Participatory Simulations and Mixed Reality

 

Lindgren and Johnson-Glenberg (2013) discuss the implications of combining embodied learning and advancing technologies. In short, scientific and mathematical concepts are learned through physical, natural movement (such as “gestures, touch, body position”). This learning is combined with new technologies in an emerging field of education known as mixed reality (MR). The authors suggest six precepts for consideration in embodied learning and mixed reality classrooms. They are briefly summarized below:

  1. Embodied learning benefits everyone and not just a subset of the population
  2. The physical aspects must be properly linked to the development of new ideas
  3. The environment should not just augment reality (for example, it should accommodate the ability to overlay visuals or audio or induce collaboration)
  4. Provide opportunities for student and peer collaboration
  5. Where possible, combine both theory-driven studies and controlled studies to inform the MR classroom
  6. 6) Revise assessment to address the changing learning environment

Coella (2009) examines the use of participatory simulations in which a variety of scenarios are guided by a series of rules and structure. Within these constraints, students are able to learn scientific concepts through inquiry, experimentation, and exploration. However, these computer-supported simulations are not actually conducted on the computer; instead, students participate by wearing small, wearable computers and are participants in “unique, life-sized games.” For example, the interactions within a pond ecology were studied by students interacting with each other as either a “big fish” or a “small fish.” Results from the study indicated students were able to: be engaged, identify problems and produce hypotheses, and design and execute relevant experiments.

It is evident from both studies (Lindgren and Johnson-Glenberg, 2013; Coella, 2009) that learning occurs through experience. Students need to be afforded the opportunity to learn through of a diverse array of experiences, whether it be a regulated real-life simulation using hand-held devices or through the physical movement of the body. The concept of kinematics is able to utilize the concepts proposed by embodied learning and mixed reality. For instance, students should be able to physically measure their movements to produce corresponding kinematics graphs. Undoubtedly, the study of motion should inherently involve movement and not rely on textbook recitation or didactic methods, such as lecture.

Questions:

  1. The article by Lindgren and Johnson-Glenberg (2013) discuss that assessment needs to depart from “traditional paper-and-pencil-style assessments” and parallel constructivist-inspired learning. How would possibly alter your assessment to match non-traditional learning environments, like MR?
  2. In my experience, while educators would like to incorporate different strategies in their lessons (like MR or participatory simulations). They can be sometimes difficult to execute effectively because programs or applications were not necessarily developed with a pedagogical mindset to begin with. Have you encountered any such challenges and how did you overcome them?

References

Colella, V. (2000). Participatory simulations: Building collaborative understanding through immersive dynamic modeling. The Journal of the Learning Sciences, 9(4), 471-500

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.

6 comments

  1. Hi Darren,
    In regards to your second question:

    In my experience, while educators would like to incorporate different strategies in their lessons (like MR or participatory simulations). They can be sometimes difficult to execute effectively because programs or applications were not necessarily developed with a pedagogical mindset to begin with. Have you encountered any such challenges and how did you overcome them?

    I have to say I have encountered this and the only way I have adjusted is trial and error. In the past, I have heard from colleagues about a particular simulation or MR and I have always taken the time to investigate how it works before I introduce it to my students (earlier in my career I took it on blind faith that it would be great and my lesson bombed). Sometimes I realize that the message I was hoping to convey is lost in the simulation or does not really cover it the way I was hoping. In these instances, I have made adjustments to my questioning or extension activities. Sometimes I realize they just do not work as I was hoping and tell students they are welcome to try them on their own if they are very interested in the topic. Finally, sometimes you just have to use bits and pieces of the tech to highlight what you were hoping to show.

    Finally, one of the issues I have with MR and simulations is the amount of time it actually takes students to understand and use these technologies. I have to work into my lesson time for students to use and learn the tech as well as the time to discover the lesson content.

    Catherine

    1. Hi Darren and Catherine,

      This is a great question and I agree with Catherine about the trial and error piece. I might try a recommended or newly learned simulation/MR with one class and I note successful and unsuccessful components and readjust accordingly in another class. If parts do not work out as intended, it is a great teaching opportunity for students to see the flaws of technology and possibly have them try to solve or adapt to the problem. I also feel it is important for the teacher to engage in the simulation/MR thoroughly as a participant so that they can try out different aspects and like Catherine mentioned, choose the suitable ones for the class to try.

  2. Hello Darren,

    With regard to your first question, the natural outgrowth would seem to be something akin to a Piagetian clinical interview. If we are not to probe for understanding through written questions, being able to observe a students’ explaination for events and data encountered during learning activities might provide an acceptable replacement. This would allow us to explore how confident a student is that their conception is correct and to probe for minor errors in terminology instead of using an “all or nothing” style multiple choice question.

    This approach is, of course, incredibily time intensive an has to be carried out by some one with extensive content and pedagogical knowledge. Have students record peer teaching sessions, where they attempt to explain a concept to another student, might minimize some of the time requirements but woudl eliminate the ability to dynamically test students’ conceptions.

  3. Thank you for your comprehensive view of MR which intrigued me enough to read the article you referenced, and I find that I have often implemented a type of MR into my classroom activities. As for assessment using these types of learning, I agree that this needs to depart from the typical pen and paper tasks. I am moving more towards authentic projects using feedback as the major form of assessment. For instance, recently for history my class has been creating museum exhibits using models, visuals, and technology. Our most recent exhibit was interactive Protest Posters on the Tax Acts for the American Revolution. The students created a physical poster for their specific act, then used Aurasma to create an informative video on the act explaining it and the components of their poster. These were then viewed by other classes and teachers and given a rating on their effectiveness, much like the survey cards you would receive at a real museum exhibit. This information was then used to give the students feedback on their artifacts and evolved into a grade for the gradebook since this continues to be a necessary evil for reports. I think this type of assessment could be used for many of the MR or AR platforms integrated into the classroom.
    Anne

  4. An interesting discussion emanating from your post Darren.

    One of the themes that appears to be emerging in the responses is the capacity for making adjustments if the pedagogy built into the digital technology is not quite a match with the teachers’ pedagogy: “In these instances, I have made adjustments to my questioning or extension activities”, “I am moving more towards authentic projects”, “and readjust accordingly in another class”. The following is also a worthwhile design strategy to incorporate in order to make adjustments: “Piagetian clinical interview. If we are not to probe for understanding through written questions, being able to observe a students’ explaination for events and data encountered during learning activities might provide an acceptable replacement.”

    Sincerely,
    Samia

  5. Hi Darren!

    Mixed Reality (MR) and participatory simulation are interesting combinations of kinesthetics, technology, and cooperative learning. I especially liked the example of the fish ecosystem as well as application of MR in Kinematics. It seems clear to use MR that involves body movements to teach the study of motion. Taking kinematics as an example to answer question 1, it makes sense to assess students in similar ways that they are provided MR experiences with the lessons. I would likely design assessments where students would use the sensor technology to create graphs of motion as part of their tests or exams similar to their in class assignments and investigations.

    Thanks for sharing,
    Vibhu

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