(from newsletter)

Very likely if you’re reading this, you love shiny new toys. Especially intriguing are the clever ones: the iPhone’s, Wii’s, and XO laptops. Handling a new inspired design is a little slice of Christmas morning, a reminder of a time when gadget play was all that mattered.

The XO is quite an eye-catcher. One look and you know it’s something to pick up and explore. Like so many toys that make our daily grind a bit better … Bluetooth headsets, touchscreen remotes, talking GPS nav … the XO excites our imagination with its swivel screen, mesh networking, and low low cost.

But here’s the thing: it’s just a box. Through all the press and praise and endless talk, the XO is merely a wrapper around the real Christmas present. Contained within its rugged plastic case, you’ll find the means to make your own toys. Forget the distractions we’ve come to crave, this little machine holds the power to fundamentally change how we think and learn.

But only if we unwrap the surprise inside, the crown jewel of the XO laptop: Squeak Etoys. As software pioneer Alan Kay has said, “The computer is simply an instrument whose music is ideas.” Etoys lets you play “idea music” with an unexpected grace. It helps you visualize and explore abstract ideas, which makes the lesson learnable. With Etoys, you make models as real as Rubik’s cubes, then tinker with them till new truths are found.

Waveplace teaches how to teach this. Just as music is best learned while working closely with a music teacher, the magic of Etoys comes across best while working with an enthusiastic mentor. Waveplace trains mentors to encourage purposeful play, to engage children in their own learning, to guide their discoveries. This transforming magic, what we call “spark”, is the shiniest toy of all.

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