3D Geometry with Leap Motion: A lesson in interpretive Dance

Like Dana, I was sucked into the vortex of reading about Embodied Learning. In total, I read seven articles. I started down a path of inquiry and I just kept exploring. The great thing is I learned a ton, the downside is how do I make it concise?

Winn (2003) discusses how cognition is the interaction between a person and their environment, and that it is necessary to consider how that interaction occurs. We must consider how “our physical bodies serve to externalize the activities of our physical brains in order to connect cognitive activity to the environment. This physical dimension of cognition is referred to as “embodiment.” Once this direct connection between cognitive action and the environment is established, we must acknowledge that cognitive activity is far more closely coupled to the environment than many have hitherto acknowledged. This interdependence of cognition and environment is referred to as embeddedness (p.93).”

This excerpt, while an excellent explanation of the interplay between cognition, environment, embodiment and embeddedness reminds us of how complex learning really is. I was fascinated by Pouw et al. (2014) article on the use of manipulatives with children in math and science and how the type of manipulative affected learning. Students who used symbolic representations of an item (for example pie pieces to learn fractions) were less able to transfer that knowledge to other scenarios while transfer of learning was higher for students who learned with arbitrary symbolic representations such as blocks (p. 64).

Lindgren, R., & Johnson-Glenberg, M. (2013) report that embodied learning relies on multimodal encoding methods and recent studies are showing that learning activities that involve high levels of embodiment lead to a greater chance of retrieval and retention (p. 446). Lindgren uses the term mixed reality to define embodied learning with immersive technologies (p. 445). The article directly mentions Leap Motion technology, a technology I got as a Christmas gift and started exploring it more in-depth this week.

Leap Motion (technology that allows your hands to become three dimensional devices to interact with the platform: see e-folio for more on Leap motion to be posted this weekend) has some 3-D virtual reality units for math and science. I became fixated on the 3-D geometry app. While learning to use the app I found myself gesturing with my hands but also trying to visualize (by moving my head) and contorting my body how manipulating the blocks would help me place them in an ideal location. My methods tied directly into the research by Hwang, W. Y., & Hu, S. S. (2013) in their article: Analysis of peer learning behaviors using multiple representations in virtual reality and their impacts on geometry problem solving and the article by Kim, M., Roth, W. M., & Thom, J. (2011) entitled Children’s gestures and the embodied knowledge of geometry on using embodiment to teach geometry. Kim (2011) found that grade two students often naturally use embodiment on their own when trying to understand three d geometry. Hwang et al’s (2013) research demonstrated how embodiment was taken one step further and more connections were made when students collaborated.

When my students tried the leap motion 3-d geometry app in groups (taking turns to be the hands) I watched as almost all of them, even when observing and guiding others, used their hands or whole bodies (at times my class looked like an introduction to interpretive dance) to try and move in three-dimensional space to understand how to manipulate the blocks.

Questions:

  1. Learning to use new technologies is time-consuming (it took some time to learn to use the leap motion- many students were frustrated by the experience) how do we fit into our curriculum the time to learn these technologies before we even get to the material we are trying to teach? Is it possible? Is it worth it? Can we justify it?

 

  1. Many of the papers I read discussed how embodiment helps students understand concepts more deeply and that they are able to use embodiment to demonstrate knowledge when questioned by experimenters but assessment has not changed to incorporate embodiment. How can we adapt our assessment (moving away from paper and pencil) to allow students to demonstrate knowledge in less conventional ways?

 

 

References:

 

Hwang, W. Y., & Hu, S. S. (2013). Analysis of peer learning behaviors using multiple representations in virtual reality and their impacts on geometry problem solving. Computers & Education, 62, 308-319.

Kim, M., Roth, W. M., & Thom, J. (2011). Children’s gestures and the embodied knowledge of geometry. International Journal of Science and Mathematics Education, 9(1), 207-238.

Lindgren, R., & Johnson-Glenberg, M. (2013). Emboldened by embodiment: Six precepts for research on embodied learning and mixed reality. Educational Researcher, 42(8), 445-452.

Novack, M. A., Congdon, E. L., Hemani-Lopez, N., & Goldin-Meadow, S. (2014). From action to abstraction: Using the hands to learn math. Psychological Science, 25(4), 903-910.

Pouw, W. T., Van Gog, T., & Paas, F. (2014). An embedded and embodied cognition review of instructional manipulatives. Educational Psychology Review, 26(1), 51-72.

Winn, W. (2003). Learning in artificial environments: Embodiment, embeddedness, and dynamic adaptation. Technology, Instruction, Cognition and Learning, 1(1), 87-114

6 comments

  1. Hi Catherine,

    A great post, as usual! I have never heard of the Leap Motion program and I look forward to learning more about it in your e-folio post.

    Your question about learning new technologies and the time it takes to learn them is interesting. I currently have a list going of new technologies I have learned about in the MET program and would like to try, but simply have not yet had time to attempt yet. By the time I finally learn the programs, they will likely be heading out of date and there will be new or adapted programs to replace them. One strategy I often use is asking colleagues what has worked well for them. If a program or application has been successful for a number of colleagues and they recommend it, then I will often try it out. Having said that, one difficulty I have found is that what works with one group of students might not work with the next. Even if the technology is new and I find it exciting, my students might not like it. I have also found that some programs recommended by others do not serve my needs as well. For example, this year I was encouraged to apply for a grant for Reflex Math, a computer-based fluency program to improve basic math facts/fluency. While my students generally enjoy it, it does take 30 minutes of time three times per week to complete the requirements of the grant I received. The program itself is essentially still rote memorization, but the traditional technique has been jazzed-up with different games to be unlocked, levels to be completed, an avatar to design, tokens to gain, and so on. While it is helping students’ fluency, it is not building inquiry, collaboration, or any number of other important skills. In addition to this, while my students enjoy it, my colleague’s class (grade 6/7 students) do not like the program at all and he has struggled significantly to have students buy-in to what would be a very expensive program had we not received the grant. While this program did not take too much time to set-up on my end, I cannot help but wonder what else I could be doing for 1.5 hours each week to help students develop skills they will need for their future.

    In another example, our district will be going to FreshGrade as a reporting system next year. This was a district decision without much teacher input as far as I know (teachers at my school were not consulted). While I do not have anything against FreshGrade (I have never used it), it is a program being implemented by the district and it will require that teachers learn to use it regardless of whether they want to or not. I will be interested to see if any training time will be provided, or if we will be expected to learn the program over the summer, without support, to be ready to use it in September. So far, we have not been told.

    In response to question two, I really enjoyed Winn’s (2003) reference to the boy who used gestures to demonstrate his understanding of the circular pattern of ocean currents when he was unable to effectively demonstrate his learning on paper (p. 11). While embodied assessment would not work in all cases, there are certain cases where I do believe it could be incorporated quite well. When I think of assessment being changed to incorporate embodiment, I think of units like the human body, where students could potentially use gestures and actions to demonstrate their understanding of the digestive system, or in a unit on forces where students could demonstrate different forces, again using actions and gestures to show their understanding of the concepts.

    References:

    Winn, W. (2003). Learning in artificial environments: Embodiment, embeddedness, and dynamic adaptation. Technology, Instruction, Cognition and Learning, 1(1), 1-28. Retrieved from: http://isites.harvard.edu/fs/docs/icb.topic1028641.files/Winn2003.pdf

  2. Hi Catherine,

    With regards to your second question. I have been considering this in light of the astronomy unit my students are working on in grade 6. There is a provincial achievement (Big Standardized Test) at the end of the year and these concepts will be tested under a fairly stressful situation. Much of the teaching I do in astronomy really requires manipulatives. It is much more efficient to have students test, observe, and explain by using a model instead of trying to do all of that plus represent complex 3-d systems rotating and moving with time. Many assessments in our scholl, at least at the younger grades, allow students to use manipulatives to aid their thinking. It seems like only a small step from here to include there use and student explainations as a form of assessment. A format similar to the Piagetian clinical interview might be used and a scoring rubric for level of detail and noted misconceptions could be applied to determine a grade. This seems to be a major research tactic in examining astronomy misconceptions and may be portable to other stem field for assessment purposes.

  3. I have long been intrigued by the dichotomy of technology implementation in schools, and teacher training for the new technology. It has been my experience that very little teacher training is afforded on any technology, and most of that is in house, not supported by the Board. If a teacher wants to implement new programs into the classroom, they are on their own for learning them and teaching them to the students. They may be applauded for trying new things and moving towards integrating technology into their curriculum, but they are not supported in any real way other than the proverbial pat on the back. There is literally no incentive to for teachers to do this outside of their own interests. Is it worth it? I would say that most often it is, even if it is not the best fit for your classroom today, it might be something you could use at a later date, it has exposed the students to something new and different, which may engage their interests, and it might incite you to find something that does a similar thing but in a more effective way for your students. I have not had any experience with Reflex Math but use something similar in my classroom called Prodigy. The beauty of Prodigy is that it is free, and really easy for students to use. The interface is user friendly for teachers and it can be tailored to the math concepts you are currently covering. You can monitor students’ progress and if they complete the assignment, they can still play as the game will just add grade related concepts for them. It too, is basically rote learning or memorization but it does not take up too much time and the students often use it as a reward for finishing early.
    Similarly to you, our Board instituted a new report card program this year, in the middle of the year, which was entirely different than the one we were using before, and they gave us no training or time to learn the new program before we had to use it for the mid term reports. Chaos ensued as people tried to learn this on the go.
    I feel that School Boards need to invest some time and money into technology the way they do for literacy and numeracy.

  4. Hi Catherine,

    This is a great description of your class: When my students tried the leap motion 3-d geometry app in groups (taking turns to be the hands) I watched as almost all of them, even when observing and guiding others, used their hands or whole bodies (at times my class looked like an introduction to interpretive dance).

    I look forward to hearing more down the road about how your students use Leap Motion technology to learn an embodied form of math in your classroom. Your well-researched study of embodiment to teach math further reminds me also of an embodied performance of molecular interaction investigated in a chemistry course investigated by one of my former graduate students: Spier‐Dance, L., Mayer‐Smith, J., Dance, N., & Khan, S. (2005). The role of student‐generated analogies in promoting conceptual understanding for undergraduate chemistry students. Research in Science & Technological Education, 23(2), 163-178. The role of the body and digital technology (such as Leap Motion which as affordances for movement) could be relevant to several topics in our mathematics (and science) curricula.

    Thank you for introducing this,
    Samia

  5. Hi Catherine,
    I really appreciated your questions this week. In answer to your first question in finding the time to explore new technologies, I think what I have learned the most from my MET course experiences is that you do not have to be the expert as the teacher when bringing in a new technology to introduce to your students. It is definitely necessary to have some background knowledge of the technology and some sort of direction to take, but the learning that occurs from student exploration and discovery is huge for both students and teachers. For example, I first heard about Scratch from our ETEC510 course last January. Prior to that I had barely even heard of coding. Now, I have students creating their own screencasts demonstrating how they are creating in Scratch with code. Their energy, their enthusiasm, and their exploration has pushed the possibilities I see with code in so many more directions than I think I could have come to on my own in a time effective way.

    I also agree with your position on the need for assessment to change to match or catch up to our changing and evolving practice. As you say, we need to move away from traditional paper and pencil assessments to creative ways that students can showcase their learning. In the case of embodied learning, I believe that digital portfolios are an answer. Due to the ability to showcase student photos, audio files, and video, this platform allows students to share their learning in real time that is authentic to the learning at hand.

    Thanks for a great post that was helpful in my understanding of the concepts and reading this week!

    Allison

  6. “Learning to use new technologies is time-consuming (it took some time to learn to use the leap motion- many students were frustrated by the experience) how do we fit into our curriculum the time to learn these technologies before we even get to the material we are trying to teach? Is it possible? Is it worth it? Can we justify it?”

    I have found that if the new technology is something I see as valuable for their learning over a substantial time period, I can justify the time spent learning it as skill development. I teach grade 6-12, so I will often design an activity for the purpose of students learning a technology in and of itself, and include it as part of ongoing development in personal reflection, self-regulation, problem solving strategies, communication, etc. I probably do this about 4 times a year with each group of students. Once the students have enough of a foundation with the technology to begin to use it, I find they often learn the rest as they work with the content as they realize they need to figure out something that they don’t already know how to do.

    I am intrigued by Leap Motion and I look forward to learning more!

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