Cross-Cultural Transfer of a Programming Language

By Harper, Dennis O. | T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education), August 1992 | Go to article overview

Cross-Cultural Transfer of a Programming Language


Harper, Dennis O., T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)


* A Logo conference in Chile that attracts more than 1,000 participants;

* An extensive Children's Computerworld Logo group in Shanghai;

* A six-year Logo project in Senegal; Nationwide Logo studies in Brazil and Argentina;

* A government-sponsored Logo Centrum Nederland;

* A national effort in Costa Rica to implement Logo into all schools; and

* A Pac-Man style game to teach Logo techniques in Leningrad.

These are but a few of the many exciting Logo developments throughout the world. The range of activities initiated and the resources utilized by some countries to improve their education programs with Logo are impressive indeed.

This paper discusses conditions related to how this instructional programming language developed for use by children-Logo---is being transferred across cultural and geographic boundaries to improve education. Six major points are covered: the economic, political and organizational conditions facing the transfer of Logo; the conditions limiting adoption of Logo; conditions promoting the success of Logo; and, lastly, international Logo contacts. * Economic Conditions

It is clear that without substantial financial resources, the expensive equipment and technical skills required for a school to use Logo would not be available to educators. For example, the cost of one Apple II system with Logo software is approximately the same cost as hiring three teachers for a year in Argentina. Thus, a variety of economic factors influence the extent to which a society's educational institutions will utilize technology.

The purchase of equipment: Periods of economic prosperity hasten the adoption of Logo by providing both the general society and schools with funds for the purchase of equipment, the training of personnel, and the dissemination of information on how to use Logo to improve instruction. Societies with strong economies that generate income well beyond the basic food, shelter, health and national safety needs of the populace are best able to adopt the Logo philosophy.

Examples of countries experiencing both economic prosperity and a strong infusion of Logo into its schools are the Netherlands, Finland, United States, Canada, Australia, Iceland, Belgium and Costa Rica. In contrast to these societies, there are some prosperous societies not taking to Logo to any great extent: Japan, [formerly] West Germany, Italy and Saudi Arabia. Political and cultural conditions play a part in explaining this situation.

In Saudi Arabia, for example, lack of Logo usage in its schools despite one of the world's highest per-capita Gross-Domestic-Products, is perhaps accounted for by the fact that Saudi Arabia's wealth is very new, resulting from oil exports that have become significant in size only during the past three decades. At the same time, Saudi Arabian culture and the population's expectations, which are both seated in Islamic tradition, have only recently been affected by advanced technology, in contrast to the Logo-using nations above, which have for the most part, a century or more of adopting technological innovations. Yet, compared to other Middle-East Islamic nations, Saudi Arabia is now progressing very rapidly in adopting advanced technology into its schools. An Arabic version of Logo has been in use to a small degree there for the past four years.

Progress in Logo implementations. Advances in Logo implementations are fostered by economic competition among producers of both hardware and software. Competition within an industrialized society and between such societies, as motivated by a desire for profits, fosters the creation of new and improved Logo implementations. Creation of Logo implementations in a variety of languages (e.g., French, Spanish, Arabic, Bulgarian, Japanese, Chinese and Malay) has advanced Logo usage throughout the world,

While competition does, indeed, foster creativity and innovation, the opposite effect can result if manufacturers see their inventions passed too freely into the hands of their competitors or pirated by school systems throughout the world.

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