Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Day 62: Shall We Dance? Coding and Choreography

Shaundra Dail and Alison Leonard 

An interesting approach to learning to code caught my eye today. "Movement Improves Girls Computational Thinking Skills. The article features a study funded by the National Science Foundation and emerging technology report published in journal Technology, Knowledge and Learning coauthored by Clemson professors Shaundra Dail and Alison Leonard exploring the connection between movement and learning to code.

Building computational thinking through dance makes a lot of sense to me. As a matter of fact one of the first things I ask my students to do using Scratch software is to create a Dance Party.

We all know that connecting new learning to prior knowledge is an important part of teaching. So why not take the "intuitive" knowledge of "dance" and use it to help student learning to code. According to the abstract, this is exactly the premise that the Clemson research revolves around.

This emerging technology report describes virtual environment interactions an approach for blending movement and computer programming as an embodied way to support girls in building computational thinking skills. The authors seek to understand how body syntonicity might enable young learners to bootstrap their intuitive knowledge in order to program a three-dimensional character to perform movements. We have gained insight into the desire for character realism. The lessons learned to date, as well as the challenges to integrating the physical and virtual and keeping the interactions rich are discussed.   ~ Journal Asbstract  for Technology, Knowledge and Learning

It appears that the concept originally used the popular program ALICE  but is now focused on a new environment called VENVI  that lets you control a virtual character using code.  

 From the VENVI website:  

Clemson University will design, develop, and evaluate a virtual environment and associated curriculum for blending movement and computer programming as a novel and embodied way to engage 5th- and 6th-grade girls with computational thinking. This research will test the hypothesis that girls creating interactive movement for their virtual characters and using their bodies to think through the actuation of the characters should bootstrap their intuitive knowledge in order to learn computational concepts, utilize computational practices, and develop computational perspectives.

Unfortunately, it does not appear to be quite ready for us to try.  As of this writing, the links  on the downloads page were all inactive.  But this is a project I'm going to be keeping an eye on.

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