[squeakland] Artifacts in ObjectCatalog

Steve Thomas sthomas1 at gosargon.com
Tue Jun 1 00:10:14 EDT 2010


I had no idea the term Artifact was so loaded.
So let me expand a bit on what I am thinking about, which is somewhat
different from what I fear is being perceived:

First what I do not mean:

   - another method to help kids learn sterile facts and mindless
   disconnected procedures
   - something to be used in drill and kill worksheets
      - although I fear there is nothing that can be done to prevent that
      use in some cases, that should not stop their use for better purposes
      - while most worksheets I have seen are "mind numbing" at the risk of
      starting another "conversation" I have seen and used some very good ones
      (ex: Miquon)
   - Something to be used for pure assessment purposes
   - Pre-constructed answers so kids don't have to think
   - gimmicks to "make math interesting" or "cutesy"

What I am trying to create:

   - A way to "present concepts first" without the formulas or notation
   - something that provides concrete metaphors to help kids access powerful
   - something kids can play with to explore ideas
      - in the case of Cuisenaire Rods and GeoBoards mathematical ones, yet
      I can envision their uses in other areas
   - something that can be used by a student to help explore and explain
   their ideas
   - something that can be used by a teacher to pose questions and problems
   for the kids
   - and yes, something that can help teachers assess children's
   understanding in an efficient and effective way and in certain cases provide
   feedback because we can't "put Seymour in the box" or a teacher with subject
   matter expertise in all areas (especially hard for elementary teachers and
   teachers in third world countries where in some, but not all cases, they are
   learning along with the students.)

"The Tools to think with/teach with/learn with" are not end goals and in
fact are in my mind merely first steps in providing a set of tools for
These Tools also need appropriate lesson plans or what I prefer to think of
as scripts for improvisation.

The "Tools to teach with" are things I can use to pose problems, assess
understanding and challenge students existing mental models.

Some examples are the virtual cuisinaire rods and geo-boards.

Hopefully what I am thinking about will become clearer when I produce some
more examples and perhaps video of how I see them being used.

As far as whether they should be included in the Etoys Object Catalog.  At
this point I think not.

Etoys (as near as I can figure) is built upon doing everything from first
principles, which is part of its power and beauty.
That said I think we need to solve the problem that it can take quite a
while and not everyone is capable of building things from first principles.

Some higher levels of domain specific abstractions are useful and I believe
Also, Hilaire makes a good point that to make things scalable these would
need to be done in smalltalk.

I have other comments on Kathleen and Lockhardt's excellent points, but I
will spare you (for now ;)  I need more time to think about them.


On Sat, May 29, 2010 at 11:45 AM, <kharness at illinois.edu> wrote:

> Hi Hilaire,
> I looked at the png of the die, dot in table, and fraction box and wonder,
> are they objects like the polygon with a dedicated set of tiles or a halo
> menu of options? The label Artifacts is confusing me; in schools here the
> label artifacts can mean educational materials used for assessment or, do
> you mean ready-to-use objects?
> The Object Catalog and Supplies have similar things. Will DrGeo be a new
> tab in the Object Catalog? Do you propose another new category called
> Artifacts in the Object Catalog and then do you plan to add many objects to
> the next release of Etoys? Will they all be of special interest to math
> teachers and/or science teachers and at what grade levels? Do you know the
> USEIT adaptations of Etoys in use at the University of North Carolina
> Wilmington? The UNCW adaptations are for middle and high school science
> teachers. Are these similar to your ideas? Would they fit your category of
> Artifacts?
> I am growing more uncertain about what Etoys will become if many
> specialized objects are added. To be useful, some of these objects require
> more knowledge in math and science. For example, the particles are amazing
> and whenever I show them to science teachers they are a wonderful example of
> using Etoys to explore ideas in physics. They are however, sophisticated and
> difficult for students to use without instruction. They are not intuitive
> unless you are already know physics. My elementary students click on them in
> the Object Catalog and then are at a loss, they have neither the science
> knowledge nor the programming skills to use them.
> Are the teachers you know using Etoys for math instruction? The microcosm
> of the school where I work has not shown any interest in using Etoys to
> teach math even though the teachers are always impressed with the math
> students use to make projects. The teachers are more concerned with
> following a rigid curriculum that pre-tests, introduces concepts,
> post-tests, bench-marks, and quarterly assesses. And all of that
> instruction/assessment is, of course, focused toward the standardized tests
> given in March. Their curriculum is too large, time is too short, and each
> concept and skill is given too little time to mature. But, that is a problem
> for the math establishment and one of the reasons I like Etoys is that it is
> so much more open ended and so much less prescriptive and so much outside of
> the whole assessment environment that is consuming education in the US
> today.
> The god of assessment has always had clay feet and Diane Ravitch's book,
> The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and
> Choice Are Undermining Education (New York: Basic Books, 2010) gives me hope
> that we will see less emphasis on
> multiple-choice-single-right-answer-learning. I would urge that we (Etoys)
> not spend very much time developing subject area electronic worksheets and
> mechanisms that count right/wrong answers and keystroke attempts to be part
> of the software. Book publishers routinely provide such materials that are
> specific, sequenced, and aligned and, from what I can see, teachers are hard
> pressed to use everything that is already available. If new artifacts are
> being considered as potential objects for the next release of Etoys, we
> should start talking about our vision for Etoys and what the core of it will
> be.
> Etoys thrives on mathematics and, on imagination, but to put too much
> emphasis on teaching a core curriculum of math or science will limit the
> other uses and imagination. My students use math in their projects and are
> indeed learning concepts at a deep level but they are not learning the math
> curriculum for their grade. For example, my 2nd-5th grade students routinely
> use test statements, create variables, and add random number generator tiles
> to projects. They use xy coordinates fluently because they want to control
> locations of objects and to position objects with reset scripts. Most of the
> Races and Mazes in EtoysIllinois were made by elementary students and show
> these kinds of applications of learning.
> Unfortunately, standardized assessments do not assess for this kind of
> learning and certainly not in elementary grades in dynamic environments. My
> sense is that subject area teachers everywhere are bound by local, state,
> and national requirements. My hope is that Etoys provides collections of
> projects that show examples for deep learning and that as schools react to
> the growing need for more and more people who can program, who can use the
> language of the computer to express ideas, who are creative and, who will
> thrive in the future or, in careers that use programming skills, that Etoys
> would be in a position to be adopted as the tool for teaching programming in
> K-12 schools.
> Etoys is certainly powerful enough to grow up with children from elementary
> to high school . . . without a doubt. It was one of the reasons I first
> considered Etoys, that is, it can not be outgrown or worn out in a year or
> two.
> I have written materials that show how easy it is to integrate Etoys into
> core curriculum but in every case I find that the core curriculum is already
> full, too full, and very well planned by curriculum specialists and that
> there is no room for Etoys in their view of their subject. I said this at a
> MSTE Board of Advisors meeting a year ago and Chip Bruce said: if there was
> no room at the table we should make our own table. It seems to me, Etoys
> could make its own table and in doing so raise the rather low expectations
> for what is currently passing as computer literacy. Keyboarding and using
> the internet are at a much lower level than the most basic Etoys project.
> The K-12 cs/programming discipline is very new and that is good for us. It
> is an opportunity for us to define what should be.  If we can provide a
> cogent set of projects that develop good habits of mind, creative, and
> logical thinking we might find Etoys adopted by schools who are looking
> ahead for their students' futures. I would much prefer that we build our own
> table rather than try to squeeze Etoys as one more topic into other
> disciplines already full curricula.
> My hope is that schools will see the need for specialists to teach the
> subject of programming, just as music and art specialists focus on providing
> an excellent general education for all. Wouldn't it be grand if children
> routinely went to the computer lab to learn Etoys, just as they go to the
> music room to learn music. You may know, I was a music teacher and taught
> music to everyone in the school every year. It was not a course with
> preliminary requirements of talent, IQ, skill, interest or, potential for
> becoming a professional musician. Music is part of what it means to be
> educated. If we can align with that kind of belief, that knowing how to
> program, how to use the computer creatively to express ideas rather than
> being passive users or used by it, then we will have achieved something of
> value.
> I know this note is too long but I hope we can start talking about some of
> these ideas.
> Regards,
> Kathleen
> ---- Original message ----
> >Date: Fri, 28 May 2010 09:22:40 +0200
> >From: Hilaire Fernandes <hilaire.fernandes at edu.ge.ch>
> >Subject: [squeakland] Artifacts in ObjectCatalog
> >To: "squeakland.org mailing list" <squeakland at squeakland.org>
> >
> >   Dear all,
> >
> >   In the latest Artifacts package at
> >   (http://www.squeaksource.com/LearningArtifacts) I
> >   added a category Artifacts as a place holder for the
> >   artifacts.
> >   See the attached screenshot.
> >
> >   I also added an Artifact DotInTable to represent
> >   collection of token in row and column.  It can be
> >   used to represent graphically the multiplication of
> >   two integers. The column, row and dot color are all
> >   Etoys scriptable.
> >   Again as an artifact, teacher can invent new way to
> >   use it and to combine it with other artifacts for a
> >   teaching purpose.
> >
> >   By the way, I tried these artifacts with Squeak 4.1
> >   and it works perfectly well from there, and the
> >   Squeak environment is more pleasant to write
> >   Smalltlak code.
> >
> >   I will continue to add artifacts to this package.
> >
> >   Hilaire
> >
> >   --
> >   http://blog.ofset.org/hilaire
> >________________
> >ArtifactsObjectCatalog.png (16k bytes)
> >________________
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