SEYMOUR Papert, the father of the Logo language, has arguably done more for computers in education with his book Mind Storms than anyone else.
His ideas about the lifting of restrictions and enjoyment of learning within the classroom form the basis of the book which describes the conception and use of MIT Logo within educational environments around the world.
The basic premise, which he supports vehemently, is that children learn more by discovery rather than by rote. Give a child the choice between a multiplication table and a computer running Logo and the child is more likely to take the latter. Papert also asserts that the child will learn more and in Mind Storms he makes a good job of proving it.
Papert's arguments make sense not least because he is more literate than many of his colleagues in education. As he explains his proposals he sets up questions between the lines which critical readers are likely to ask and then with great modesty knocks those critics down with practical solutions to the problems.
In the introduction critics are at first likely to attack him for his apparent lack of concern for the teacher/pupil ratio. Many will say that his ideas seem to point to an educational system where the lack of resources and trained staff can be corrected through the use of computers.
Papert sets up the critics and then says: "My goal is not educational economics: It is not to use computation to shave a year off the time a child spends in an otherwise unchanged school or to push an extra child into an elementary school classroom ... I believe that certain uses of very powerful computational technology and computational ideas can provide children with new possibilities of learning, thinking and growing emotionally as well as cognitively."
Papert is obviously a utopian but this book shows that he is willing to adapt, just as his language is adaptable. His book is a worthwhile read for everyone who is disenchanted with the computer scene.
|Mind Storms||Publisher: Harvester||Price: £4.95 (paperback)|
AS PREDICTED, the flow of QL games listings books has started and, ever to the fore, Granada, now Collins, Publishing and its seemingly resident authors Kay Ewbank, Mike James and S M Gee have released QL Gamesmaster.
The book is not to be confused with other titles in the Gamesmaster series. QL Gamesmaster has been written from scratch and provides some original and entertaining listings to enter for those who have nothing better to do with their time or £400 worth of Quantum Leap.
Ewbank and Co have tried to disguise the nature of the book by including an introduction which, in general, repeats the advice of author Roy Atherton in the Beginner's Guide which is packaged with the machine. Once they have got over that hurdle they sprint into a series of "simple but effective" program listings.
Admittedly, the programs are simple but the explanations do reveal new information about games design on the QL. That is not surprising as almost nothing has been written about the QL and its game-playing abilities. Programs include Ant Hill, Leap Frog, Frogling and Tadpole. You can probably take an intelligent guess as to what they look like and how they all play.
If you are interested in demeaning the abilities of your expensive new computer then buy QL Gamesmaster.
|QL Gamesmaster||Publisher: Collins||Price: £7.95 (paperback)|
THE immediate impression upon opening Software Projects for the Spectrum is "oh no, not another book about structured programming".
You may feel by now you have grasped everything that there is to know about the subject, but few books ever show how to put that knowledge to good use. Software Projects is, thankfully, different.
Despite the usual introduction where the author, Rudolf Smit, tries to show what an artist he is with words - describing software writing in terms of analogies and similes - the book gets off to a promising start with a blow-by-blow account of the projects to be attempted within the following chapters.
The programs include a birthday and anniversary calendar, a word guessing game and three-die roller. A motley crew, and not the most inspiring of topics, but we must not grumble as the book is, after all, for the beginner who has just received a Spectrum.
Each chapter contains a series of sections illustrating the program which is to be built and reproducing the subroutines which make up its main structure. The author is not content to give only lists of programs.
For instance, in the chapter on calendars Smit talks about the construction of dummy statements in the computer which are then replaced with real program code when the programmer knows how the code should be written.
Although Software Projects succeeds in its aim of introducing new users to the practice, rather than the theory, of programming techniques it has to be asked whether the book provides too much help. The author may not give the full listings of projects but the descriptions of the programs leave little to the imagination.
|Software Projects for the Spectrum||Publisher: Melbourne House||Price: £6.95 (paperback)|