Authentic & Embodied Learning

Wow, were there ever a lot of interesting readings this week! I decided to kill two birds with one stone and choose readings that could inform the TELE that I will be undertaking for my final project. The aim is to use this TELE for my Grade 1 students in September and the readings this week helped me step closer to my goal. For that reason, I chose to read the Winn (2003), Aleahmad & Slotta (2002), & Huang, Lin & Cheng (2010) articles.

The Winn (2003) article focused on the connections between learning, the activities chosen and cognition. Examining the interactions between the learning that occurs and its relativity to the learning environment, via one’s external body is what Winn (2003) refers to as embodiment. Mathematics is a topic that benefits from embodied learning. One way that I have used embodied learning in my classroom is when doing a math unit on measurement and weight. I have filled little-big bags of sand and the children will pass them around. Based on what they feel, they will order them in what they believe to be lightest to heaviest. We then check our answers by utilizing a scale to see if we are correct or not. I have also brought students outside to explore our local community and compare different rocks, tree branches, etc. and categorize them as heavier/lighter. I find that when my students are able to leave the traditional classroom setting and explore their physical environments, the learning is deeper. As Winn (2002) states, “Embeddedness therefore depends on the nature of the interaction of the students with the Umwelt [environment] and how well the Umwelt reflects properties of the environment” (p. 13).

The Aleahmad & Slotta (2002) article examined handheld technology, such as phones, iPads, tablets, etc. and web-based science activities (WISE). Combining the two, the authors argue, makes for a “unique educational opportunity” (p. 2). As I mentioned earlier, I am teaching a Grade 1 class in September and have been trying to find educational technologies that would be age-appropriate for my students. When looking through the WISE archives, I noticed that despite the fact that there is a K-3 category, there are no WISE activities for this age group of students. The Aleahmad & Slotta (2002) article made me think about the use of Virtual Realty and Augmented Reality programs and their usefulness in the classroom. While I have not implemented either into my classroom, the idea leaves me with some questions.

Questions to Consider:

  1. Should WISE activities only being designed and utilized for Grades 3 and up or is it possible to create a WISE that would benefit younger students?
  2. What are some VR/AR that are suited to younger students? Are these two technologies still too young in their development to be used in classrooms?
  3. If students are learning in artificial environments, does authentic learning occur? Do all learning environments have to produce authentic learning?


Aleahmad, T. & Slotta, J. (2002). Integrating handheld Technology and web-based science activities: New educational opportunities. Paper presented at ED-MEDIA 2002 World Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia & Telecommunications. Proceedings (14th, Denver, Colorado, June 24-29, 2002); see IR 021 687.

Huang, Y. M., Lin, Y. T., & Cheng, S. C. (2010). Effectiveness of a mobile plant learning system in a science curriculum in Taiwanese elementary education. Computers & Education, 54(1), 47-58.

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


  1. Thanks for the post Kirsten. Although WISE seems to be geared towards higher grades, I’m confident the functionalities can be adapted to lower grade settings (ex. using more pictures). Also I find students growing up with technology tend to be more adept at learning new functionalities than older counterparts anyway. So while authenticity in learning may be easier to assess for older students, kids naturally employ the curiosity needed to interact with their whole bodies in learning.


    1. Hi Andrew,

      You are definitely correct in saying that students nowadays are growing up with technology and are more adept at learning new functionalities. I suppose where my initial concern lay was with the existing WISE projects. Even the terminology that is used is quite advanced for younger years and could prove to be a block in the learning regardless of the technology aspect. Definitely new WISE’s could be constructed that would better suit younger students but I am still sceptical that the existing one’s could be modified enough to meet the needs of every age group.


  2. I think artificial environments are where most learning will occur in the future. The ability to complete tasks and solve problems that we simply cannot create in our physical environment are far reaching in any virtual space. This year I taught all my subjects in Minecraft. From recreating the Eiffel tower to understanding fractions, the multi player virtual space offers huge advantages over our physical space. It does have a learning curve for the teacher if they are not familiar with MUVE’s but is a worthwhile investment of time to learn how to teach interdisciplinary courses within these types of platforms.

    1. Hi Nathan,

      I’m intrigued by teaching all lessons in Minecraft. I have to say that I have not used it but my students (mostly the boys) do love it and talk about it endlessly. What grade do you teach? How do you differentiate for your students likes/needs? I think that this idea would work well with many of my grade ones this year and am keen to learn more!

  3. Thanks for the post Kirsten. I, too, often struggle to find how these effective TELE’s can be easily incorporated into my teaching at the younger level. I think that right now, WISE is typically geared towards older students, but if you consider the concepts that WISE offers, as a pattern for student investigation and inquiry, using a platform you are comfortable with, I think younger students would be just as capable of grasping the new framework of teaching.

    As for whether or not artificial environments provide authentic learning, I would say they do, even at the younger age where the level of abstraction may not be as deep. In an effective artificial environment, students are immersed and able to collaborate with one another. They are able to access sensory experiences that are not otherwise accessible. They should then be able to make connections in their learning, just as they would in the physical world, if not more so, from the greater spatial sense of an artificial environment. So, whether the learning is taking place in or out of an artificial environment, I think the learning can be authentic and can be transferable to novel concepts and understandings later on.



    1. Hi Jocelynn,

      Thanks for your take on artificial learning environments. I think the key in VR/AR learning environments is just as you said, collaboration. Having students work together on a common goal generally proves to generate stronger learning ties than an environment without collaboration. Have you utilized artificial learning environments in your primary class? I am very keen on introducing this type of learning into my class as funding can be few and far between for school trips. I have heard of the Google Cardboard as well as the discovery channel having great educational VR choices. What, if any, have you used in your classroom? I’m starting a list that I can explore this summer to utilize for this school year!

  4. Hi Kirsten,

    Great post this week, as it had me also wondering about the use of VR for younger students, in particular Grade 1 as I will be teaching this grade in the fall for the first time. After teaching in the intermediate years for a while, the use of VR seems like it can be seamlessly integrated whereas it is more difficult to find appropriate content for younger students. Google expeditions has been really good about providing virtual field trips for students to explore through their app and google cardboard, as well as google arts and culture.

    To answer your last question, I think that artificial environments like most things must consider balance as being a critical component of the implementation framework. Students need to be able to experience new opportunities and often cost begins a limitation for educators but through VR this becomes a better option for implementation. However, with VR use in the classroom, there needs to be a balance between artificial environments and application in the real world through real hands-on experiences. For me this made me think about the use of simulations for pilots and actually flying a plane, it is great if you can do really well in a simulation, but being able to actually fly a plane in real-world environments is more important! To create authentic learning opportunities there is a need for a balanced approach in providing a variety of experiences so that all students can relate, to one, some or all. Through this exposure to different experiences hopefully more learning will occur.

    Thanks for your post!


    1. Hi Cristina,

      I learned about Google Cardboard just recently and it seems like it will fit nicely into my Grade 1 class curriculum this year. As I mentioned to Jocelynn, school funding generally does not provide enough money for multiple school trips a year so utilizing low-cost alternatives such as VR apps (Expeditions or Paris VR) work well.

      I think you hit the nail on the head when you said balance is needed between artificial learning environments and real world applications. Making sure that students are able to establish connections and understand how some VR experiences are different than real life helps them to understand that this is just one way of experiencing something (ie. like flying a plane as you said!). I wonder whether young student are able to distinguish between the two experiences? Are there schema’s developed enough that they can fully understand one is not like the other? Thoughts?

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