I thought that my 13-year-old son was the computer geek around here…it turns out that my 9-year-old daughter is a bit of a geek, too. She’s been learning to work in the MicroWorlds programming environment with the help of Logo Adventures from Motherboard Books.
a year-long curriculum for teaching your child computer programming in the MicroWorlds environment
Spiral-bound book w/ lessons + MicroWorlds EX on CD-rom for $129.99 (+ flat-rate $9.99 shipping for US addresses)
MicroWorlds is not available for free.
System requirements for MicroWorlds EX:
- Win98/NT/Me/2000/XP/Vista/7/8 or
- Mac OS X 10.4 or higher
MicroWorlds was designed by MIT to teach kiddos about reasoning using computer language. One thing my child has learned really well is that the computer will do exactly what she tells it to do---computers don’t read between the lines, fill in the blanks, or add missing spaces the way humans do (wink).
Logo Adventures has 26 lessons:
There are 13 drawing lessons, including
- tessellations and other patterns
The lessons overall follow a gentle progression, first showing your child how to draw something step by painstaking step, then how to create a program with appropriate repeats (reducing the steps), and then how to “teach” the computer new procedures for creating complex patterns that fill the screen (like tessellations or floor tiles).
- a board game
- a drawing animation
- an animated greeting card
You can download the Logo Adventures table of contents here. Download a sample of the curriculum (Lesson 3: Drawing Figures) here.
The name “Logo” comes from the little turtle in MicroWorlds.
Throughout Logo Adventures, your child will send the little turtle dancing across the screen as she inputs the commands to draw her own adventure.
My 9-year-old daughter, Mary, is enjoying this program immensely. We have completed through lesson 9, so we haven’t gotten to the animated bit, yet.
So far, she has learned how to draw various polygons, circles, how to create a repeating program, how to create tessellations by creating a new procedure, how to add color (both pen and background), and how to draw the spiral-graphic figures you see up there.
The program is designed to do one lesson a week (we’ve been working a teeny bit faster than that to get further in during the review period). Each lesson starts with review of commands and concepts previously learned, followed by new teaching.
There is generally room for experimenting and the author encourages this. For instance, in Lesson 8 (Let’s Tilt!), your child will learn how to make a figure by creating a program for repeating a tilting rectangle. She’ll then be encouraged to experiment with other tilting figures to see what she comes up with.
Logo Adventures is meant to be a parent-led program. It is completely scripted. When we do a lesson, Mary sits down at the computer and I either read it to her (and explain when necessary) or summarize what we are trying to do next and give her a chance to think out what that program would need to look like to make that happen. This has been excellent exercise for her logical thinking.
Another thing I like about the program is that in most lessons, the author gives a string of code and it’s the child’s job to predict what will be drawn when the code is implemented. This has been a good practice for Mary, who sometimes has trouble visualizing things.
We typically spend about an hour on a lesson, depending upon how much experimenting Mary decides to do. The lessons are not all exactly the same length, and we have split up a few of them over more than one day.
Mary pointed out an unexpected plus to learning computer programming…her typing is greatly improving! Chalk it up to some repetitious input, lol.
Overall, we like Logo Adventures and will be continuing with it.
I highly recommend it for getting kids ages 8-12 started in computer programming. Older kids can move onto Computer Programming Pure and Simple, which also uses the MicroWorlds programming environment and introduces using variables (something that’s a little too abstract for younger kids).