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Re: Debian for kids

On Fri, 11 Feb 2000, Bdale Garbee wrote:
> In article <38A43352.9DAC438B@mindspring.com> you wrote:
> > "Fool Proof Debian", "Low-Maintenance Debian", "No Hassle Debian"?  I
> > can't think of a good term.
> We need to be careful here.  My goal isn't any of these things... it's to 
> make Debian an operating system my kids *want* to run. 

I heartily agree.  This is exactly what I had in mind when I first posted
suggesting the creation of a debian-kids group.

> Don't laugh, but I bet some desktop themes with cartoon characters, dinosaurs, 
> zoo animals, or other things like that which appeal directly to kids would 
> have more to do with whether our kids think it's cool running Debian than 
> almost anything else we could work on.  /o\

:)  Too true.  Let me furnish some examples ... are adults interested in a
"stickers" program that allows you to make your own funny scenes out of
pre-selected sets of pixmaps?  Or how about "lletters" (which is already
in Debian).  This is a wonderful program the displays large, friendly
letter buttons and displays pictures when each is pressed.  It is at risk
of being orphaned upstream, though, because of lack of time to continue
maintaining it.  Further contributions have been made recently to add
sound ... I'd love to see someone from the "kidsgames" list or even from
the emerging debian-kids group step in and take it over.  And then there
are the tasks I mentioned earlier ... sifting thru current Debian packages
and producing a subset that are recommended a "kids" system, and producing
another list to contribute to the WNPP of free software that we'd like to
see packaged for Debian, and then provide maintainers from this group who
will go knock them off one at a time.  Not to mention parent/kid admin
issues that are peculiar to that relationship and need to be approached
differently from typical admin/user issues.  I could go on ...

> By the way, I don't want my kids to have a completely fool-proof system.  They
> aren't fools, and it is important that they have the learning experiences that
> go along with fixing things and/or getting help to fix things from time to 
> time.  One of the great enabling features of an Open Source system is that you
> *can* learn how it all works if you want to.  If there are things we can or 
> should do to improve Debian's robustness for all users, that's great... I 
> sure have spent a lot of late nights trying to make the packages I maintain 
> more robust because I think that is generally important, and I don't intend 
> to stop... but it isn't a kid-specific issue.

Well said!  As I think I alluded to in an earlier sub-thread, my
"security" fixes aren't going to be industrial strength ... they will be
mild restrictions to help prevent kids from doing things that chew up a
lot of my time as a parent and administrator.

Kids produce random results at an *alarming* rate, much moreso than the
average "dumb" user.  This has nothing to do with lack of intelligence. 
In fact, it is an expression of their intelligence, their natural
curiosity about how the machine works. Making the machine go "out of
control" is a game for them, and is about pushing the machine's limits,
much like they push a parent's limits in the arena of authority and what
is "acceptable" within the family unit.  A (non-tech user) adult is less
apt to try something "just to see what it does" for fear of "breaking" the
computer, because they associate "breaking" it with unpleasant results
(error messages to them are judgements against them which translate in
their head roughly as "you did something stupid, bozo").

See Sherry Turkle's "The Second Self: Computers and the Human Spirit" for
an insightful view of how we define ourselves, as children and adults, in
our interactions with computers.  Also, "Mindstorms: Children, Computers
and Powerful Ideas" by Seymour Papert (inventor of the Logo instructional
computer language) for an inspiring classic on kids and computers that is
sure to get ideas flowing.

> Don't confuse the issues associated with making Debian more attractive and 
> useful to kids with the issue of robustness... they may go hand in hand, but
> they are *not* the same thing!


    nSLUG       http://www.nslug.ns.ca      synrg@sanctuary.nslug.ns.ca
    Debian      http://www.debian.org       synrg@debian.org
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