An Apple II Plus computer was delivered to my 1st grade classroom in the fall of 1982. It arrived with a pile of floppy disks from MECC. The green images on the black background were spellbinding. Who knew that munching words could be so much fun? Even my students liked it.
A couple of months later a Terrapin Logo Language binder (with a manual and the accompanying Logo disk) appeared in my school mailbox. This was something totally different: just a triangle on a screen. Every journey begins with a single step. Mine began with FD 100.
I brought the school computer home on many weekends so I could learn Logo. I learned about Seymour Papert and Mindstorms from Harold Abelson’s bible, Apple Logo.
I set up the computer in my classroom as a learning station where the children could explore the keyboard and teach the turtle “tricks.” Eventually I got a grant from my P.T.A. so I could purchase a clear, inverted popcorn bowl-shaped robot to tether to my hardware. Now the kids were really hooked.
Then I broke my Third Commandment of Learning: Thou shalt not write curriculum.
In my excitement to share this amazing tool where children were in control of their learning and could create knowledge, I agreed to develop a curriculum plan for using Logo in grades 1 – 5. I believe Logo died in my School District about three years later. My sin.
However, I kept it alive in my classroom with Lego Logo bricks and LogoWriter, while the rest of the world seemed to move onto “learning” games and activities that didn’t require much thinking.
Looking back on those years, I came to realize that Logo was not meant for the factory school model of one size fits all. It was meant for self-directed learners who were interested in creating things with a computer.
I was probably looking through various Logo bibliographies in preparation for teaching a graduate-level Logo course when I stumbled across Seymour Papert and Cynthia Solomon’s “Twenty Things to Do with a Computer.” I must have found a copy of it online. Its historic significance was striking. It was written eleven years before I started teaching the computer TO BOX.
It is wishful thinking that no one used their first 19 ideas as lesson plans or teacher-led projects. Hopefully they honored student independence and voice and allowed anyone who was interested to “think up” their own things to do.
I retired after 42 years of teaching in public schools. I spend my time now as an activist for racial and educational justice. Here are some of the things that I am doing with a computer.
1. Meeting on Zoom to educate people on racial justice issues and to build alliances.
2. Attending School Board policy meetings remotely to monitor local decision making.
3. Writing speeches to give in-person at Board of Education meetings.
4. Creating and posting educational justice memes on social media.
5. Sharing an online petition to end PreK-5th grade school suspensions.
6. Sending e-mails to social justice organizations to get support for the petition.
7. Reading and sharing articles and blogs about racial and educational justice.
8. Thinking of more things to do.
Learning Logo did not make me a better activist. But it helped to affirm my belief in the right of every child to be free to learn.
Abelson, H. (1982). Apple Logo. Byte Books.
Papert, S. (1980). Mindstorms: Children, Computers, and Powerful Ideas. Basic Books.
Papert, S. & Solomon C. (1971). Twenty Things to Do with a Computer. M.I.T.
The Terrapin Logo Language for the Apple II. (1982). Terrapin Inc.