[Edu-sig] "Croquet Project" and Python ?

francois schnell francois.schnell at free.fr
Thu Oct 21 22:05:48 CEST 2004

Arthur a écrit :

>Francois writes -
>>I recently discovered the  new "croquet project":
>>But it's Squeak based :-(
>Let me ask the question generally.  
>What do see in croquet that is connected to education? 
I think there are some interesting ideas in what Alan Kay is trying to 
archive in term of education:


What I'm the most interested in is the goal to "easily" construct and 
modify simulations, through the "power" of abjects, to better understand 
scientific phenomenums.
What if everybody could easily elaborate simulations to better 
understand an epidemic for example ?
To reach maybe one day this goal I think "objects" could be very useful.

A real world example:
"Geomags" are littles stick magnets + metallic spheres (  
http://www.geomags.com/construction_sets/  )
In Europe it has a great success with kids ... and parents and I think 
it's partly due to the power of "objects" combination and sharing 
There are simple objects: sticks with + and - poles and metallic 
spheres  (objects  with properties ans methods  to interact with other 
object or the rest of the world).
I bough a bunch of them and innocently provided them to work colleagues 
and kids.
It was very interesting to see them trying to *imagine* more and more 
complex structures and elaborate theorys to see what will happen. They 
seemed to take pleasure to confront and share their realizations and 
I've quickly been forced to take them out of the work place...

This very stupid little objects seemed to act  as a stimuli to their 
Albert Einstein, an other Guru, insisted on:
"Imagination is more important that objects"
Therefore I'm interested in systems/programming languages/Environnement 
which can act as an "amplifier of imagination" through simulations.

Why I'm so interested in simulations for science teaching ?

Well put an object on the floor, take off a shoe for example, push it. 
It's stops... Dam, The first law of Newton  said it should continue 
Obviously we know we live in a world with frictions. I wanted to say is 
that even the most simple laws of science are often not intuitive either 
because they are intricate d with other phenomenums or because we can't 
grasp them at our space/time scale (humans limitations).
I worked 6 years in a Planetarium and people couldn't understand the 
"the sling effect": you want to go to Venus ? Well you better go  in the 
opposite direction to Jupiter ... Ugh!
Because humans live in a uniform gravitationnal field they have no 
intuition  of what motion is in central field is.
To overcome this I did a small 2D Flash simulation: people can launch a 
satellite in the direction they want with the speed they wanted. Then, 
they can act in real time on small booster to modify the motion in the 
central field. After 5 minutes of trials ans errors, they usually can 
put their satellite on geostationary orbit  :


It seems it helped them to have an intuitive comprehension of the 
phenomenum because they lived it.
Well, Einstein Guru said "It's very difficult to understand what you 
never lived"  (and that's why he needed the "imagination" tool).
I'm now trying to adapt the satellite simulation to vpython which gives 
me 3D.
I love vpython but I can't easily/visualy  grab the objects  like my  
"geomags" and enables  people to try  other combinations  (one big 
planet there , one small one here, etc...)
I believe if croquet will be succesfull it will be possible to easily do 
things like that, confront it with others, share, show, etc...
Because I'm "Python in love" (at least for now) I'd like to see it in 
croquet too.  :-)

>What is the
>importance within an educational setting of collaboration in virtual 3d
>space? Compared, for example, to collaboration-in-the-flesh
A lot of shy kids in schools reveals them selfs the most active and 
leaders in virtual environnremrent or through ICT tools (forums, etc...).
I think that's interesting it gives them a chance too.
An other weak point I saw with project based learning is that at the 
scale of a classroom 2 or 3 projects won't appeal to all your students.
If your classroom has million of students it's probably easier to find 
someone which is interested in the same kind of projects as you.
For example if this mailing list was limited to the size of my town 
Strasbourg (500 000 inhabitants) I would probably be alone.
Too bad I need you to confront point of views and learn new things.
A lot of you like and understand the interest of  open source code (I do).
Maybe we should open the windows of our schools.


François Schnell - Strasbourg - France
La liberté ! c'est sur ce principe que repose la démocratie alors pourquoi pas l'informatique ?

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