Sunday, June 09, 2013

REVIEW - Logo Adventures from Motherboard Books

Have you ever taken a computer programming class? I did once, in college. I had no idea what I was doing. It was not one of my more stellar moments, I confess.

When the opportunity arose through the Schoolhouse Crew to review Logo Adventures from Motherboard Books, I was intrigued - and a little anxious. I certainly did not feel qualified to teach any kind of programming. However, Phyllis Wheeler, the author of the program, is not only a mechanical engineer with programming experience, she is a fellow homeschool mom. She has developed products to fill a need for homeschoolers looking for computer curriculum. She made sure they were accessible to parents who might not have extensive (or any) background in computers.

Here is a great thing: when I received my copy of Logo Adventures, I found that it is written so students can work independently! Also, I have a computer-savvy husband, so he has been the teacher for the material these past few weeks. Here is what he had to say:

I was excited to have the opportunity to work with my girls on learning the basic skills of computer programming. I learned BASIC long ago on an Apple ][+, and have used those skills many times over in school and my job. I had never heard or used Logo before, so I was learning too!

Installing the included MicroWorlds EX Logo environment was smooth, and we were up and running quickly. It runs on Mac or Windows so everyone can enjoy the fun.

Logo Adventures does a great job of introducing Logo to new users. Logo is a neat first programming language due to the instant graphical feedback. It takes the concepts of programming, including sub-routines and if/then statements, and brings them to a graphical media that is fun to observe. The Logo interpreter provides instant feedback to the issued commands, making the language easy to learn and use.

The first few lessons went quickly, as the girls easily picked up the basics of Logo. The mix of graphics with the programming really kept the interest of both girls through the introduction. Also, the some of the well-placed questions in the lessons would lead them to some really cool patterns, which would then lead them to experiment further.

Here are some screen shots of the work they did:  

Abbie's practice drawing a triangle, with some variations:

My eldest likes to be colorful:

Each lesson was progressively more difficult. There are a couple of projects, each a couple of chapters long, completing the book. We did not finish the projects before this review, but I will certainly be continuing this until we do get through them.

Logo Adventures teaches the basics of computer programming, and introduces the logic needed to be successful at it. I have found the lessons enjoyable myself, and the girls have found them fun and challenging. There were days where the "Logo Laptop" was very heavily used at the expense of other subjects, to the dismay of my wife, who would have liked to see a little more work in some of their other subjects.


Well, there you have it - a review from someone who knows about computer programming! My girls really do enjoy working in Logo. It was hard to get them off the computer sometimes, and on to other things. My older girl is somewhat averse to anything that makes her think through things carefully, which Logo did - but she kept with it. I know what a difficult time I had with a very basic computer programming experience when I was in college, so I am thrilled that the girls have had this introduction. I believe it will ease their way into any other programming skills they decide to learn later on, because now they know they CAN do it and it's not excessively difficult. Also, they enjoyed it, which is not something I can say about my own programming experience. They were excited to share their work with their dad and me, and that means a lot.

The details:

Logo Adventures come as a spiral-bound book with the answer key in the back. We were instructed to tear out the answer before giving the book to the girls. Obviously, Ms. Wheeler has met my oldest child. :-) The book also comes with the MicroWorlds EX installation CD, which installed easily onto the little Apple laptop the girls used, as Todd mentioned above. The system requirements are Windows XP/Vista/7/8, and Mac OS X Version 10.4 or higher. 

This program is available from Motherboard Books for $129.99. It's intended for children ages 8-12, and works well for younger children because there are no variables used; however, my 13 year old daughter was engaged and challenged by the lessons, so if you have older children who've never been exposed to programming, I think it's a nice intro for them too. It's also an excellent introduction to reasoning, and is another reason I was excited to review the product. I didn't tell the girls they were going to learn good reasoning skills; they were excited to be doing something fun and connecting with their dad.

My family really enjoyed using Logo Adventures. If you're looking for computer programming curriculum that's easy to teach and fun for the students, look no further!

Click here to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Crew!

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