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Revealing the Magic

(by Timothy Falconer, from newsletter)

Our current community hardly needs convincing. We've seen the transformations. We've seen average students become exceptional students. We've seen teachers and children having fun while tackling otherwise difficult subjects like math and science. We've seen the vision of Papert and Kay manifest as one learning oasis after another. We've seen it work.

Much more is possible. Having spent the last year promoting Etoys on behalf of Waveplace, I'm quite certain that Etoys is ready to take off. With interest in low-cost laptops at an all time high, with frustration over "teach to the test" reaching a peak, with social networks and online video transplanting traditional media, now is the time to craft and communicate our answer to the most important question an adult can ask: how can we best prepare our children for a future we can't yet imagine?

Etoys is a tool that can help take our children into that future, but it won't reach the world if only pockets of people use it. To attract more people, we need to do a better job telling the story of Etoys. We need to make the magic easier to see. We've taken steps towards this goal with the new website and new version. More work is needed on the showcase to better represent the breadth of Etoys and its community. Etoys itself can also be improved to lower barriers to entry for first time users.

Telling a better story will help greatly with our newest top priority: finding funds. Squeakland Foundation needs to be self-sufficient by 2010, which means we need to be a business: publicity, fundraising, development, support. While Squeakland will stay non-profit, we'll need to "sing for our supper," which means a different approach, a mixing of cultures. Finding the balance between a business-suit mindset and a volunteer mindset will be tricky. The suits should be told, "don't kill the magic," and the volunteers, "we need money too."

We can then get on with our core mission: community outreach. Squeakland's chief job is spreading seeds throughout the world, encouraging classroom use and content creation. We'll be a resource for intrepid explorers, a hub that connects community. Within the bounds of time and funding, we'll do all we can to encourage Etoys everywhere.