The importance of gestural congruency in embodied learning

For lesson 1, I decided to look more closely at augmented reality and its use in embodied learning. I really enjoyed reading the paper by Lindgren and Johnson-Glenberg (2013). This paper really emphasized the importance of “gestural congruency”, which is what sets embodied learning apart from hands-on activities or physical movement in general (Lindren & Johnson-Glenberg, 2013). Basically, the more congruent a physical gesture is to the learning concept, the higher the embodiment interaction. For example, when learning about centripetal force, a student who physically spins a trackable object overhead is participating in a high embodiment interaction in comparison to a student who just clicks on a mouse to initiate spinning in a computer based simulation. They argue that mixed reality (MR) environments are well suited for embodied learning because MR technology can create an immersive environment that situates students inside the to-be-learned environment. Additionally, it provides an environments with an interface that is responsive to students’ movements and physicality. They go on to state that educational researchers in the area of MR technology and embodied learning should focus on the following 6 strategies:

1) Ascribe to the benefits of body-based learning to everyone

  • though there is learning variation to consider, they believe that this type of learning is beneficial to all types of learners, not just kinaesthetic ones. As such, the design of MR for education should be sensitive to cultural, physical and other types of differences among students

2) Assert action-concept congruencies

  • They argue that to achieve educational goals, MR learning enivornmenst should be built upon substantiated links between physical actions that students perform and construction of new concepts (high embodiment interactions)

3) Augmentation should augur well

  • I think their point on this one is that the MR tech should be used wisely and purposefully. Examples would be to overlay representational supports onto real-world experience, include unobservable phenomena, point out salient information, conduct multiple experiments in a short amount of time etc.

4) Introduce opportunities for collaborative implementation

5) Pair lab studies with real-world implementation

  • They state that initial approach to studying a particular MR and learning would be to begin with controlled studies that examines specific affordances of MR tech from building conceptual knowledge before testing it in a authentic context (such as a school)

6) Re-envision assessment

  • MR and embodied learning environments may have effects of learners’ intuition and understanding, perceptual acuity and their willingness to explore the domain but this may not be detected in traditional assessment methods. Thus the authors advocate for designing assessments that are more fit for this type of learning environment. They also state that delayed assessment is important

Now, keeping all of this in mind, I read a paper by Kamarainen et al (2013). This article explored utility of augmented reality paired with a handheld environmental probe to deliver an enhanced situated learning experience to students during a middle school ecosystem science field trip. The augmented reality portion was delivered through a mobile wireless device, which helped students navigate the pond environment and delivered virtual media and information overlaid on the physical pond. AR was also used to direct students to “hotspots” where they were instructed to use the environmental probe to collect measurements. There were several benefits of using AR with the environmental probe, which include:

  •  ability to provide contextualized, just-in-time instruction
  • self-directed collection of real-world data and images
  • social interactivity
  • facilitate cognition distributed among people tools and context
  • and provide individualized scaffolding

Their study found that students learned the intended content well according to a pre-and post activity content assessment, reported a high degree of self-efficacy and had a positive experience during the field trip.

However, I had several questions regarding this research study. For example, it’s hard to assess how much AR actually contributed to student content learning. Could something as low tech as a map and some written information been sufficient to produce the same effect? Is the content knowledge gained sustained? After the novelty of the new technology wears off, will engagement still be high? Was there some other way that AR could be used in a more high embodiment interaction? What is the cost (both for the program and time required to create the AR environment for a particular location) of creating such a program? Is it worth the cost? And could a teacher run a similar field trip without the tech support that was needed (2 researchers provided tech support during each field trip in addition to the one teacher and field trip coordinator that was also present)? I think AR provides a really intriguing field in education with a lot of potential but further research is needed.


1. Have you come across any VR or AR environments for education that use high embodiment interactions?
2. In your opinion, are the costs of these VR or AR environments prohibitory to their use in education?



Kamarainen, A. M., Metcalf, S., Grotzer, T., Browne, A., Mazzuca, D., Tutwiler, M. S., & Dede, C. (2013). EcoMOBILE: Integrating augmented reality and probeware with environmental education field trips. Computers & Education, 68, 545–556.

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.

One comment

  1. Momoe

    I like the fact that you discussed augmented reality and also, whether currently, the cost of developing content for high school is prohibitory.

    I wonder if you could share some links where we can view augmented reality that could be used in the K-12 environment.

    A good next step might be to explore what is being used in the “gaming world” and determine which instructional design principles are being used and whether they would be the same for the K-12 environment.

    To keep the conversation going — make sure to respond to at least three other learners as well respond to all learners that respond to your own post. When responding to other learners — try to use a reference to support your ideas/thesis/point of view etc.


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