LOGO-L> Bah, Humbug 
Author Message
 LOGO-L> Bah, Humbug

I, for one, am tired of hearing about home schooling...Can we get on
with life...and our discussions about LOGO?
JanetC

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Sun, 08 Jul 2001 03:00:00 GMT  
 LOGO-L> Bah, Humbug
     Are we to conclude from this that Logo is life?  But since you brought
it up I have a question concerning Logo.  I am a fifty something
biologist who is trying to use Logo as a substitute for Lisp in a
freshman level course on artificial life with unsophisticated learners.  
I also try to help a small band of elementary school teachers in my town
implement Logo in their classrooms to help their students become the
computer sophisticates that none of ua are.  When  I tell people that I
am using Logo they frequently want to know why I am not using basic,
Visual Basic, C++ or some other hot new language.  The elementary
teachers get the same stuff.
     I have decided that it boils down to two things: ease of learning
and flexibility.  Logo seems to me to be one of the easiest languages to
do something with.  Yet it is flexible so that many different kinds
of projects can be tackled.  Micro Worlds even has much of the visual
basic kinds of possibilities (buttons, sliders, etc.)  
     Much of the discussion on this list recently has been  about
psychology or detailed computer topics that my teacher friends and I
cannot follow.  (That is OK, I am not complaining and you can all discuss
whatever you want.)  I would bet that a lot of teachers are simply
looking for something that they can learn without investing two years
back at college but that has the power that allows them to work in 32
different directions (or whatever the classroom size where you are).  
1. How do other languages such as Toon Talk, Scheme, basic, Boxer etc. etc.
compare on these two attributes: ease of learning and flexibility?
2. Can computer sophisticates really answer the question about ease of
learning?
3. Are we trapped in an endless loop?  People who don't know computer
languages cannot create them and those who do create more of the same
hard to learn stuff?


Quote:
> I, for one, am tired of hearing about home schooling...Can we get on
> with life...and our discussions about LOGO?
> JanetC

> ---------------------------------------------------------------




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Mon, 09 Jul 2001 03:00:00 GMT  
 LOGO-L> Bah, Humbug

Quote:

>1. How do other languages such as Toon Talk, Scheme, basic, Boxer etc. etc.
>compare on these two attributes: ease of learning and flexibility?

I believe that ease of learning is a multi-dimensional thing -- you can't
just assign a number from 1 to 10.  That's *why* we've been talking about
those sophisticated psychological questions!  Let me try to lay out some
of the dimensions:

        1.  Programming paradigm.  Toon Talk is strongly concurrent, as is
            StarLogo in a different way.  Scheme is largely, but not
            entirely, functional.  Boxer is object-oriented.  Basic is
            sequential.  Logo is a compromise; most beginning programming
            in Logo is sequential, but functional programming is there too.

            I think there's a lot of evidence that sequential programming
            is the easiest starting place for *most* people, although not
            everyone; but in the long run, sequential programming is
            limiting, and interested learners will want to move on to
            other paradigms.

        2.  User interface.  Toon Talk is strongly graphical; Boxer is
            partly graphical; the others are text-based.  (Visual Basic
            combines both styles.)  Traditional Logo is text-based, but
            some newer versions, including Microworlds, MSWLogo, and
            Comenius Logo (SuperLogo), have moved partly toward a
            graphical interface.  For graphical interfaces, one can ask
            how intuitive the interface is, how rigid (is there only one
            way to do something), how pretty, etc.  For text interfaces,
            one can ask how intuitive the notation (this is where people
            complain about parentheses in Lisp or about colons in Logo),
            how easy to edit, how rigid, etc.

            The conventional wisdom is that graphical interfaces are easy
            to learn, and text interfaces are hard to learn.  I think it's
            much more complicated than that, and that the best interface
            will be a hybrid.  Of the languages listed, I'd guess that
            Boxer is the current winner, but I'm not sure.

        3.  Problem domain.  Logo became famous because of turtle graphics,
            an application that gives learners immediate feedback in a
            domain many people find intuitive.  Visual Basic puts a strong
            emphasis on creating user interfaces for programs.  MSWLogo
            works hard at supporting everything the hardware can do: music,
            movies, robotics, etc.

            In principle the problem domain is independent of the language,
            but in practice particular implementations push users toward
            particular domains.  For example, MicroWorlds makes turtle
            graphics a less obvious domain, in favor of animation.  I'm
            a non-visual sort of thinker, so my programming is more about
            symbol manipulation -- solving logic puzzles, for example.

So, to talk about the learnability of a language, one should think about
each of these, and probably other dimensions, separately.  And I don't
think there's any way to combine them into an overall learnability rating;
different dimensions are more important for different people.

Quote:
>2. Can computer sophisticates really answer the question about ease of
>learning?

:-)

Quote:
>3. Are we trapped in an endless loop?  People who don't know computer
>languages cannot create them and those who do create more of the same
>hard to learn stuff?

Well, this question leads me to make a complaint.  Some time back there
was a flurry of interest in the newsgroup on the question of Logo syntax.
Some of the new LCSI products have moved partly away from colons as the
way to access a variable value; instead the variable is treated as a
zero-input function.  (PRINT FOO instead of PRINT :FOO)  So I made an
experimental version of Berkeley Logo that allowed no-punctuation
variable references, with a different set of rules from the LCSI ones,
and urged people to try it out and let me know if they found it useful.
I got exactly one response.

Ken has had better luck getting people to try Toon Talk.  I guess a more
dramatic shift in interface is more interesting than a small detail.
And people have suggested small changes in TT's interface.  But the
overall approach isn't really amenable to being changed in response to
comments here; TT's fundamental ideas are already set.



Mon, 09 Jul 2001 03:00:00 GMT  
 LOGO-L> Bah, Humbug
Thanks for the response, the suggested languages, and the explanation.  
However, your response is also an example of the communication gap I
referred to indirectly.  I don't know what the difference is between
post-fix arithmetic and post fix notation.  It probably isn't important
to me, I just want to be able to do what I want to do.  I do
understand that it is probably important to the people who make languages
and without it they can't design the language I want.  That's why it seem
like this may be a catch 22.
Quote:

> All computer languages are somewhat idiosyncratic. How easy they are to
> learn depends as much on the individual's psychology as on the syntax of
> the language.

> Other languages which are easy to learn are Prolog and Forth. The latter
> uses post-fix arithmetic which is not so different from Logo's prefix
> notation.

> The big problems come when you want design large programs. Then I think
> most of the effort must go into the analysis and design stages. Finding
> some effective design methods is much harder than using any particular
> computer language.

> Graham Telfer



Mon, 09 Jul 2001 03:00:00 GMT  
 LOGO-L> Bah, Humbug
All computer languages are somewhat idiosyncratic. How easy they are to
learn depends as much on the individual's psychology as on the syntax of
the language.

Other languages which are easy to learn are Prolog and Forth. The latter
uses post-fix arithmetic which is not so different from Logo's prefix
notation.

The big problems come when you want design large programs. Then I think
most of the effort must go into the analysis and design stages. Finding
some effective design methods is much harder than using any particular
computer language.

Graham Telfer



Tue, 10 Jul 2001 03:00:00 GMT  
 LOGO-L> Bah, Humbug

Quote:

>1. How do other languages such as Toon Talk, Scheme, basic, Boxer etc. etc.
>compare on these two attributes: ease of learning and flexibility?

One thing that really bugs me about Logo is the need for all those silly
little punctuation marks. I like BASIC because I don't need them and Basic
statements and syntax just seem to make more sense to me. There is also very
little that I can imagine that Basic can't do, but sometimes speed is a
factor. This is less of an issue with fast machines nowadays.

Of course, Basic was the first language I taught myself, and that, has
probably prejudiced me, although I don't mind working with low level C
(still hate all those punctuation marks!) or assembly language.

Quote:
>2. Can computer sophisticates really answer the question about ease of
>learning?

I think so, if they are teaching/learning sophisticates as well.

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Tue, 10 Jul 2001 03:00:00 GMT  
 
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