Growing up literate; of times and turtles. (evaluation) Betsy Staples.
Growing Up Literate
Of Time and Turtles
Time Bound is definitely unique. We have never seen anything quite like it, and thus feel at a loss to describe it. It deals with facts--most of them historical-- yet it is a great deal more effective and entertaining than simple matching or quiz games.
The scenario places you, along with a careless chap named Anacron, in a time machine. Anacron, it seems, has fallen into the time machine and is tumbling out of control between the years 0 and 2000. Your assignment is to figure out where he is and save him, a task that is easier done than described.
As you begin the 15-minute game, the movement of concentric rectangles on the screen gives you a sensation of moving through a tunnel or corridor. At the top of the screen is displayed the year through which you are currently traveling. Also visible is a small watch-shaped image that you can move around the perimeter of the screen with the joystick.
The screen is divided into 11 wedges, each of which is assigned a category name--air and space, household items, architecture, communication, political leaders, et al. Each event in the time machine falls within a given year in one of the categories. For example, Lenin is in the political leaders category in 1918 and gymnastics falls under fun and games in 1776.
As you move your scanner around the perimeter of the screen, it passes through the various categories, but to find out which segment represents which category, you must wait until the machine passes a year in which there is an event for the category in which you are waiting.
When you pass through a year in which a given event occurred, the time machine stops and displays the name of the event along with the year. In addition, at the bottom of the screen, you see the name of the event to which Anacron is currently clinging.
You must then decide whether that event is chronologically ahead of or behind the year in which you are, into what category it would fall, and where that category is on the screen. You then move to that category if you know where it is and wait for the years to fly by, hoping that Anacron will be there when you arrive, for he moves about with fair frequency depending on the level of difficulty chosen. Of course, if you have misestimated the year of the event, you may have a long wait.
Got that? Well, we certainly don't blame you if you are now as confused as we were the first few times we played the game. The concept is simple, but the implementation is complex. We found it very difficult to remember where each of the 11 categories was located each time (they change for each new game).
The documentation, a 12-page four-color booklet, does little to elucidate the intricacies of game play. You just have to turn the computer on and watch and experiment until you catch on.
Our inability to describe the program adequately should not deter you from trying or buying it, however. We found the game challenging and entertaining, especially at the intermediate difficulty levels--at the higher levels, Anacron moves so frequently that it becomes almost impossible to catch him.
Although the game seems to be designed for play by one person, we found it much more fun to play with a group. If you play alone and find Anacron clinging to an event you can't place, you must simply wait until he moves. With a group, however, even if no member is quite certain of a date, the discussion that takes place each time Anacron moves is quite educational-- particularly if the group members are of different ages.
Discussion of the events is also helpful in developing a sense of history and the relationships between and among various historical events. And unlike many games that rely on mastery of facts, the value of Time Bound does not diminish with repeated play. As you learn the dates, you simply become better at the game, and young children who have paid attention during past games, can give adults a run for their money.
Hence, Time Bound is a good, educational game that the whole family can enjoy. It could also be played by small groups in a classroom setting.
Time Bound is, indeed, unique. It is also fun. We recommend it as a way to enliven the usually tedious memorization of significant dates and develop a sense of history.
The turtle is currently one of the two most popular animals in the personal computer world. The other, of course, is the mouse, and someday we will talk about the role of mice in education. This month, however, we will concentrate on turtles-- or, more accurately, one particular turtle.
Telly Turtle is the star of the program that bears his name. Your job is to choreograph his performance.
You start with a clean slate; the upper three-quarters of your screen is blank. At the bottom of the blank area are the commands from which you can choose to make Telly do your bidding. Telly himself, a rather blocky, abstract rendition of a turtle, appears in the middle of the blank screen (his yard).
To make Telly move about on the screen, you need only be able to use a joystick or four directional keys on the keyboard. On the first level, he can be made to turn left or right; move ahead; draw in yellow, green, or red; lift his crayon so he can move without drawing; erase; and produce sounds.
Level one is actually quite primitive, offering only slightly more control than common doodling programs. It is intended to serve as an introduction to Telly's world, and does, in fact, provide more than adequate challenge for young children.
On level two, you find the same selection of commands, but now you must specify a number after each command to let Telly know how far or for how long he should do each thing. This is where you can really get involved. It is challenging for children and adults alike to guess and remember how many units (not degrees) Telly must turn to make a right angle or to reverse his direction, to plan a drawing so that it fits in Telly's yard, to create intricate patterns as they become familiar with the commands.
The third level adds the ability to program a sequence of commands for Telly to execute. This is cumbersome at first, and we quickly became adept at using the large red X that cancels a command. Soon, however, we had our reptilian friend zipping all over the screen.
The programming process becomes even more complex and rewarding on level four where you acquire the ability to repeat commands and sections of your program, specifying where and how many times you want them to occur. You can also control the speed at which Telly executes your program, and you can save your programs on disk or cassette.
Logophiles would be talking about procedures by this time, but Telly Turtle eschews all jargon until the end of the documentation booklet where we find a list of 13 computer terms and how they relate to the program.
The 24-page small format documentation booklet is very well done. It leads you step-by-step through the illustrations that introduce the features of each level and then turns you loose with a few suggestions for beginning turtle drawing projects. At the end of each section there is a list of commands introduced on the current level accompanied by a simple explanation of what each does.
The last section of the booklet is for "Telly Turtle Tutors' and offers some of the philosphy behind Logo in general and this program in particular. It suggests exercises, but admonishes adults to resist the temptation to offer too much guidance.
In the section entitled "What Have I Learned?' we find a list of what might otherwise be called the educational objectives of the program: problem solving, logical thinking, organization, and sequencing. We are also told that children confront "frame of reference' in the program; "a right turn to Telly may not look like a right turn to you.'
Telly Turtle is an unusually well executed package. The program is well conceived, challenging, entertaining, and rewarding. We like the way it exercises problem solving skills in an environment that fosters computer literacy and encourages children to program.
Younger children will need the help of an adult to read the instruction booklet, but those who can read should have no trouble working their was through the lessons. Students of all ages will find themselves programming in no time.
Photo: Time Bound
Photo: Telly Turtle
Products: Time Bound (computer program)
Telly Turtle (computer program)