Logo Love

11 Oct

One of my favorite things about EC&I 833 so far has been all the blasts from the pasts we have experienced. Number Munchers, Oregon Trail, and almost anything you can imagine from my childhood that I am now able to explore on Classic Reload has been such an enjoyable experience to me. Although enjoyable…it has also been distracting! But the distraction, and the distraction specifically that Logo provided me this past week was actually much needed for my busy brain.

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Aside from my Computer Science 100 course in my first year of University, I have next to no experience with any type of coding. In fact when I actually hear someone talk about coding, I automatically get this feeling of it being “too techy” for me. But after working through a few quick exercises during class, I was thinking to myself that this was actually kind of fun. And… I was actually pretty good at it.

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I was happy when this was one of our blog prompts, as I found myself wanting to further play around with logo as I liked not only the challenge it provided me, but also the logical reasoning, patterns, and obvious connections to math I could see at work. Although I did not get through the entire exercise book, with time I feel confident I could. This is something that could definitely be beneficial to students (and me) regardless of whether or not they were actually specifically interested in coding.

As I began to read about Papert’s theory of constructionism, I could see how learning with Logo supports this learning theory (which I had never heard of!) As a math teacher, I see value in problem-based learning, and seek to create these authentic experiential learning experiences for my students. It can be hard though with the pressure of content to cover in a short amount of time as well as rising and varying needs within the classroom today. Often students need much more guidance than the student-centered approach of constructionism.

“Teaching ‘at’ students is replaced by assisting them to understand—and help one another to understand—problems in a hands-on way. The teacher’s role is not to be a lecturer but a facilitator who coaches students to attaining their own goals.” (Wikipedia)

The question that I am sure many math teachers can attest to hearing is “when will I ever use _______ in the real world?” I have always dreaded this question, as it is not always a clear answer, and a lot of the time, students will not ever actually apply the quadratic formula to anything in their life outside of math class. As a sports person, and also Phys. Ed teacher, I always try to explain it this way to students.

I always ask, how do I get bigger biceps? Or how do I get better at my basketball shot? Usually students answer I should workout, do some bicep curls, pushups, go to the gym to work on my shot at lunch, etc. Then I talk about how long or how often I would do that. I most likely they wouldn’t walk around doing bicep curls of various objects in my “real life.” I do these specific exercise movements because I am working on making that muscle bigger. In the same way I wouldn’t use the quadratic formula at home, I use it in math class  because it is growing my logical thinking, reasoning, pattern skills, etc – and essentially “growing my brain”.

By using a program like Logo in a math class to build mathematical skills in students is without a doubt beneficial. I can even see this being done as a 10 minutes a day type program for students to start of finish class off, or even as a “brain break” (Although it works their brain pretty hard without them knowing!) I found this beneficial for my own problem solving, reasoning and logical thinking skills as I often don’t challenge my brain in this same mathematical way anymore.

I think helping our students understand how problem solving and taking on challenges – both with and without technology – can benefit their learning is a hard task – but important. Letting go of the reins in our classroom and taking on a constructionist approach can be powerful for both students and teachers. I recently did an Escape Room activity in my math class in which I gave almost zero instructions. At first my students were asking me lots of questions, and “how should they write this down, etc” but within minutes they were figuring out how to solve the problem – not just how to answer the question how the teacher wanted. Fostering this type of authentic engagement of students in their own learning is critical – in school and real life!

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