The Vivarium Program


An early Apple endeavor to introduce a new style of learning in schools.

Brief Description of Vivarium

The Apple Vivarium program was an innovative learning, education, and teaching exercise that was started in 1986. It investigated new opportunities provided by technology to create a student-directed and teacher-facilitated environment where students were directed by their curiosity and intuition and teachers used in-room resources to facilitate the students' progress. Software was developed to readily allow users to create their own lessons and environments. The effort was phased out in the early 90s.

Philosophy and Theory Informing the Vivarium Project

retrieved from Internet Archive - The Vivarium Program by Larry Yaeger
"The Apple Vivarium program is a long-range research program with the goal of improving the use of computers. By researching and building the many tools necessary to implement a functioning computer vivarium, an ecology-in-the-computer, we hope to shed light on many aspects of both the computer's user interface and the underlying computational metaphor. We are exploring new possibilities in computer graphics, user interfaces, operating systems, programming languages, and artificial intelligence. By working closely with young children, and learning from their intuitive responses to our system's interface and behavior, we hope to evolve a system whose simplicity and ease of use will enable more people to tailor their computer's behavior to meet their own needs and desires. We would like untrained elementary school children and octogenarians to be able to make specific demands of their computer systems on a par with what today requires a well trained computer programmer to implement."

Techniques and Practices of the Vivarium Project

retrieved from Internet Archive - Recursive Interfaces for Reactive Objects by Michael Travers, MIT Media Laboratory
"The Vivarium Project was begun in 1986 by Ann Marion and Alan Kay [8] with the goal of exploring new, biologically inspired directions for novice programming environments. Inspired by the task of simulating animal behavior, we also wanted to make our computational environment more life-like. In part, this meant that objects should not be mere passive respondents to the commands of an external user or program, but have autnomous behaviors of their own. They should react to the user and to each other. The computational models used in these designs were based on agents in Minsky's [11] sense: small modules that define simple behaviors, but can be combined into large systems that exhibit complex behavior; and that execute autonomously, yet can interact with and influence one another."

Current Traces of the Vivarium Project

Open Magnet Charter School
"Although the Vivarium project was phased out in the early ‘90s, the use of technology and the culture of experimentation have continued to flourish at the Open School and remain at the heart of what defines and distinguishes our program. Students use computers for everything from daily journaling and composition to multimedia presentations, research, and object-based programming."

Lessons Learned from the Vivarium Project

Open Magnet Charter School
"We created an on-site Institute, conducted during the students' regular school day. The Institute features focused classroom observations, discussions on curriculum and school organization, and teacher-led workshops on various topics, such as thematic teaching, integrated curriculum and the use of technology in the classroom. The first one was so successful that The Open School Institute has since become an annual event attended by educators from around the world."

Sources and References for more on the Vivarium Project

Founder Alan Kay: Viewpoints Research Institute
Ann Marion: (researching links)
ATG Education Research