The first time I ever used a computer was in the third grade. The computer was an Apple II and we had two programs for it: Oregon Trail and LOGO. For those of you who don't remember (or are too young to have ever encountered) it, LOGO was a very simple programming interface that allowed junior programmers to move a turtle around onscreen. Eventually, the elementary school dug up enough money to buy a little wheeled robot that could actually be controlled by the program.
As Wired points out this week, LOGO is now 40 years old, but still lives on. I actually have a LOGO implementation installed on my laptop (KTurtle) and will be breaking it out for my geometry class shortly to reinforce some coordinate/plane geometry concepts. The author of the Wired article correctly points out
As I remember it, LOGO was a triangular turtle that roamed across the monochrome screen of an Apple II in my first grade classroom. Wherever he went, a line of ink would follow him -- it came from a pen that was tied to his tail.
My digital friend simultaneously gave me an intuition for geometry and how to think like a computer programmer.
I would type FORWARD 50 and the turtle would move forward. When I gave the command RIGHT 90, he would turn sharply to the right. If I prefaced those two commands with REPEAT 4 and surrounded them with brackets, the turtle would draw a square.
I was learning, but my experiences didn't feel like a lesson. It was fun!
LOGO remains alive and well, if underused in the face of glitzier tools. Happy birthday, LOGO! Now go download a version and make your students start programming so we're not off-shoring all of our programming when they graduate in 10 years.