Objectives and Results

Early learning
Objective 1: Creative game construction

Method: Children will design interesting and challenging games for themselves and for others. The games will be played and judged in two games workshops conducted simultaneously in different countries. Sites for the workshops will be connected over the Internet so judgements can be compared and discussed by adults and children. Analysis will draw out differences in games deriving from children using different tools, different ages and in different cultures Schools will be connected via the internet, and games played in native languages of the children. Appropriate translation into a common language (English) will be made by the project officers where necessary.

Expected Result 1: Games and their evaluations (by adults and children), and comparisons and contrasts between playgrounds and between cultures.

Objective 2: Learning through game design, about rules, the different ways they can be expressed, how they can be changed and the implications of modifications.

Method: Analysis will identify the ways in which children's expression and modification of rules throw light on existing developmental sequences in game playing, and the extent to which these are mediated by tools and cultures. Case studies in core sites in Sweden, Portugal and UK, will include interviews with teachers and adult helpers on attitudes to game design, and the appropriateness of the new metaphors and tools; task-based interviews with children around their games to probe their understandings of rules and the functionality of the new paradigm; ethnographic and participant observation; children's reflections on videotapes of their and others' play. Orally-administered closed questionnaires and selected interviews with children of different ages in outer sites in Sweden, Portugal and UK.

Expected Result 2: Description of what is learned about rules and rule creation, analyses of different trajectories in learning, comparisons and contrasts between playgrounds and cultures.

Objective 3: Learning to interact and learning by interacting. Children will learn to negotiate with others (a computerised personal assistant, peers and adults) about the games they create and play, and by so doing, learn to reflect on their learning.

Method: The interactions between children and children, and children and adults (teachers, parents, older siblings) around playground activity will be documented in case studies and analysed. Structured tasks will be designed to test whether or not well-defined learning goals have been achieved. Children working in each playground will serve as comparison groups, one for the other. Work will include a small number of more fine-grained experimental studies to test what learning is taking place, and how it might be improved

Expected Result 3: Analysis of interactions between children and children and adults and how these are mediated by the metaphors and tools available in the playgrounds and by the different cultural contexts of the European partners. Analyses of learning outcomes from structured tasks and experimental studies.

New tools

Objective 1: To build a playground based on the animation-based tools and metaphors of ToonTalk

Objective 2: To exploit comparisons between the design processes of playgrounds in ToonTalk and in OpenLogo to generate new concepts and principles for the design of playgrounds to support learning about rules.

Objective 3: To integrate into the playgrounds through kernel enhancements (physical, oral and tactile interfaces and collaborative tools), to enhance their potential for creative game construction and for promoting the appreciation of rules.

Objective 4: To improve the playgrounds in terms of their potential for learning and creative design on the basis of feedback from studies of children interacting in the playgrounds.

Method: The raw material on which we will base the iterative design and construction of the playground is ToonTalk. The key question is to design playground tools which enable the metaphors of ToonTalk and its connections with children's culture to be exploited to offer apertures for children into the world of quasi-formal, abstract thought. We will evaluate how to exploit ToonTalk's natural way of expressing concurrency and the simple metaphors for program writing and message passing, in order for children to create their own games and rules without encountering the unnecessary obstacles of interacting with text, typing and fixing syntax errors.

OpenLogo will integrate direct manipulation tools into a graphical formal language, with Internet and multimedia support, and animation. Although these features will begin to tackle the issue of accessibility to serious programming which has always been problematic in Logo, the OpenLogo playground will not be based on the new, animation paradigm of the ToonTalk playground. It is this fundamental difference which we will investigate Ñ aiming to evaluate the new paradigm against the yardstick of a tried and tested Logo paradigm and all that has been found about learning within it.

The two kernels, ToonTalk and OpenLogo will be enhanced in two ways: a first set of enhancements, which we call generic, to add to the ways users can interact with the system and to help them to interact more effectively for learning. Generic enhancements will include 'force-joystick' control; speech; multi-user capabilities, real and virtual; a personal assistant for learning (called a pal) growing and adapting to a childÕs needs, and helping establish learning goals; and, in mock up at least, virtual reality Ñ so that children will be able to gesture in front of the screen Ñ and artificial life environments. These enhancements will be integrated into the playgrounds as part of a working system which will add genuine functionality to the playing and designing of the games by children. The second set of enhancements which we call 'organic' enhancements will also be put in place as a result of continual interplay with needs identified in playground prototyping and testing with children. The TT kernel has been prototyped in the US, independently of EC funding. Two members of the IoE team will make annual visits to the US developers, in order to feed into the playground project ongoing developments on the kernel and to shape it in ways which support the project.

A log of evolving design decisions and choices will be set up at the first project meeting. This will be revisited and extended through discussions between partners where new information from prototype testing and the studies of children and their games will be fed in and discussed from cross-country and cross-playground perspectives.

Expected Results: TT and OL playgrounds based on enhanced versions of the kernels. A set of design principles for future initiatives and exploitation.