Dancing Puppets- An Innovative approach to Learning Programming


3⁄4 The objective of this work is to use traditional Folk Puppets (called Kathputli in Hindi) to make the process of learning more socially acceptable. Children are the key learners in rural society and provide a channel for their parents to learn modern technology. This channel is especially significant when the parents are illiterate or s emi-literate. In our current work with children in rural areas using simple robotic programming tools1, even lower -end programming systems such as LEGO Mindstorms are a) enormously expensive for a family whose monthly income is about $20, and b) alien in u sage and construction, and are difficult for the parents to accept. The Kathputli is envisaged as a low -cost, culturally familiar platform whereby digital technology can become more acceptable to village elders. Using it, the child is able to show the prin ciples of programming through the story enactment behavior of puppets, and in the process, demonstrate the validity of the programming that she learns. Also, the child is herself more motivated, for her programs move real objects instead of manipulating ab stract notions that are inside the computer. Index Terms 3⁄4 Kathputli, Programming, Rural Education, Adult Literacy INTRODUCTION The notion of programming goes deeper than writing lines of code; it demands a logical process of thought, the abiility to analyse a problem and develop its solution as an algorithm that may be implemented on a machine. Introducing programming to children is a challenge more due to the interface presented by computer rather than by the act of programming itself. For children growing up in rural background, learning a simple C program to add two numbers will require knowledge of English language, and of the C language syntax. To demonstrate the idea, first consider a C code to add two numbers: main ( ){ int a = 2; int b = 3; int x = a + b; printf(x); } The output is “5” printed onscreen. Secondly consider a graphical User Interface to write a drama sequence, with the help of already built icons, to move the hands and legs of a dancer, thus, depicting a walking figure (Figure 1). Digital Kathputli is an interface between the traditional entertainment resources and digital tools, developed to provide learning through role playing and story telling. The concept provides an automated puppet control system with musicsynchronized motions, to provide a platform to learn programming through story enacting. Real puppets enacting a scene that he has just written, is something a ten year old child would love to see , and would feel naturally excited about. Without being conscious of it, he would have just written his first code to program. Children often express their creativity in the form of role playing, story telling and scenario enacting. Puppets offer great potential for role playing and story telling. Digital Kathputli is a model to employ traditionally available entertainment tools to promote learning and specially to demonstrate the fundamentals of programming with the help of motion control of puppets. FIGURE 1 THE ALGORITHM FOR A PUPPET TO WALK AND ITS OUTPUT TO BE SEEN ON A REAL-LIFE KATHPUTLI EDUCATION MODEL IN AN URBAN SETUP In an urban setting, that is small towns/metropolitans, learning takes place through formal channels such as schools and universities and through mass mediamainly television, newspapers, books and magazines and most importantly, the Internet. Parents, grandparents and other members of the family spend less time with children as compared to their rural counterparts. Thus, the role of teachers in an urban educational setup is crucial. Self-learning too is an important aspect of the urban child's education. In addition, children in cities are quick learners as far as technology is concerned. They learn to use household gadgets, hi-tech toys much faster than older users and have also shown ability to improvise and use their hi-tech toys for more than their intended design. In this scenario, the Digital Kathputli system becomes a natural tool for teaching young students one of the most basic skills of the Information Agethe ability to program. Digital Kathputli proposes to make classroom learning funthrough the use of an attractive interface, i.e., traditional puppets, involve students in a hands-on approach to learningthrough the user friendly GUI, and encourage them to innovatethrough the concept of tangible programming. EDUCATION MODEL OF A VILLAGE An Indian village is somewhat an autonomous society, with the Panchayat as its governing body. Individuals are influenced by each other's behavior more than in an urban society. Thus, learning of new principles is mainly achieved by mutual interaction. This motivated us to follow a two-stage education model within a rural setting.

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@inproceedings{Bhattacharya2004DancingPA, title={Dancing Puppets- An Innovative approach to Learning Programming}, author={Riya Bhattacharya and Utsav Maitra and Gaurav Sharma and Bipin B. Agravat and Amitabha Mukherjee}, year={2004} }