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Computers in Education - Inside-out Vision

      This vision is perhaps best introduced, somewhat whimsically, by telling a story of three wise men bringing gifts to a child - or to anyone who has ever been a child.

      The first wise man is Jean Piaget. His gift was a theory, which does for ontogenetic development (from child to adult) what the theory of Charles Darwin did for phylogenetic development (from animal to human). He has provided us with a three-dimensional description of human development in all its length, breadth and depth.

      The second wise man is Seymour Papert. His gift was a language. A student of Jean Piaget, he developed a computer language called Logo, designed to enable computers to facilitate human development, as described by his teacher.

      This language was first taught to a mechanical Turtle attached to a keypad. A child (of whatever age) would type FORWARD 40 and the Turtle would take 40 turtle steps forward, leaving a trace of its trip with a pen on a paper on the floor. The child may then type RIGHT 90 and the Turtle would turn 90 degrees to the right. Using four basic words in the Logo language (FORWARD, BACK, RIGHT, LEFT), the Turtle can be instructed to draw any shape on the paper.

      Let us imagine that a child has commanded the Turtle to draw a triangle, then a square, then a pentagon, and so on. The child may already have discovered the Total Turtle Trip Theorem - that is, regardless of the shape of the figure, the Turtle must turn a total of 360 degrees to get back to the position in which it started. This is only one of many insights into geometry the child could get using only those four simple words.

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