents or not. (Do I have to say that 
good teachers facilitate learning ....?)

There are lots of poor teachers in the world (for many different reasons), but 
it's important to understand that no child ever invented Calculus, nor did any 
adult until very recently in our 200,000 years on the planet. Good teachers are 
vital, and most especially for the powerful invented ideas and knowledge that is 
less strongly built into our genetically and culturally fashioned brain/minds.

So we need good teachers from our peers, our parents, our schooling systems, our 
vocations, our delights, etc.

Best wishes,

From: Alan Kay
Subject: [squeakland] [IAEP] Plan Ceibal y/and General Electric
Hi Ron,

I've already played this game ad nauseum with many groups on the web. So I urge 
everyone to rise above the temptation to name your favorite idea that seems 

But do you really think there were no peer to peer and cloud computing systems 
already deployed before 1980? (Hint: I used both quite a lot back then, and for 
a short time actually was in charge of an ARPA task group to define an AI "cloud 
resource" for the already running ARPAnet -- the one that got built was a 
multiple processor system (C.mmp) designed by Gordon Bell)

For much larger issues and inventions than DHT, let me refer you to the 1978 PhD 
thesis of David Reed (popularly known as "the '/' in TCP/IP") at MIT.1978. If 
you haven't heard of David or read this thesis, then this helps make my main 

Since it would be really improbable for me to be aware of all developments after 
1980 (and even some before), I don't claim there have been none. 

I simply asked for 3 (or even one) since 1980 comparable to personal computing, 
GUIs, the Internet, Engelbart's notion of "online system", etc. Previous essays 
into this yielded many suggestions, but I was able to identify prior art for all 

For example, Tim Berners-Lee was suitably embarrassed when he found out about 
Engelbart - first for the web not doing as well in the design, goals and 
execution, and secondly, because as a physicist he would have been drummed out 
of Physics if he had not tried to "stand on the shoulders of giants" (as Newton 
said), and he had assumed falsely (and I think partly because our field is so 
careless about its historical great steps up) that computing had no Netwons, and 
the Internet had somehow just appeared without thought out purposes, and he 
failed to look for them.

Best wishes,

From: Alan Kay
Subject: [squeakland] [IAEP] Plan Ceibal y/and General Electric
Hi Ron,

Well, "the field" itself really doesn't have a good overview of the strongest 
ideas it has had since 1950. So I certainly don't get upset when anyone randomly 
isn't aware of something that happened 40 years ago.

But researchers and engineers need to be a lot more careful about checking out 
prior art. The lack of this has led to the odd phenomena since the 1980s of 
"reinventing the flat tire". Some of these that were really done badly (like the 
web browser, various bad scripting languages and UIs) have held things back for 
decades (and still are).

I predict that you will be amazed by Dave Reed's thesis. We implemented it a few 
years ago and it is now both an open source foundation (Croquet) and a startup 


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [squeakland] [IAEP] First day of Etoys class in Somerville
Hi Derek

As noted below Squeak runs pretty much everywhere all by itself, so it somewhat 
defeats the purpose to tie its execution to something that might not be 

There are several ways you can do this without bringing something optional like 
Java into the critical path.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [squeakland] [IAEP] Why is Scratch more popular than Etoys?
Both Etoys and Scratch were done by some of the same people (especially John 
Maloney), and both are on top of Squeak Smalltalk. The original Etoys interface 
was more like Scratch's (small area for action results, most of the screen area 
used for showing tools, tiles, etc.). The first Etoys was aimed at the web (at 
Disney), and making the start up more obvious and using more screen for it is a 
good idea I think. The projects for the first Etoys were also like Scratch 
projects: effects, jokes, postcards, simple animations, etc.

The next version of Etoys was for classrooms that would have much more help and 
do more ambitious projects. So we went to a full screen with flaps for the 
tools. This worked well in this setting.

The OLPC XO presented a problem in that it had lots of pixels but a very small 
visual angle.  We decided to stay with the classroom version, and I think 
this was a good idea on the one hand, but it went against the general lack of 
help that might be available in many of the XO's destinations.

Then we handed Etoys over to the Squeak Foundation, and the version they put 
out online retains the classroom UI with flaps.

Personally, I think the Scratch UI is better for many things than the Etoys UI, 
especially first encounters, which are so important for so many beginners these 
days. And I think the Scratch people have done a fantastic job on their web 
presence, including their gallery, the emulator for Scratch projects so you can 
see what they do, their online materials, etc.

On the other hand, Scratch lacks a real media system, a massively parallel 
particle system, and many other features that are really needed and useful for 
learning things beyond simple programming. Etoys is much more complete in many 
more ways.

Both systems have strong and weak points as to their language choices. Both 
lack nice extensions into more sophisticated programming. Both need to be 
greatly improved.

And so forth.

But I think in the world we live in, it is initial experiences that count in a 
non-classical culture (and this is most cultures around the world including the 
US). So we have to praise Scratch here, and wish that it had more depth. Etoys 
could easily be set up with a more useful exposed UI, and this would help 
tremendously in initial impressions.

As to how many features to include, this is a tricky one. Scratch has quite a 
few features -- such as the thought balloon one -- because it was primarily 
initially designed for the "Computer Clubhouses", afternoon drop in 
experiences for junior high and high school kids. 

Etoys has fewer built in features because part of the "real deal" is 
to learn how to make your own features. It could have clip art, but we left it 
out because it is cognitively a good thing for children to learn how to draw. 
This is good for a "learning tool", but is not good for a 
"productivity tool".

There is no question that both systems could be improved along the lines of 
their current styles.

One could also imagine taking the lessons learned from both systems and 
inventing a new environment that is quite a bit better than either. I like this 
option the best.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [squeakland] [IAEP] Why is Scratch more popular than Etoys?
Thanks Ron!

Well, there are no barriers besides some work and a few more features to make 
up the differences in either direction. So that is probably what should be done.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [squeakland] [IAEP] Why is Scratch more popular than Etoys?
One thing that hasn't been mentioned (but I should have) is not just the 
initial experiences and learning curve for children/students, but also for the 
adults who are trying to help them. I think this is where the relative opacity 
of Etoys really hurts its acceptance, and why the intro UI should be set up 
differently. Adults can so easily bypass things that are good for children if 
they find them difficult to learn (consider what has happened to real math and 
real science).

When Mitchel, Brian and John Maloney were thinking of doing Scratch, I urged 
them to try a new design center that built on the Etoys experience in the hope 
that we could test more ideas. I think they succeeded brilliantly with both 
children and adults (I was only disappointed that so much of the good Etoys 
depth was excluded in the process).

The good news is that enough was retained to still bring real content (as 
opposed to e.g. the iPad, which discarded too much of what a computer is in 
order to be readily learnable and popular in the pop culture).

But (to me), once Hypercard appeared in the late 80s, it showed how to do 
"media programming for beginners" and (to me) drew a line that we 
should not retreat backwards from. The irony is that the media objects and 
tools for doing a Hypercard like experience as part of the environment are 
lurking below the surface in Squeak Smalltalk. Etoys exposes them wrapped in 
tile programming, and Scratch does not. This is a big mistake for Scratch IMO. 
Hardly anyone complains because hardly anyone understands what is being lost.

Given the problems with plugins, downloads, etc., one could imagine the next 
versions of Etoys and Scratch being done in Javascript (or less usefully in 
Flash). Here the temptations will be great to exclude needed features that are 
not already programmed in the substrate system. And we could see a further 
watering down of the ideas (for example it is not easy -- not possible 
pragmatically -- to do a particle system in Javascript). There will be many 
rationalizations concocted to explain away the lost abilities (just as there 
have been for what is still not doable in browsers after 20 years that is 
readily doable on the computers that run the browsers!) -- but the end result 
will be less for the learners, and that would be a real shame if allowed to 

We don't want to wind up with "Guitar Hero" here. We are trying to 
get children to learn powerful ideas, not just to "have a fantasy 


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [squeakland] [NaturalMath] KIds from around the world measuring the Circumference of the Earth
But consider a flat Earth and a low small sun directly over the well. This will 
yield exactly Eratosthenes' result. The key here, which I've never seen 
mentioned in any books for children, is that the Greeks had to have a very good 
set of reasons for thinking the Earth round and the sun large enough and far 
enough away (and they did).

I gave a talk on how they did this in the Kyoto Prize lecture followups in San 
Diego in 2005. Aristarchus was one of several key figures.

The shame of it is that for both math and science learning, the important 
heuristic of trying to identify all the possible cases for a result is never 
encountered by the children (or most adults) who have read about Eratosthenes.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [squeakland] [IAEP] [NaturalMath] KIds from around the world measuring the Circumference of the Earth
Hi Jason

I finally chased it down via "Alan Kay Kyoto Symposium"

This is likely to be very frustrating because they gave me a bad wearable 
microphone -- it is barely understandable when I'm at the podium, and not at 
all when I'm moving around away from the podium mike.

However, I might be able to find the material (it was done entirely using Etoys 
as both the presentation and demo media).

The talk was sneakily about thinking ... via how the Greeks were able to 
transcend our messed up genetic brains and minds. To me, how they were able to 
get the first really accurate picture of our situation in the universe, not 
just of a round Earth of a certain size, but of the Earth's relation to the 
Moon and the Sun -- quite bypassing normal commonsense and cultural reasoning 
-- is one of the most thrilling episodes in our intellectual history. And, it 
was just there for an instant, roughly during the Alexandrian Greeks period.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [squeakland] [IAEP] Has anyone build a set of gears in Etoys or any other freely available program?
Hi Steve,

Yes, we did experiment with gears in Etoys many years ago, and I think we tried 
one or two experiments with gears at the Open School. 

This is a case where lots of the goodness of the gears idea lies in the 
physical world, and just giving kids a simulation of gears lacks 

The gear models we did actually used collision detection to drive one gear by 
another, and this was a good set of things for the kids to think about. This 
would work better today (with more computing cycles available, etc.). One of 
the important things we never got around to in Etoys was to make an industrial 
strength collision detector (like the best ones used in video games) for both 
the macro graphic objects and also for the particle system. Having one of these 
as a basic facility would make a big difference in what could be thought about 
and attempted.

Another fun thing at this level is to make "ratchets" and then 
"Feynman" engines where particle energy exchanges from random 
collisions will nonetheless drive the "engines" in the direction they 
can go.


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [squeakland] P.S. Re: [IAEP] Has anyone build a set of gears in Etoys or any other freely available program?

I vaguely recall that someone did an Etoy model of the Antikythera ... (might 
be findable on the web somewhere)

Going a little deeper, it would be good for children to think about: Computing 
is inventing a kind of machine that can
carry and manipulate representations of ideas.The machine can be made from 
physical or symbolic
For example, the abacus -- which vastly predates the Antikythera -- is also a 
computing machine. And so is Algebra ...


From: Alan Kay
Subject: [squeakland] P.S. Re: [IAEP] Has anyone build a set of gears in Etoys or any other freely available program?
"Inventing" because what we do when we write a program is precisely 
to invent and make a machine to accomplish the goals of the program.

It would be good to get them to think about the larger notions of 
"machine" and "mechanism", including ideas about how the 
natural world seems to operate ... not just physics and chemistry, but also 
biology ...