Open Slate Project

The goal of the Open Slate Project is to transform the way computers are used in secondary education. Rather than fencing computers in by making them a subject to study, computers ought to be fully integrated into the educational process, as common in classrooms as textbooks and chalk boards. The key to success is to recognize and use the skills of the students. The project encompasses self-made slate computers, a supporting network, and a collection of educational software.



New Web Site

Gary Dunn, 2013.01.01

What better way to start the year than to announce we have a new web site. Our original site was a branch off my original account at, Hawaii's first ISP. That domain has been bought and sold several times, and the new owners do not want to continue hosting individual accounts so we had to move. Our new site is hosted at Go Daddy. The correct URL is The old form is depricated. Our wiki is still up, but hosted at a different site. After I get us settled into our new location I will pursue consolidating the two.

First Chalk Dust book released

Gary Dunn, 2011.08.18

After deciding on Squeak as the platform for creating Chalk Dust applications (see: Modular Morphic Super Chalk Board, Embracing Wabi-Sabi) I finally got around to creating a sample Morphic book, titled "How to Make a Chalk Dust Morphic Book." The book is released as a Squeak project. Instructions for importing the project file into Squeak are located on our wiki.

Links page updated

Gary Dunn, 2011.08.18

It has been a long time since our links page was updated. The good news is that most of the more significant links are still valid, meaning open-source in education is a viable concern. When I started this project this had yet to be proven.

New essay on Super Chalk Board

Gary Dunn, 2011.05.10

I just finished an essay concerning a new view of Super Chalk Board. I suddenly realized that a large, monolithic program may not be in our best interests. My essay, Modular Morphic Super Chalk Board, Embracing Wabi-Sabi presents an alternative, using the Squeak Smalltalk environment.

Squeak coming to Android

Gary Dunn, 2011.04.19

Since the inception of the Open Slate Project my preference has been to use FreeBSD as the OS. While the benefits are many and the barriers few, to date those barriers have proven to be difficult to overcome. Power Management is just one -- my Fujitsu still will not sleep, and a typical session on battery power barely lasts an hour. What I envision for the slate is more like the Newton, where battery life is measured in days if not weeks. More recently I decided that Squeak would make the ideal environment, possibly even taking on the role of window manager. And, in the last week, I have hit upon a way to implement Super Chalk Board in Squeak using a modular approach ... more on that in a future post.

2010 was the year of the tablet. Apple led the charge, as they so often do (let's not forget our debt to Apple with regards to Squeak), and in their wake we see a string of Windows tablets. The newest hot thing are tablets running Android, which is based on Linux and fully open-source.

The Really Hot News today is the announcement concerning Squeak on Android. This is not production quality code, but even so it is of great potential to OSP.

from	Dimitry Golubovsky 
reply-to	Squeak Virtual Machine Development Discussion 
date	Tue, Apr 19, 2011 at 5:55 AM
subject	[Vm-dev] Squeak Port for Android: Update
mailing list Filter messages from this mailing list
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hide details 5:55 AM (8 hours ago)


I am glad to announce that the Squeak Port for Android Tablets [1] has
reached its first milestone.

Work has been done towards fixing certain usability issues such as
better integration with Android Input Methods, access to local file
system, etc.

The pre-packaged Android application (apk, signed with debug key), and
zipped Image file (Image, changes, sources, demo project) are
available from the project page at Google Code.

Everyone is welcome to test the application on their Android devices.
See the TestDrive [2] Wiki page for detailed instructions. Please
report all issues to the project's issue tracker and Wiki pages.

In my case it works on Pandigital Novel 9" eReader tablet with Android
2.0, not rooted.

PS Two things are still known to be an issue:

1. Network sockets do not function properly; they were not addressed
at this time
2. Android NDK rev. 3 is still required (because of the 4.2.1
toolchain); see [3] for some information

PPS I also have been working on the presentation of this project (see
notes and slides in the wiki). If there is any interested group of
Smalltalk and/or Android users/developers in my area (South-eastern
PA, US) I'd be glad to give an actual presentation.

Thanks for any feedback.




Dimitry Golubovsky

Anywhere on the Web

New Essay on Chalk Dust

Gary Dunn, 2011.03.15

Last year I accepted an invitation to write an essay on Chalk Dust for a web site devoted to open-source ideas. It has yet to be published, so I decided to go ahead and present it here. Written in Lyx, the Latex editor, and presented here in PDF format by way of pdflatex, all open-source software. Even a brief glace will demonstrate how much more attractive document formatting appears when created with Latex, compared to the far more popular commercial product. I call my essay Transforming Textbooks to Chalk Dust, A Path to Open-Source Textbooks.

Meet on irc

Gary Dunn, 2011.01.04

Join #openslate on FreeNode most evenings 7:00-12:00 (Hawaii Time). Unfortunately most of North and South America are asleep at that hour. Look for nicks gd808 and gd808mobile, the latter being my Android phone. Watch here for an announcement of a physical meeting place.

Open Slate goes social

Gary Dunn, 2010.12.03

In order to lower the barrier to sharing information and to reach a wider audience I have created Facebook and Twitter accounts for Open Slate. Still waiting for our Facebook account to set up and in the meantime I cannot be certain of the username, but you can find us by name, "Open Slate." It should end up as On Twitter we are @openslateproj.

Open Slate gets the ORG domain name

Gary Dunn, 2010.12.03

Ever since the start of this project the domain was taken. Luckily the owner never did anything with it and did not bother to renew this year. I had it on a GoDaddy watch list, and when it became available I grabbed it. The old URLs should still work, but when you get a chance, change to

School Uses Video Games To Teach Thinking Skills

Gary Dunn, 2010.06.28

NPR today carried a fascinating story by Heather Chaplin about a New York school named Quest to Learn with a curriculum built around video games. She writes:

Most kids don't need instructions to figure out how to play video games. Something about these games turns kids into phenomenal learners.

"The big idea of the school is we looked at how games work -- literally how they're built and the way they support learning -- and we thought could we design a school from the ground up that supported learning in the way games do," says Katie Salen, one of the executive directors of Quest to Learn.

Although the article credits James Gee as the source for this view, it really began with Seymour Papert. I should also mention that Alan Kay, creator of Squeak, had similar views. In any case it has been a cornerstone of the Open Slate philosophy, right along side the recognition that young people crave socializing and that this, too, should be incorporated into the curriculum. Squeak, by the way, is fundamental to Open Slate.

(full story, with audio ...)
Quest to Learn

Obama administration supports open document formats

Gary Dunn, 2010.03.02

Our friend Marino Marcich of the ODF Alliance mentions in his most recent news letter a memo from Presedent Obama to all federal executive offices layout details on how to implement open access to government. He writes:

U.S. federal government agencies will soon be required to make information available in open formats. According to the Open Government Directive issued by the Obama Administration, each agency will be required to "take prompt steps to expand access to information by making it available online in open formats. ... To the extent practicable and subject to valid restrictions, agencies should publish information online in an open format that can be retrieved, downloaded, indexed, and searched by commonly used web search applications." An open format is defined in the directive as one that is platform independent, machine readable, and made available to the public without restrictions that would impede the re-use of that information. Within 45 days of the publication of the directive on 8 December 2009, each agency was required to identify and publish online in an open format at least three high-value data sets. Agencies are required to produce a first draft of an Open Government Plan by April 2010.

The Open Slate Project is a member of the ODF.

2010 begins abuzz about slates

Gary Dunn, 2010.01.04

Every year or so the Apple blogs light up with stories about a possible rebirth of the Newton. The last time there was anything to the rumors it turned out to be the iPod Touch, a huge disappointment to those of us familiar with the oldest and best ever PDA. During 2009 the rumors have started again, and 2010 may just be the year we finally see what some have already dubbed the "iSlate."

Apple's competitors are not about to be left behind. Microsoft is rumored to have something under development, a folding design called Courier. Then there is the CrunchPad, a.k.a. JooJoo, which debuted in a cloud of controversy.

It is fair to include E-book readers in the slate category, and here too there has been a lot of activity. Sony has been in the market for a long time; their latest model being the LIBRIé . Other recent entrants have been the Amazon Kindle and the Barnes & Noble nook.

Hopefully these products will reach a wide market. This will benefit Open Slate by legitimizing the slate format, and hopefully will make slate specific hardware, such as the display/digitizer, low power CPU, and better batteries, more available and less expensive. Who knows ... maybe one of these could be used to jump-start the hardware side of the project, or as an alternative to self-made computers.

Squeak to play lead role

Gary Dunn, 2009.11.08

The Squeak programming language, an implementation of Smalltalk created by Smalltalk's visionary author, Alan Kay, is the ideal choice for Open Slate. Squeak is open-source, released under the MIT license, and is actively supported by a team of dedicated experts. It is the basis for several exciting applications, EToys, Sophie, and Open Cobalt.

I have added a Squeak section to our wiki.

New hardware forum

Gary Dunn, 2008.04.14

There has been a lot of good chatter on the openslate-brainstorms mailing list regarding a prototype slate. To encourage this activity I created a new forum at our SourceForge site, Open Slate Client Plateform. Please give it a look. You may also find related posts in the mailing list archives.

Home Schooling Conference

Gary Dunn, 2008.02.20

We will be participating in the annual CHOH Conference and Curriculum Fair on March 14 and 15 (Friday and Saturday), being held at Kalihi Union Church, 2214 N. King Street, Honolulu. That's at the West end of King Street just before it crosses over to the mauka side of the freeway. We were not able to get a work shop slot of our own; we will just be hanging out with Dick Rowland and our friends at Grassroot Institute of Hawaii.

This conference is put on by the Christian Homeschoolers of Hawaii, and the subject of most of the presentations is decidedly Christian. Open Slate is non-denominational and welcomes participation from any and all, in the same spirit that characterizes the best of what makes America great. Our goal in attending this conference is to solicit support from the home school community.

March 26 is Document Freedom Day

Gary Dunn, 2008.03.03

The ODF Alliance has declared March 26 to be Document Freedom Day, dedicated to document liberation through international grassroots action. DFD 2008 will give participants the chance to rally behind document freedom -- the right to freely create, edit, exchange, and store documents -- at events organized by local teams around the world.

Open Slate Wiki opens

Gary Dunn, 2008.01.11

The Open Slate Wiki was created primarily to take the first small steps along the path that leads to Chalk Dust. The idea is to have a place where interested people can go and contribute course material. This activity will seed the much larger and more complex Chalk Dust collection.

Please understand that we have had the ribbon cutting ceremony and are in the process of moving in. Over the next week or so I expect to have more structure roughed out. Also keep in mind that I have never worked with MediaWiki, so there is a learning curve to deal with.

Open Source Pizza

Gary Dunn, 2007.11.16

I will be giving a talk on Open Slate at the December meeting of Open Source Pizza, December 18, 7:00 PM, at the Marine Sciences Building, University of Hawaii at Manoa.

The Slate
The defining technology of the project is the client workstation. The design is optimized for mobility, collaboration, and browsing. It has enough capability to be useful on its own, but it comes to life with access to its network.

When this project was begun, in the Fall of 2000, the portable market was comprised of three categories: laptops, palm devices, and slates. Laptops were preferred for general purpose work -- a portable desktop. The palm category was owned by the Palm Pilot, despite the efforts of Microsoft in marketing Windows CE. The slate category serviced niche markets, such as health care, law enforcement, quality assurance, and warehouse management. There was no widely used, general purpose slate.

By 2002 the situation had changed, due to changes in the manufacturing sector in Asia, advances in wireless networking, motherboard size and battery life, and especially the announcement by Microsoft of Windows XP Tablet PC Edition. Not since Apple introduced the Newton Message Pad has the situation been better for realizing the concepts behind Open Slate.

To grasp the possibilities of the slate one must first understand why it has been so slow to catch on. It all comes down to the input device, the pen. The reason the laptop, with its keyboard, has been so much more successful than the slate is due to how we describe our work. Once we redefine what it is we are really trying to accomplish, the technology of the slate becomes the optimal design. Open Slate has many fundamental concepts; the one addressed here is about communication. Once we understand the significance of facilitating personal communication rather than formal printed text, the value of the slate becomes clear.

Chalk Dust

To achieve success in its primary role as a K-12 learning platform, Open Slate supports a new kind of educational content. Part software, part textbook, Chalk Dust applications are open-source projects which encourage participation by college students. Chalk Dust seeks to maintain high academic standards through oversight and review by acedemic subject matter experts.

We encourage you to join the Open Slate community. We support the sharing of ideas through a mailing list and forums.

Brainstorms Mailing List

You can sign up to receive the openslate-brainstorms list on our handy registration page. To send a message to the list, send it to An archive of previous posts is available.


Our forums are hosted at our SourceForge site.


If you would like to contribute to the Chalk Dust courseware portion of Open Slate you should consider using the Open Slate Wiki. Eventually we will have Super Chalk Board and a complete application development framework for developing Chalk Dust applications. In the meantime, to help get things started we will welcome contributions through the wiki.

Whichever method you choose, we hope you take some time to share your thoughts with us.

Focus Areas
Idea List Green

Reference Design Green
Concept proposal.

Operating System Green

Chalk UI green
Initial concepts.

Squeak green

Handwriting Recognition Critical
Has not started.

Security Critical
Has not started.

Networking Critical
Has not started.

Chalk Dust Critical

Customs, Rituals,
and Ethics
Has not started.

Elsewhere Needs work

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Webmaster: Gary Dunn
Last modified: 2018.10.08