Embodied Learning is a new topic for me and one that took a lot of reading and re-reading to get a grasp of. Winn (2003) describes a framework of learning consisting of three concepts: embodiment, embeddedness and adaption. Embodiment can be described as “how our physical bodies serve to externalize the activities of our physical brains in order to connect cognitive activity to the environment” (Winn, 2003, p.7) while the interdependence of this cognition and the environment is referred to as embeddedness. Winn (2003) goes on to describe some of the neuroscience that is known and should not be ignored by educators. Further, we read that our interactions with the world are limited and thus our understanding of it is too; We cannot hear certain sounds, nor can we see certain light and we experience in the world in a certain space and time. Winn (2003) states that artificial environments can create representations that can allow us to understand concepts that would otherwise lie outside of our experience.
One of the challenges that arises with artificial environments is determining an effective way to represent certain concepts; students could easily misread or misunderstand metaphorical representations. Niebert (2012) argues that “not only teaching but also thinking about and understanding science without metaphors and analogies is not possible” (para. 1). An example that Winn (2003) provides is representing current flow of the ocean using vectors and using longer vectors to show faster current (something that was misread by the student to mean the opposite). Niebert (2012) presents a very impressive paper where 199 metaphors were analysed for their effectiveness in students learning. An interesting finding was that one reason that a metaphor can go wrong is if it is constructed and not embodied. What is meant here is that many metaphors are used in the classroom but “students do not have an embodied experience with the metaphor’s source domain but need imaginative skills to understand it” (Niebert, 2012, para. 29). This really stood out for me because I find that I often use metaphors in my lessons and lectures without really considering how familiar students are with the source domain; even though it may be something students are able to relate to very well, I haven’t considered if is embodied.
Finally, I read an article by Barab and Dede (2007) where they explore the potential that video games can have to create immersive learning environments for science education. They found that game-based simulations were able to promote collaboration and self reflection while engaging students in professional roles and scaffolding learning through multimodal representations (Barab & Dede, 2007).
Questions for further discussion:
- How would you compare and contrast embodied learning with a constructivists view of learning and do you believe we have moved too far away from traditional cognitive theory as Winn (2003) would suggest?
- Niebert (2012) states that science cannot be taught without metaphors. Do you agree? Also how can we ensure the metaphors we are using are embedded and not constructed?
Barab, S., & Dede, C. (2007). Games and Immersive Participatory Simulations for Science Education: An Emerging Type of Curricula. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 16(1), 1-3. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org.ezproxy.library.ubc.ca/stable/40186766
Niebert, K. (09/01/2012). Science education (salem, mass.): Understanding needs embodiment: A theory‐guided reanalysis of the role of metaphors and analogies in understanding science John Wiley & Sons Inc.
Winn, W. (2003). Learning in artificial environments: Embodiment, embeddedness, and dynamic adaptation. Technology, Instruction, Cognition and Learning, 1(1), 87-114. Full-text document retrieved on January 17, 2013, from: http://www.hitl.washington.edu/people/tfurness/courses/inde543/READINGS-03/WINN/winnpaper2.pdf