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Involving Kids In Free Software Through Games 33

SynrG writes "Platinum Arts Sandbox puts into childrens' hands the ability to role play in a 3D world and edit that world using simplified controls. The expressions on the faces of our kids as they played were priceless; both the ups and the downs. I wanted to capture this on video and share it. After having established a rapport with upstream, we took a 20 minute clip of one of our play sessions and gave a copy to them to use to help further their work. Here is the edited result. They were very pleased to have that kind of feedback and found the video valuable for determining where the software still needed improvement and to notice which aspects particularly pleased the children."
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Involving Kids In Free Software Through Games

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  • I went into reading about this very skeptical. I've been part of a few "no-subscription" virtual worlds aimed at kids, and watched a bunch of inventive and creative kids be horribly disappointed when the companies (I'm looking at you, Disney) pulled the plug on them.

    But from the rather poor write-ups I'm finding, it sounds like this is Open Source, so even if its pulled there is still use for it.

    Care to actually tell us more about the platform?

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I recommend reading this page:

      And check out this tutorial video:

      Take care!!

  • How is giving kids free software to play with equivalent to involving them in free software? If they aren't working on the software itself, how are they involved? I understand it is a sandbox that they can play with, but what is the importance of its openness as far as the kids are concerned?

    I have taught high schoolers to develop video games in their free time using a FOSS game engine I put together. That seems more like involving kids in free software, to me.

    This, on the other hand, is a cool way of al

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      I don't think we need to artificially emphasize the openness of our projects to garner a good reception on Slashdot.

      Hey, it's a guarantee that all the fanbois will comment and argue to no end about topics that bore you to hell! Don't believe me, see above comment about urinating in a bucket.

    • To the contrary, one of the most important pieces of Free Software development is feedback. Software developers need to know what their users want if their software is going to be acceptable. These kids are participating in the process as users of the software, and, through their parents, they are providing feedback to the developers, who are using that feedback to make development decisions.

      Are they coding? Of course not. They're essentially a focus group.

      • by bazald ( 886779 )

        That is an interesting interpretation of involvement. It is certainly valid, to some degree. On the other hand, I still fail to see how the openness of the project is important for this type of involvement. If they were used as a focus group for an identical closed source, proprietary, ..., project, would their experience be any different?

        • No...but proprietary efforts have a tendency to exaggerate success and undermine what is meant by applying a "gold standard" to education.

    • It might get them interested in modding, I guess, and then they'll move on to something which actually allow them to write some code too. E.g., see the Oblivion or Fallout 3 or NWN2 scripting.

      Most of the basic concepts involved in programming are just as applicable to and learnable from scripting, as from C++ or whatever else. E.g., according to a recent article, apparently one hurdle that half the population can't get over, is the humble "a = b" assignment. If a kid managed to get over it in a script to ma

      • by GrnyS ( 131646 )

        No, I think you miss the point I made in my article, or are at least veering off in a different direction. When we play with free software with children, it should not about the educational outcomes or preparing them for a career. Those things will happen anyway all on their own, and perhaps not in a way you carefully planned, either. But if that's all you are thinking about, if that is your primary motive, it will warp your relationship with the children. Instead of experiencing each joy and frustratio

        • 1. I'm not proposing to _push_ any agenda on anyone. I'm just proposing to let them discover if they're interested in that or not. These are the tools, this is what you can do with them, feel free to experiment or not.

          Note for example that nowhere did I say I'm going to push any flavour of F/OSS on them. One of the possible outcomes I described was also discovering that they're the "mine! all mine!" kind after all. I'd call that a valuable experience too.

          (Entirely too many people are paying lip service to F

          • by GrnyS ( 131646 )

            1. I'm not proposing to _push_ any agenda on anyone.

            Your agenda is apparently to involve kids somehow in either the production of software or things that go with the software (or as you say, give them this opportunity). Being broad-minded about this, you don't prescribe any kind of F/OSS at all. Nevertheless, it's still an agenda and has some influence.

            But anyway, I think it's an important lesson to learn early. Not even "learn" as in "get to _my_ conclusion", but decide for yourself if that's what you want to do.

            Yes, there are learning opportunities along the way. I don't place a low value on these. But I also am cautious to stress them or try to arrange these play sessions in such a way as to cause these outcomes.

            • Your agenda is apparently to involve kids somehow in either the production of software or things that go with the software (or as you say, give them this opportunity). Being broad-minded about this, you don't prescribe any kind of F/OSS at all. Nevertheless, it's still an agenda and has some influence.

              Let's just say: I certainly _would_, if I submitted an article like "involving kids in OSS". Because, again, without at least understanding (or having a chance to try out) the sharing part, it's got nothing to

              • by GrnyS ( 131646 )

                I don't have the energy to continue this at length. Debian Jr. is about making Debian better for kids. We discuss and try various software with them. We respond when things are broken and file bug reports and make feature requests. We test new versions of software when these problems are fixed or features are implemented. This isn't involvement in F/OSS?

                Don't for a minute think that I *avoid* talking about the distinction between free as in freedom vs. beer (in whatever terms I think they will grasp).

    • by GrnyS ( 131646 )

      Read the quote from my article in context. There is more happening here than just giving kids free software to play with. Our approach with Debian Jr. is to observe children using the software, respond to their needs and wants, and work with package maintainers and upstream developers: providing notes/videos of the sessions, chatting with them, filing bugs, making feature requests, and trying new releases. So yes, the children take an active role in the software development process. We involve them in t

  • Sauerbraten? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Beardydog ( 716221 )
    I've typed "newent" a few times, and that game looks a lot like Sauerbraten to me, but I din't see anything about Sauerbraten or Cube 1/2 in the article or on the game's page... []
    • I believe sauerbraten was renamed cube and this seems to use the same engine. Pretty cool - kids will have fun editing with it.
  • teaches more. Doom + Myst isn't a magical formula for learning unless the plan is to populate Second Life. But an open source, immersive environment is exciting if, say, Powers of 10 is the bar. Doesn't virtual reality promise means of illustration limited only by imagination? Game environments seek to temper all the running around (that is so fun) with puzzles that are, in a way, signatures of what abstract thinking skills its players possess.

  • I would first like to point out that this was the original news title: Free 3D Game Maker Gets Kids Involved Through Play The new one seems to be a bit misleading. The goal of Platinum Arts Sandbox is so that kids and adults can quickly and easily create their own video games and 3D worlds. The software is free and open source. I recommend watching the tutorial video to see how the in game editing works: [] I have used Sandbox to teach a HS afterschool club, at a
    • by cgreuter ( 82182 )

      I just downloaded it and played with it for a few minutes. Some comments:

      1. I don't think your license actually meets the criteria for open-source. It isn't clear to me that I legally could create a fork of Sandbox and distribute it under the same terms. I'd be much happier if you used a well-known open-source license (e.g. the GPL) instead.
      2. I also don't how your license claims the copyright of any submitted changes. A more suspicious mind might think you're trying to build a base of contributor gam
      • by calimer ( 872695 )
        1. Open source is when the source code is accessible. The license itself actually is based on the GPL and closely resembles it in theory. It will be going to mostly a zlib format but right now the rewrite of that license has been put off for a bit since I'm working on getting the license set for the debian free version which is going into edubuntu, debian, ubuntu, slackware and more hopefully.

        2. I realize that section is poorly worded. The intent is that if content is submitted that it cannot be rev

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