Boxer “is the name for a multipurpose computational medium intended to be used by people who are not computer spets. Boxer incorporates a broad spectrum of functions—from hypertext processing, to dynamic and interactive graphics, to databases and programming—all within a uniform and easily learned framework” (diSessa et al., 1991, p. 3).
2 Boxer, Lego and programming constructionism
Boxer is much like Lego. E.g. from the Boxer project homepage we can read:
The difference between Logo and Boxer is technical, including affordances for digital expressiveness of course.
Boxer’s roots are closely tied to those of Logo. Boxer originated while diSessa was at MIT and part of the Logo team. Despite diSessa’s admiration of Logo and what it represented, he soon became dissatisfied with Logo’s limitations. For example, Logo, though an easy language to start using, is difficult to master. Children quickly learn how to use turtle geometry commands to draw simple shapes, such as squares and triangles, and even complex shapes consisting of a long series of turtle commands, but it is difficult for most children to progress to advanced features of the language, such as writing procedures, combining procedures, and using variables. Another drawback of Logo is that it is essentially just a computer programming language, though with special features, such as turtle geometry. It is difficult to learn Logo well enough to program it to do other meaningful things (journal keeping, database applications,...) . Finally, although Logo enjoyed much success with elementaryand middle-school students, it was difficult to “grow up” using Logo for advanced computational problems. Similarly, Logo was rarely viewed by teachers as a tool that they should use for their own personal learning or professional tasks.
diSessa sought to design a new tool to overcome these difficulties by creating not just another programming language, but a “computational medium.” So Boxer was meant as a successor to Logo, not just a variant.
Boxer was designed based on two major principles related to learning:
- concreteness: implies that all aspects and functions of the system should be visible and directly manipulable.
- the use of a spatial metaphor: capitalizes on a person’s spatial abilities for relating objects or processes. For example, the principal object is a box, hence the name Boxer. A box can contain any element or data structure, such as text, graphics, programs, or even other boxes. The use of boxes allows a person to use intuitive spatial relations such as “outside,” “inside,” and “next” directly in the programming.
- Andy diSessa HomePage (not updated since 1996)
- The berkeley Boxer project
- Availability (a free MacIntosh version). PC versions must be found elsewhere :)
- diSessa, A. A., Abelson, H., & Ploger, D. (1991). An overview of Boxer. Journal of Mathematical Behavior, 10, 3–15.
- diSessa, A. A. (1997). Twenty reasons why your should use Boxer (instead of Logo). In M. Turcsányi-Szabó (Ed.), Learning & Exploring with Logo: Proceedings of the Sixth European Logo Conference. Budapest Hungary, 7-27.
- diSessa, A. Twenty Reasons Why You Should Use Boxer (Instead of Logo), Graduate School of Education, University of California Berkeley, PDF Reprint from above
- Rieber, L. P. (1996) Microworlds, in Jonassen, David, H. (ed.) Handbook of research on educational communications and technology. Handbook of Research for Educational Communications and Technology. Second edition. Simon and Schuster, 583-603 ISBN 0-02-864663-0