Squeaking for everyone

Brewer, Naala Naala.Brewer at disney.com
Mon May 7 15:09:08 PDT 2001

Thank you, Cathleen and John, for carefully bringing up gender issues.  I
hope this discussion forum will be a place for people to bring these issues
up and discuss possible solutions.

I, too, see a difference in level of participation and activity between boys
and girls using technology and technological tools.  And the disparity has
proven itself in the IT workforce.  The number of women (and minorities) has
actually declined since the 80's.

What I hope to see (and I have seen some of it already) is the chance for
all to express their interests in a variety of projects using Squeak.  Many
of the girls I have worked with in the classroom are just not interested in
much of the pre-fabricated material available on the web or in software.
But they are interested in technology and construction from their own
interests and viewpoints.  

Girls tend to have a lower confidence level in their abilities.  If they are
given the chance to create projects at their own pace and of their own
interests, I have found they are much more likely to be confident about what
they are doing.  Also, by giving them recognition for their work their
confidence level raises even more.  The *girl* who did the initial
explorations project on the middle school page of Squeakland was so proud of
herself.  And what she was trying to was to create a beautiful picture which
imitated the motion of the night sky.  She was not bound by a software
already wrapped with specific instructions and specifications.  

I'm looking forward to seeing a variety of projects created by both boys and
girls (and men and women)!

With my best,

> ----------
> From: 	John Steinmetz
> Reply To: 	squeakland at squeakland.org
> Sent: 	Monday, May 7, 2001 12:25 PM
> To: 	squeakland at squeakland.org
> Subject: 	Re: Squeaking in sixth grade
> Thanks for wonderful ideas and experiences, everybody. I love the tales of
> learners helping each other, learners learning in their own way and at
> their own pace. I'm glad we already have so many people who want to use
> Squeak to support that kind of learning.
> "Drive a Car" happens to be the entry level project in use right now, but
> that doesn't mean it's the best way to get started. It presents a lot of
> tools and concepts very quickly, which is good news for some and maybe bad
> news for others. Some novices might enjoy starting with projects that
> encourage more messing around with fewer tools. For instance, what about a
> project that somehow invites one to play around with those numbers?
> One of the problems with computer environments is that the space and the
> tools are not familar in the way that pencils and paper and scissors and
> cardboard tubes and hammers and table tops are familiar. About all these
> latter things even very young humans have some reliable intuitions. But if
> you're trying to use a computer to do something, you first have to learn
> what "stuff" is there and where it is stored and what it does and how to
> get it to do that, and then you have to figure out how to use the "stuff"
> to do whatever it is you're trying to do. (Of course you don't have to
> learn everything right away, but neither can you simply turn on the
> computer and start being creative--despite what manufacturers would have
> us
> believe!) I really like the points about classroom culture as carrier of
> much of this information.  So far Squeak seems to lessen the difficulty of
> learning about the computer "stuff" so that a user can quickly get on with
> using the stuff to some other purpose. I'll be interested to see what
> kinds
> of projects and environments people develop to help with the process of
> learning Squeak's possibilities.
> I'm also curious about what kinds of projects and scaffolding would help
> solitary users--for instance, kids who might download Squeak and use it on
> their own. How might they be helped in their explorations of the system?
> Finally, I really appreciate the thoughts about gender. The developers of
> Squeak are, as usual, mostly guys. But now I look forward to seeing some
> projects designed by non-guys, and some experiments about gender responses
> to different projects.
> 	John
> >>Thank you John, Scott, Dave, Naala and Florin.  The messages this last
> >>week have been stimulating, and great fodder for my own thoughts on
> using
> >>Squeak.
> >>	From the few weeks I've been using Squeak in my sixth grade
> >>classes, I have some informal observations.
> >>	This year is the first year I've had a one grade class.  During the
> >>last several years I had fourth and fifth grade together, and before
> that
> >>fifth and sixth.  I find many advantages to having two grades together.
> >>Just having students for the two years versus only one enables me as a
> >>teacher to know the student better and therefore be a better teacher to
> >>that student.  It also offers an opportunity to use a mentor system,
> >>which I've used in this setting for over 10 years.  However, this year I
> >>have about one-third of my students from my last years 4-5 class.  This
> >>means I have about 17/54 for a third year, and the rest are new to me
> >>this year.  This third has allowed the apprenticeship model to function
> >>in the classroom.  Pieces of the classroom culture that are important to
> >>me, such as classroom discourse, and the use of technology tools have
> >>been built into the classrooom structure this year  informally and
> passed
> >>on successfully.
> >>	One observation I have about introducing Squeak to my classes in
> >>the past two weeks is the comfort level with a new technology.  The
> >>students I've had for three years have used Logo in design projects in
> >>science about three times a year, one of which usually had a research
> >>base.  The students new to my class have not come with as much
> technology
> >>expertise or comfort.  They all used Logo in the fall, and have been
> >>introduced to several other technology applications that were new to
> >>them.  The old-timers seem to have more comfort in the new setting with
> >>Squeak.  They seem to have a higher threshold for working through
> >>problems, intuiting the new platform, and a higher frustration level.
> >>They are more apt to be able to "mess around" to which Dave also refers.
> >>The new timers seem to want direction and input and are a bit less
> >>comfortable trying to make something work, and are a bit less willing to
> >>play with the numbers to see what happens, for example when they change
> >>the ratios on the wheel heading.  They would prefer a clear direction to
> >>put in a certain number, and then drive the car. The new-timers seem
> more
> >>likely to want to get the car driving, and then sit with a working
> >>"finished" product instead of experimenting with the possibilities.  The
> >>old-timers, on the other hand, have opened up all the menus, and pulled
> >>several items out of the tool box to play with and see what happens.
> >>	Several of the old-timers moved quickly to successfully controlling
> >>the car and having the car drive itself on the track.  Then, they've
> >>wanted new challenges, and are very willing to help other students, and
> >>to begin real "messin' around" ( I like this phrase from Mr. Toad), with
> >>Squeak. One of them quickly programmed a superman game with a comet,
> >>where Superman intercepts the comet.
> >>	John related using demonstrations before beginning, and having many
> >>tutors available.  I have found that having a very brief demonstration
> >>that allows students to get working on a new task, then adding pieces as
> >>students successfully find ways to continue working, helps most to be
> >>successful quickly and minimize frustration.  For example, the classroom
> >>culture allows for quick bits of input.  A signal is given to which
> >>students are used to responding, they stop and focus for a brief minute
> >>while new information is shared, usually students who have mastered a
> new
> >>task, and they are off to work again.  Since students know that the
> >>interruption is very brief, and it is introduced quickly as information
> >>they may need just about now, or in a very few minutes, they do focus
> and
> >>then go back to work to try to apply the new information.  I ask
> students
> >>who have worked through something to be the ones giving the input, so
> >>again the focus is not the teacher giving the direction for the
> >>"finished" product.  If they're given too much at the beginning, and
> they
> >>are not yet using it, the information is usually lost and they will
> again
> >>need that information individually if they do not intuit it themselves.
> >>This seems to be especially true of the students who do not have as much
> >>experience working with simulation tools.  Their more extensive
> >>background in working with simulation tools seems to offer the
> old-timers
> >>a stronger context for intuiting the new program nuts and bolts, as well
> >>as
> >>	Although I paired the students, or had them in threes on computers,
> >>old-timers saw the value in being the only one at the computer, and
> >>always jumped at that opportunity when available.  When that opportunity
> >>was presented to new-timers, many of them lamented, "I couldn't work
> >>alone, I don't know this yet".  The new timers seem to be more hesitant
> >>to "mess around" especially on their own.  The old timers seem willing
> to
> >>experiment in pairs or a group, and relish on their own time too.
> >>	I think these observations, although informal, speak to the
> >>benefits of a whole-school community becoming involved in using tool
> >>technologies.  Some of the new-timers had experience with concept
> mapping
> >>software, but the tasks in that project may have been more linear.  It
> >>seems that experience in non-linear learning with tool technology does
> >>transfer. But also setting a classroom culture, and hopefully a school
> >>culture, may transfer It is important that children have multiple
> >>opportunities through the grades to experiment and problem solve.
> >	I also observed a slight difference in gender issues between old
> >timers and new timers.  Since girls and boys are equally well enculcated
> >into the classroom culture when there is an apprenticeship model in a
> >two-grade classroom, I have not seen gender differences in the past
> >several years in ability to learn new technology or willingness to do so.
> >However, this year, when introducing Squeak, the old timer girls have
> been
> >absorbed by learning something new, and are not yet available as mentors
> >and models of technological competence.  Since they are not competent yet
> >in Squeak, they don't offer that model of "you can get there too" to the
> >other girls.  The old timers do provide a model of  This just reminds me
> >that often the models that are chosen in schools to first be introduced
> to
> >new technologies, and to serve as mentors to others as they gain
> >confidence, are often still the boys.  Just a reminder that we need to
> >spend time assisting girls to the competent mentor level, not only for
> >their own competence, but to be a powerful model to other girls as they
> >learn.  The girls tend to prefer working through new problems in a social
> >setting, whereas, the boys can work in pairs, but more often are
> >comfortable on their own. Honoring this difference in the classroom helps
> >all to be successful.
> >
> >
> >Cathleen Galas

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