Narrative Interfaces
cananian

One Laptop per Child creates student-centric learning experiences. Our current software stack, however, is somewhat "shallow". When you turn on the XO, all the content is immediately available but there is no path or guidance provided. Nothing suggests what you should try first, or indicates an order to progress through the activities provided. Everything is available, but there's no built-in journey. No plot. How can we improve this?

This Friday (June 17) at 2pm Eastern we're inviting some folks over to OLPC's new offices at the American Twine building to discuss Narrative Interfaces, as part of the proposed XO-3 software stack. Nick Montfort will give a short talk on Curveship, his model-based interactive fiction system, and Chris Ball will present some related recent hacking. Angela Chang will present her Tinkerbooks early-literacy platform, which allows kids to interactively change the written story on the page. And I'll discuss Neal Stephenson's novel The Diamond Age (a recap of a short talk I gave at EduJAM in Uruguay), and give concrete suggestions for how Diamond Age's Primer might influence the software architecture for the XO-3. (I might even reveal how to make software testing semantically indistinguishable from writing a game!) Chris Ball and I have also been collecting best-of-breed "comic books that teach you something" as examples of educational narrative; we'll pass those around and post a reading list after the event.

The real point of this meeting isn't the talks, per se, but the discussions to follow. We're trying to gather folks who know a lot more about this stuff than we do, in order to learn from them and be inspired. We don't have a lot of space, unfortunately, so I'm going to have to ask for RSVPs from those who wish to attend. If you're in the Boston area and feel like you have something to contribute (and especially if you have created/could create Creative Commons-licensed content for education), drop me a line at cscott at laptop dot org. Describing what you can contribute to the discussion will help break ties if space is inadequate.

We will also live-stream the meeting at ustream.tv/channel/cscottnet. Afterwards we'll post higher-quality video and a list of cited works. Thanks in advance to everyone who will participate, online and off!

UPDATE: video now up; see this writeup on Chris Ball's blog.


Words With Pirates
cananian

I've caught the Words With Friends bug. Worse: the Words With Pirates subtype. (It's all the tile-placement and strategy fun of Words with less of the tedious racking your brain for obscure words; a more relaxing variant for when I don't want to think so hard.)

Today I discovered that I didn't actually understand the full word-creation rules for Words With Pirates. For the benefit of other similarly unenlightened folk, here's the accepted word list as a regular expression:

^((([gh]y?|y)?ar+(g(h?))?)|(harhar(har)?))!?$

In more verbose format, these are all the words:

ar arg argh gar garg gargh gyar gyarg gyargh har harg hargh harhar harharhar hyar hyarg hyargh yar yarg yargh

In addition, an exclamation mark is always allowed at the end, and any non-zero number of r's may be substituted for any r.

Note that the words 'har', 'harhar', and 'harharhar', with optional exclamation marks at the end, are allowed. This is a little unusual, since the 15x15 grid should allow 'harharharhar' and 'harharharharhar' to also be played -- but these are not in the dictionary. Nevertheless, these oddball forms will probably prove useful to those stuck with excess a's.

For the benefit of the obsessive, there are 15 A's (worth 2 points), 9 G's (worth 3 points), 6 H's (worth 5 points), 28 R's (worth 1 point), 3 Y's (worth 10 points), and 3 !'s (worth 10 points), for a total of 64 tiles.

Enjoy!