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Vn42.1 7/6/77

Because the High School Studies Program begins next week and the
lab will be filled with teenagers all day every day, we moved into my
office the equipment not to be used by the high school students: the
slot machine, the floor turtle, and the music box.
Since moving things around brings change and sometimes adventure,
I asked the children to come to Logo though no computer sessions was
planned. In a day full of disorganization, pushing, pulling, and helping
out, the greatest excitement for the children was in re-routing
data lines from the terminals to the computer. This involved lifting
up floor panels. The floor panel lifter goes in place with a loud
bang as it’s slammed down. The panels are heavy — a challenge Robby
can barely meet and Miriam feigns attempting. They greeted the under-
floor space, a dark maze of tangled wires, as a new, mysterious world
and began prospecting in the openings for souvenirs. As Hal Abelson
and I traced wires, the children invented impromptu games — being
stranded on islands or trapped by moats with escape possible only by
the fine balance that permitted them to walk on the floor panel holding
frame.

Margaret Minsky agreed to move to make room for the equipment in
our office. The children decided this was now their office, which
required getting nameplates for the door. They further dubbed the room
‘The Little Learning Lab’ since they were little (to distinguish it
from the Children’s Learning Lab which the high schoolers would be
taking over). Pope’s couplet

A little learning is a dang’rous thing:
Drink deep or taste not the Pierian spring.

and the obvious joke that this was a lab where little learning takes
place caused me pause but no inhibition so severe as to halt their
momentum.

Each child was allotted one of my 3 bookshelves, which they
provisioned as best they could. We walked to the Coop to buy each child
a large notebook for keeping the pictures they made with the Logo
printer. As we three trekked across the campus, the children fell
into ‘Follow the Leader’ and an immediate argument over who should be
leader. My turn-taking suggestion (one to the Coop, the other on the
way back) was no solution: it left the problem of who should be leader
first. Robby went first despite objections. Miriam undercut him by
giving Robby turtle commands to follow the obvious path whenever that
path was clear. To the Coop and back this game gradually was elaborated
as Robby raised syntactic quibbles to avoid doing what Miriam
commanded. For example, “You haven’t told me how to forward 30” (by
which he indicated that Miriam had not verbally specified that a space
separated the word ‘forward’ from the word ’30’). The most puzzling
impediment Robby introduced occurred while we were returning, skirting
the side of building 26. Miriam tried to make Robby walk into the wall
by commanding left 90 (to be followed by a forward). He stopped and
said nothing. After several commands and repetitions, Robby burst out
laughing. “You haven’t done a carriage return!” Miriam said, “New
line!” and Robby obliged her by walking into the wall.

Relevance
This vignette recounts the excitement of a moving day at Logo and
an example of how Playing Turtle arose as a game outside the lab.

Post script

This game of ‘Follow the Turtle’ has become a common game the
children engage in whenever we three walk together where there is no
crowd.

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