What it's all about
From the Great Western Railway in the 19th century to satnav systems in modern cars, our control over getting from A to B has only increased, writes Jan Webb.
Giving directions is a skill we need to develop in learners. This is one reason we spend time looking at "turtles" in school - floor turtles such as Bee-Bots, Pro-Bots and Roamers, as well as screen turtles such as the cartoon reptile in the free, downloadable software MSWLogo.
The ability to give logical, well-sequenced directions also starts to develop early programming logic skills. That might sound scary to teachers who do not know a lot about programming. But using storytelling opportunities - such as telling the story of The Jolly Postman or Owl Babies by guiding a Bee-Bot to pictures of each character laid under a clear grid - is an entertaining way of learning skills and engaging the imagination.
With upper primary, I introduce the work of Robert Ballard and the Jason Foundation projects of the late 1980s and early 1990s. Jason (as in Jason and the Argonauts) was a remote-controlled submarine used by Ballard to locate the sunken Titanic.
Developing instructions for turtles can be difficult for some learners, but working with a partner help. I found one child who struggled with reading and writing showed quite a flair for developing interesting and complex patterns using MSWLogo.
Taking it further
See Elles89's coding guides for Bee-Bot and Turtle. For more turtling, Jan Webb has compiled a collection of robotic resources.
Turn Bee-bot into a classroom storyteller with cards based on The Owl Who Was Afraid of the Dark from WendyMac33.
Start using screen turtles for free with MSWLogo, RoboMind and G-logo.