/ Jana Völker

UniKidsCamp 2020: The turtle only understands XLogo

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On the screens: Colorful trails of the little turtle

Every year, during the summer holidays, schoolchildren have the opportunity to get a taste of research in the UniKidsCamp at the Faculty of Science of the University of Basel. Despite the special conditions, the UniKidsCamp was able to take place with an adapted program in compliance with the precautionary measures during this summer vacation. Among other things, the students had the opportunity to get an insight into the world of programming.

In small groups, the children were able to write small programs using age-appropriate programming languages: The first group used XLogoOnline, a program that can be used to remote control a small animated turtle on the screen while it traces a (colorful) trail behind it. The programming language Logo was developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) as a child-friendly language for teaching the basics of programming. The little turtle that the children got to know at UniKidsCamp only understands XLogo - a dialect of the programming language Logo, so to speak. With a few simple commands, however, programs can be written that set the turtle in motion. The low entry barrier and the graphic orientation of the language enable the children to quickly marvel at the result of their work and to easily recognize mistakes and improve them independently. All children were able to take home a USB stick with the XLogoOnline program as a small gift. "I'm looking forward to seeing what I can do with it at home," one student said happily. "At home, I'll try so many commands," her classmate agrees.

The children in the second group were a little younger and therefore used a program called Scratch instead of XLogoOnline. Scratch is image-based and introduces children to the basics of programming in a playful way. You don't have to write any code yourself, you can enter commands using a modular system.

To teach students the basics of programming during primary school, XLogoOnline workshops have been available in Basel-Stadt and Basel-Land since 2015. The Department of Mathematics and Computer Science at the University of Basel is the regional coordination point for the implementation of the XLogoOnline projects in Northwestern Switzerland. Interested teachers can register themselves and their school class on the website of the Pedagogical Center in Basel.