Donnerstag, 4. September 2014

How to do timing in Etoys?

I just got this question from my students and I thought there might be others with similar interests. So how can I control sequences of actions over time? Say, I want to use speech bubbles to tell a story. I have a number of sentences to show, one after another, and I want to let some time pass between them to give the reader time to read. How can I do that?

Well, I can build a timer and check the time to trigger actions when a certain time is reached. How can I build a timer?

First of all, you need a variable to count time steps. Open the viewer for your object. Create a variable by clicking the "v" - symbol in the top row of the viewer and give your variable a name. I choose "seconds". The default type is "Number", which is fine and 0 decimals places are perfect as well.

Now open a new empty script and drag the tiles to assign a new value to your variable into the script. Change the operation to "increase by" and the number to "1". Make sure the value of your variable is "0" at the start! Name the script "timer".

You do know already that the script, once started, will be executed repeatedly until it is being stopped, right? Do you also know how fast or how slowly this happens? You can see this when you click on the watch in the top row of the scriptor and hold the mouse button down. And you can also change it there! By default, it will be executed 8 times per second. Change this into once per second!

When you now start the script, each second it will increase the value of your variable "seconds" by 1! Now you can use the value of the variable in other scripts:

Use a all-scripts-tile from the supplies to start both, your script and the timer, at the same time and watch :)

Please note: It depends on your computer and what other programs are running on it at the same time, if a second in the Etoys project will be the same as a second at a real clock. It may not be exactly the same, but probably close. It is definitely good enough to control the flow of a story, but for scientific experiments, you should use a real timer!

There is another approach to time handling in this post from Ricardo Moran.

You can also find a tutorial to build a timer in project 6 of the book "Powerful Ideas in the classroom" by Kim Rose and B.J. Allen-Conn.

Sonntag, 18. August 2013

Google Hangout with Unleash Kids, August 19

Bert and I feel honoured to be invited as guests in the Google Hangout of Unleash Kids, a series of live discussions with OLPC activists from around the world. Meet us tomorrow, Monday, August 19th!

Montag, 5. August 2013

Etoys at Maker Faire in Hannover

This weekend, our family presented Etoys at a local maker faire in Hannover, Germany. It was the first time I attended an event like this and I liked it very much. The whole idea of "making" fits pretty good with what you are doing with Etoys.
But it was very different from what I usually do when presenting Etoys, too. First of all, people come and look and need a short concise introduction of what Etoys actually is. They all have different backgrounds, you can not assume that they are interested in teaching a certain subject. Of course, during the discussion, you find out what interests them and can show these aspects. But at some point, we had 3 or 4 different groups of people visiting and each of us was engaged in her own conversation. This is ok if there are enough people at the booth.
We used 4 XO laptops to show Etoys. This was a good idea in several ways, for one, it was sunny and you could still read the screens :) The laptops are eye catchers, too and we also answered questions about the XO's and OLPC.
What worked good was showing the Etoys challenge and ask visitors to try to solve it. It was engaging and needed not too much explanation. Turtle geometry is also a nice and quick activity, the drive-a-car-curriculum is still one of the best ways to give an introduction and show the power of Etoys (this is Bert's favorite).
What would I do next time? It would be nice to have a bigger screen and show Kathleen's videos in the background. The XO's were in use most of the time and been left in various states.
I would prepare / look up more projects like the Etoys challenge, where visitors (most important, kids) can just start doing something.
I would like to have something physical, maybe a robot controlled via Physical Etoys, because it is even more engaging then movement on a computer screen and draws attention. I also like the idea from an event in Japan I read about: create a physical object like a clay-figure, take shots with a camera and create a stop-motion-animation. But maybe this already points towards the other thing I really would do: offer workshops.

 Bert explaining Drive-a-Car, standing beside our self-made Smalltalk balloon.

Jakob and Sophie showing Etoys to other kids.

Donnerstag, 6. Dezember 2012

Squeakland Education Team at Google Doc Camp 2012

Starting Monday, Dec 3, six members of the education team are sitting in an office at Google in Sunnyvale, writing a book for teachers who want to teach Etoys in their classroom. We, that are Kathleen Harness, Avigail Snir, Kathleen Smith, Steve Thomas, Randy Caton and myself, Rita.
We are here with two other teams, and the first day was filled with many activities getting to know each other and talking about general questions regarding writing documentation in a community for open source projects.
On Tuesday afternoon, we started writing our book, starting around 9:00 am and working until 8:30 pm. These are long days, but we are perfectly provided with everything we need during the whole day (and even night, since they also pay the hotel). So we can completely concentrate on writing and discussing. This is the most wonderful time we have as a group since the last time we met face to face at Squeakfest in Wilmington 2010.
On Friday, we will have a new Etoys book!

Montag, 10. September 2012

Squeakfest Argentina 2012 Day 1

The first day was the day of presentations, starting with myself in the morning and ending with Randy's at the evening.
I cannot thank Sebastian, Ricardo and Matias from the Physical Etoys team enough for all their help with the translation! Gabriela Arevalo did an awesome job preparing everything for the conference, including simultaneous translation of the talks. With the help of Matias, this worked really well!
Between the two presentations we had workshops. Stephen directed another Dr. Tecnico / Etoys workshop through videoconference with me as the local robot. It worked very well, the participants were very engaged and created different solutions for the given problem of steering a robot to a certain goal. All material from Squeakfest Argentina can be found at

Randy and I traveled to and from the hotel together with Patricio Acevedo and Ricardo Salvador, which perfectly solved the communication problem with the cab drivers (I did had a problem in Montevideo, where I didn't pronounce the name of the place correctly and ended up in the wrong area)! During all days we were hosted perfectly at the Universidad Abierta Interamericana thanks to Gabriela and her team. Also, Gabriela is the one who found the money to pay for our traveling, so she helped not only Squeakfest Argentina, but also Squeakfest Montevideo that way!

Having said this, thank you very much Gabriela and Physical Etoys team for the great time in Buenos Aires!!


Mittwoch, 25. Juli 2012

Squeakfest Uruguay 2012 Day 3 - Workshop DrTechniko

This was a very fun workshop! Steve presented it virtually with me and Randy on site in the lab. The idea is from DrTechniko - How to train your robot. Steve had the handout translated into Spanish. Randy and me worked as "robots" for the participants.
It was a great experience, even our lack of the spanish language was not to our disadvantage, since we robots understood only a very restrictive vocabulary. After being trained to walk in a square the task was for the participants to come up with a more complex script for walking to a table, grab a bottle and bring it back. That resulted in different kinds of scripts and, as expected, participants started to make up more complex commands for the robots.
That was fun, but not the last of it. Steve had an Etoys project prepared where everyone now could create scripts for an Etoys robot, based on the experience with the human robots. This is a very motivating activity for the classroom!

Robot Randy walking in a square.

Dienstag, 24. Juli 2012

Squeakfest Uruguay 2012 Day 2 - Diner with Plan Ceibal

I accompanied Mariana Herrera to the Plan Ceibal offices the day before. There I met Lidia Barboza, the coordinator of research and evaluation in educational technology. She introduced me to her colleagues and explained the ideas and ongoing projects at Plan Ceiabl in the area of primary education. Then she invited me and Randy for diner the next day.
We had an inspiring and deep conversation during diner, where we also met Lidias colleagues from Plan Ceibal and Carlos and Nanny Rabassa, who support and volunteer for Etoys since the Squeakfest in Brazil in 2009.
I'm especially happy about Lidias view of Etoys and how it could be used for deeper learning in schools. She has an understanding for constructionist learning, knows that the way of teaching needs to change and has ides on how to accomplish that. I hope we can go on working together and make a difference for primary education in Uruguay!

It was a very interesting diner, which unfortunately took longer than we had planned, so I arrived late for my own workshop.