(written with Susan Jordan, from newsletter)

The purpose of education is to teach kids how to become critical and creative thinkers. It’s about the process, not the end product. When children are learning, you can get inside their mind and break apart what they are doing to find out what they know and where they need to grow.

The brain thinks visually. Squeak Etoys takes full advantage of this by being a cognitive bridge that takes traditional concepts and connects them to 21st century thinking skills and computer programming content. Etoys appeals to students emotionally as something fun and exciting. When you link a child’s emotions to something full of rigor and relevance, you create a permanent connection in a child’s brain between fun and problem solving.

Etoys helps kids conquer their fear of being wrong! Just like any inventor, they must troubleshoot to make their storybook characters come to life. The level of critical and creative thinking it takes to integrate computer programming skills into the creation of a story is exponential compared to writing a story with a pencil and paper. It is impossible to achieve this level of learning the old fashioned way. There is no comparison. Etoys has the rigor and relevance that teachers seek for their students with the added benefit of fun!

As Seymour Papert said and the children in our Immokalee pilot echo, “This is the hardest fun they’ve ever had!”

(written by Russell Van Riper, from newsletter)

As a student, I sat through my share of computer literacy classes, with most having one instructor talking out into space, explaining confusing command menus, projected blurry against the wall. Very easy to get disoriented, disengaged, and lost in a wandering mind.

The Waveplace pilot in Immokalee was very different once we got into our flow. Problems at the start were solved with professionalism and skill by the mentors. The greatest distraction… kids being kids… was handled purely by the teachers craft, especially helpful was Mary Villa’s depth of knowledge of the children as individuals in the community. Mary’s connectedness to Immokalee has helped stem potential discipline problems, as well as tailor one-on-one instruction time to the individual learning styles of particular students. This kind of knowledge can only come from being involved in the community, not something that can be written into the Waveplace curriculum, but something that Waveplace is useless without.

During week three, it was recognized that the basic skills needed to write scripts, add animation, and use the XO as creative tool had been covered, but there was a great degree of stratification within the large group of students being served. It was decided to split the class up according to need. Stations for Writing, Drawing, Scripting, and Animation were set up at different tables with each teacher teaching according to their own particular strength and students self directing (with guidance) from station to station as their stories developed. The structure was loose, flowing, and conducive to the creative nature of the work.

By week four, the teachers realized that lessons 1 through 15 had more or less been covered in an adhoc manner as dictated by the students. The children had created stories of various complexity, complete with scripts, animation, and independent flourishes, with some students clamoring to use features no one, not even the folks at Etoys, have fully developed.

I must say that I am impressed.

(post by Mary Villa)

Color sees color test

This lesson was kind of difficult for some students. We went over this lesson so many times.

We were surprise that so many students used the color sees color test on their scripts.

We worked with students on debugging their scripts.

Some students didn’t want to use the test to their stories but we encouraged them to use it so they could add more flavor to their stories.

We also went over animation again. Each table was set up as stations, we had

writing, drawing, animation and startover scripts. Each student went to the table where they needed the help the most to finish their story.

In attendance: Christa, Jane, Katey, Russell, Brenda (FGCU), and another FGCU graduate…I forgot his name again!

Today we started the day whole group and 5 students shared their story progress from the weekend.

After, I did a lesson on World Start Over.

We broke into our groups of Writing Test Scripts, Scripting Clean up, Writing, and Drawing. We had a few computer snafoos that interupted our progress at first, but we worked through most of it. One of the screens is blank on about 1/3 which made it impossible to work on for one of the kids. Not sure about that one.

Some of the kids are worn out and think they are done, but they need to work on the drawing and scripting of characters. So Jane has a plan for Thursday.

She has crafted a great new story that the kids will have come up and help her script. They will like this a lot and the story will help them step out of their box! We hope they take some of the ideas and write the scripts into their own stories.

There is a community thriving in a place that drew myriad individuals with the hope of finding prosperity against all odds. They embraced a dream, a desire, and impulse for fulfillment in a town called Immokalee translated home.

Imagine a map. X marks the spot. Here lies treasure.

Some would say foolishness. No treasure lies there. It is a faulty figment of imagination.

Others dream. This X holds promise.

So against all odds people came to this place marked X on a map inspired by tales that they heard of employment, safety, new beginnings. Rivers were crossed. Fences climbed. Bushes gave shelter from predators. Breath was suppressed. Hearts pumped louder then a surveillance planes engines. Personal atrocities were encountered and endured. This journey was not easy. No one can really take on the experience of those who undertook it. It was difficult. Yet necessary.

Then you reach the spot. X on the map.
Sleep under a truck. Sun dry your rain drenched clothes along with your tears.
File into line to gain a promise of a days work if luck will have it. Toil, care, worry. Take solace and strength in those you love. That is was will be always your nourishment.

A better life. Freedom. Caring. Love.

Imagine an X on a map. What would you dream? Sacrifice to get there?

A bunch of teachers, community members, random change-makers are engaged in just that – dreaming in possibility. The outcome is gracefully unfolding.

Pioneering. A spirit that creates unifies and begets bewilderment, engagement, newness in love.

Thanks to and for all of you in Immokalee who committed to the dream. Please continue to imagine and dream on.

(post by Mary Villa)

We talked about Animation. Christa and I worked on a script and demonstrated animation.

I printed out a copy for each student on how to use animation on their stories. That was Christa’s idea so I put the thought into action. We made a sun and also a funny face with it’s tongue sticking out. The starfish challenge was to make a face that was much better than mine and funnier. I shouldn’t of said that because they put my drawing to shame. Their drawing were awesome. Christa showed them how to use the eye dropper.

(post by Jane)

In Attendance: Christa, Katey, Mary, Russell, Jane (Also, Dick, Brenda, Jorge, Raquel and Juan from Ave Maria and Jared from Immokalee Foundation.)

We started class by having the students open their journals and delete any files that were unneeded. We asked the students why this was important and most of them new that their laptops would be faster if they had fewer items in the journal. We also reminded them that having more than one activity opened at a time would slow the computer down.

Next we had the students work on their books. The teachers walked around and evaluated the students’ books and we divided them into groups depending on their progress.

Groups: Writing, Drawing, Animation, Scripting, Tests

We had planned on bringing the groups back together towards the end of the class but the groups were making progress and we decided to coninue with the groups for the remainder of the class.

Today we worked on Start Over scripts from Lesson 11.  We waited on bringing this up until there was a compelling reason to use it and it made more sense to the kids.  We held off on World start over because we could see brain overload and we knew the kids had had enough!

We are excited to see the progress in the stories!  It is now time to take a step back and reconfigure what we are doing.

Next time we get together the kids will be grouped according to interest and need.  We will have the following options:

  1. Animation Review
  2. Script Troubleshooting
  3. Writing the story
  4. Drawing the story

The kids will be able to move when they need depending on the story.

(post by Mary Villa)

Thursday was awesome!

Thursday we reviewed animation. The students made a funny face and they animated it. The students are learning so fast. The students worked on their stories and animated their characters. We discussed about Monday, Christa will be teaching World startOver. That will be a challenge but hey we work as a team. See ya Monday!

In Attendance: Christa, Jane, Mary, Katey, Russell, Brittany, 2 graduates from Ave Maria University

Today we began with sharing of stories that the students had written since the last class.  Each team (4) picked one student to share what they had written so far. We discussed our goals and motivations.

We reviewed what we have learned so far using a BrainSmart technique: Ten Pegs.  The students touch 10 points on the body as we reviewed. The kids were great!

  1. Make a Sketch (Head)
  2. Open the Halo & Name Sketch (Shoulders)
  3. Open the viewer & make script (Chest)
  4. Make go Forward & Turn (Belly)
  5. Pen & Bounce (Hips)
  6. Open Supply Bin (Bum)
  7. Open a Book & Add pages (Thighs)
  8. Add Text & make a Story (Knees)
  9. Start Over (Shins)
  10. Animation (Feet)

After the review we went into Animation.  I went through a list of 25 different steps, then broke it down into chunks for the students to grasp. We did an I DO, YOU DO type of experience.  The students really need something to keep and look at so that they remember these different RECIPES in Squeak.  I was impressed with how well they did, but they do need a visual.  I wanted to make screen shots with directions, but could not find a way to do that with the program.  Any hints would be great.

For the Challenge we had them try to animate 1 or 2 characters in their book.

The fact that they can’t resize the object that they want to animate is something we will have to keep reminding them.

Russell had a good idea for them to have a journal to write notes in, but at their age and ability level that is much more difficult for them to do and it takes up too much instructional time.  We are working on this! 

They are picking up Squeak very well, but there are a few that still need a little more motivation.