Sunday, April 22, 2007

the frustrating but eventually successful search for etoy resources

The squeakland site is poorly organised. It has taken me several visits to find a range of good tutorials and exemplars. I'll try to act as a guide here to save others time in getting started. Read this in conjunction with an earlier draft, guide to learning etoys / squeak, which mentions a couple of great articles by Alan Kay, the Drive a Car tutorial and another good tutorial page.

These are good starting points but after having read the above Alan Kay articles and doing the above tutorials I was still missing a systematic guide to learning other features of Etoys. So I've ordered the Etoys book by B.J. Allen-Conn and Kim Rose

However, recently, I have found some more good tutorials on the site and some more examples that run on line.

The trick is to click on the site map button (unfortunately, this is not a separate, distinct URL) from the squeakland home page and then the EToys Project Guides link which takes you to four projects which can be downloaded as pdfs:
  • How To Graph Motion
  • Your Own Lunar Lander
  • Your Eyes Can Be Tricked
  • Help The Salmon Find Its' Home
Systematic introduction to Etoy themes. Just the sort of thing I was looking for

Also from the site map page there are links to Elementary School Projects, Middle School Projects, Squeak in High School and Squeak in University. These are on line projects which run in your browser and can even be edited on line, due to late binding

It's annoying that some of the projects (especially on the Elementary and Middle School pages) don't load, indicating poor site maintenance. However, some of them work and a lot can be learnt from them once you know the quirks (mouse middle click and the blue inspector eye halo)

From the site map page I also learn that squeak might be big in Japan, Germany, Spain, Nepal and Brazil since there are separate links to those countries

NB. This excellent page from a French site gathers together a wide variety of Etoy projects in one place

NB. This great page containing some more advanced projects, from a German site, is also very interesting

Great characteristics of Etoys / Squeak:
It is open source, cross platform and multilingual. Etoy projects can run and can even be edited on the web. Etoys has a user friendly drag and drop features. The code and the animation can be viewed together dynamically on the same page.


Serge said...

You are right Bill, the EToys documentation is difficult to found. In the french Squeak community we setup a Wiki in order to foster the documentation development. I hope a similar effort will also be conduct in english.

Bill Kerr said...

thanks serge,

The wiki looks good. I also found some other french references to my recent etoys / squeak splurge, doesnotunderstand blog and the french squeak list

Anonymous said...

Hi Bill, I completely agree with you on the issue of good Etoys information being hard to find. At the beginning of the year I volunteered to help Etoys to support the OLPC project. I am not a professional programmer but I have programmed in many languages over the last 20 years. I had never used Etoys before but figured if it was a programming language for kids I should be able to pick it up in no time. Boy was I wrong! First I tried just playing around with it thinking I would be able to do basic things. After a few non productive weekends of that I realized I needed a good tutorial. My web searches (which I am usually pretty good at) turned up very little information. The things I did find usually dealt with squeek and not specifically Etoys. After running into a Etoys bug that prevented me from using the recording feature to show how to import pictures I became disillusioned with the project. I stayed subscribed to the email list (which is how I found your blog) and have seen the Etoys people really put a lot of work into it. When I saw the email from Carla G. on Friday about the teachers and kids being intimidated by it and not using it I was immediately reminded of my experience. I still would like to help the project so I will try the tutorials you suggested. Maybe this time something will sink into my thick skull and I will be able to make something useful for the teachers and kids.

Thanks for the information

Phil D.

Bill Kerr said...

hi phil,

Your experiences with getting started seem fairly similar to mine. It's nice to have independent confirmation.

There is now a great bunch of tutorials / demos in one place, not on the squeakland site, but on the latest image of the OLPC etoys/squeak version