Decide that more difficult concepts in eToys would be more understandable if we took a step back and gave the kids more of a foundation in the fundamentals. Out on the playground I divided the kids into groups of three (or at least try to divide them up)

First kid was responsible for going forward and the second other for turning. The third kid meanwhile is calling out the commands. The catch is that he/she had to guide his/her team to a destination on the playground only he/she knows.

Idea is that the third kid is continually adjusting his/her commands, to get the team where it needs to go. Kinda like a treasure hunt. Good idea in theory, only slight problem is that true mission in any child’s life is to totally screw up the best of intentions. Much time is spent on interpersonal fourth grade squabbling.

Towards the end though, me and Laura manage to cajole them into action and I manage to get a few minutes of pretty fun video footage of kids marching coordinates through the playground. Can’t say that the kids totally nail the concept, but at least they have a pretty good idea of what we are trying for. Finally we have to call it and we head inside to put what we’ve hopefully learned into action in etoys.

On the whiteboard, I set up a script where I’m guiding an object around the screen to a goal, using a series forwards and turn bys. The concept is pretty simple, but actually fairly tricky as it requires a lot of trail and error to figure out how far something needs to go before it turns, as well as what angle to turn, once things start turning directions, and they are forced to think in relative as apposed to absolute geometry.

I also show them how to create a start over script, using origin x and y coordinates – which is critical to the exercise as their scripts are only going to work if they start from the same place each time. Then we create a button for it.

Once we start the kids on it, it all definitely becomes harder than it seems. One thing though I did from the start is just have them draw the simplest of objects (like a circle) to minimize drawing time to concentrate totally on scripting.

The kids have a tough time with this one, starting with the start over script. Never fails that it’s easy to forget you need drag the arrows for the x/y coordinates, and not the tiles themselves. Then once they start the guidance script, hard getting all the actions in the right order, let alone get the numbers correct. Various degrees of not quite getting it on the kids’ part. Liana alone is kicking ass on this. She’s a really quiet kid, so I always make a special effort to see how she’s doing, even though she never asks for help.

When she finally gets her circle to go where she wants it to go, she was pretty excited, and held it up for me to see while I was helping a couple of the other kids. It was pretty cool to see her cracking out of her shell.

It for now.

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