In a previous post I talked about using BeeBots with year 3s to develop floor compasses and promote discussion around the cardinal compass points. Since then we have used Roamers, borrowed from the Local CLC to explore and develop these compasses, introducing numerical values for the measurement of turn, and helping to establish and consolidate the language associated with rotation. We have introduced the idea of right angles, quarter, half, three quarter and full turns as multiples of these right angles, applied 90 degrees as a value of turn in a right angle, and introduced the idea that we can turn easterly and westerly, clockwise and anticlockwise as well as good old right and left. We have also introduced and consolidated the eight points of the compass and derived through our knowledge of halving and doubling, that the turns in between must be 45 degrees more or less than the compass directions we, or our turtle are currently facing. The hardware used for these floor based activities may be quite expensive to buy, but there is no doubt that the concrete and physical experiences they have provided, have made acces to the on screen turtle in LOGO smoother and less painful. They have also informed my intention to buy a class set of floor turtles. Currently my first choice for this is likely to be the Probot, from TTS.
Extending these experiences from floor to screen, the LOGO environment I have chosen to use in school is an open source tool called MSW LOGO . It has none of the bells and whistles of some of the commercially available packages, but with an uncluttered interface, it does exactly what it says on the tin, for this reason I think it is easy to use, with fewer distractions, and is more accesible than many of its counterparts. The turtle is a simple triangle, the apex it's head and the base it's tail. Transferring experiences from the BeeBot (as I didn't use or have access to Probots this time), forward is always towards the head end, back towards the tail. East and clockwise equate with right, and west and anticlockwise the left. A common problem children seem to find with the onscreen turtle is wanting to input up and down for forward and back, encouraging the children to visualise the BeeBot in it's place, helped them to understand what inputs needed to be given, and that head directional movements would be forward, while tail inputs would be back.
Why develop this unit? Well I felt we needed a unit of work for Year 3 which would bridge concrete floor work in key stage one, with the onscreen environment, and that this should incorporate an element of play and familiarisation. The suggested use of LOGO in Year four is quite heavy going, and a steep learning curve for the uninitiated. A nice feature, of MSW LOGO is the ability to import and use background images. Building on previous floor work where we had made treasure trails for the Roamer to follow, and written mystery tours, I decided to extend this on screen. I could have used Roamer World or a host of other similar tools, but was interested in the skills progression and familiarity students could build on later. Besides, with this software, making backgrounds for the turtle to move in is quite straightforward, and good fun too.
Opening MSW LOGO, you can export the workspace as a bitmap, or graphics file. I began by inputting a procedure to draw a very small square at the home position of the turtle, eg repeat 4 [fd 5 rt 90], then saved this as a background. This was then opened in Microsoft Paint, and the background created. The image at the top of the post is what I eventually produced. The icons and compass rose, were made from clipart, which was copied, pasted and resized before placing around the map. This was all done before the land and sea were floodfilled.
Using MSW Logo, the students used the bitmap menu to find and Load the map, and following the main teaching session were left to explore the island, inputting commands to travel to different locations. It was a fascinating to watch the interchanges as children made decisions about whether to turn right and left, by how much, and as they estimated and refined decisions about the distances the turtle would need to travel, adjusting inputs in response to on screen feedback. The physical gesturing and body movement of the students also reflected their thought processes, turning hands, and whole body movements seemed help with their predictive processes. For the remainder of these sessions we will be continuing to build on the outcomes of this session, by writing mystery tours for our friends, consolidating the ideas of the eight points of the compass, before in the the final session using storyboards to record the views on the island, we would see at various stopping off points planned for us by our friends.