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ICTMusic - The right direction

Introduce programming logic and more with robotic turtles

Introduce programming logic and more with robotic turtles

From the building of the Great Western Railway in the first half of the 19th century to the use of satnav systems in modern cars, our control over getting from A to B has only increased.

Giving directions is a skill we also need to develop in our learners. This is one of the reasons 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 - with some revisiting and refining - also starts to develop early programming logic skills. That might sound complex and 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 slightly older children, we need to make more effort to continue capturing their imagination. So with key stage 2, 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.

He went on to suggest using field trips to develop children's interest in science, including technology-enabled field trips where scientists and pupils could watch remotely as real investigations took place across the world. The context of remote-controlled camera vehicles sparks creative cross- curricular questions from children.

Developing instructions for turtles can be a frustrating experience for some learners, but working with a partner can be a valuable strategy. Keeping pupils of all levels educationally stimulated is something we all strive for as teachers. But one pleasant surprise for me was finding that a child who struggled with reading and writing showed quite a flair for developing interesting and complex patterns using MSWLogo. Maybe the more logical and predictable approach required for programming the turtle made more sense than the complex vagaries of the English language.

Other resources recently added to the TES website include using turtles to teach French and German, or creating a journey to take them through a maze, such as the one at Hampton Court.

The world of turtles goes well beyond the railway-track experiences of creating simple shapes. They are limited only by the boundaries of our own imaginations.

What else?

Prepare the programmers of the future with Elles89's coding guides for Bee-Bot and Turtle.

For more turtling around, 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.

For all links and resources visit


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