Kojo is a whole lot of fun! Much kudos to you all! But it all seems a bit dead in the forums - I note there's a new ebook out so am hopeful there is some activity going on here still. As an educator I am seriously looking at how to integrate Kojo into my teaching. But I have two reservations right now that prevent me from doing so. (This means I'm working more on integrating alternative tools into my lessons. The "sunk costs" of my effort getting to grips to them, and desire to reuse resources I've invested time in creating, will make it harder for me to switch to Kojo later. This concerns me as Kojo seems to have far more flexibility and long-run potential than your competitors. I really hope that something special comes out of this project, and anything that sounds critical in the following post is really just an expression of my frustration - you guys have created a wonderful resource and I'd be very disappointed if it didn't fulfil its potential.)
The utterly fatal problem is lack of documentation. I am sorry, but it is just not possible to use this software in an educational setting unless (a) the students have access to a decent-enough help file that they can solve the "little problems" for themselves (if 2 kids in the class are stuck and have their hands up, I can cope, if 10 do the wheels fall off the session pretty quickly!), (b) the teacher has some way (and it has to be a relatively easy way - educators are stressed and frantically busy, so we tend to take the path of least resistance) of getting seriously competent with the software, so that we can design lessons (or borrow and adapt other people's) and structure the students' learning experience. The experience when using educational software from established for-profit publishers is usually quite pain-free: they often have excellent (extensive and well-written) documentation available in the software, as well as instructor's manuals for teachers to help with lesson-planning. And on top of that is a whole training and support ecosystem: the tech guys can call for product support; the publishers send out training teams into schools, colleges and local authorities; there is "cascading" of training, during professional development sessions, in which educators who have received more training or had greater experience of the software, share ideas and lessons plans, and coach their colleagues (sometimes from a cluster of local schools) in new techniques. When I'm faced with the choice of "shall I do this in Kojo, or something else?" this is the why the path of least resistance is usually "not Kojo", even though Kojo may be the superior as a software tool!
Some kids can experiment with the various options that come up with "autocomplete", and play around until it works. For very able kids that's fine…especially if they have curiosity and motivation. But there are lots of kids who just don't work that way. From a teaching point of view, a first priority is that an activity has to be accessible to the weakest student in the class. Also, it's important as a teacher to feel really confident that you know the software as thoroughly as you need to. For some of your commercial rivals that's easy for me: I got extensive software training when doing teacher-training, then top-up courses from publishers and local authorities, I've seen lots of brilliant ways to use the software innovatively, and on those occasions when in the middle of the lesson I get stuck on something (usually because one of the kids has found a brilliantly innovative way to make a mistake!) then I can usually get unstuck within 60 seconds, with some help from the documentation if needed.
With Kojo I'm not sure how I can get to that point. Obviously there's no training courses available for me, but that's been ok with some other software. (Hopefully in future there will be online videos and so on, and maybe even a "real life" training ecosystem.) But in those other cases I did have a good set of documentation to work through. There are some strategies I can take - e.g. teach very constrained, rigid, formulaic lessons where I stick to the bits of Kojo that I have the most confidence in (due to extensive playing around!) but doing that negates the flexibility of Kojo which is its real strength! There is a lack of material for educators (instructor's manual, lesson plans, or even just more pedagogically-inclined examples) but I could actually live with that - though I know for a fact, other educators will need such content to be available before they adopt. I love teaching, I love using computers to enhance understanding, I love sharing new ideas, I love open-source - for all those reasons I'd be VERY enthusiastic about adding to the Kojo content ecosystem, sharing code and teaching tips, and so on.
But it's difficult for me to get started: I need to find a way to get up to "better than an experimental beginner" status and I can't see how to. The needs of instructors need to be considered separately: only a tiny proportion of us are going to be "power users" or potential developers, but neither are our needs quite the same as the students we hope to teach with Kojo. I think until that's addressed, early-adopting tech-savvy educators whose interest lies in the educational applications of Kojo rather than developing it, are not going to be able to kick-start the sort of content eco-system that can then draw in other educators (who might like a cool shiny new thing, but only after they've seen some concrete examples of what it can do).
There's a second problem with Kojo. This one's not fatal, but will undermine take-up and makes it substantially less useful to me and other educators than some rival software. I don't think it's possible to embed in a web browser. In terms of features, rather than documentation, I think this is the biggest sticking point! It makes it much harder to integrate Kojo into Virtual Learning Environments, or get students to use it remotely (e.g. for homework, or if they want to use a Kojo animation or interactive learning activity to revise). Also, in terms of generating "buzz" about Kojo this is a pretty serious limitation - someone has to install the software to see just how good Kojo is! And at colleges/schools, please remember that most educators CAN NOT install software on the network (user-rights guarded zealously by IT departments) so it'd be impossible to show off to colleagues a "cool new interactive demonstration" you have designed. I have no idea how difficult it would be to get Kojo working in a browser, but if there is some possibility, it would be far more useful than any new feature inside the software itself! Because no matter how good your fancy new feature is, if I can't show it to colleagues then I can't convert them, and if I can't share it with my students via the VLE, then its educational use is limited.
If you could give me some advice on how to get up to a "good" standard at using Kojo, I would love to help you build a "Kojo content community" which is clearly one of the things you need most at the moment. If you could give me some direction about the possibility of Kojo being integrated in a browser, that would substantially change the type of educational material I'd focus on using Kojo to produce. (If it can't be used in a browser, then it's pointless to build animations or interactive demonstrations like the "sine graph from the unit circle" tutorial. I'd be better to do it in e.g. Geogebra for VLE integration and so students can see it at home when they're revising. An ex-colleague of mine actually produced essentially the same tutorial as part of a larger trigonometry e-learning package, and won an award for it. He used a MS Excel plugin because that's what our VLE supported. Kojo excites me because I can see it would be able to produce more powerful and useful interactive demonstrations than both Geogebra and that Excel plugin… but if it can't work in browsers, my educational use of Kojo would focus more on the programming aspect.)
Two pieces of advice and one more query. First, please please don't charge for the ebooks. It's counterproductive - if you want to monetize Kojo, you're far better to focus on growing a professional user community to service. Lack of documentation, particularly for beginners, is the biggest logjam to growth. In contrast, delivering professional training courses, and e-learning consultancy services to education authorities, can be big money! Secondly, as I said above, please during your development consider separately the needs of your "professional users" and your "student users". Unless Kojo draws in the educators, you won't get students experiencing its benefits! Bear in mind that not all educators are tech-savvy or feel confident in their use of computers, even if they hope to use them in their professional practice. Imagine how scary it must be for a teacher, who feels that students know more about computers than him, to use a new piece of software in class that he is not experienced with! Such professional users face a daunting learning curve, but it's not the same one as students do! Finally a query. The "mathworld" is wonderful, but seems less powerful than "raw" Geogreba. I can't seem to find some functionality: polygons and semicircles are useful but seem to be missing. Is this because Kojo doesn't use Geogebra 4? Or are those functions just hidden somewhere?
Best regards and many thanks for making such a wonderful piece of software available for free!