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Vn002.01

Productive Cheating

5/9/77

Today was a difficult day. Snow in mid-May for a beginning. Before that problem appeared, Miriam came early with me in to Logo in our joint expectation of going to the Coop to buy a hula hoop. With that option closed by inclement weather, Miriam pushed me early in the afternoon to proceed with the day’s experiment. We proceeded as described in Logo Session 4.

Gretchen and Robby reached the lab later and Robby chose not to engage himself in my work with Miriam, preferring to play with SHOOT by himself in the central portion of the Children’s Learning Lab. Sam Lewis, another child frequently at Logo and a year older than Robby, played with him in the lab at that time. When Miriam declared a break from our work in writing a story, I discussed (with Gretchen) the children’s use of SHOOT and how I was awaiting their discovery of how to cheat. Instead of using the SHOOT : DISTANCE program to project the turtle into the target (which evaluates his location after movement and immediately judges the movement a ‘hit’ or a ‘miss’), one may locate the turtle within the target with a series of forward and turning commands; then, guaranteed of a bull’s-eye, execute SHOOT 0 to register one’s score. Such was my explanation. I noted that the most efficient cheat would be to execute a ‘HOME’ command (which puts the turtle in the target with a single command), then SHOOT 0.

Because of the snow and Miriam’s disinclination to proceed with writing a second story, I suggested Gretchen take the children home while I proceeded with some work they could not be involved in. Robby was most eager to stay and play with SHOOT. After a slow start in the first 3 Logo sessions, Robby was developing skill quickly. He had already, as he noted, scored 5 points that afternoon, and wanted to go on while doing well. I reluctantly agreed. I agreed because I believe the children should be allowed to follow active interests. My agreements was reluctant because I did not want Robby to make further significant advances without my observation. This is precisely what happened. As we discussed the day at supper, Robby noted that he had a good afternoon. His second use of SHOOT garnered him 9 points, giving him a total of 16 (? ). . . this may include in his calculation points from the 3 earlier sessions). Robby then added he had figured out how to score every time. “How?” Robby explained that after drawing the target, the turtle goes ‘Home’ before going somewhere [a setting of his heading and location to random values] and that if one were to key ‘H’ or ‘Home’, then SHOOT 0, he would score every time. To be certain Robby was saying what I thought I posed these questions.

Bob Suppose you key ‘H’, carriage return?
Robby The turtle goes to the center of the target.
Bob Like this?
Robby Yes. Then you say SHOOT 0. illustration:
Bob And what does the turtle say? target and turtle
Robby Ouch. Your score is 1.

I asked Robby if Sam had showed him that and received a negative answer and the claim that he had figured it out himself. I recall informing Robby, before his second terminal session of the day, that because of his squabble with Miriam in Logo Session 3, I changed the SHOOT program so that if the turtle were within the target after execution of GO-SOMEWHERE, he would be made to GO-SOMEWHERE-ELSE, i.e. land at a different location.

Miriam then confided to Robby in her most conspiratorial stage whisper: “Robby, you shouldn’t have told me; I’m going to do that every time.”

I pursued this question, asking Robby whether he had used this new idea to score all his points during the afternoon. Robby denied it, saying the trick didn’t work. I was surprised (it should work perfectly) and asked why not. Robby said the computer would respond ‘You didn’t tell me how to H or Home.’ I asked if he knew it wouldn’t work and how. The answer was that he hadn’t tried it, thus he couldn’t say why he knew it didn’t work.

Interpreting this incident depends on how open Robby is with me, generally, and on the extent to which his final comments were an attempt to delude Miriam by convincing her that his discovery isn’t worth attempting. Robby is usually quite open with me. Nonetheless, given the intellectual rivalry between the children, I would not be surprised at Robby’s attempting to throw Miriam off the track of a discovery he made which his revealing to her had made useless to him. An alternative explanation for Robby’s not trying the “Home SHOOT 0” cheat (and perhaps the impetus for it’s coming to his mind) is my explaining that I had modified SHOOT to forbid those lucky landings of the turtle within the target. He may have believed any time the turtle were found in the the circle at the beginning of executing the SHOOT procedure he would GO-SOMEWHERE-ELSE before being shot at the target. [Indeed, such is possible and is the way one would prohibit the ‘forward and turn commands/SHOOT 0’ cheat if one were so inclined.]

This incident promises further interest in that part of my intention is to guide Miriam’s concerns from getting a correct answer to attending to the process and operations by which one can achieve an answer. Her obvious engagement with the desire to succeed immediately will lead her to pursue Robby’s discovery. I expect and intend to have her succeed thus. My following countermove (which will be to relocate the target off center screen) may show how too simple “an answer” is inadequate and must give way to deeper comprehension of process by which “an answer” is developed. When, later, both children realize they can still succeed by deferring execution of SHOOT until the turtle has been relocated within the target circle through forward and turn commands, they will have extracted all the value they can get from the use of this introductory game.

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