Embodied Learning, Virtual Environments, and Mixed Reality

One of the key takeaways for me, throughout the selection of readings that I chose for this week’s topic, is the importance of considering the learner as being both embedded in the learning environment, while being physically active within it. In this sense, cognition can be thought of as an embodied, as well as a cerebral activity. As a means of supporting student engagement in embodied learning, educators can provide collaborative, immersive experiences that allow for the exploration of knowledge and content that extends beyond the confines of the classroom space. Winn (2003) states that artificial environments can use computer technology to create metaphorical representations in order to bring to students concepts and principles that normally lie outside the reach of direct experience. This instructional approach enhances students’ ability to apply abstract knowledge by situating education in authentic, virtual contexts similar to the environments in which learners’ skills will be used (Dede, 1992). These synthetic simulation environments center on interaction and collaboration, unlike the passive, observational behavior induced by television and presentational multimedia, and are therefore well suited for constructivist experiences (Dede, 1992).

Existing in the space between entirely virtual environments and entirely real world environments, Mixed Reality environments combine digital technology with physical activity as means of supporting the idea that physical activity can be a catalyst for generating learning (Lindgren & Johnson-Glenberg, 2013). This incorporates the continued emergence of new technologies and interfaces that accept natural physical movement, such as gestures, body positioning, and touch, as input into interactive digital environments. As such, exciting learning possibilities exist around creating personalized educational experiences grounded in the learning affordances of human perception and bodily action (Lindgren & Johnson-Glenberg, 2013). In my own practice as a Physical Education specialist, I aimed to infuse gamification into physical activity. Apps that fall within the mixed reality category can guide or instruct students in learning skills or movements and can enhance teaching and learning in Physical Education, and these can be utilized by individual students, small groups, or during whole class activities. Augmented Reality offers new possibilities in delivering engaging physical activity to students.

Winn (2003) emphasizes the importance of designing instruction with the focus on learning being no longer confined to what goes on in the brain, as cognitive activity involves the brain, through the body, and to the environment itself. If learning is considered to arise from the reciprocal interaction between external, embodied activity and internal, cerebral activity, the whole being must be considered as embedded in the environment and contexts in which it occurs.

Questions to Consider

How do educators best design embodied learning tasks in order to strengthen student knowledge through physical movement, while maintaining some level of structured and prescribed focus to the tasks?

What considerations do educators need to bear in mind with regards to student diversity in cultural, physical, and social considerations when engaging in embodied learning activities?

In what ways can virtual, immersive learning environments foster a transformation in social interactions, and what impact could this potentially have on the nature of interactions and behaviours between students?


Dede, C. (1995). The evolution of constructivist learning environments: Immersion in distributed, virtual worlds. Educational Technology, 35(5), 46-52.

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.

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



  1. Hello Allen,

    I like the way you coherently brought together several ideas on embodied learning that were spread across several academic papers (Win, Dede, Lindgren & Johnson).

    After reading your post I came up with some answers to the questions you raised in the Questions to Consider section.

    Answer to Question 1
    To maintain a level of structure for embodied learning tasks, educators can design learning scenarios with predictive variations. Such variations can introduce new learning elements that would challenge and further pique the curiosity of students to explore other facets of the learning problems.

    Answer to Question 3
    One possible transformation can be achieved through the usage of avatars in virtual environments. When students participate in learning activities through such avatars they can avoid a number cultural or social restrictions that are typical of direct, physical interactions. Participating semi anonymously would allow students to increase the level of interaction and to give feedback more readily. Educators will also benefit because they would have access to more data generated via this socially unhindered student collaboration.

  2. Hi Allen,

    Question 2
    What considerations do educators need to bear in mind with regards to student diversity in cultural, physical, and social considerations when engaging in embodied learning activities?

    I think educators need to ensure that learning experiences are universally designed for the specific population of learners they are working with. The inclusion of movement can be a very restrictive barrier to participation for some students but more often I think it can be a way to access experiences for many learners.

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