1. Introduction: the game
2. The software and its goals
3. The pupil's activities
4. Help to knowledge gaining
5. The teacher's role
6. Interesting aspects and limitations
1. Introduction: the game
To illustrate some of the capabilities of EUREKA, a micro world software, I have chosen to build a simple game for small children. The game consists in trying to guess a random number generated by the program.
With this game called "GUESS a NUMBER", the child is stimulated to take a
thoughtful approach to estimation, while still remaining inside a ludic
environment. By providing appropriate feedback, the game guides the child through intermediate solutions until the good answer is
eventually found. A good answer is rewarded with a congratulating text and an applauding. Other answers trigger two types of feedback: "answer too big" with a
cat sound or "answer too small" with a cow sound.
2. The software and its goals:
EUREKA is an open learning environment belonging to the category of the micro worlds.
Following the cognitive theories which define learning as an active, constructive,
goal-oriented process, EUREKA provides a laboratory place where the child
can do experiments, construct engines, solve problems, make games and build
all sorts of imaginary objects. It also includes examples and a number of problems to solve.
EUREKA is very science oriented, the underline idea being that science can be learnt while having fun.
Therefore, the software provides primitives in a variety of scientific domains.
EUREKA uses a totally graphic representation which gives a ludic aspect to the program.
EUREKA has a very good help system which can be invoked any time with the
F1 function or by double-clicking on an object. The topics in the help are explained
in a very simple language that can be understood by children as young as teenagers.
Because of its totally graphical interface, EUREKA has a very ludic aspect to it.
Nevertheless, it offers a large range of primitives suitable for the development of both simple
EUREKAS and very sophisticated laboratories to explore mathematical and scientific phenomena.
In this respect EUREKA is therefore suitable to children of a wide age range.
As an example, a small child can explore cause-effects relationships by creating
a simple EUREKA that lights a bulb when an impulse is given. On the other hand, older children can for example build
an EUREKA to calculate the weight of a man on Mars or solve complex mathematical problems.
Here is an example of a simple EUREKA created by a 9 years old child after about an hour of unguided exploration in the micro world. Click here to download it.
The modularity of EUREKA is another interesting aspect of the software. One can build an EUREKA, save it, and then import it as a separate module inside other EUREKAS. Nevertheless, there is a limitation in the number of modules that can be used in the EUREKA given by the machine's memory size.
The possibility of saving an EUREKA as an independent application (run-time executable file) is very attractive for portability reasons.