Squeakland Foundation Begins
by Kim RoseHappy New Year to all!
Alan Kay and I are both excited to announce the formation of Squeakland Foundation, a non-profit organization that will take over from Viewpoints Research as the guardians of Etoys.
A critical piece of the mission of Viewpoints Research is to deliver free and open source exemplars and prototypes to the world and then spin them out to new organizations so that they may advance, grow, and evolve. Etoys is now ready to leave the Viewpoints nest and begin its next phase of life.
Led by Tim Falconer and Rita Freudenberg, Squeakland Foundation will build community and encourage deep learning worldwide. Tim and Rita have assembled an impressive group of leaders and we're enjoying working with them during this transition time.
We're thrilled to see the level of enthusiasm around Etoys and the spread of use not only via the XO (One Laptop Per Child) but also through the use of other affordable platforms such as the Intel Classmate, Asus EEE PC, and HP Mini-Note PC. Once again, the fact that Etoys works identically cross-platform is a huge advantage to its users.
2009 should prove a pivotal year for Etoys and its use around the world. Several groups are planning gatherings -- some virtual, others face to face, for both practitioners and developers to come together and exchange ideas and share experiences. These meetings will occur in the United States, Asia, Europe and South America. We'll be reporting on each of these through this newsletter and the Squeakland website as plans solidify, so please keep reading.
Etoys is robust and stable and, if used thoughtfully, can indeed be a platform for "Powerful Ideas". However, what is really needed now are materials people can share, translate, and use in and out of the classroom. Please help the new Etoys team share, develop and disseminate new documentation and curricula.
Etoys cannot stand on its own without such supporting materials. Please share your experiences, projects, successes, and failures so we can continue to learn together and help our children learn.
Revealing the Magic
by Timothy FalconerOur 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.
Growing the Community
by Rita FreudenbergWhen I first got word about the creation of a new organisation with the mission of taking the gift of Etoys and helping it evolve, I was very interested. I thought about it a week and then spoke up, "I definitely wanted to be a part of this." That was last November and since then I have spoken with so many interesting people about Etoys and and the Squeakland Foundation. I'm very enthusiastic about our plans.
One of my chief goals will be the development of the online Etoys community for every Etoys user out there, through both the Squeakland website and elsewhere. Given how much I enjoy talking with teachers, educators, developers, and learners, I'm sure it will be a rewarding experience for all. I'm looking forward to growing this community with you.
Though a computer scientist, I've worked in the educational field many years. As Squeakland's education director, I will focus on the use of Etoys in schools, universities, and other places where people learn. I will listen to your experiences and spread the word about Etoys, helping our deep learning dreams become reality, more and more.
Spotlight: OLPC Learning Club DC
by Mike LeeThe OLPC Learning Club of Washington DC, a diverse grassroots group of XO laptop users with a passion for education, held its first content jam session as part of our January meeting at the Arlington Career Center (ACC) in Virginia.
Though OLPC-style jams are typically intensive work sessions focused on producing content for the laptop, this time we chose to ease into the world of Squeak and Etoys by conducting a qualitative review of a series of Etoys-based activities created several years ago for the NASA Connect series. Our project took on the name "Etoys in Space."
With valuable prior input from Viewpoints Research, Waveplace Foundation, Nortel Networks, Arlington County Public School System, OLPC, and Randy Caton (formerly of NASA), the jam team was able to inventory content, review guidelines, and brainstorm new ideas. The jam team logged suggestions for improving the usability and classroom applicability of the activities. We reviewed five of the twelve activities. I'll be collating the notes to inform Randy as he prepares to do an update of the activities this spring.
The Learning Club believes this successful Jam will increase interest in having more sessions throughout the year.