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Learning & Leading with Technology: The ISTE Journal of Educational Technology and Policy Presented by Kim McDonald

Across the country in classroom after classroom there are many children struggling to grasp the basic concepts in mathematics. Year after year of repeated failure with basic mathematics prevents many children with Learning Disabilities from moving forward and utilizing their problem solving skills because they have not had the opportunities to practice them. They have been required to drill and practice and memorize the four operations. These years of failing to learn basics in mathematics increases anxiety for children, increases disruptive behavior and lowers self esteem in children. These problems coincide with the continued inability of these students to learn basic mathematics, let alone an ability to utilize critical thinking skills while problem solving.

LOGO in Special Education, as identified and explained by Sally Jean Jones, opens an entirely new world for Learning Disabled students in mathematics. The article, Learning and Leading with Technology follows a teacher and four of her students as they venture along a new path in their mathematics education.

Initially the teacher explains her interest and reasoning for teaching LOGO to her students. Quite simply they were bored with their mathematics. Hence she decided to try LOGO programming. Her two finest resources for guiding her through this discovery teaching were, Apple Logo in the Classroom (Minnesota Computing Consortium, 1988) and A First Course in Programming - LogoWriter (LCSI, 1986), along with the supplemental LogoWriter software. She chose her lessons carefully as to provide, "sequential, practical, and adaptable to various learning styles." She reported that, "Students enjoyed such introductory activities as creating mazes, making their own initials, and developing specific problems to solve."

The four students were introduced to Logo following the same criteria. However, the students were allowed to work at different paces and allowed to choose different strategies when working within the Logo program. One key component to the success of the teacher when developing her curriculum around the program was her initiative to enable her students to solve their own problems by utilizing a daily log. Requirements for the log included: noting the basic list of commands introduced by the teacher and documenting daily activities. The instructor points out that, "the learning log is an essential tool. Students were required to save work daily and edit what they had done rather than start from scratch. The

ability to edit procedures provided students with the encouragement and motivation to sequentially solve a problem rather than start over again."

This fortitude to require students to take responsibility for their own problem solving and editing teaches the Learning Disabled student a valuable lesson. The lesson of creating and perfecting. Nothing starts out perfect and is entirely acceptable in its initial presentation. Revising and perfecting are a natural part of our daily activities as human beings. To eliminate the fear of the first effort and to impart the inspiration to children to create then perfect upon their work, requires skill and determination on the part of the educator.

The instructor goes on to explain her four students' responses to Logo and their concurrent success with the program and the instructors approach to implementing the individualized plans for each learner. The first student identified was described by the instructor as, "enthusiastic about learning Logo." She wanted to learn as much as I could possibly teach her." Her instructional approach with this learner was to offer a brief lesson and to stand back and allow the individual to create.

The second learner was not interested in the demonstrations provided by the instructor. He was described by the teacher as approaching, "Logo sequentially and experimented very little." The learner was also noted by the instructor as, "resistant to editing and long procedures." The instructor noted that there was improvement with his inappropriate classroom behaviors while actively involved in Logo.

The third Learner had was explained to have severe language deficits and that the learner, "required a great deal of guidance in language usage." He was also noted to require his log book to be readily available when working with the Logo program. The instructor did note that he did progress to writing subprocedures after three months.

The fourth and final student was explained to read and write letters backwards. This learner's spelling ability was limited and so was the learner's decoding skills. These factors made it challenging for the student to become comfortable with Logo.

In conclusion, the instructor reported the introduction of Logo programming to her four students as quite beneficial for all learners. She reported that the students had increased confidence with the use of computers and its use in mathematics. She implied that the student's confidence and self esteem were elevated due to their ability to take control over the computer and problem solve on their own through the use of the log.

The instructor did gently remind anyone intending on implementing this method when working with special education students to, "have the patience, and understanding to teach Logo to students with special needs, but if the correct strategies are used, Logo programming can be beneficial to students with learning disabilities regardless of age, grade, or ability level."

The author quite definitely piques the interest of instructors faced with students struggling year after year with their inability to understand simple facts in mathematics and who fail to problem solve on their own. Instructors are all too familiar with the lowered self

esteems and self confidences endured by these learners who struggle without success. The Logo programming option definitely sounds like a possible addition to a special educator's classroom. The LogoWriter program may be a wonderful addition in the mainstream classroom as well.

Unfortunately the article did not offer enough detail to completely sway the reader into true acceptance of the product. It would have been helpful for the author to provide several basic examples of the actual activities within Logo. I will definitely share this article with other special educators to pursue LogoWriter and its possibilities with our special need students.

-- Anonymous, January 22, 1999

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