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Summary

Playground will design a computational playground where children aged 4-8 can play and create their own games using tools and metaphors of animation as a means to express the rules - an entrée for children into abstract worlds closed to them until now. Children will engage in quasi-formal thinking, gaining access to formal systems, without having first to learn their symbols and conventions. Prototypes will progressively integrate tactile interaction, speech, intelligent 'pals' (personal assistants for learning), and gesture in virtual reality. The functionality of the playground will be evaluated throughout all phases of its design by comparison with a second playground developed in a new, state-of-the-art system, OpenLogo, with a non-textual interface but without animated code. Playground design will take place concurrently with studies of children learning and social interactions with peers and adults, across a sample of European schools and clubs. Evaluation of the children's games, game creation and learning outcomes will identify cultural, conceptual and developmental variation.

Objective 1: to design and build a playground.
Result : A playground, based on an animation-based kernel, ToonTalk, (TT) where children (aged 4-8 years) design and play their own games.

Objective 2: to evaluate the new paradigm through comparison.
Result: An analysis of the power and functionality of the new concepts and metaphors, by comparison at every stage of the design process with a second playground built on a newly-developed evolution of Logo, OpenLogo, (OL).

Objective 3: to enhance the ToonTalk and OpenLogo kernels.
Result: Extensions of the ToonTalk and OpenLogo kernels with new generic capabilities for tactile, oral and physical means of expressing the rules underlying games, and with organic enhancements emerging from a rolling programme of analysis of children's activities.

Objective 4: to evaluate games and game creation.
Result: Evaluation reports of the games and game creation of children from different European cultures and of different ages, working in the two playgrounds.

Objective 5: to evaluate learning about rules.
Result: Case studies of how children learn to express and manipulate rules, and comparative analyses of how they learn by interacting in each playground, with each other and with adults, and analyses of learning outcomes.

Objective 6: to develop principles for playground design.
Result: A set of principles for playground design for use in future technical, commercial and policy developments.

Objective 7: to Disseminate results.
Result: Large-scale dissemination of the playgrounds, the analyses of children games and game creation, and the set of design principles.

The project consists of a consortium of partners from UK, Portugal, Sweden and Slovakia, both academic and commercial, with complementary expertise in computer science, educational research and development, and young children's learning. We will exploit the cross-cultural dimension of the project to make comparisons between the games, game creation and learning in different countries and contexts. The division of labour between participants is as follows:

 

Development of TT-playgrounds

Development of OL-playgrounds

Enhancement of kernel systems

Research on activities within playgrounds

IofE

YES

YES

 

TT/OL

Logotron

 

 

TT

 

Cnotinfor

YES

YES

 

TT/OL

Stockholm

YES

 

TT

TT

Comenius

 

YES

OL

 

The impact of the expected results will be through the playgrounds with their technical enhancements, the evaluation of the utility for learning of its metaphors and paradigm, and the set of design principles which will be disseminated to feed into the next generation of tools for commercial and policy development.

Results will be communicated through an extensive network of schools and clubs; workshops; presentations at academic and professional conferences; press releases to popular media; our web site and an international invited seminar for key academic, industrial, and professional figures.