What is Viewpoints Research Institute?
Viewpoints Research Institute (VRI) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit public benefit organization incorporated in 2001 to improve "powerful ideas education" for the world's children and to advance the state of systems research and personal computing. Many of our themes co-evolved with the inventions of networked personal computers, graphical user interfaces and dynamic object-oriented programming.
Our globally dispersed research group comes from a tradition of whole systems design developed by ARPA in the sixties and Xerox PARC in the seventies. Our ideology is motivated by user-centered systems design. Using this vantage point, our group invents computing technologies, content, curriculum, graphical user interfaces (GUIs), programming languages, implementation systems and processor and memory structures.
Where does Viewpoints focus its research?
Our research covers four areas: Teaching and Learning Powerful
Ideas, Powerful Ideas Content and How to Represent It, User
Interfaces that Aid Learning and Doing, and Inventing Fundamental
New Computing Technologies.
We want to start with the teaching and learning of old and new "powerful ideas"; create much better human-computer environments that allow for authoring, sharing and representing the new ideas; create new user-interfaces that can help children and adults "learn and do" the new ideas; and, invent new, fundamental computing technologies to serve as the raw material for the next stage of the computer revolution.
We build everything we invent and we engineer our prototypes for the greatest usability. Both of our recent free and open source software prototypes, Squeak
Etoys and Croquet have gone out successfully to tens of thousands of users.
How do we view "Design for Learning"?
We want to help children develop real fluency in many important areas of learning, including thinking, math and science. Each of these subjects is outside "natural learning" (such as learning to walk and talk). Quite a bit of time and energy needs to be spent to gain an above threshold fluency. There are interesting similarities to art, music, and sports, each of which also requires quite a bit of time and energy to gain fluency. These arts could be termed "hard fun". Mathematicians and scientists know they are doing art and hard fun as well. "Thinking" is a higher category than "just" math, science, and the arts. It represents a synthesis of intuitive and analytical approaches to understanding the world and dealing with it.