Make a Turtle!

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

214 Downloads (Pure)


The first thing on Papert and Solomon’s list of twenty things is make a turtle. Over the intervening fifty years the programmable turtle has featured as many young people’s first introduction to programming, both on the floor and on the screen. It still has much to commend it. It is simple enough for children to grasp the basic idea of the robot’s operation—it moves forwards or backwards; it turns to the left or to the right; and it can draw, or not draw, as it moves. The hardware itself is simple enough too. Motors for each of the main wheels, able to turn independently; and a pen that can be raised or lowered that fits right in the middle of these wheels. As a “notional machine” (du Boulay et al., 1981), it seems much easier for a child to grasp conceptually than a smartphone, a tablet, or a distant website. It is also a friendly sort of thing. It is neither too big, nor too small; it often develops some sort of character, at least in
the child’s eyes; and, crucially, the child can put herself in the turtle’s place. The humble turtle is capable of great things, and many realize they can move on from drawing regular polygons or simple pictures to stunning, complex geometric figures.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTwenty Things to Do with a Computer Forward 50
Subtitle of host publicationFuture Visions of Education Inspired by Seymour Papert and Cynthia Solomon’s Seminal Work
EditorsGary Stager
Place of PublicationTorrance, CA
PublisherConstructing Modern Knowledge Press
Number of pages5
ISBN (Print)978-1955604000
Publication statusPublished - 10 Nov 2021

Cite this