Volume 5, Number 3 - Spring 1997
© Logo Foundation
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Logo Summer Institutes by Michael Tempel
Constructionism Meets the Job Corps by Laura Allen
Logo has been most widely used in schools. Laura Allen's "Logo Meets the Job Corps" is the third in a series of Logo Update articles about Logo in different settings. The others were "Understanding the Mathematics of Banking" by Celia Hoyles and Richard Noss in the fall 1996 issue and "LEGO Logo in a Lean Factory" by José Valente in the winter 1997 issue. Underlying all three articles is the view that conventional schooling has not adequately met the needs of many people in the workplace. In the bank and the factory, Logo was used as a vehicle for enhancing employees' understanding of the work they did. At the Loring Job Corps Center an effort is being made to offer a meaningful educational experience to young people who have had little success in school.
While these pioneering efforts are extending Logo into new realms, the majority of adult Logo users are teachers. Many of them have found that a great way to learn Logo is to participate in one of the intensive Logo Summer Institutes sponsored by the Logo Foundation. In "Logo Summer Institutes" I offer an overview of these workshops and how they fit into the context of an overall professional and staff development program. By the time you read this, some or all of the 1997 Institutes will have been completed, but check future issues of Logo Update and the Logo Foundation Web site for announcements of the 1998 Logo Summer Institutes.
As you browse through this issue of Logo Update you'll find announcements and advertisements about Logo related events and products. Logo software is available from the Logo Foundation at discount.
Finally, I have to make one of my periodic appeals for money. The Logo Foundation is a nonprofit organization that is supported in large part by contributions. Have you found interesting ideas and useful information in Logo Update, on our Web site, at the annual Logosium conference, in the exchanges on Logo-L, the internet discussion group, and at our Summer Institutes and other workshops? If these and other Foundation services and products have helped you, please help us continue to offer them by making a tax-deductible contribution of $25 or more to the Logo Foundation. For a donation of $100 or more we'll send you Seymour Papert's The Connected Family CD and book as a free gift. Thanks.
It's summer again, time for another round of Logo Summer Institutes. This year the Logo Foundation is sponsoring these intensive workshops in St. Paul, Minnesota, at the Spence School in New York City, and at Mesa State College in Grand Junction, Colorado.
Summer Institutes are not unique to Logo. They are a part of many a teacher's summer because of the difficulty of scheduling such seminars during the regular school year. Learning also requires a lengthy, relaxed, uninterrupted period of time, which is generally available only during the summer.
My first Summer Institute experience was in the early 1970s at the Workshop Center for Open Education at City College in New York. Led by Professor Lillian Weber, scores of New York City public school teachers came together to spend a week or more developing interdisciplinary curriculum projects and to participate in lectures and discussions about educational theory and practice. The bulk of the time was spent in hands-on project development. We became familiar with the ideas and materials we would later share with our students as we anticipated the experiences they would have while designing and building their own projects.
Open Education and Logo have much in common: a foundation of child-centered Piagetian learning and an emphasis on the project approach to organizing curriculum. It was this similarity that attracted me to Logo when I first encountered it in 1979. I took it for granted that the first Logo Summer Institute I taught would be organized along the lines of the Workshop Center Institutes. That was in 1980 at the New York Academy of Sciences. The participants were teachers in three New York City Public School Districts and the Bank Street School for Children. The instructors included Seymour Papert and other members of the MIT Logo Group,Hank Gorman of Austin College, and Theresa Overall of the Lamplighter School in Dallas.
The Logo Foundation's Summer Institutes also follow this model, which has been most fully developed over the past 16 years in the St. Paul Logo Project under the leadership of Geraldine Kozberg.
Gerry has held a variety of administrative positions in the St. Paul Public Schools, and has initiated and supervised numerous teacher education and school reform programs. She is not a "techie, " has no email address, and writes in longhand. She sees Logo not as one of many technologies, but as one of many strategies for school change. It is this perspective that makes our Summer Institutes different from most technology training workshops.
But Logo is technology and there are technical skills to be mastered. These skills are developed while working on projects during Logo Lab, a component of the Summer Institute.
Logo Lab takes up about three fourths of the Institute time. Project development requires time and we provide it. Each participant has a computer and we generally have a few extra machines around. There is a mixture of Logo novices, experts, and those in between. On the first day we present an idea for an introductory project along with written material to guide its development. For those who have some Logo background we offer other project ideas. The beginners get help from the more experienced participants. By the end of the morning there are no longer any novices.
The kinds of projects people work on depend partly upon the version of Logo we are using. With a "classic Logo" the initial project is most often in turtle graphics. With MicroWorlds, an animated story is usually the first choice. Some people continue to develop their first project for the whole week while others move on to something else. The choices are determined by individual and professional interests.
Often the projects are personal. Last summer, Amy Wood, a four-time Institute participant, did a multimedia travelogue, reliving her trip earlier that summer to the Canadian Maritimes. Jean Walker gave us a guided tour of Bermuda.
Video games are popular. Chris Anderson built an elaborate multi-world game in which the hero had to gather flowers for his girlfriend under increasingly difficult circumstances. Ravin Pan created a complex space invaders game.
There are simulations. Gary McCallister, a biology professor at Mesa State College, used Logo to explore the behavior and propagation of mosquitoes. Chuc Smith made an herbivore simulation in which cows ate, grew, reproduced, and died. Dianne Jackson, from Australia, worked on a similar project, only her herbivores were kangaroos.
Many projects have clear curricular connections in a conventional sense. They are about a topic in social studies or science, or they tell a story. In other cases, like the video games, the connection is not apparent on the surface, but there is much involvement with mathematics, science, and language, often on a more profound level than is generally the case in school work.
Some participants choose to use Logo to create drill and practice software or miseducational games. Over the years I've tried to figure out where this is coming from. This apporach seems to be a contradiction to what Logo is all about. We don't present these kinds of projects as examples to emulate, nor do we encourage people to develop them. But in a sense, maybe we do. We want people to use Logo to build a personally or professionally meaningful project. That is what they are doing, making something that they can use in their work as teachers. Unfortunately, their professional settings are seen by them to be ones in which instructionist software is appropriate, and the constructionist experience they have in the Institute will not be shared by their students.
The Summer Institute offers an opportunity for participants to exchange ideas about issues relating to learning and teaching, and the transformation of technology and society that form the context in which we do our work as educators. The idea of dialog, as distinct from discussion, is presented in an excerpt from Peter M. Senge's The Fifth Discipline1. Dialog is an open exchange of ideas, engaged in without pressure to arrive at a conclusion or come to a decision.
Each dialog session is framed by readings that are provided beforehand. These may be articles from popular magazines, academic journals, or chapters from books. Last year we used Seymour Papert's The Children's Machine2 as the starting point for the dialogs.
The relaxed atmosphere of the Summer Institute will give way to the pressures of the classroom. Teachers plan to bring the Logo experience to their students in many different ways, reflecting the wide variety of circumstances in which they work. Some are classroom teachers with one or a few computers. They could be elementary teachers with responsibility for all subjects and one group of children, or secondary teachers teaching a single subject to a hundred or more students. Others are computer specialists with a room full of machines and many classes passing through.
Planning discussions are organized into groups of similar grade level or subject area. It is also common for teachers who are at the same school to plan together. There are many such school groups at the Institutes because we encourage schools to send several teachers together. They are able to offer each other support both at the Institute and later during the school year.
Friday is different. There are no dialogs or discussion groups. The morning is spent putting finishing touches on projects in preparation for the afternoon show. The participants come up to the display system to present their work to the group. Some are hesitant, but in the end everyone shows off and all presentations are received with warmth and enthusiasm.
The Logo Summer Institutes are only one part of a multifaceted, ongoing staff development program. We also provide follow-up workshops during the school year in November and in April. The November meeting in St. Paul was devoted to LEGO Logo. In April we shared work that students did during the year, examined what learning had occurred, and brainstormed ways to extend and enhance the projects.
At Battle Creek Elementary School, computer teacher Kathy Ames conducts after-school workshops that meet once a week for six weeks. At St. Anthony Park Elementary School, Ron Beck is a sixth grade teacher who in addition to taking care of his classroom responsibilities, keeps the computer room running smoothly and assists his colleagues in their use of computers. At Como Park Senior High School, Darrell Mohrhausser is one of several teachers who make up an informal mutual support group. No one strategy is best and the more support systems there are, the more likely it is that Logo will be extensively and effectively used.
The St. Paul Logo project has relied upon a mixture of internal and outside resources. I and other consultants come to St. Paul regularly to conduct workshops, but there are always St. Paul teachers on staff also. Local leadership is necessary to provide support on a day-to-day basis. Outside input is needed to connect the project to new technologies and to educators in the larger Logo community.
Each Summer Institute includes not only St. Paul teachers, but educators from outside the system as well. Last summer participants came from eight states and four foreign countries. This diverse mix results in a rich experience for everyone.
The Spence School is an independent school for girls in New York City. Technology Director Hope Chafiian has been working with teachers to support their use of Logo. Hope, fifth grade teacher Eleanore Bednarsh, and I were the facilitators for the first "Summer at Spence" last year. This Logo Institute, which followed the same model as the St. Paul workshops, also included teachers from other schools.
This summer the Logo Foundation is co-sponsoring Summer Institutes again in St. Paul and at Spence, and for the first time at Mesa State College in Grand Junction, Colorado.
How do we measure the success of a staff development program? The primary indication is whether or not what teachers learn becomes an integral part of their instructional program.
Are the Logo Summer Institutes a success? I believe that they are, provided that they are part of a larger staff development program that supports Logo use in multiple ways. In St. Paul, at Spence, and in other schools and districts where teachers have attended Summer Institutes, they use Logo in their teaching and learning on an ongoing basis.
Logo is not something in which one may be "trained" once and for all. It is more suited to lifelong learning. It is an ever-evolving family of technologies that require periodic updating of skills and knowledge. But also, Logo is such a rich environment that there are always new things to learn and new avenues to explore with it. A Logo Summer Institute is a good place to get started with Logo or to build on what you already know.
1 Senge, Peter M. The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization, Doubleday, New York, 1990
2 Papert, Seymour The Children's Machine, Basic Books, New York, 1993
Right now I am on my way to Presque Isle Maine to work for a few days at the Loring Job Corps Center of Innovation. To get there from my home in New York City, I must fly to Boston, and then take a tiny 19-seat plane the rest of the way. On my last trip up, I got as far as Presque Isle, but a raging snow storm, quite typical for January in Northern Maine, forced us to return to Boston.
Making the effort to go to this far away place is worth it. An experiment is underway. Constructionism is being imbedded in all aspects of this Job Corps Center. This is a large undertaking and we are just at the beginning.
About 120 of the 350 students have already arrived with 20 more coming each week. Most students will stay for about ten months. The biggest problem that all Job Corps sites have is attrition. We are trying to change that, along with just about every other aspect of the Center. The large goals we are focusing on include:
We are trying to change the traditional instructionist Job Corps way from the bottom up, the top down and through the middle too. To understand some of the issues we are confronting, it is helpful to have a brief overview of the Federal Job Corps program.
Job Corps was started during Lyndon Johnson's administration to give disadvantaged youth a chance to develop the tools needed to successfully get work, keep it, and develop options for their lives. Job Corps has been a residential program. The idea is to remove youth from environments that are destructive to their development and bring them to a stable supportive place. Most leave with certification in a vocational trade. Some choose to receive academic preparation and are guided into 2-year or 4-year colleges.
Young adults, aged 16 to 24 who attend Job Corps, often have not finished high school. The stories they bring with them are of poverty and dysfunctional and unsupportive families. Some are recent immigrants with limited language skills. Most have come here to gain a skill and are hopeful that they will find what they are looking for at Loring. These youth are typical of many I have worked with from all walks of life, yet many are more fragile and often unfocused. One moment they are engaged and connecting with what they are doing, the next moment they have fallen apart and cannot pull themselves out of self-doubt and despair.
Most Job Corps sites are contracted out to private companies that convince the Federal Government that they can do the best job at the lowest cost per student. Each Center is reviewed regularly. Many of the methods for measuring progress are counterproductive to real learning, and are far removed from constructivist concerns. These are not methods that empower the staff to make changes and try innovative ideas.
How are we doing it differently? My employer, The Training and Development Corporation, headed by Charles Tetro, works tirelessly to bring opportunities to a segment of our society that is increasingly being ignored: the least able, and those with the fewest opportunities. It has taken a part of the decommissioned Loring Air Force Base in Limestone Maine and is turning it into the Loring Job Corps Center of Innovation.
We are seeking to create a learning, growing, self-evolving place that the kids, the staff, and all who are involved feel they have built. We have just begun to take small yet important steps to plant the seeds of this vision. So far, we have worked with about half of the staff for week-long immersion workshops, and we have begun an immersion program for all students that is part of their orientation to the Center. These immersions were the first big step away from the traditional Job Corps model.
Initially the staff immersions were run by instructors from "away, " the term Maine people use to refer to the rest of the world. These were all seasoned Logo users and teachers including Seymour Papert, Robbie Berg, David Cavallo, Wanda Gleason, Fred Martin, Carol Sperry, and me. The first two immersions were run in Bucksport Maine, three hours from the Job Corps site. We chose to do this for a few reasons: the site was not yet open and did not have computer facilities. We thought it would help the staff to be removed from their regular environment to a festive and fun atmosphere. We planned enjoyable events for all to attend. We shared delicious group meals, discussion time, and a short mountain climb to enjoy the fall foliage. We wanted to give staff an immersion experience similar to what the student would be getting when they arrived at Loring. We wanted them to feel valued and recognized as important learners in this community. The workshops involved mixed groups of all levels of staff: custodians, cooks, teachers, managers, residential life staff, administrators, and administrative assistants. We wanted heterogeneous groups and we wanted all strata of workers to have this week-long immersion.
The next three staff immersions occurred at the Job Corps site. They were run by a combination of staff people and some of us from away. If Loring was going to involve constructionism, it had to be accepted and built by the people there. Those of us from away could play the role of catalyst, but we needed to find, nurture, and support a core of believers in the staff that would be there on a daily basis.
The week-long workshops have a loose structure. We try to help each participant make one or two personally meaningful projects in MicroWorlds Logo or LEGO Logo. The range of experience is enormous, from those who had never touched a computer to seasoned computer users. We help them to develop their own goals and achieve success. We also do some reading and discussing about constructivism to help participants understand the ideas we are working with.
What goes on during the staff immersion workshops? On day one of a five-day workshop there is a brief introductory explanation of what we want to accomplish. We don't talk about it too much, because we want the participants to experience it in their own ways, yet we don't want them to feel annoyed by not having a clue as to why they are there. We generally say that by the end of the week we hope that they will build a project (or have a meaningful learning experience) in LEGO Logo and/or MicroWorlds. We stress that this is a time not to worry about the Job Corps kids, but to concentrate on their own learning. During this first day participants start to get a feel for either LEGO Logo or MicroWorlds.
On most days we begin in the lab around 9:00 A.M. Often the teaching staff puts a list of activities they want to cover during the day on the blackboard, and as a group we decide how to go about organizing the day.
The following elements occur during most days: discussion time, time to work on projects individually or in small groups, demonstrations by participants and by immersion teachers. At least two or three times during the week we try to go out for lunch or dinner together. This may seem insignificant, but the group often really coalesces and starts to talk about substantive things during time out of the lab.
At times a member of the teaching staff may demonstrate a specific idea and discuss how the idea may work in a project. For example, how can you program a color to get an object to bounce? Is this helpful in a video game?
There is also time for participants to show what they have created to the entire group. We encourage this and try to make it an opportunity to support fellow learners' efforts.
There are learning discussions. What has been a meaningful learning experience in your own life? Was it in a school setting? Ironically, powerful experiences that people discuss usually have not taken place in a school setting. Participants are asked to read an essay and as a group we discuss it. Herb Kohl's essays about learning and teaching provide a good context for our work, and they have been given to the participants to read in advance of the workshop.
Some people loved the workshops right off and became completely clear about how they wanted to develop a project. Others felt lost and wanted to know how to do the "right thing." They wanted traditional teaching and were very perplexed. Computers to some were intimidating, and the last thing they wanted was an undirected situation. This gave us great material for discussion and helped us understand the traditional mindset that we were confronting. We also learned to give participants more structure and have them venture out more slowly to a self-directed project. By the end of the week most of them had connected with their learning, and were happy to have had the experience.
About forty percent of the staff are now believers in giving this type of immersion experience to all the students who come to Loring. The first two groups to arrive in late January received a two-week immersion program run by a combination of on-site staff and the away team. The next five groups were taught solely by Loring staff members.
On my last trip up, I met a lot of kids who loved the immersion and were really excited by their experiences. Those who completed it often sought out their immersion teachers to find out what the new group of students were working on. We plan to have students who choose Computer Technology as their vocation return to the immersion room and assist the staff.
Every week we get 10 to 20 new arrivals. By August 1, the Center will be full. Then as students leave, we will be replacing them at a rate of about eight per week. Ramping up to full capacity is putting a big strain on the immersion staff. Everything is new. Staff are experimenting and developing a program that meets the needs of the incoming student body. The staff members don't have enough time to reflect on their teaching and learning and they have few models for this type of program. But, given the problems, it is encouraging and exciting to see the immersion in place. I feel we are at a formative stage of growth, and in time, will create a very special place.
Every Friday afternoon there is a demonstration celebration given by the immersion students. Everyone from the site is encouraged to come and see their work. There have been wonderful exchanges at these gatherings. Staff who have attended their own immersions are excited to see what the students have come up with. The students are often a bit surprised to hear that the staff had the same experience they are having and are pleased to share their work. This can be the beginning of an important connection between students and staff memebers.
I like to imagine what the Loring Job Corps Center of Innovation will feel like a year or two from now. I think we will have defined and created many of our own learning systems within the immersion and within the vocations. Team work will be an accepted part of learning, as will questioning, reflecting on one's own learning process, and finding better ways to connect students with empowering experiences.
I wonder about the bigger questions. Are we giving these kids important learning skills that will enable them to have job options they previously didn't have? Are they becoming life-long learners? Will they begin to redefine themselves as learners and achievers? It is too early to know the answers, but I feel it is crucial to keep these questions in mind as we work to design a community that will help students overcome the obstacles in their past. Our hope is that they realize that they too have options, just as more fortunate kids have.
The other day I ran into one of my former students, Henry, now a senior in a prestigious private school in New York City. I had taught him from third to eighth grade. He recognized me and eagerly came over to talk to me. Henry excitedly told me that he would be attending a competitive New England college in the fall. He was articulate, and seemed happy and confident. Henry is the same age as many of the students at the Job Corps. He has had a privileged life of excellent schooling, financial and emotional security and a stable home life. Henry's life is the opposite of the lives of many of the Job Corps students. A part of me cringed when I though about his childhood compared to theirs. We can't give them back what was missing in their lives before they came to the Job Corps, but that doesn't mean we can't help them. We are starting by giving them dignified and respectful learning environments. We are helping them have an opportunity to develop options. It is clear that the journey the Job Corps students will have will be very tough, but I think their experience at Loring can help them start to see their lives as ones with choices, not just dead ends.
Logo Discusion Group
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Logo-L is a "listserve" which means that you are part of a mailing list and receive messages to the group along with your regular email.
There is a new "digest" version of the list which puts all the day's postings into a single message. The advantage is that you get less clutter in your mail box, but you can't reply to individual messages. To get the digested list the message to email@example.com sould be: subscribe logo-l-digest.
Note (Ocotber 16, 200): The information about Logo-L is obsolete. Click here for current information about this group
The Epistemolgy and Learning group at the MIT Media Lab has released a new version of Star Logo. It has a number of new features, bug fixes, and more sample projects.
StarLogo 2.0 has an updated user interface, paint tools, turtle shapes, turtle monitors that provide instant information about each turtle, and numerous additions to the StarLogo language.
There is now a fully Power PC native version.
You may download StarLogo 2.0 for free from
New Editor at Logo Exchange
Gary Stager has been named editor of Logo Exchange. Founded 15 years ago by Tom Lough, it is currently the quarterly journal of the Logo Special Interest Group of the International Society for Technology in Education. You can subscribe to Logo Exchange or join ISTE's Logo SIG and receive it as a membership benefit.
For guidelines on submitting articles contact:
The Sixth European Logo Conference will be held in Budapest, Hungary, August 20-23, 1997. The main theme is "Learning and Exploring with Logo." For information contact: