Magic Turtle (Summer 2008)

1. Overview | Download Project PDF

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A. Overview and Turtle Narrative

The child controls a Robotic Turtle by creating patterns of its shell by using objects such as small balls or M and M Candies. Each object is a vertex in the pattern that actuates an underlying sensor that maps its position with respect to other vertices. As soon as the child creates a second vertex a link is created with the first. So two vertices form a line. The child uses this basic relationship to create more complicated patterns such as triangle, square or others which have personal meaning to it. The turtle narrative goes something as follows:

“The turtle is unintelligent without its embodiment and its shell is occasionally destroyed by the world who enforces it a belief that its mind is alone sufficient to survive. But the turtle knows that it cannot move without its shell and it cannot think without its body. So it is asking for help. The child helps the turtle to complete its shell by fixing its broken parts which are small objects such as balls or m and m candies that the child normally would associate with other things. The child then places the first object and tries to help the turtle. But the turtle has a larger mission for the child other than just helping it to complete its shell. The turtle makes the child realize that it is not about completing the shell but how it completes it and what it learns during this process. The mission of the turtle is to help the child’s creativity to develop by providing it with multiple perspectives, seeing parts in terms of wholes and stimulating it to see the larger meaning of things. This is how the turtle sees learning to be”

This learning is then accomplished in three modes mainly that of assimilation and accommodation

Assimilation mode – The child imposes its existing physically grounded cognitive structures to create personally meaningful patterns. As described theoretically, these cognitive structures are physically grounded since the child uses its hands to place objects on the shell and so these structures represent a relationship between its physicality and the spatial arrangement and relationships between objects on the turtle shell.

Accommodation mode 1 (Multiple perspectives, Provocation) – The turtle stimulates the child’s creativity by providing it with multiple perspectives of relationship between objects. Thus it creates new patterns (see section on Turtle pattern creation). This mode may be automatically imposed by the turtle or when the child asks the turtle a simple question of “What do you see turtle” by pressing the large green button. If the child likes what the turtle shows it then it can reconfigure its creation or build on top of it.
Accommodation mode 2 (Intercontextual Learning) – Pattern transfer to physical space

B. Turtle Components

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1. Servos – Allow for shell pattern to be refreshed by inverting deck
2. Turtle Deck (Top) – Contains holes for objects
3. Turtle Deck (Bottom) – Contains LEDs and sensor array
4. Devantech Geometric Sensor – Allows for translation of patterns to physical space using N,S,W,E
5. Green Button – What do you see turtle ? - Enter Accommodation mode 1
6. Red Button – I like my own stuff turtle
7. Blue Button – Go Turtle – Enter Accommodation mode 2

C. Learning through assimilation and accommodation modes

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D. Comparison to LOGO

1. Activity and Senses - Embodied versus visual
2. Representation - Sensori-motor versus visual
3. Mode of Thinking - Lateral versus programmed
4. Context and Transferability - Across different contexts versus within computer screen
5. Lessons Learned - Creativity versus math and geometry
6. Environment and Experience - Physical space versus computer reality
7. Technology Scaffolding - Robot stimulates the child as opposed to child just controls turtle to draw graphics on screen

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