Space for Using Roamer
In this section, we explain the space Roamer needs to run in. The choice depends on the task, practical and educational issues.
In 1969, Seymour Papert invented Turtles, the first educational robots. He was not a roboticist looking for a way to use his skills. He was an educator, looking to solve educational problems. As a mathematician, he spent five years working with Jean Piaget looking into how we learn maths. His interest in computers took him to the National Physics Laboratory in England and from there to MIT.
While at MIT he invented LOGO and Turtles. With this inspiration came the benefits of his work with Piaget. He tapped into the idea that we want our experience of the world to make sense, which involves our physical interaction with it. This happens through play and the Turtle is something children play with. Piaget felt play limited cognitive development to assimilating their experiences. Papert went a step further; he borrowed an idea of transitional objects from child psychoanalyst, Donald Winnicott. He saw the Turtle as a tool children could use to explore new ideas. He famously said the Turtle was, “An object to think with.”
This idea persists across disciplines. Working with children in Papua New Guinea, anthropologist Laurence Goldman commented on their ability to add their imagination to toys as simple as a bit of wood. In doing this he evokes Aristotle’s idea of mimesis: the art of imitation and acting. The idea shows up in the research of social scientist Sherry Turkle. She studied how our interaction with everyday objects make us think. Her work showed although children knew robots were not alive, they treat them as if they are. Papert connected child, imagination and robot to mathematics. The pupil can imagine they’re the robot and decide what it must do to solve a problem. They can Play Turtle: walk, turn and move through the same space as the robot. Then, they can think how to make the robot do the same thing. Crucially, the robot and the child share the same space.
Mathematical researchers Berthelot and Salin classify space as:
Micro space: the space within your reach such as the desktop, a sheet of paper, the computer screen.
Meso space: the space around you (the room).
Macro space: the space beyond you (the city, the world, the universe).
The two researchers claim that lack of experience of meso and macro space limits a student’s ability to understand micro space. Critically micro space is where we teach geometry. Playing Turtle helps overcome this issue.