Both Camila and I are iOS developers. I personally have been programming since high school, and find it a great mental exercise in problem solving. Programming has also helped me develop critical thinking and passion for life-long learning.
Nowadays, many schools, teachers, and parents try to introduce basic computer programming to children from a very young age. While there are numerous methods and tools we can use, Logo programming language seems to be the most popular. Created specifically in 1967 for educational use, Logo has been implemented in many platforms. But, there hasn’t been one that is as child-friendly as Move the Turtle.
Move the Turtle
Move the Turtle is an iPad app designed for juniors aged 6–12 to learn basic computer programming skills using an implementation of the Logo programming language. The goal of the game is to move a turtle around the screen using programming instructions. As it moves, the turtle leaves a trace that can be used to draw various shapes.
The game is divided into two screens: an instruction panel on the left and the actual game board on the right. The turtle is placed on the center of the board, with a blue diamond located nearby. Guided by a step-by-step tutorial, kids try to move the turtle in one or more steps to hit the diamond, and complete other objectives specific to each level.
To move the turtle, kids add one or more instructions on the left panel. The instructions are fairly simple, and does not require them to actually write codes. These commands, such as move, turn, set color, and play a sound, can be customized. For example, kids can set the turtle to move north 150 steps.
Kids can reorder the instructions to decide how they are going to be executed. It is also very easy to remove lines they don’t want. The app will start introducing tweaks into these basic commands in the second chapter, where they can fine-tune and control how the program works.
Kids will be guided through three different chapters containing nine levels each. I believe each chapter is suitable for a different age range, because they introduce concepts outside of the programming world that your juniors may not be familiar with, such as geometry. On the other hand, adults can also use this app to get familiar with the basic concepts of programming.
Things I Like
Move the Turtle emphasizes on visual concepts, which is useful for building strong foundation in procedural thinking. It uses an intuitive and simplified design that makes it easy for kids to build a program.
With a simple swipe on the slider, kids can change the distance you want the turtle to cover and the direction in which it should move. Tapping on the sound option allows them to change the sound note to be played, whereas tapping on the color option allows them to change the line drawn by the turtle. Honestly, programming has never felt this easy.
Move the Turtle also introduces kids to my favorite programming concept, reusability (DRY principle), by allowing them to save their current program as procedures. They can invoke their saved procedures in another program, allowing them to reuse their previous codes. Even though the procedures are not capable of receiving input parameters, they can access variables from the enclosing program as long as they have the same name.
In the final chapter entitled “Professor Turtle”, kids are also introduced to other programming concepts such as variables and conditionals. It features several classic programming exercises, such as drawing geometric shapes and calculating the factorial of an integer.
Parents Need to Know
If you are not nearly as familiar with programming as I am, you might find my explanation above jarring. But, don’t be discouraged. I personally believe this app is one of the best ways to introduce the concept of computer programming to your juniors in an environment that they’re already familiar with, which is the iPad. If you’re looking for a tool to help juniors develop procedural thinking and problem solving skills, this is the perfect one.
If you are a developer or you know how to write code, then you will enjoy this app. Included in the app is a library of pre-written codes for a wide range of procedures. You can use these to drawing simple geometric shapes (square, triangle and circle), more complex ones (flower, spiral, n-side polygon and binary tree), and even fractals.
Move the Turtle also allows you to compose your own procedure outside the available levels. You can use this feature as a drawing board for your juniors to practice their logic and basic programming skills through various challenges they may encounter at school or the ones you found on the internet. This offers great flexibility and extensibility when utilizing the app.
Finally, the app supports multiple profiles, which allows you to keep track of each junior’s progress. The app doesn’t have ads or in-app purchases.
Move the Turtle is one of the best ways to introduce the concept of computer programming to your juniors in a platform that they are already familiar with, i.e., the iPad. The decision to use Logo programming language has proven to be very effective. I would like to see more chapters to smooth the learning curve, and more explanations/narrations for the current lessons. However, I would still highly recommend this app to parents and/or teachers who want a great tool for introducing programming to their juniors/students.
App was provided for our honest review.