Bringing letters to life: handwriting with haptic-enabled tangible robots


In this paper, we present a robotic approach to improve the teaching of handwriting using the tangible, haptic-enabled and classroom-friendly Cellulo robots. Our efforts presented here are in line with the philosophy of the Cellulo platform: we aim to create a ready-to-use tool (i.e. a set of robot-assisted activities) to be used for teaching handwriting, one that is to coexist harmoniously with traditional tools and will contribute new added values to the learning process, complementing existing teaching practices. To maximize our potential contributions to this learning process, we focus on two promising aspects of handwriting: the visual perception and the visual-motor coordination. These two aspects enhance in particular two sides of the representation of letters in the mind of the learner: the shape of the letter (the grapheme) and the way it is drawn, namely the dynamics of the letter (the ductus). With these two aspects in mind, we do a detailed content analysis for the process of learning the representation of letters, which leads us to discriminate the specific skills involved in letter representation. We then compare our robotic method with traditional methods as well as with the combination of the two methods, in order to discover which of these skills can benefit from the use of Cellulo. As handwriting is taught from age 5, we conducted our experiments with 17 five-year-old children in a public school. Results show a clear potential of our robot-assisted learning activities, with a visible improvement in certain skills of handwriting, most notably in creating the ductus of the letters, discriminating a letter among others and in the average handwriting speed. Moreover, we show that the benefit of our learning activities to the handwriting process increases when it is used after traditional learning methods. These results lead to the initial insights into how such a tangible robotic learning technology may be used to create cost-effective collaborative scenarios for the learning of handwriting.

Proceedings of the 17th ACM Conference on Interaction Design and Children