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PhraseBooks, Boxes, Adventure
Reading, Writing and Computers

 

The idea of language boxes and phrasebooks comes, in particular, from research and development carried out by Mike Sharples in the 1970s and 1980s.

The work grew out of doctoral work begun in Edinburgh in the late 1970s exploring how computers could be used to support learning of knowledge about language through active and experimental use of linguistic models and structures. That work is published in  Sharples M (1985) Cognition, Computers and Creative Writing. Chichester: Ellis Horwood. In the same year the Microelectronics Education Programme (MEP) published one of its seminal teacher training packs Posing and Solving Problems with Logo (London: Council for Educational Technology. 1985) This included Mike's ideas about linguistic machines developed in Logo and co-authored by Helen Finlayson. The programs were Phrasebooks, Boxes and Adventure.

Similar relevant resources published by MEP during that period were "Language Development in the Primary School" (1984). This included programs written in BBC Basic such as Tins, Story, Wordplay, Tracks and Eliza  all of which can be carried out using Phrasebooks or Boxes. Another pack produced in 1985 "Posing and Solving Problems using the Computer" profiled the use of adventure games in primary education. That included programs written in BBC Basic such as 'The Lost Frog' (Anita Straker), Adventure Maker and Adventure Quest. Again, the Logo program ADVENTURE which is listed here can be used to both play and create an adventure game (see also Rick Adams' Colossal Adventure site and the Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy).

I have transcribed Phrasebooks, Boxes and Adventure from the listings provided in the MEP Pack and in the appendix to Mike's book. Though out of print, second hand copies of Mike's book can still be obtained either through Amazon or through AbeBooks.

All the underlying ideas and pedagogical principles behind most of the work by Mike Sharples and the MEP remain valid today but perhaps have never really been widely adopted in education. This is a great pity. I an optimistic that there is still the possibility that this sort of constructionist approach will have even a small resurgence in curriculum domains as English, English Literature, English as an Additional Language, Modern Foreign Languages, Linguistics, Creative writing.

They also form a rare and good example of a Logo microworld - basically they provide tools for language, tools which really do work (go to Boxes and try Haiku).

The programs are presented here in UCBLogo code. I would normally have used FMSLogo but that version handles user input in quite a different manner and does not lend itself so readily to a CLI style of user input. I may work on that. In the meantime you can get UCBLogo from Brian Harvey's web page at Berkeley and here are some notes about the changes I made to the code.

 

References:

Microelectronics Education Programme (1985) Posing and Solving Problems with Logo: A Teacher Training Pack. London: Council for Educational Technology

Microelectronics Education Programme (1984) Language Development in the Primary School: A Teacher Training Pack. London: Council for Educational Technology

Microelectronics Education Programme (1985) Posing and Solving Problems Using the Computer: A Teacher Training Pack. London: Council for Educational Technology

Sharples M (1985) Cognition, Computers and Creative Writing. Chichester: Ellis Horwood

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