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.
- 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?
- 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?
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