365 Days of Earrings

Friday, November 4, 2011

LOGO and Turtles

Back in 1991, I talked an elementary school principal into hiring me to teach computer. The school had a lab full of Commodore 64 computers which they used to teach BASIC progamming, LOGO (the turtle who follows commands to draw geometric shapes), typing, and some educational games (Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?) I had never touched a Commodore 64, written a program in BASIC or LOGO, or played any of those games, but I did own a computer (an Apple 2C) and I did know how to type. And, as I told Christine (convincingly, I guess), I am a teacher. I know how to analyze a set of skills and a body of knowledge, break it into manageable parts, and create lessons that will inspire my students to explore and master a subject matter.

So that summer, I borrowed a Commodore 64 and learned to write programs in BASIC. I learned to draw and animate using LOGO. I played Carmen Sandiego and decided that my students would research the answers and create a database of currencies, languages, cities, and landmarks to use in solving the mysterious clues. Oh, and I practiced my typing using Letter Invaders until I was pretty sure I could type fast enough to impress the average 5th grader.
Last year, LOGO reappeared as part of my new math program. I have to admit that I liked many aspects of the old version better. But I love watching my 3rd graders' excitement as they write the simple LOGO scripts. As the turtle begins to obey their commands, they discover the power of this simple programming language.

As class began, we sat around a grid on the floor. I put a pink and green stuffed turtle on an intersection and explained that we were going to talk to the turtle so that he would draw.

"That's why you're wearing turtle earrings!" announced a child in each of my three classes.

By the end of class, each student had programmed the turtle to draw a square and a rectangle, and most had drawn a triangle. Many were attempting more complex designs. James even drew a house that included a square, a triangle, and several rectangles. Today, at least one future programmer caught the bug.

My earrings were a gift from my mother-in-law back in the 1980's, before I first met the LOGO turtle.

1 comment:

Käthe said...

I remember using the LOGO turtle program in either kindergarten or first grade! I didn't remember the story about how you convinced the principal to hire you for that job. very cool!