All of the papers I read related in that they connect knowledge construction to actions and movements within learning environments.
Winn (2003) argues that the recent focus of educational research on constructivism has ignored some aspects of learning and advocates a return to a more computational view of learning. He considers of how our “physical bodies serve to externalize the activities of our physical brains in order to connect cognitive activity to the environment.” (p. 88) In his view, “learning is considered to arise from reciprocal interactions between external, embodied, activity and internal, cerebral, activity, the whole being embedded in the environment in which it occurs” (Winn, 2003). He discusses how technologies can create artificial environments that to bring students to concepts that lie outside the reach of direct experience.
Zhang et al. (2010) discuss developing a mobilized science curriculum to help students “become self-directed and social learners who could learn everywhere and all the time using mobile technologies.” (p.62) The researchers advocate using mobile technology to connect with a broader range of learning environments. The mobile technology allows the students to be more active and bring the technology to the relevant aspects of the environment.
In a 2014 study From Action to Abstraction: Using the Hands to Learn Math researchers found that students learning abstract gesturing connected to math was an effective learning strategy. It was compared with students physically acting on their environment and a concrete gesture miming an action. While all three were found to be beneficial “only gesture led to success on problems that required generalizing the knowledge gained” (Novak et al., 2014). The researchers suggested that gesturing while saying words may help learners process the words associated with the learning in a less superficial way.
Connecting movement to learning concepts is something that I am constantly trying to find ways to accomplish. I have been using a game called Super Math World (https://supermathworld.com/join/demo formerly Mathbreakers) to teach number concepts. It’s a little hard to explain but students are immersed within a 3D world and interact with their environment to create specific numbers by combining, dividing, multiplying, etc. in order to progress beyond barriers and enemies marked with a value by “zeroing” them out. This year I brought them to the gym where they had to design their own “level” based on the design of the game. They had to consider the relationships between numbers they included, the required operations and ensure that there were multiple solutions to the level. Its is a challenging game but the movement and actions incorporated brought the problem solving to a whole new level. They came back with a deeper understanding which generalized back to the digital game.
In another course, a student introduced Smallab Learning which is designed around embodied learning. It looks very interesting…
How can we purposefully include gesturing in mathematics instruction?
Does anyone include role play activities in math and science?
What are some examples of reasonably accessible technologies that support embodied learning?
Ahmed, S., & Parsons, D. (2013). Abductive science inquiry using mobile devices in the classroom. Computers & Education, 63, 62-72.
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.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3984351/
Winn, W. (2003). Learning in artificial environments: Embodiment, embeddedness, and dynamic adaptation. Technology, Instruction, Cognition and Learning, 1(1), 87-114.