[Edu-sig] Creating worlds.

John Maxwell jmax@portal.ca
Sat, 5 Feb 2000 10:56:41 -0800 (PST)

Stephen Figgins writes:

> On the subject of providing worlds, not providing worlds, etc.  Don't
> we already live in a world with interesting problems to solve?  I
> would rather see something grounded in the real world - or at least,
> the real internet world.  Maybe there are some sections of the
> internet that are more easily manipulated than others. 

Well, the Web itself seems like pretty good fodder, and if we are indeed
likely to see a shift to XML as the main language of web-based
data (producing, in other words, an actual parse-able web) then Python
with an XML module becomes an extremely powerful tool for churning through
massive amounts of the world.

One of the things I'm interested in developing is a heavily-scaffolded
framework (for younger kids) to create bots or agents (or whatever you
want to call them) to dig through web-based content... to build little,
specialized crawlers, or to post-process the results of search engines out
there. As I say, the more we start seeing an XML-based Web, the more
possible this becomes for (young) casual hackers.

> scripting some MUD out there - building objects online would be better
> than some isolated world you are trying to problem solve.  The more
> others can see it, comment on it, be impressed by it, the better.  And
> the less it is something contrived to teach a lesson, the more likely
> it is that a lesson will be learned.

The work and writings of Amy Bruckman (www.cc.gatech.edu/fac/Amy.Bruckman)
are instructive here... she had kids as young as 9 and 10 programming,
sharing code, and teaching one another how to do it. The key wasn't the
technological superiority of the system (she built an IDE and a Logo-like
layer on top of Pavel Curtis' MOO language), but rather that the whole
thing was set up to be a collaborative working environment, where the kids
were sharing stuff, rather than just solo hacking. The environment (I mean
the conceptual and social environment, not the IDE) also provided the
reasons WHY they were motivated to do it.

  - John Maxwell                  jmax@portal.ca
 Multimedia Ethnographic Research Lab (MERLin)
 University of British Columbia, Canada