Logo: This Side the Curricula
Dr. Márta KORÖS-MIKIS
National Institute of Public Education
1051 Budapest, Dorottya u. 8.
It has been 13 years since the first PCs - or micro-computers as they were called at that time - made their appearance in Hungarys schools as gifts from the government. The use of LOGO may also be dated back to that time. As the years went by, an increasing number of teachers became familiar with LOGO, and tried to adapt it into the training and education process despite the fact that this activity remained unsupported by the official curricula for a long time. The introduction of the new National Core Curriculum and the spread of the Comenius-Logo software have opened the way for a wide use of Logo in education and for laying the ground for general computer literacy from early childhood on. The study sums up the history of Logo in Hungary and its relationship to the curricula.
Logo history, research, development, curriculum, information technology as a school subject
1 The History of Logo in Hungary
A government program for the promotion of electronics was launched in Hungary in 1984, in the framework of which a "Computers for Schools" program was also declared. The first, highly spectacular move made under the auspices of the program was when every Hungarian secondary school was given a microcomputer. These machines were the first tokens of the use of computer science in public education.
The appearance of Logo and the start of its spread was due, among other things, to an international conference held in 1985 and the shore of Lake Balaton under the title Microscience85. The conference was attended by Professor Seymour Papert as an invited lecturer, who delivered a very interesting opening address entitled "Computer Culture". [ 8] At one of the workshops Márta Turcsányi-Szabó of Eötvös Loránd University Budapest reported on the employment of the Logo environment in kindergartens. She also demonstrated her own Logo programs running on Commodore 64s, designed to familiarize the nursery school children of university staff with the computer, to aid the development of their thinking and to help them make fine computer drawings. [ 10]
The spread of Logo in Hungary was made difficult by the fact that at the beginning Logo versions did not exists for every machine type and programming language. The "monopoly" of Basic and its well known drawbacks were sorely felt in educational institutions for a long time. Nevertheless, an increasing number of schools and even nurseries were making attempts to use Logo and to fit it into their daily routine. The educational experiences gained during the use of the computer were investigated by a research team of the National Institute of Education headed by the author of this study. Among studies made between 1987 and 1989, mention must be made of the primary school experiment conducted by the Budapest Teacher Training School under the leadership of Károly Farkas. Mr. Farkas was granted special approval to start teaching computer skills from 1st form on in a playful way in addition to the official curricula, and he used Logo for this purpose. Along with the participating teachers, he invented a variety of games preparing children for the use of computers and getting them to like the machine (the so-called turtle games, robot games, etc.). His experiences and achievements could be read about in several Eurologo publications [ 4] , [ 5] . He wrote his Cand.Sc.thesis on the pedagogical results of his decade long work with Logo.
A highly interesting experiment was conducted in the training school of Kossuth Lajos University in Debrecen by Éva Boros-Gárdos, who made a Basic-Logo comparative study in the schoolyear 1988/1989 among hearing and deaf children. (The control group was made up of children who did not use computers at all.) Each of the schoolchildren taking part in the study were attending special classes where one part studied Basic, the other Logo for a year. The research team investigated the changes in thought operations, character and creativity. The computer exerted a positive influence on the development of thinking in both groups. In the respect of character, an especially strong positive impact was observed among the children using Logo: their readiness of taking on challenges increased, and so did their curiosity and ambition to solve problems on their own.
The Logo group showed an unambiguous growth of self-confidence along with a decline in anxiety when facing problems to be solved. The greatest degree of change was registered in the area of the development of creativity, most notably in the group of deaf children where the increase of verbal creativity was no less than 150 per cent! (In the Basic group, growth in the same field was only 25 per cent.) The total data compared also with figural creativity is shown in Figure 1. [ 1] These results unambiguously proved not only the advantages of computer use in education but also those of the Logo environment.
Figure 1 The change of total creativity (verbal and figural)
Hungarian "Logo life" was given a major boost by the appearance of the Hungarian translation of Professor Paperts famous book "Mindstorms", which followed his next visit in December 1987 and his lecture delivered at ELTE university to teachers. [ 9] Logo simulations appeared also on Hungarian-made computers. An increasing number of teachers made friends with Logo. Their activity was co-ordinated by the Professional Association "Playful Information Technology" founded in 1989. Hundreds of schools joined in. The first teachers aids (e.g. Play the Turtle, 1989), workbooks supporting the use of Logo (e.g. Logowriter for Children, 1990) and problem books (e.g. Lets Play Information Science [ 3] ). Hungarian pedagogical periodicals also frequently carried articles about the work of school Logo workshops.
Logo was regularly present at extended training courses for teachers, exhibitions and professional conferences. Participants were able to learn about the achievements of Logo, to take delight in the work produced by the children, and seen videos made in Logo classes in schools and nurseries. (A short film was also shot by a UNESCO research team investigating the topic.) [ 11] International conferences were regularly attended by several Hungarian researchers who the promoted their experiences by publications, lectures and school demonstrations. By the end of the 1980s, Logo won a nation-wide reputation among schools using computers, yet at the same time there was still no official possibility for its employment in education.
Figure 2 An excerpt from the workbook and the problem book
2 The Appearance of Logo in the Currricula
Public education in the 1980s was still characterized by rigid, central curricula prescribing the same material for every school. There was no choice of teaching aids either: schools were using the same books and demonstration tools. The appearance of computers in the schools was, in fact, on of the first chalenge leading to the disintegration of this rigid system. Before that, no subject called computer science (or information technology) existed at all, and the new information was conveyed to the children by the school in study circles and special classes of choice. Approval had to be sought on an individual basis for the teaching of every new initiative (like computer science) from the Ministry of Culture and Education. And computers were used very rarely in the framework of other subjects by teachers.
The TechnologyInformation Science Module Curriculum issued in 1989 brought a difference: it made it possible for schools to teach the new technological information, and to build their own curricula from of a range of modules, in a flexible manner. The modules included Logo, thus providing, at long last, an "official" possibility for its employment already in the first form of primary school, if the school so wanted. The growing popularity of Logo was also supported by technological development: the old home computers were increasingly replaced by much more user-friendly and also "smarter" modern PCs. [ 6]
The democratic change starting in 1989 speeded up changes in the public education system too. A growing number of alternative curricula were born. The Education Act passed in 1993 laid the groundwork for the democratic transformation of the operation of public education. In the autumn of 1995 the government approved the new National Core Curriculum which enabled schools to modernize the substance of their work. The new development strategy of Hungarian public education lays special emphasis on the importance of computer literacy, and a separate knowledge field (or subject) is devoted to the conveying of information about computer science, also providing a place for the employment of Logo. [ 7]
Based on the requirements of the National Core Curriculum, every school has the right to compose its own, individual, ultimate curriculum in accordance with the local features, and human and material conditions. [ 2] The National Institute for Public Education is currently developing and operating a computerized data bank accessible from any part of the country, containing hundreds of so-called model curricula or the teaching various subjects. Information science, as defined in the new curricula, means not only computer skills and technology but also knowledge regarding the use of libraries.
The Logo environment suits the requirements formulated in the core curriculum very well indeed. It helps the acquiring of computer skills, the development of algorithmic thinking, problem solving and the making of computerized documents (drawings, texts, charts). Its use is therefore recommended to every school.
3 Forward with Logo!
PCs today are accessible even to the very young at home or in the school. The schoolchildren of the future are already going to live, create and work in the "information society" of the next millennium. Teachers and educators must set an example by showing how versatile, intelligent and efficient the computer may be in our educational work or even in our leisure time. Relying on the great motivating power of the computer, our objective must be to help the spread of the kind of applications, softwares, educational environment and creative atmosphere which give happiness and a sense of success, thus promoting the full development of the abilities of every child.
That is why the Hungarian Ministry of Culture and Education regards enabling the acquisition of computer skills as one of its major tasks. Its support for school computer training included purchasing, with considerable costs to the country, a nation-wide license for the most up-to-date Logo version currently available, the one developed at Comenius University in Bratislava. Following the completion of the Hungarian translation, schools will be able to obtain Comenius-Logo, running in a Windows environment, from September 1997 on.
The John von Neumann Computer Society supports public education by organizing a conference for Hungarian teachers under the title "Hungarologo" every year since 1994. That event is characterized by the appearance of newer and newer Logo workshops every year: nursery schools, primary and secondary schools, institutes of higher education, universities. Indeed, Logo is universal and independent of age. The nursery-age child will find as much fun in giving commands to its Turtle as the university student to whom it offers and interesting problem to be solved, like in a "samba school". Or as Papert puts it:
"The computers brings it into the realm of possible by providing mathematically rich activities which could, in principle, be truly engaging for novice and expert, young and old. I have no doubt, that in the next few years we shall see the formation of some computational environments that deserve to be called » samba schools for computation« . " ([ 9] , p. 182.)
We a looking forward to that. Until then: thank you, Logo.