Today began with an initial review of yesterdays lesson. Many of the children had some difficulty getting their sketch to advance and turn to reach a target located in a opposite position on the top or the bottom of the page — perhaps a fish diving into a lake below. After the review they set about it once again. By experimenting with increasing in increments the amount of turn most were able to accomplish this task. As time began running out two of the children independently discovered an innovative approach to solve the problem — simply move the target to where the sketch is ending up, run the script, ‘aha’, mission accomplished.

Moving on to Lesson six brought a new level of excitement to the classroom. By adding bounce to a script, a sketch will bounce off the screens edge when it reaches it. It is also possible to add a sound to the bounce that will play on impact. Etoys comes with a menu of sounds to choose from. In no time the classroom was echoing with splats, croaks, laughter, chomps, and real life giggles and roars from the children themselves. This was great fun.

Next they were introduced to the pen tool that allows a sketch to create a trail of line, dots or arrows in various weights as it moves around the page. The results can be controlled or used to create random patterns much as a Spirograph toy would do. Both of these activities imparted levity to the lessons — a break from the more heady concentration necessary in mastering scripting.

Interestingly during the experimental hour after the official lesson many of the girls in the class began typing pages from storybooks that they had found in the classroom into the writing program on their computers. Carolyn tried to inquire about their reasons for doing this still our understanding of their motives remains unclear. It seems that they simply wish to have access to the stories in the future. Juan discovered that there were picture books available in Spanish and English to read with the book-reader feature of the XO. He shared this discovery with a few of his friends and they all set out reading various titles. On the other side of the room Luis was experimenting with the voice-recording tool fascinated by the undulations, peaks and arcs in the sound wave line as he made different noises into the microphone. It seems our concerns about ‘chatting’ taking over this free time were somewhat premature.

The teacher’s session was equally exciting. There is just something about animation that is enthralling and the sense of accomplishment in seeing your sketch actually gradually get eaten, drop, do jumping jacks or flutter about is rewarding. Everyone was immersed in his or her own Etoys experience determined to make it work. And then Bill introduced the joystick.

Oh what a wonder gaming. By the end of the lesson everyone had a sketch that could be maneuvered by the joystick and multiple objects scattered over the screen. When it bumped into one object it would produce a sound and the bumped object would disappear. Another sort of object would simply sound when bumped. Creating a simple game like this for the first time and having it work feels like you’ve created Pac Man or Super Mario Brothers. Well that’s exaggerating. Lets just say it makes you feel pretty darn good.

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