You wouldn't think that dance has much in common with computers. In this case, though, it does. Scientists have found that blending movement and computer programming actually supports girls in building computational thinking skills.
"We want more diverse faces around the table, helping to come up with technological solutions to societal issues," said Shaundra Daily, the lead author of the new study, in a news release. "So we're working with girls to create more pathways to support their participation."
In this case, the scientists conducted user-centered design research for creating choreography and the social context for a virtual character through which girls can be introduced to alternative applications in computing. First, students met with instructors and learned the basics involving the elements of dance choreography and Alice, which is an existing software that teaches students computer programming in a 3D environment.
The scientists used movement choreography as an engaging and parallel context for introducing computational thinking. Compositional strategies in the choreographic process of ordering and reordering movement sequences mirrored computational practices of reusing and remixing.
The students moved and created pieces for their virtual characters to perform, which gave the students connections between computation thinking and what their bodies were doing.
The new method gives teachers an inclusive strategy to engage girls in computational thinking. Currently, the scientists are designing the first control algorithm that links concepts from computational thinking to animation algorithms, creating and evaluating new animation algorithms working to ensure the quality of the resulting choreography.
The technology has the potential to widen the scope of current techniques that seek to cultivate computational thinking for diverse designers, users and audiences.