Over the Christmas period, four children I know in senior primary school classes received presents of laptop computers. More and more children now have access to powerful computers. Although many of them want to use the laptops to surf the internet and to play games, other educational uses of computers are available to them. For example, it seems like a good opportunity for children in senior primary school classes to learn about Seymour Papert and his colleagues’ wonderful computer programming language, Logo. Although few schools teach it anymore, children can learn a lot from trying it out. And once they get started, some children will be able to teach themselves (and others) the next steps with only occasional teacher or parent intervention needed.
When I suggested downloading the free MSW Logo software for their new laptops, none of the children had heard of the Logo programming language before. That didn’t surprise me because it seems to have become unfashionable in schools today. I don’t know why. I remember working with an old Commodore AMIGA computer with my fifth and sixth class back in the early 1990s. One year I spent £50, which was half my annual classroom budget at the time, on a version of Amiga Logo so that the children in my class could learn some computer programming. Now another dialect of Logo – MSW Logo – can be downloaded for free from this website (Just click on “Setup Kit”). It could potentially provide hours of enjoyment, challenge and learning for primary school students.
The commands for MSW Logo are quite straightforward, at least in the initial stages. But they can be combined to produce interesting designs such as this, this and this. A more realistic set of images for beginners to aim for is here.
There are several online tutorials that you can use to learn about MSW Logo. Here is one that I prepared myself based on a course that I taught on MSW Logo several years ago. I also found this one to be helpful.
Learning to use this programming language is very good for children’s mathematical development. They obviously learn about angles when trying to make various polygons. The introduction of variables to change the sizes of shapes prepares them for algebra. Most importantly, once they begin to create procedures, they learn the kind of logical thinking and error diagnosis that is important for computer programming and many other areas in daily life.
Good luck with getting started on MSW Logo.
P.S. Here are the details of the laptop which I chose for a friend who enlisted me as an advisor in purchasing and setting up a laptop for his daughter. My checklist for purchasing a Windows laptop included the following:
- RAM Memory of 4 GB or greater (ideally 8 GB)
- Hard drive minimum of 300 GB (ideally 500 GB)
- Intel i3 processor (or i5)
- Windows 7
- DVD burner (and player)
- At least 2 USB slots
- Slot for memory card (especially SD card)
- Supports wireless
- Blue tooth (could take it or leave it)
- One-year guarantee (minimum)
- Numeric keypad on the keyboard (which accompanies a good size screen)
Although this list is time-sensitive, a laptop with the features above can be bought for well under €600. I hope that it is of some use to you. When it came to software, my first priorities were virus protection packages (such as this, this or this) Microsoft Office from here, and Net Nanny.