(by Dr. Alan Kay of Viewpoints Research Institute, from newsletter)

Children are set up by nature to learn the world around them by watching adult activity and playing imitation games. Dewey pointed out that this is difficult in today’s developed cultures because many important adult activities are opaque or not found in every home.

Montessori thought that children’s urge to learn the world by immersion and play could be powerfully used for twentieth-century learning if the children were placed into twentieth-century environments and given toys that embodied twentieth-century ideas. One of her special insights was that a main task of early education was to reshape the ordinary common sense that every child picks up into the “uncommon sense” that is needed as the foundation for many modern ideas, especially those in science.

There are books about how to learn these ideas in the thousands of free libraries in the United States. But if you haven’t learned the discernment to use libraries and don’t have a hint of what you are missing, you have to be a pretty special type to find a way into these ideas by yourself. The Internet is now starting to bring the libraries of powerful ideas into the home, but most people will still need the discernment and the hints to provide the motivation for exploring ideas that require some effort to learn.

The most important thing about powerful inexpensive personal computers is that they form a new kind of reading and writing medium that allows some of the most important powerful ideas to be discussed and played with and learned than any book. This is what our work and Squeak is all about. We are interested in helping children learn to think better and deeper than most adults can.

We have made the Squeak medium to serve as a new kind of electronic paper that can hold new ways to represent powerful ideas. We have written examples of this new literature which are published on the Internet for children and adults to “read” and play with. Readers can also become writers, because “authoring is always on”.

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