A Look at Nicole's Work
The following was written in the spring of 1995, using MicroWorlds version 1.0 for DOS/Windows 3.1. While a little dated, it is still relevant. Other sections of this big website have info on the newer version but I really feel this is the important part.
This is a rough chronology of how Nicole and I are progressing, and sometimes regressing, in learning how to program Microworlds Project Builder. So as not to mislead you, please be aware that I am familiar with computer programming in general, but not Logo. I don't think this is much of a factor in our success or non-success.
Nicole is 9 and in grade 4 at Ottawa Montessori School. The intended Logo user is in grades 4 to 8. While Nicole is a touch on the young side, she is quite familar with computers so I thought as long as we don't go too fast, tackling too many new concepts too quickly, it might work. This is not professional stuff, however it is interesting to look at some things an 9 year old has done and the progression that is occuring. Please notice that it has been fun for Nicole, which is probably the most important factor of all in the learning process.
Nobody likes to read manuals. It must be something we are born with, because even Nicole refuses to pick up the manual. However, unlike a word processor, or a drawing program, a "programming" program requires at least some reading. So Nicole sat at the computer and Dad read out loud from the "How To" book. By page 7, and the pages are mostly screen pictures, we were creating very pretty scenes, similar to what you could do in a good "Draw" program!
By our next session, we had little cars running around our scenes, that's movement but not animation.
That's when Nicole created
The Slugs At Night. To see it larger.
Nicole was doing a project on slugs at school and capturing them everywhere, I had no idea there were so many slugs in downtown Ottawa! That must have given her the idea for this program. These slugs crawl across the screen at different speeds. She did this one entirely on her own.
Having seen The Slugs at Night masterpiece, I said "Wouldn't it be neat if the slugs followed a trail, instead of just going in a straight line". Well we worked on that for a couple of 10 minute sessions and I could see I was losing Nicole because we were getting nowhere. That gets boring pretty quick for an active "instant gratification" 9 year old. So Daddy figured he better get this sorted out on his own and then "discover" it with Nicole. Well Daddy couldn't figure out how to get these slugs to follow a trail!
Then I thought about a maze, because it was easier to keep the little guys inside two lines than it was to keep them on one. And, the most important reason, I new there was a sample maze program that came with the program if we got stuck! We worked together on this, a learning experience for both of us.
We could have done a much better job had we looked at the example, but we are both too stubborn. So here is
The Slug Maze.
To see it larger.
This little slug can be guided by clicking on the up, down, left right buttons, which we programmed to set the heading of the slug. If it hits one of the black barriers it squeaks "ouch!" and turns around. We spent a long time trying to get the thing to turn around, until finally I cheated and looked at the example.
This reminded me of a crucial fact, you can program the colors! We had been programming the slug to keep checking to see what color it was on, and if it was black then turn around. However sometimes it would still be on black after it turned so it would turn again and so on.
However, you simply program the color black to tell the slug to turn around. The color can only tell the slug to turn around when touched by the slug so it works beautifully.
When the slug has been successfully guided through the maze, it actually eats the tomato (saying SLUURP) and the tomato disappears. The slug says "That was good!" and gets ready to start over.
Using many of the techniques we had learned in the first major project, Nicole concocted this one on her own. The lizard walks along sticking his tongue in and out and then a fly buzzes in front of him only to be gobbled up!
To see it larger.
Getting your head wrapped around the concept of variables is difficult for anyone. However Microworlds Project Builder has "Sliders" which are like scroll bars and can be used as variables. They are a nice way to learn the concept, because you can see a physical representation of the variable. Nicole made a colorful project of a "funny face" (animated and noisy) whose speed and direction is controlled by moving two sliders. Without any confusion she set up variables!
I then asked her to do two experiments. I wanted to know, when you have two turtles in identical "costumes", say, a tree, one small and one large but both programmed to go forward 1 step at a time, does the small one go faster than the big one? She set up the program and discovered that no they both move at the same pace. The second experiment was to learn how to take the sliders off her Funny Face page so they would not detract from the look. She accomplished this by putting them on a different page, thus learning that you could have a multi-page project where the pages are all inter-connected.
We are not including a screen shot of Funny Face because without the animation - the changing look of the face with time - it just doesn't do it justice.
Microworlds Project Builder will allow you to import PCX graphics files as background for your Logo projects. I had the idea of using an atlas program to get a map of Canada and then erasing the names of the cities, replacing each city "dot" with a little turtle. Then we would make a "Text Box", a feature we have not used much yet, and use it as a variable. We would program each turtle to place its city name in the Text Box. I didn't explain all that to Nicole, I want it to 'evolve'. To me, being able to import any picture file as a background was pretty neat, to an 8 year old who is used to Kid Pix and many others, its no big deal!
At any rate we got a start on it and soon found that erasing the names is a little tricky, you have to use the drawing center and try to match the colour of the background exactly. Nicole now finds this to be a bit of a challenge and I think will enjoy the project, and it's different enough to keep things fresh. Hopefully my next posting will include the map!
There is a lesson here for parents and it is: "What's fun for you is not always fun for the kids!". The map project was never touched again. But many "sessions" have been spent perfecting Funny Face. I think the interest shown by Nicole in the map project was more "politeness" than true interest. At any rate Funny Face now has five different faces and several different sounds he is programmed to animate through.
On her own, Nicole drew a flying saucer in the shape editor, and then dressed a turtle with it. She programmed the saucer to fly through a night sky background with stars. I used the opportunity to teach her about random numbers. Using the random command, we programmed the saucer to fd 3 seth random 180, which means the saucer goes in any random direction. I will include a screen shot of this one when I get the nod from its' author that it's finished. This could be a while because she wants the stars to twinkle and the earth in the background!
To see it larger.
This one's pretty neat, (I should say "cool"). Nicole made a couple of people and then, with the shape editor, she made a large variety of clothes. The program has become an "activity" where the people can be dressed in a variety of costumes.