Originally published in the September 2000 issue of Australia’s Hotsource online newsletter

Now that most of you can be considered advanced beginners in using MicroWorlds, this issue will explore a bit more of the language and data structures available to you.

The following activity explores probability while demonstrating how sliders, text boxes and even the screen may be used to collect and report data.

Who’s for two-up?
The core of this task will be to flip a coin numerous times and record the number of times heads and tails appear.

  • Start a new project.
  • Name the turtle, coin.
  • Create two coin shapes in the shapes centre. Name one heads and the other tails. Be sure to make them appear different in some way so that the user can clearly see which one side of the coin lands faceup.
  • Change the turtle’s costui-ne to one of the coin shapes. Create a Many Times button with the instruction, flip.

Recording data with text boxes
This part of the project will flip a coin in FLIP, and change the value in the textboxes, headscount, tailscount and totalflips. If you name turtles, text boxes or sliders with unique name you may change them even ii they are on different pages. This allows you to have some action going on between the scenes.

  • Make a Startup button on the first page.
  • Create a new page from the pages menu.
  • Create text boxes named, Headscount, Tailscount and Totalflips.
  • Show the names of the text boxes so the user knows what they are reading
  • Click the Startup button
  • Type the following procedures on the procedures page.

to flip
ifelse coin = ‘heads
settotalflips totalflips + 1

to coin
if 1 = random 2 [output “heads]
output “tails

to recordheads
coin, setsh ‘heads
setheadscount headscount + 1

to recordtails
coin, setsh “tails
settailscount tailscount + 1

to startup
everyone [settext 0]

Click the flip button to start and stop the experiment. You may wish to make the flip button run many times if you want it to keep flipping the coin.

Recording data with sliders
Sliders may be used as reporters (input devices) to change the value of a variable or they may be used as indicators (output devices) displaying the current value of that reporter. Let’s experiment with sliders on a second page of our coin flipping project.

  • Create a new page from the Pages menu
  • Create two sliders ‘heads and tails, with a minimum of 0 and maximum of 300 at the bottom of the new page
  • Optional: Create buttons to switch between the two pages of our project.
  • Make the following changes to your procedures.

To recordheads
coin, setsh ‘heads
setheadscount headscount + 1
setheads heads + 1

to recordtails
coin, setsh “tails settailscount tailscount + 1
settails tails + 1

to startup
settailscount 0
setheadscount 0
settotalflips 0
settails 0 setheads 0

Type Startup to init-ialise the variables, click oA the flip button and switch between pages.

Do you see the sliders changing their values?

Extra bonus! Adding a histogram to graph our data
It is easy to add simple graphing functionality to our probability lab with the creation of two turtles and a bit more Logo programming.

  • Hatch two turtles on the same page as the sliders.
  • Name one turtle, headsgraph, and the other, tailsgi-aph (for heads graph and tails graph)
  • Place those turtles above their respective sliders.
  • Create two different turtle costui-nes consisting of blue and red horizontal bars. Name the shapes hline and tline.

Make the following changes to your procedures.

To recordheads
coin, setsh ‘heads
setheadscount headscount + 1
setheads heads + 1
headsgraph, fd 1 stamp

to recordtails
coin, setsh “tails
settailscount tailscount+l
settails tails + 1
tailsgraph, FD 1 stamp

to startup
settailscount 0
setheadscount 0
settotalflips 0
settails 0 setheads 0
headsgraph, setpos [-170 1451]
tailsgraph, setpos [200 145] page2 clean pagel

Type Startup and click on the flip button to set the experiment in action! You may even want to figure out a way to stop the graphing when a bar reaches the top. How about a textbox reporting the experimental standard deviation?

The magic of MicroWorlds’ parallelism allows the coin to be animated, text boxes to change, sliders to report and a histogram to be created all at once. You can use lots of software to generate random numbers, but no other title allows all of these things to happen at once. I am confident that you can figure out exciting ways to integrate these programming techniques into much more complex simulations and experiments.

Originally published in the September 2000 issue of Australia’s Hotsource online newsletter

LogoWriter and MicroWorlds have done so much for interdisciplinary projects that it is useful to remember that MicroWorlds can play a major role in the development of mathematical knowledge. This issue and next will explore the numerical side of MicroWorlds.

First the Boring Stuff
MicroWorlds procedures come in two categories, commands and procedures. Most Logo-users are quite comfortable with commands such as CG, FD, RT and SETC. Commands may or may not take inputs and they always produce an action. Every Logo expression (line of code) must begin with a command. This is why typing HEADING in the command centre produces the error message I don’t know what to do with HEADING. SHOW HEADING, FD HEADING, RT HEADING * 2 will all work because HEADING reports the turtle’s current orientation and hopes a command is listening. Commands may have any number of hoppers, but they never have a spout. REPEAT is an example of a two input (hopper) command.

Every one input command beginning with the prefix, SET, has a corresponding reporter with no inputs. For example:

Command Reporter
SETTEXT1 TEXT1 (where text1 is the name of a textbox)

At the core of it all
Reporters are procedures that may or may not take an input, but they always output a result. Reporters are also known as functions or operations. Reporters are absolutely essential for most mathematical and interactive MicroWorlds projects. They pass information that can be used by other procedures or turtles. Reporters may have any number of hoppers, but they always have just one spout.

It’s your call
You can write your own reporters if you remember one simple rule. Every reporter procedure contains one output. When Logo encounters the OUTPUT reporter, the procedure is terminated. To create a new reporter you need to remember the rule about OUTPUT and decide how many inputs the reporter needs. For example, if we wanted to write a procedure to double a number, we would only need one input.

to double :number
output :number * 2


to double :number
output :number + :number

Type: DOUBLE 45 in the command centre and see what happens? Why did you receive an error message?

Many people who wish to double a number would write the following procedure.

To dumb.double :number
show :number * 2

Then if they type, DUMB.DOUBLE 45 in the command centre they will get what they think is the desired result. This is the result they need only if they want to see the number 90 appear in the command centre.

Try typing the following instructions in the command centre:

Now try typing:


Our DOUBLE procedure is much more flexible and versatile than DUMB.DOUBLE.

They can speak to each other
Reporters can perform a manipulation/operation on an input and then report that result to another reporter. Logo (MicroWorlds) reads reporters from right to left since you can’t type from top to bottom. The following graphic illustrates FD ADD5 DOUBLE DOUBLE 5.

Logo is a prefix language. That means that inputs always follow the procedures. Since humans like the standard arithmetic operators (+-*/), Logo will tolerate them, but often requires parentheses for grouping. These infix reporters tend to give the turtle indigestion. Logo much prefers PRODUCT 3 4 to 3 * 4. See how SHOW DOUBLE DOUBLE 3 + 4 behaves if you add parentheses, like SHOW (DOUBLE DOUBLE 3) + 4.

Make it simple
Young children can use similar simple arithmetic reporters to leverage their own turtle graphics. For example, a child incapable of calculating twice the distance for the turtle travel could use a DOUBLE or TWICE reporter and operate algorithmically. These procedures could be written by a teacher ahead of time or by the student herself.

Operation of fractions may also be explored with simple reporters.

To 3fourths :number
output :number * 3 / 4

to 2thirds :number
output :number * 2 / 3

to 1half :number
output :number / 2

To “play with” multiplication of fractions, try typing:
SHOW 3fourths 100
SHOW 1half 100
SHOW 2thirds 3fourths 100

You may of course use these fractional reporters to command the turtle. Type the following BAR procedure on the procedure page.

To bar :height
pd repeat 2 [fd :height rt 90 FD 25 rt 90]
pu rt 90 FD 35 lt 90

See what happens if you type the following in the command centre.

BAR 100
BAR 3fourths
100 BAR 1half 100
BAR 2thirds 3fourths 100

Battle of the Functions
You can make a game out of all these arithmetic reporters. Put kids in groups of four or five and have them each contribute one new arithmetic procedure in the style of DOUBLE. They may use their own imprecise names for the reporters if they wish (as long as they can explain its function to their peers). Each kid takes turns inventing a number problem consisting of stacked-up reporters and one numerical input. The object of the game is to invent a problem that is difficult, but not impossible to solve in one’s head. Wiseguys are penalized by the rules of the game.

Originally published in the September 2000 issue of Australia’s Hotsource online newsletter

I recently attended the American Association of School Administrators Conference. The wares being plied on the exhibit hall floor were at once both amusing and appalling. Everything being sold to the school superintendents was advertised as a solution. Next to the curriculum solution was the testing solution. Within walking distance you could find the technology solution and the vending machine solution. Why exert the effort required to solve education’s intractable problems? A solution to any problem could be exchanged for a purchase order.

Recently, the Logo list-serv, logo-l@gsn.org,** was the site of a discussion begun by teachers in search of Logo workbooks and clip-art to be used in Logo projects. While slightly disappointing, this discussion is not unexpected. Teachers have been conditioned to follow lesson plans prepared far from their classrooms and their newfound enthusiasm for Logo leads to the inevitable quest for ancillary materials. Logo is not about solutions. It’s about problems – good hard ones.

Instead of dismissing the concerns of these teachers I think we should spend some time responding to their perceived and actual needs.

In Search of Ideas

Logo-using teachers do not need workbooks, worksheets, or multiple choice tests. They need good ideas, courage and permission to use their imaginations and value the interests of their students. There are not enough good books about learning Logo, Brian Harvey’s series, Computer Science Logo Style 1-3, is among the best ever written, but it is of little help for a beginning MicroWorlds user. The standard Logo books require enough translation of the Logo syntax to make the transition to MicroWorlds difficult. Adults interested in learning MicroWorlds would be well-served to spend the time working through the project booklets provided by LCSI. They should be encouraged to experiment with and extend the ideas in those student booklets. Teachers can also learn more in workshops and from colleagues online. HotSource, SchoolKit and the Logo Exchange journal are good sources of additional project ideas.

Children can learn a great deal from these carefully designed projects as well. They will quickly master the elementary programming skills introduced and should then apply this knowledge in service of their own project ideas. Logo is not intended to follow a prescribed scope and sequence-style curriculum. Logo, by its very nature, is anti-curriculum which in no way means that it may not be used to serve the school’s curriculum.

Teachers need to trust the skills, experience and imagination of kids and use Logo to enrich the learning process. If kids develop sufficient Logo fluency, they will be able to enrich a curricular topic with graphics, text, animation, interactivity and multimedia elements. This should become natural and expected of students with appropriate access to computers.

Those teachers interested in using Logo beyond the boundaries of the traditional curriculum should follow the interests and talents of their students? What would the kids like to design in MicroWorlds? Conduct a technology survey. Ask yourself sorts of video games, computer programs, web pages do you find in the community? What sorts of simulations could be built to concretize an abstract concept or historical event? Once you and your students have a problem-solving goal, start working towards solving it. Remember that one of the strengths of Logo is the ability to solve a problem in a number of ways. Share the knowledge, talents and breakthrough discoveries of your students within your community of practice and seek assistance from the online Logo community when necessary.


The question about using clip-art in a learning project is a bit more complex. As a general rule, kids should draw, paint, photograph or record any content required by their project. Illustrations too complex to be created on the computer may be scanned from traditional media into the computer. Original work should be the educational goal. It also eliminates any questions about copyright. I am horrified by the school reports consisting of photocopied illustrations from encyclopedias and am no more impressed by cut-and-paste reports created via World Wide Web plagiarism.

The issue of when to use clip-art is primarily a matter of balance. Ask yourself what the primary educational goal of the project is. If your students are developing sophisticated mathematics and computer science knowledge through the design of an interactive card game, then the educational outcomes far outweigh the virtue of hand-drawing 52 different playing cards. In that case, find some graphics on a CD or the web and paste those graphics in the turtle’s shape centre. If students are using MicroWorlds to tell a story, simulate a scientific concept or report on a historical event, they should design their own graphics (perhaps in collaboration with others).

The same logic applies to the use of music and audio in student projects. Narrations and simple musical accompaniment should be prepared by the learner. When a recording by Churchill is required, use the real thing – unless of course you think the kid would benefit from learning the speech and recording it herself.

Kids should be encouraged to derive satisfaction from their own creativity and not be compared to professionally created products. The neurotic needs of teachers craving error-free teaching should not be allowed to interfere with the learning and creative expression of their students.

Go on try something new. Take some risks. I dare you!

**site may no longer be active

Originally published in the September 2000 issue of Australia’s Hotsource online newsletter

Since the 1960s, Logo was intended to have no threshold and no ceiling. It derives its magic from how little kids and graduate students find the same environment challenging, exciting and expressive. Although a variety of forces have conspired to make MicroWorlds use most common in years five through seven, little kids can use it in quite creative ways. Much has been written about how MicroWorlds can be used to enhance the learning of secondary school concepts. This column makes the case for using MicroWorlds in the lower primary grades.

Great Value

Schools that own MicroWorlds site-licenses already have a “free” multimedia paint, animation, music and web-page creation software appropriate for young learners. There are many entry-points through which children may enter the world of MicroWorlds.

Why should little kids be limited to mindless drill or painting pictures? Even early readers can program MicroWorlds to perform simple animations. Write or print the names of simple turtle graphics commands (FD, BK, RT, LT, SETSH) with sample inputs on cards next to the computer. Names of the standard turtle shapes next to their pictures may also be placed on cards.

Baby animation

  • Hatch a turtle
  • Turn it in the desired direction by clicking and dragging its nose
  • Open the shapes centre and select the shape you wish for the turtle to wear
  • Click on the turtle
  • Click the eye tool on the turtle to edit its instruction
  • Type the command, FD 5, in the Instruction: line
  • Select Many Times
  • Click on the turtle to make it go and repeat the process for additional turtles
  • Encourage kids to change the distance (number) by which the turtle goes forward and observe what happens.
  • Kids can even program colours to make a turtle reverse when it hits the brown mountain (see the MicroWorlds online help or users guide to learn how).

Toddler animation (flipbook animation)

Follow the same steps as above, but add a command such as, SETSH [bird1 bird2] FD 5, in the Instruction: line of the turtle. These instructions may be written on student reference cards.

You can find out the name of turtle shapes by opening the shapes centre and holding the mouse over the shape (in Windows 95) or double-clicking on the shape (Macintosh).

Making Magic

Five year-old John Richardson uses MicroWorlds to tell stories, create insect reports and even design copies of his favorite commercial software products like The Logical Journey of the Zoombinis. Making software is not beyond the imagination of young kids. Why not make your LEGO rocket fly on the computer screen? In the past it was impossible for pre-readers to program computers.

Kids like John can hatch turtles, design turtle costumes, paint backgrounds, create multiple pages, compose music and record narration and sound effects without assistance. They can even create simple animations by typing the commands prepared on teacher-made reference cards.

After John creates all of his desired objects, he directs his Dad in how to program motion and interactivity. This process is quite similar to when pre-writers dictate a story to an older student or adult. However, a MicroWorlds project requires the use of mathematical processes, different senses and action.

The success of early-childhood MicroWorlds projects is dependent on three factors:

  • sufficient computer access
  • adult support
  • a great open-ended tool (MicroWorlds)

After little kids spend a few years “messing-about” with MicroWorlds they will have the fluency required to tackle more complex problem solving in specific school subjects. These children will appreciate the intellectual satisfaction and joy associated with teaching the computer to do something it may never have done before.

Originally published in the June 2000 issue of Australia’s Hotsource online newsletter

The recent success of Rick Park’s brilliant Wallace and Gromit films has inspired a resurgence of interest in claymation (stop-action animation made with clay figures). Claymation may be used in a language arts context, for telling stories across disciplines or for just plain fun.

MicroWorlds and MicroWorlds Pro provides a studio for creating claymations long on story and short on technical obstacles. Students wishing to tell a story do not need to learn Adobe Premiere or own a digital video camera – a digital still camera, QuickCam, Polaroid or even a disposable 35mm camera is just fine. This project provides a great deal of bang for the high-tech buck.

There are five simple steps involved in creating your own claymation with MicroWorlds or MicroWorlds Pro:

  1. Design a small number of posable characters out of clay.
  2. Photograph the characters one motion at a time.
    • Use a tripod and a flash to ensure the same frame and lighting. You may wish to mark the camera position with masking tape.
    • Move the characters, take a picture, repeat as necessary.
  3. Get the pictures into the computer (and save them).
    • Import digital still images using your camera’s image capture software.
    • Scan photographs with a flatbed or photo scanner (Polaroids, 35mm or APS).
    • Have your photos developed and placed on a Photo CD or floppy.
    • Snap the pictures with a PC camera like the QuickCam.
  4. Paste each photo into the MicroWorlds shapes centre.
  5. Animate the photos.

Steps 1 and 2 may be tedious, but are technically simple. Start out with a simple plot with few characters. Kids will amaze you with what they will produce.

Step 3 requires you to import the photos into your computer via capture software, a scanner or Photo CD. It’s not a bad idea to number the photos in a consistent way like, photo1.jpg, photo2.jpg, etc… Placing the files in the same folder with MicroWorlds will help you find them if you are less comfortable with ugly path names.

Step 4 requires some fluency with cut and paste (the doctoral level of computer literacy). The goal is to turn each photo into a MicroWorlds turtle costume. If you can figure out a way to paste each successive image into the MicroWorlds shape centre, then you can ignore the rest of this step.

Strategy 1 (high-tech solution for project with lots of frames)
• Use the getshape command (in MicroWorlds Pro only) to import one photo at a time or write a short procedure to do automatically.
Getshape “filename shape_number for example, getshape “photo1 1
• The image in the file will then be placed in the position of the shapes centre specified by the second input.
• You may wish to try a fancy procedure like the one below if you wish to automatically import files with similar names and successive numbering. Don’t worry about the error message. When you run out of photos to import, the procedure will crash.

to getshapes :number >>
loadshape (word “C:\WINDOWS\Profiles\ >>
:number “.jpg) :number
getshapes :number + 1

Note: >> indicates line wrap

Strategy 2 (open the photos in a graphics program and switch between MicroWorlds and that application)
• Open each photo one at a time or together
• Copy each image
• Paste the image in a successive MicroWorlds/MicroWorlds Pro shape
• Close the original image file
• Remember to save your MicroWorlds project often!

Strategy 3 (use MicroWorlds only)
• Import the photo file into MicroWorlds using the File/Import menu
• Cut the image
• Paste it into the next shape in the shapes centre
• Remember to save your MicroWorlds project often!

Step 5 is the simplest step of all and demonstrates the elegance of MicroWorlds/MicroWorlds Pro. This project can be easily completed by a very young child. However, like all programming projects you may make the program more complex.

  1. Hatch a turtle and put it in the center of your page (you may use the home command)
  2. Click on the first shape in your animation photos
  3. Click on the turtle to make the turtle wear that costume
  4. With the shift-key held down repeat steps 2 & 3 (above), but change to the next shape in your shapes centre until you run out of photos for your animation. This is a cool trick to tell MicroWorlds to change shapes every time it gets a forward or back instruction. You can of course write a procedure containing lots of setsh commands if you are a rigid old Logo programmer who doesn’t like to make life too easy on yourself.
  5. Click the eye tool or right-click (Ctrl-Click in MicroWorlds Pro for the Macintosh) on the turtle to edit it.
  6. Type the instruction FD 0 wait 4 into the instruction field and choose MANY TIMES.
    THAT’S IT!
    FD 0 counts as movement, but stays in place – thereby changing the turtle costumes automatically. You may wish to adjust the input to wait to change the pace of the animation.
  7. Click on the turtle and premiere your claymation!!

You may wish to gain more control of your claymation with a procedure like the following and then put the name of that procedure in the instruction for your turtle. You can play music or narration, change the pace of the flipbook animation and even turn pages.

to animate
launch [soundtrack] ;soundtrack is the name of a sound file, recording or melody
setsh 1
wait 2
setsh 2
wait 2
setsh 3
wait 4
setsh 4
wait 2

Publish your claymations on the web or share them with Hotsource.

Go make something!

Originally published in the October 2000 issue of Australia’s Hotsource online newsletter

Most MicroWorlds users are familiar with the local and global variables built into the language. Logo, MicroWorld’s underlying computer language, prefers the passing of values between procedures via local variable inputs. Global variables, created with MAKE or NAME, are containers that remember their contents across all procedures. Local variables are like short-term memory and global variables are useful for remembering things like the name of a player so that such data may be recalled later on in a program. MicroWorlds adds additional variable types, including the very powerful TURTLESOWN and project variables which save with the MicroWorlds project file.

What Do Turtles Own?

MicroWorlds turtles can now keep track of all sorts of properties. This enhances their intelligence and makes it easier to get turtles to do tricky things without the programmer needing to keep track of too many variables.

Whenever you want one or more turtles to remember some information about its state or behavior, the command, TURTLESOWN will help you do so. Remembering a state or behavior is one thing, but in MicroWorlds you will also want a way of reporting that information to a procedure or other turtle.

Understanding Turtlesown

a) State variables

Turtles already own several state variables including SHAPE, COLOR, HEADING, POS, XCOR, YCOR and SIZE. Each one of these reporters has a corresponding one input command beginning with SET. In other words, you may change a state and report its value/condition.

Command Reporter

Try typing the following and observe the results. Be sure you have at least one turtle on the page.

setsh “car
show shape
setpos [50 -75]
show POs
show xcor
show ycor
setc color + 10
seth 90
fd heading
repeat 5 [setsize size + 5]

TURTLESOWN is used to create other variables for every turtle in a current project. TURTLESOWN takes a word as input and that word is the name of the variable being created.

Turtlesown “speed

There are three actions associated with TURTLESOWN.

  1. Telling MicroWorlds to give a state/variable to every turtle in the project
  2. Assigning a variable to that state
  3. Using that state variables in some way

b) Introduction to turtlesown

Let’s try a few simple examples.

  1. Create a new project
  2. Hatch two more turtles so that three turtles appear on the page
  3. Change their colors so that we can tell them apart:
t1, setc “red
t2, setc “blue
t3, setc “yellow

Tell MicroWorlds to give every turtle the property, speed

turtlesown “speed

Set the speed value for each turtle and tell them to go:

t1, setspeed 1
t2, setspeed 5
t3, setspeed 10
everyone [forever [FD speed]]

In this case, everyone tells all of the turtles on this page to go FD by their speed value speed.

Let the turtles run wild and type the following to see what happens.

t2, show speed

There is another way to check a turtle’s property value by using the apostrophe as follows.

show t3’s “speed

You might want to use the apostrophe form in the following way.

t3, setspeed t2’s “speed

Now t3 and t2 are traveling at the same rate. What happens if you type: t3, setspeed -10 in the command center?

Turtlesown may also be used to restore a turtle to a previous state. Let’s say you want to give each turtle a random home on the screen, instead of [0 0], and after running around a bit want the turtles to go home. Try the following to see what I mean (Be sure there are at least three turtles on the page. The more turtles, the merrier!)

turtlesown “oldhome
everyone [setx random 2000 sety random 2000]
setoldhome POs ;this stores the turtles current position in oldhome
everyone [rt random 360 FD random 3000]
everyone [setpos oldhome]

An important thing you need to understand is that TURTLESOWN is a command that will tell all of the turtles in a project to remember a particular variable during your work session. The best thing about turtlesown is that the state of each variable is stored with the project upon saving. This allows you to use these values at a later time.


You can use TURTLESOWN in all sorts of ways. It can be used to count laps around a track or keep track of a turtle’s age. Here are a couple of simple ideas for storing information other than screen conditions. What kind of clever uses can you imagine for using TURTLESOWN?

Example 1 — Turtle Track and Field

In this exercise, we will keep track of how many times a turtle completes a circle.

  • Create a textbox and name it COUNTER. Make the font size nice and big so you can read the contents of the textbox.
  • Type the following in the command center:

turtlesown “laps
setlaps 0
forever [FD 1 rt 1 if POs = [0 0] [setlaps laps + 1]
forever [setcounter laps]

Try typing before the above instructions and see what happens.

Example 2 — Dodge ‘em Turtles

In this exercise, we will keep track of how often a turtle hits an object on the screen. If a turtle hits the red circle, it will make a random U-turn of between 150 and 209 degrees.

  • Create a new project
  • Hatch two more turtles to be sure that there are three on the page
  • Make each turtle a different color so we can tell them apart
  • Draw a red circle in the middle of the screen
  • Double-click on the color red in the command center and type the following instruction:

setcollisions collisions + 1 rt 150 + random 60

  • Click on the ONCE button and then click OK
  • Click the eye tool or right mouse button on each turtle and give them the same instruction:

FD speed


Type the following in the command center:

turtlesown “speed
turtlesown “collisions
everyone [setspeed random 10 setcollisions 0]
everyone [clickon]

Let the turtles run and bounce around the screen for a while and then check on their collision status.

t2, show collisions
show t3’s “collisions

Example 3 — The Aging Turtle

We can ask turtles to keep track of their age as time elapses. The command, RESETT, sets the clock to zero and the reporter, TIMER, reports the number of tenths of a second that have elapsed.

Program each turtle to run the instruction, FD 5 MANY TIMES

  • Create a new project
  • Remove any turtles on the page
  • Type the following procedures on the procedures page

to startup
dolist [x turtles] [remove :x]
carefully [remove “age] [] ;remove the age property if it already exists
turtlesown “age
resett ;reset the MicroWorlds timer to 0

to hatch
newturtle word “t ((count turtles) + 1) ;hatch a new turtle and name it t1…
setage 0
setx -250 + (count turtles) * 30 ;line the turtles up along the x axis
when [0 = remainder timer 10] [everyone [setage age + 1 setc color + 1 Seth age * 10]]

to turtles
get first pagelist “turtles

The when statement in the hatch procedure checks for each second that elapses and then asks every turtle to adjust it’s age, color and heading to show the aging process. Turtles is a reporter that reports the list of turtles on the current page. It is a good tool procedure to have in your toolbox.

  • Create a ONCE button with the instruction, HATCH.
  • Type STARTUP in the command center
  • Click the hatch button occasionally to hatch a new turtle and watch time fly

You can check the age of a turtle by typing an instruction like, SHOW t1’s “age.

Part II – Project Variables

MicroWorlds adds another new data structure called project variables. The data in these project variables are saved with the project. Therefore, you can remember a piece of information within a project, even after your quit MicroWorlds

Local and global variables have their particular strengths and weaknesses, but neither hold their value when the file is saved. Project variables do. Therefore you can set the value of a project variable and use that value at a later time.

Understanding Project Variables

The createprojectvar “container command creates a variable, named container. You can then assign a value to that variable by typing: setcontainer 57 or setcontainer [Joe Smith] or setfoo “tails. In this way, SET is used to change the contents of a project variable, just as it is with a text box.

You can find the value of that variable by using its name. For example, typing show container would report the value stored in the container variable.

You can report the current project variables in a project by typing, show projectvars.

Delete a project variable by typing remove “variablename.

Project variables may also be used to keep track of things like high scores in video games.

Activity — Collecting Probability Data

We already explored flipping a coin in the Running Text in Text Boxes section, but let’s build on that idea in a way that uses project variables so that you may continue collecting data the next time you open the project. This variation on the coin tossing theme does not use text boxes to display and record the data. All of the record keeping is done in invisible variables.

  • Create a new project.
  • Create three text boxes named, table, headscount and tailscount.
  • Create a many times button with the instruction, toss, on it.
  • Write the following procedures on your procedures page.
  • Type the procedures (below) in the procedures page.
  • Type reset in the command center the first time to initialize and create the various variables.
  • Click on the button to start the experiment.
  • Stop the procedures at some point and save the file.
  • Close the project.
  • Open the project again and click the button. You should continue counting the trials.


to reset
setheadscount 0
settailscount 0
carefully [createprojectvar “heads setheads 0] [] ;if the project variable already exists do nothing
carefully [createprojectvar “tails settails 0] [] ;if the project variable already exists do nothing
table, ct

to toss
ifelse 1 = random 2 [gotheads] [gottails]

to gotheads
table, print “heads
setheads heads + 1
setheadscount heads

to gottails
table, print “tails
settails tails + 1
settailscount tails

to clearvariables
setheads 0
settails 0

Originally published in the Dec 1999 / Jan 2000 of  Australia’s Hotsource online newsletter

Cable television, specialty publications and the Internet have seen the rise of narrowcasting. Narrowcasting succeeds because production and distribution is cheaper than ever before. Advertising may now be targeted to specific demographic groups. The proliferation of specialized cable TV channels: CNBC, Animal Planet and Bravo are good examples of narrowcasting. Media convergence now possible due to the Internet makes possible a multimedia “channel” where fans can listen to tune into their favorite radio or television show, discuss the shows with other fans while trading products and news about their favorite entertainer 24/7 anywhere on the globe.

A multimedia studio in every garage

All of this captures the promise of the 500-channel landscape. I would like to suggest that we are really on the verge of the billion channel universe.

In a recent article, WADIO, I explained how low-cost streaming media now makes it possible for kids of all ages to produce and broadcast (or narrowcast) their radio and television programs. Small groups of students have been producing school radio and television programs since the 1960s, but their audience has always been limited. The net produces a potentially limitless audience for their creative expression. Audience is an incredibly important motivational factor in the learning process.

School newspapers have gone global too. Highwired.Net (www.highwired.net) provides tools and free web space for any K-12 school newspaper. The best stories are selected each week for the National Edition. U-Wire (www.uwire.com) is a cooperative online wire service for college newspapers. Bolt (www.bolt.com) will publish articles banned by school newspapers and features all sorts of activities for communities of teens.

MP3 technology is reinventing the way music is sold and provides unprecedented opportunities for local musicians to find an audience. Every garage band and school ensemble has a record deal thanks to the net, inexpensive CD-burners and MP3 compression.

So, what does this have to do with school?

Fred D’Ignazio is fond of saying that “teachers are paper-trained.” Schools love text. The textbook industry views the Internet as a vehicle for delivering customizable textbooks to schools to print locally or “beam” to kids’ personal computers – thereby reducing the cost of distribution. This is a great example of how new technology is often used to perpetuate an older one.

Textbooks are a nineteenth and twentieth century innovation designed to make teaching and learning uniform. A premium was placed on every student in the land being taught exactly the same thing in similar ways at similar times. The one-to-many information delivery model employed by textbook publishing may be in for a challenge in the new millennium.

The Internet offers opportunities for learners of all ages to deal with primary sources, whether they are documents, multimedia clips, books or live experts. Research is no longer limited to predigested summaries created by anonymous experts. Synthesis and higher-order understanding are possible when kids make sense of timely and abundantly available information themselves.

Rather than asking kids to write dreaded book reports read by the teacher and student author alone, enterprising educators can have kids post reviews of books they have read on the web. These web pages may contain illustrations by the reader or streaming audio narrations of the books themselves. It only takes a few minutes for a teacher to sign-up to be an affiliate for Amazon.com (www.amazon.com) or Barnes and Noble (www.bn.com) and a class web site can sell the books reviewed the students. Now, not only is every first grader a literary critic, but every first grade classroom is a bookstore. The profits from your web site may be used to purchase additional books for the class library.

Online technical bookseller, Fatbrain.com, has just announced ematter. Ematter will publish anything by any author of any length on any topic. This was impossible for traditional publishers who had to worry about printing, marketing, warehousing and shipping costs. What you publish on ematter may be a book, technical manual or poetry anthology, but it doesn’t have to be a text at all. Ematter will publish a graphic image, recording of a speech or musical composition too. Any digital media will do.

Ematter stores the material, lists it in a searchable index and keeps track of downloads. You maintain your copyright and are not restricted from offering your creation in other forms elsewhere. Marketing is the responsibility of the author. Just tell people where they can find your work.

Oh, did I mention that the creator of the intellectual property is paid a fifty-percent royalty on every download and that ematter processes credit card payments? Say fifty-percent royalty to most authors and be prepared to resuscitate them. Best of all, the author may change, add to or update the work at any time. Not only is every person a potential publisher, but the work is no longer dead on the printed page. “Books” no longer have to sell for $25. They may cost a buck or two.

Back to school

School districts with terrific policy manuals or curriculum documents can now share them with other communities without the costs associated with filling orders, shipping and duplication. Teachers with imaginative classroom ideas can make those ideas available to other educators in ways never before possible. You no longer need a book contract or high production values to disseminate great ideas. Recordings of school concerts, plays and poetry readings can be made available to grandparents, friends and the wider community into perpetuity. This makes the business of school communication much more convenient.

And everyone gets paid for his or her efforts!

Every student paper, research project, painting and literary magazine now has an authentic audience. Folks across the globe may enjoy hearing stirring commencement addresses. Best of all, this work is archived for future retrieval. Don’t just share your work with a teacher and classmates when the world is waiting.

Perhaps students will have a digital portfolio maintained on the ematter site where they can add work as it’s created and improved over the course of their education.

Does this mean that students will be selling term papers online? You betcha! This practice might actually be encouraged some day soon if we shift away from a mindset relying on end-of-the-term live-or-die term papers towards an evolving cumulative body of individual and collaborative work. Ted Sizer and the Coalition of Essential Schools suggest that students prepare exhibitions of their knowledge. I suspect that many of you will help lead this exciting transition.

Let us know about your school’s online publishing ventures and we will feature them in a future HotSource article.

I’ve never understood what the protestors who commit mayhem at nearly every gathering of world leaders hope to accomplish via their chaos, incoherent messages and occasional violence.

Community Organizer-in-Chief President Obama has dared to say the same thing.

“I was always a big believer in – when I was doing organizing before I went to law school – that focusing on concrete, local, immediate issues that have an impact on people’s lives is what really makes a difference and that having protests about abstractions [such] as global capitalism or something, generally, is not really going to make much of a difference.”

Read the rest of Obama’s interview here or read the Huffington Post analysis comparing the G-20 protests with the recent tea parties.

I used to refer to Back-to-School Night at my kids’ schools as “The Night of 1,000 Columns,” because of the comical inspiration provided by each year’s new gum rules, notebook policies (loose leaf vs. spiral vs. “Trapper Keeper”) and truly awful public speaking. (See a classic from the archives.)

Mission critical business is always conducted at Back-to-School Night. We learn about each year’s cupcake policy and how the new math texts arrived again without the required manipulatives. Who can ever forget the school’s disastrous attempt at vocabulary development? Or, being told by the history teacher in September 2000 that, “They do elections next year.” (in 2001 – a year after the first contested presidential election in US history)

I remember one teacher with so little gravitas that parents walked into her classroom, looked around, mumbled, “I guess she’s not here,” and shuffled out into the night.

At least one teacher perfected a grading system so complex that she had hundreds of individual marks per student per month. Unbeknownst to this highly-skilled professional, she morphed from a mild-mannered English teacher into Super Actuary. His NPR totebag and coffee mug magically transformed into a green visor and slide rule. Shazam!

My mind wanders during the 8-minute presentations. I keep an eye on the clock, waiting for the bell to free me from the monotony. I wonder, “How could my child spend 180 days of this sitting in that uncomfortable chair?” How do I escape?

Each year’s meeting began to feel more like “Scared Straight.”

The catalog of school rules and their accompanying punishments increase in volume and severity. B.F. Skinner would have sent his children to Summerhill after attending the average American Back-to-School Night.

Check out the email I just received from a friend reporting on his Back-to-School Night…

“The teacher explained that students start the year with 10 extra credit points. Each time they use the bathroom during class time, it cost them a point. If they can hold on all year, they get 10 extra credit points. Cool, huh?“*

What kind of sadistic madman becomes a teacher in order to govern a child’s bladder?*

Are Depends now part of the school uniform?

Now that my children have outgrown school, I am at the mercy of friends to report new innovations in state-sanctioned torture.


Footnote: *I was teaching recently at an Australian school where each child is provided with a reusable large water bottle and required to keep it next to their desk as part of the school’s “Hydration Policy.” Hydration – good or bad? You make the call!

My friend informs me that the teacher is sensational, although the toilet fetish leaves room for concern.

“Word-of-the-day,” a simple idea with  multiple meanings

A literate citizen has command of a large and expressive vocabulary. Schools “do vocabulary” presumably in the hopes of creating thoughtful thinkers and articulate communicators.

Vocabulary is developed by immersion in a social culture rich in stories, songs and other people to converse with. Despite the intuitive and scientific evidence of this truth, schools still insist on drilling new words into kids.

I’m always amazed by the emphasis placed on vocabulary at Back-to-School Night. My kids’ teachers tell us how many words the kids need to memorize each week and how many points they will “earn” for this lower-order thinking skill. I once asked a middle school language arts teacher if the vocabulary words assigned came from the context of what the kids are reading or studying. She looked quizzically at me and replied, “No. No context.” I then asked about the origin of these mysterious word lists and she said, “another teacher gives them to me.”

While I was alarmed by the lack of consideration given to context and meaning, two pillars of vocabulary development, my experience at the high school was even more horrific. The 10th grade English teacher explained the school had just instituted a new “Word of the Day” program.

“Each day the school puts a word in our mailbox or announces it over the P.A. system and every teacher is expected to use it during their lesson. For example, today’s word was buoyancy, so I wrote the following sentence on the blackboard. French is not a very buoyant language.”

What the heck does that mean? Could it be true? If buoyancy could be applied to languages, wouldn’t French be among the most likely to float off the tongue?

It occurred to me that if the innovative “Word of the Day” program had a 100 percent success rate, kids would learn 180 new words annually. I believe that gerbils are capable of learning more words per year. By the age of six kids have a vocabulary of about 10,000 words. Their vocabulary then experiences a median growth rate of approximately 3,500 words per year for the next 10 years. Vocabulary remains easy to teach and difficult to learn by being taught.

Vocabulary may be used to illuminate, enhance, describe or even obfuscate. Last week, my daughter mentioned that her eighth grade social studies teacher is now the advisor of the “Word of the Day Club.” Apparently, the franchise is taking off! I visualized kids staying after school to memorize new words and fundraising for field trips to the local library, but I was mistaken.

The “(Good) Word of the Day Club” is a bible study club held on the grounds of the public school. When I expressed outrage that the school was endorsing such patently unconstitutional activities, my daughter explained that her teacher was an “unofficial” advisor. What an imaginative play-on-words. The school must have thought that this subterfuge (an excellent vocabulary word) would go unnoticed by parents who actually value the separation of church and state.

I then shared some new vocabulary words with my daughter including: coercion, exploitation, duplicity, unethical, proselytizing and evangelism. She naively assured me that this was a voluntary club. An abuse of power by such an authority will compel some children to participate in an inappropriate activity.

I certainly remember joining community service clubs supervised by my math teacher because my geometry grade needed a little “lift.” Educators are entrusted with a great deal of power and responsibility. They must not abuse that power.

What exactly is a voluntary club with an unofficial advisor? Would the school provide my child with classroom space and teacher supervision to read the Koran? Can she start an unofficial marching band or a competitor to the school newspaper? How about a club for Satan worshippers? They could call it “Hot Shots.”

If the school is not breaking the letter of the law, the propriety of their actions must surely be questioned. Perhaps we should get back to basics. If the Constitution was read and debated in the “unofficial” preacher’s social studies class, fewer kids might fall for the treachery of a good word.

Originally published in the April 2002 issue of District Administration Magazine