Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Turtle interactive multimedia

In my previous post I speculate on the significance of authoring interactive multimedia in developing a critical literacy in new media.

Here is an excercise in Turtle Art which mixes the authorship of game and presentation. The intention is that it should raise questions in the author of intended audience, bias, rational and emotional appeal, the relationship of author and viewer in nonlinear media, sound, motion, colour etc.

It is a bare bones example of mixing turn based game and multimedia, based round a global warming theme.

The consumer is presented with multimedia (can be still image, video, audio) and answers y or n to whether they want to take action on global warming, depending on their response they are presented more multimedia or asked whether they want to use nuclear energy, depending on response they get more multimedia. They also get the choice to quit or play again

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Computer programming and the acquisition of critical literacy

I present the following argument for the authoring of interactive or programmable multimedia as an important meta-literacy skill. Though I am not fully decided on this proposition or the role of critical literacy in schools, I think the issue is significant and worthy of consideration.

In summary:

  • Critical literacy is an important skill

  • Literacy is not just about text and can apply to a range of non-text media

  • Non text media are becoming increasingly important means of communication

  • Despite their apparent skill with the new media, students still need help developing critical literacy in new media

  • Media authoring skills are necessary for developing critical literacy

  • Media are increasingly becoming interactive

  • Hence authoring skills of interactive or programmable media are an important literacy skill

Meta literacy or critical literacy

Critical analysis is an important literacy skill. When applied to traditional media, it means not just comprehending the words on a page but assessing the truth and reliability of the writing and understanding the motives and biases of the writer.

Critical literacy is the defining aspect of meta-literacy. The literate person examines texts to determine the currency, accuracy, bias, and comprehensiveness of the information. It means taking our thinking to a deeper level with critical questions.” (Doiron 2005)

Edgar Dale, well known among a earlier generation of educators and researchers for his work related to literacy, discussed the need for critical reading, listening, and observing in contending with the new literacies implied by audiovisual media of the 1940s.

The new literacies of the Internet and other ICTs include the skills, strategies, and dispositions necessary to successfully use and adapt to the rapidly changing information and communication technologies and contexts that continuously emerge in our world and influence all areas of our personal and professional lives. These new literacies allow us to use the Internet and other ICTs to identify important questions, locate information, critically evaluate the usefulness of that information, synthesize information to answer those questions, and then communicate the answers to others.” (Leu et. al.)

New literacies

Literacy is not, and never was, just about written text. Literacy is about conveying meaning through the use of symbols, these symbols are most commonly text but not always. Even early manuscripts were illustrated and diagrams are an important part of technical texts (Lemke).

Nor is text literacy just about the literal meaning of words. Poetry and drama are used to convey nuances of meaning that prose cannot convey. Understandings of literacy have changed over time, the novel is only about 400 years old and was controversial when first introduced.

Other media greatly enhance the meaning of text, they don't just add to it. “Meanings in multimedia are not fixed and additive (the word-meaning plus the picture-meaning), but multiplicative (word-meaning modified by image-context, image-meaning modified by textual context), making a whole far greater than the simple sum of its parts “ (Lemke)

Nor is prose that simple, meanings can be modified by tone of voice, orthography and calligraphy. Text can be communicated in sign language.

programmable multimedia in Turtle Art

Typological and topological

Lemke draws the distinction between typological and topological symbol systems. Typological systems (language) work more through classification into mutually exclusive categories whereas topological systems including maths and visual media work at the level of variation and relationship. Critical literacy is required with typological and topological media.


The word electracy has been coined to describe the 'kind of 'literacy' or skill and facility necessary to exploit the full communicative potential of new electronic media such as multimedia, hypermedia, social software, and virtual worlds.” (Wikipedia)

Social media

Blogs, wikis. Myspace, Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, Skype, Ventrilo, SMS, IM, listservers, Secondlife, etc. are interactive rather than broadcast media. They are increasingly becoming the media through which citizens inform themselves. They are also increasingly channels for business communication.

For example, the most up to date news of the 2004 Tsunami was provided not by the mainstream media but by blog sites.

Social media also played an important role in the 2009 Australian bushfires. “As the worst bushfires in Australia's history raged across Victoria, Twitter, Flickr and Facebook lit up with condolences and horrific first-hand accounts, while many used innovative online mapping tools to assess the risk of the fires reaching their own homes. Mainstream news outlets, battling to provide comprehensive coverage of the tragedy, have incorporated accounts published on the social networking sites extensively in their reports.” The Age February 9 2009,

Political parties are using Youtube and blogs to communicate their messages.

Digital Natives

Digital natives grew up in the age of computers. It is often said that they are much more proficient in digital media than their teachers. How then can they be taught about digital media? Livingstone, among others, questions how deep their apparent proficiency is, quoting Scanlon he says “education ought to be based on assessing students’ individual strengths and weaknesses rather than making glib generalisations that mistake using Facebook for technological savvy

Leu outlines a role for teachers, “Teachers will increasingly need to orchestrate complex contexts for literacy and learning rather than simply dispense literacy skills, since they will no longer always be the most literate person in the classroom.

Authoring skills

Authoring is an important part of literacy. If this is true for text, would it not also be true for multimedia?

Literacies cannot be understood as passive receptivities. Making sense with a printed text is a complex and active process of meaning-making not so different from writing the original of that text “ (Lemke)

The generic literacies of the Information Age will certainly include: multimedia authoring skills, multimedia critical analysis, cyberspace exploration strategies, and cyberspace navigation skills. (Lemke)

Jamie Myers and colleagues described in 1998 how involving students in creating multimedia hypertexts about literacy and historical figures such as Pocahantas led to a critical stance toward various sources of information”(StateUniversity.com)

"Our proposal for a multimedia literacy that gives the ability to participate freely in the society of the third millennium, and ultimately to transform it, stems from students and teachers authoring multimedia." (Gutiérrez Martin)

Interactive media, simulations and games

Increasingly, interactive media including games are used to inform and persuade. Critical literacy skills also apply to this medium. Some examples of “serious games” include:

Americas Army, “America's Army (also known as AA or Army Game Project) is a series of video games and other media developed by the United States Army and released as a global public relations initiative to help with recruitment”. (Wikipedia)

Food Force is an Educational game published by the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP)

Darfur is Dying is a viral video game for change that provides a window into the experience of the 2.5 million refugees in the Darfur region of Sudan

Ayiti: The Cost of Life , produced through Global Kids and supported by Microsoft's Partners in Learning Mid-Tier Initiative, which “seeks to identify and encourage "pockets of innovation" for increasing digital literacy and career readiness”.

Virtual Worlds

Virtual worlds include Secondlife, World of Warcraft and Quest Atlantis. Virtual worlds are inhabited by the avatars of large numbers of real people, there is a lot of interaction and a lot of communication, some of it language based and some not. It is likely that we will be spending increasing time in virtual worlds for work and play and that a critical literacy will be desirable.

Secondlife is not a game, but it is a game-like virtual world. deWinter and Vie have written on using Second Life to teach critical media literacy.

The multiplayer game and virtual world, World of Warcraft now has over 10 million subscribers making it larger than many countries. “World of Warcraft is rich in new literacy practices as there are so many other players online around the world at the same time” writes a teacher . Beavis discusses how a World of Warcraft trailer was critically analysed by a class of year 8 students.

Quest Atlantis is a learning and teaching project that uses a 3D multi-user environment to immerse children, ages 9-15, in educational tasks. The literacy aspects of this virtual world are many and obvious.

Visual programming languages

Multimedia is becoming increasingly interactive. The media experience changes depending on consumer choices. The webpages we view change their content based on tracking cookies. The authoring of web pages is computer programming. We regularly interact with web aplets, games and simulations. Even entering phone numbers and ring tones to our phones is programming, when we change our computer wallpaper we are programming. When we set up a spreadsheet or word processor template we are programming.

The ability to write computer programs is an important authoring skill and as has been argued above, requires a critical literacy.

Multimedia authoring tools are increasingly interactive and programmable whilst programming languages are increasingly accessible to younger learners and allow the embedding of multimedia: images, video and sound.

For example, Powerpoint, which is primarily a slideshow authoring tool can be used for games and animations. And game programming tools can be used to author presentations.

For students to learn to author interactive media and multimedia, they don't necessarily have to do all that with one package, they could use one package to author multimedia and another for interactive media, but it does seem like a good idea if they can blend both in one package.

Multimedia in a Turtle Art program

The desirable features of an authoring system in which students can develop multimedia critical literacy are

  • can present a range of multimedia, sound, images and video,

  • can create interactive media

  • low entry ( easy for beginners )

  • high ceiling* ( no restrictions for high level tasks )

  • free**, if students are given authentic and relevant challenges they will spend many hours working at home for each class contact hour

* closely related to high ceiling is the concept of wide walls, that is that students are unrestricted in the breadth of their project as well as being unrestricted in top end complexity

** related to zero cost is software freedom, open source software can be modified or remixed by teachers and students, aside from the question of whether schools should lead by example or reflect the realities of commercial software, there is a case that the ability to inspect and modify is part of developing multimedia authoring skills.

The characteristics of some popular programmable authoring environments are shown below

Low Entry

High Ceiling

Open Source



Turtle Art












Game Maker




Y (lite version)





Open source closed development















Agent sheets









Alfonso Gutiérrez Martín PhD. Multimedia authoring as a fundamental principle of literacy and teacher training in the information age University of Valladolid (Spain) edu.of.ru/attach/17/1382.doc

Lemke, J.L. Metamedia Literacy: transforming meanings and media, in Literacy for the 21st Century: Technological Transformation in a Post-typographic World, D. Reinking et al. (Eds.), Erlbaum.

Ray Doiron and Jessie Lees It Takes a Village to Raise a Reader: Building Literacy Across Generations http://www.nald.ca/library/research/village/report.pdf September 2005

Dale, quoted in Literacy - Multimedia Literacy http://education.stateuniversity.com/pages/2186/Literacy-MULTIMEDIA-LITERACY.html

Donald J. Leu, Jr. Charles K. Kinzer Julie L. Coiro Dana W. Cammack Toward a Theory of New Literacies Emerging From the Internet and Other Information and Communication Technologies http://www.readingonline.org/newliteracies/leu/

MMOGCHART.COM “Charting the future of the MMOG industry.” http://www.mmogchart.com/Chart1.html

Jennifer deWinter and Stephanie Vie Press Enter to “Say”: Using Second Life to Teach Critical Media Literacy

Beavis Paying attention to texts http://www.aate.org.au/files/documents/English%20in%20Australia/Beavis%20EinA%2043-1.pdf

Kahootz3 at forefront of research http://www.une.edu.au/creme/uploadedfiles/kahootz_newsletter.pdf

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Sunday, December 13, 2009

Turtle fractions

For Turtle Art. Change the numerator and denominator, then run it to see a pie chart

TA project file for TA V84

Septiembre 2010
En español
Cambiar el numerador y el denominador, a continuación, ejecútelo para ver un gráfico circular

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Turtle Pi

Pi calculated by the Gregory-Leibniz series in Turtle Art

(image http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pi)


Septiembre 2010
En español

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Saturday, December 12, 2009

Turtle graph

For Turtle Art. Edit the math equation (Python code)

in the equation block and graph the result.

Project File Turtle_graph.ta (for a later version V84 than shown above)

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Friday, December 11, 2009

Turtle Pythagoras

For Turtle Art
The function block reads 180*atan(x)/pi

see also Turtle Pythagoras 2

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Bouncing turtle

Turtle random V2

Uses Turtle Art to simulate repeated trials of n (25) coin tosses, for large n and a large number of trials, the normal bell shaped distribution results.

Utiliza Turtle Art para simular la repetición de pruebas de n (25) lanzamientos de la moneda, para n grande y un gran número de ensayos, la campana en forma de resultados normales de distribución.

(Has been also done with Game Maker)

Uses the Python code block to hold coding for the n bins. Use Pippy to edit the Python code.
Load the Python code into your block with the load my block button:

def myblock(lc,x):
....n= int(lc.heap.pop(-1)) #n number of bins
....bin=[0]*n # set up array size n
....if x ==-1: #-1 initialises heap
........for i in range (n):
....else: #!=-1 so is a real trial
........for i in range (n):
............bin[i]= lc.heap.pop(-1)
............if i==x:
........for i in range (n):
........for i in range (n):

Update September 2010
This version, in Spanish, uses multiple turtles for a simple solution
Esta versión, en español, utiliza las tortugas múltiples para una solución simple

*.ta source load this source and the block labels will display in the language set on Sugar.

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Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Turtle random

Note: random(0,2) returns an integer less than 2, ie 0 or 1 on older versions of TA, for V99, random(0,1) returns 0 or 1

Redone for Turtle Blocks V99 October 2010


en español

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Turtle Lissajous



October 2010 for Turtle Art V99
(en español)

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Turtle spring damper

Simple harmonic motion with Turtle Art.
For each time step
y = y + speed
speed = speed + acceleration
acceleration = -k1*y -k2*speed

k1=1/400 = springconstant/mass
k2=1-0.996=0.004 = damperconstant/mass


Septiembre 2010
En español

Movimiento armónico simple con Turtle Art.
Para cada paso de tiempo
y = y + velocidad
velocidad = velocidad + aceleración
aceleración =-k1 * y
- k2 * velocidad

k1 = 1 / 400 = constante del resorte / masa
k2 = 1 - 0,996 = 0,004 = constante del amortiguador / masa

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