Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Learning From the LogoTurtle

Teaching with the LogoTurtle was an experiment for me last spring. I knew there would be a lot for my high school robotics students to learn from it but I didn't exactly know what. At the end of our LogoTurtle unit I asked the students to write about what they felt like they learned. I didn't prompt them to write about any specific aspect of their learning, I just wanted to see what would come out. I've been thinking about what they wrote and realized a few things; 1) each student is on her own learning adventure, 2) the LogoTurtle is actually teaching them as much as, and maybe more than, I am, and 3) what are often called the soft skills of learning-resilience, collaboration, making mistakes, perseverance-were a significant part of the experience for them.

Here are some wonderful quotes:

  • It has allowed me to realize that it is "ok" to do something incorrectly but it is more important to learn from your mistakes and collaborate with your classmates.
  • In addition to learning how to code, I learned to persevere.
  • Building but especially programming taught me that details and precision are crucial to execute code. 
  • Working with a Logo Turtle tested my patience, problem solving skills, and creativity. 
  • I learned to be patient while testing the code because you will not always succeed the first time; coding is difficult and there are often a lot of errors.
  • Because there are many errors in coding, I have to be able to think on the spot. 
  • I have learned to be more creative.
  • I learned to gain inspiration from other projects and implement them into my project. 
On that second point above about the LogoTurtle teaching the students, I really think this is a point Seymour Papert is making in Mindstorms when he writes about the turtle being an object to think with. The students are deeply invested in getting their LogoTurtles to realize their ideas, especially when they have built their own turtles, that their work with the robots goes way beyond the level of an assignment given by a teacher. And in another sense, the turtle, not the teacher, is the one giving them the immediate feedback they seek about their programming. And so it is teaching them.

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