Logo in pre-service and in-service teacher education

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    LOGO IN PRE-SERVICE AND IN-SERVICE TEACHER EDUCATION*

    R. A. SCHIBECI School of Education, Murdoch University, Murdoch 6150, Western Australia

    (Received 3 October 1988; reaised 23 January 1989)

    Abstract-There is a large body of literature associated with the use of Logo with children. Much less research has been conducted on the effects of Logo on adult learners. The present study, which was qualitative in its approach, focused on the use of Logo with four groups of adult learners: two groups in pre-service teacher education courses, and two groups in an in-service course. The results suggest that a Logo project has some positive benefits for learners attitude to computers and to themselves as learners.

    Logo continues to generate fierce passions among members of the educational computing community: see, for example, the debate in the pages of Educational Researcher [l-4]. Much of the debate has revolved around the use of Logo with children; much less is known about the use of Logo and adults.

    Teachers and trainee teachers constitute important adult groups. Computers have been used in teacher education in many different ways[5,6]. A few studies have reported investigations in which Logo has been used in teacher education.

    As with children, Logo can be used with adults in one of two ways: in an unstructured way or in a formal, structured way. The former approach is exemplified by an early study reported by Austin[7] from the MIT AI laboratory: that study was guided by the question, What are the problems involved in teaching adult teacher trainees the ideas embodied in the current LOGO curriculum (which was originally designed with children in mind). . . ? (p. 2). The second (structured) approached is exemplified by studies such as those by Battista[8] and by du Boulay and Howe[9]; in these cases, attempts were make to teach specific mathematical concepts. The approach taken in this study was the less structured one. This paper describes the use of a Logo programming project with four groups of students in three different teacher education courses: one group in each of two pre-service courses (cultural mathematics and computers in the classroom) and two groups in an in-service course in two consecutive years (computers in the school curriculum).

    THE STUDY: THE RATIONALE AND THE STUDENTS

    The rationale

    The project began when an application was made to the University for support for a study entitled The development of informed numeracy. One strand of this project was the use of Logo with adult learners-students in a primary teacher education programme. In the application for funds, the following rationale was given.

    The study was guided by a desire to investigate ways in which adults could be helped to reflect critically on themselves as learners. More specifically, it was designed to investigate this possibility in the context of learning mathematics. Logo was included as part of the overall project because of its treatment of geometric ideas.

    We felt that much traditional computer-assisted instruction (CAI) is based explicitly or implicitly on a programmed instruction model of learning in which the amount of learner control is very limited. This model does not encourage students to view themselves as active learners; in particular, it does not view errors as a very useful mechanism for learning.

    *An earlier version of this paper was presented at the Australian Compurers in Educafion Conference, 26-28 September 1988.

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    Logo, however, encourages an active learning view-at least if used in the unstructured way outlined earlier. In particular. errors are viewed as a very valuable learning mechanism. We were, therefore, interested in exploring the consequences of the regular and systematic use of Logo by a group of adult learners. Our concerns included the extent to which this Logo experience changed students views of themselves as learners, and the extent of student development of problem solving strategies.

    The students

    The pre-service course cultural mathematics is a compulsory course for students in the 3-year primary teacher education programme which leads to the B.A. (Teacher Education) at Murdoch University. In the 1986 version of the course, students were offered a choice of projects. Among the choices was an introduction to the Logo language (Logotron Logo for the BBC Acorn micro- computer). A set of summary sheets, which introduced students to some of the major features of logo, was based on the Logotron manual[lO]. Four BBC microcomputers were available, each with the Logotron chip. Each machine had at least a single disk drive for storing students procedures.

    The project was presented as an independent project. That is, students were to work through the summary sheets provided, and note down any points of interest and difficulty in a log. About half-way through the sheets, students were asked to write a procedure for one of two drawing exercises which were provided as a check on the work they had done to date. As a final requirement, they were asked to summarize their reactions to the Logo project. Students (there were 18 in all) were expected to spend between 10 and 20 h on the project.

    The course itself, cultural mathematics, was designed to help students explore the nature of mathematics through a study of a set of mathematical concepts. Unlike standard mathematics courses, it did not emphasize the development of algorithmic procedures. This emphasis, in our view, made the Logo project consistent with the general aim of the course. We were interested in student exploration of mathematical ideas embodied in the Logo language, rather than to develop algorithms to solve particular mathematical problems. The course comprised 26 h of contact (lectures/seminars/tutorials) together with the Logo project, which was to be done at times convenient to the student. Very little time was devoted to a discussion of Logo in the normal contact time of 26 h: the exploration of specific mathematical ideas in Logo was confined to the time devoted to work on the Logo project. The students in this course were the first to undertake the Logo project. Subsequently, the Logo project was incorporated into the other two courses.

    One of these was the B.Ed. (in-service) course, computers in the school curriculum. This course is an elective within the B.Ed. programme. The overall purpose of this course is to examine critically the use of computers in schools. Students are expected to analyse issues raised by the use of computers in schools and in society generally. Assumptions underlying many of the beliefs about benefits of computers are expected to be analysed thoroughly. The course consists of 39 h of contact devoted to seminars and tutorials. In addition, students are required to do a project, and have been given the option of completing an introduction to the Logo programming language. In 1986, 14 of the 16 students chose to do the Logo project; 12 were teachers and the remainder pre-service students. A second group, from the 1987 offering of the course, is included in this study. In this case, there were 10 students: 6 teachers, 4 pre-service students.

    The fourth adult group included in this study was another pre-service group. The pre-service course icomputers in the classroom was an elective offered for the first time in 1987 for students in a pre-service teacher education (primary or secondary) programme. The emphasis in this course was to give students a users perspective on using computers in classrooms. That is, the assumption was that the students concern was to be a primary teacher, or a secondary teacher of a particular area rather than to be specialist computing teachers. As such, the course was designed to help students develop views about what were sensible uses of computers in helping their students learn . . . teaching with computers was the emphasis. There were 20 one-hour lectures in the course, together with two major practical activities to be done in the students own time: the Logo project, and learning to use a word processing program to produce their major essay for the course. Students were required to do the Logo project unless they wanted to learn Pascal (for teaching specialist computing courses). As before, students were required to keep a log of their activities during the Logo project. There were 21 pre-service students in this course.

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    There were thus four groups of adults in all: one group in each of two pre-service courses, and two groups in consecutive offerings of an in-service course.

    Data collection

    Student reactions to the Logo project are based mainly on the log they were required to keep. The diary was designed to be a record of their reactions as they worked through the Logo sheets. These data were supplemented by informal observations and discussion with the students.

    SELECTED STUDENT REACTIONS TO THE LOGO PROJECT

    Reactions to the Logo programming experience varied, and appeared to be unrelated to whether the student was in a pre-service or in-service teacher education programme. For this reason, no distinction will be made among the four groups of students in the three courses described above. Any differences among students are more likely to be linked to prior experience with computers, rather than their status as pre- or in-service students. It may be that in-service students would, in time, see the potential applications of Logo to their classrooms. However, these views were not expressed during the course: presumably, the students were too busy coming to grips with the nuts and bolts aspects of the Logo project.

    Logo and computers