“Visualizing Learning with Turtle Art”

By: Walter Bender

There are certainly cases where applying objective measures badly is worse than not applying them at all, and education may well be one of those. –Nate Silver

Not to be deterred by Nate Silver’s words of warning, Claudia Urrea and I continue to work on mechanisms for visualizing learning Sugar. Along with the Pacita Pena and other members of the Learning Team, we have been designing rubrics that capture the level of fluency with the technology as well as the creative use of the individual Sugar tools by children. The rubrics are captured automatically in some Sugar activities, e.g., Turtle Art and a modified version of Write.  We are aiming for evaluations that look more broadly than those data that are captured by standardized tests. We just submitted a paper, “Visualizing Learning with Turtle Art”, in which we present some measurements calculated from 45 Turtle Art projects created by children working with Quirós Tanzi Foundation.

We claim that the rubric serves as a partial evaluation tool for open-ended projects. Partial, because it is only a measure of how the children used Turtle Art to express themselves, but not what they made or why they made it. But the rubric does have the potential to give some assistance to the teacher who is working within the context of accountability, without adding an additional burden of analysis above and beyond looking at the work itself.

We want children not just to learn about the computer, but also to learn with the computer. Providing activities such as Turtle Art that engage them in computational thinking in the context of personal expression is necessary, but not sufficient. Giving them tools for reflection enhance the learning experience. Giving their teachers simple-to-use mechanisms for assessment increase the odds that activities like Turtle Art will find more mainstream acceptance. Making it easier to assess open-ended projects lowers one of the barriers that are preventing more use of the arts in school.

OLPC in Goa

Monsoon Grey posts an update on the school pilot in Goa, about a lesson in Turtle Art, with a photoset by intern Bindi Dharia. Harriet Vidyasagar, who helped get the first school projects in India underway, continues to support the project.

The team writes about the new activities they have installed for all of the students this year, including “I Know India”, and the workshop they organized for new teachers for the coming year.

Turtle Art Chat

From the latest Sugar digest:

Before getting on the overnight bus back to Chiclayo, Jorge gave me a file with images of Peruvian Soles, so I was able write a Soles plug in for Turtle Art on the overnight bus ride. (Again, I could not sleep due to the movie playing inches from my face.) Raul, who was sitting a few rows back from me, joined a shared Turtle Art session and we stumbled upon a new use for a well-worn activity: chat. By sharing text with the Show block (and as of TurtleBlocks-144, text-to-speech with the Speak block), you can engage in an interactive chat or forum, which includes sharing of pictures and graphics. What fun. (Walter)

XOrduino & XO Stick designs

via the ananialog

I banged out two open hardware designs this week, designed for use with the OLPC XO laptops.

The XOrduino is a stripped down low-cost Arduino-compatible board that plugs right into the XO’s USB ports. But wait, there’s more: it’s also compatible with the Scratch Sensor Board, so you can use this device to control Scratch (and Turtle Art?). It should be compatible with the Arduino IDE and all Arduino Leonardo-compatible shields.

There are only 20 components needed for basic Arduino functionality, costing $5 from digikey (in quantities of 100 or more). Local labor or even older kids could assemble this by hand.

The XO Stick is for when $5 per student is too much money.  Based on the AVR Stick and the ATtiny85 processor, it costs only $1/student. It’s not as user-friendly as the Arduino-compatible board, but can be used to teach simple lessons in embedded electronics.

Eagle design files on github:

I expect to have a small number of each board in a few weeks; let me know if you’d like one in exchange for help with hardware and software bring-up. Schematic and layout review would also be appreciated (I did the PCB routing late at night under time pressure leaning heavily on autoroute, it’s certainly not the prettiest). And feedback from Arduino and Arduino shield hackers would also be welcome.

For more details or to request boards, please see the original blog post, and Alessandro Paganelli’s review in Linux Support magazine.

Turtle Art and Scratch at Vacation Camp (in Miami)

Walter and Melissa Henriquez  ran Turtle Art and Scratch workshops las tweek, during a “vacation camp” for 3rd and 4th graders from Holmes Elementary School.  It sounds like a it was a great success, with the children using Portfolio to make presentations of their work at the end of the week.   Read more about it in the weekly Sugar Digest.