Microworlds Project Builder
Learning to use computers is now part of the curriculum for many of today's students. Learning to program computers is typically left until late in their school years or left out entirely. With a good implementation of Logo, children in grades 3 to 8 can enjoy programming. Nicole was in grade 4 when she started. I have no intentions of waiting or depending on the school to teach such an important skill.
At this level, the program can be simply an excellent drawing program or scene creator. It includes a point and click shape center with dozens of beautiful multi-colored shapes. The child can draw scenes, using the shapes as either stamps, or he/she can dress a programmable turtle with a shape. There is a complete set of drawing tools and 140 colors. In addition, new "stamps" can be created. The picture of the three people at the top of the Welcome Page was created that way.
After creating a scene, the next logical step is to add movement to the scene. Each turtle (dressed as trees, cars, people, whatever) can be programmed to move, or to move and change shapes (for animation). A turtle can be programmed using a simple program dialog box. It takes very little programming to create a lot of wild and crazy action! (A lot of fun for us adults too!). Even Michelle, who is 3 and cannot yet read, can program the turtles (trains, cars etc.) to move!
Complete working models can be developed. For example, one of the complete programs that is included in the package models a fish ecosystem. The user adjusts the speed at which the fish reproduce and eat trying to reach a delicate balance. The included examples are a great way to learn how to program and a source of ideas for your own projects. My daughter and I are not really at this level yet. We're just having fun!
Many "Edu-games" cannot hold a youngsters interest for long. MicroWorlds Project Builder however is a true programming environment and as such is limited only by the child's imagination. It has so many features which allow the child to create lifelike animation, that it never grows stale. One of the most popular features with Nicole, is that, if you have a sound card, the child (or adult!) can record his own sounds, such as slurps, yelps, greetings - the works; and then program the turtles, which may be dressed like any shape, to make the sounds when something happens; such as a big "OUCH!" when it bangs into a wall.