Theme: Big ideas

Talk Session #1

Laurie Edwards - Embodiment & Constructivism: A Meta-Theoretical Critique

Both constructivism and embodiment have had significant impacts on the design of pedagogy and instructional tools. However, there seems to have been an interesting parallelism in how these theoretical frameworks have been assimilated into academia and/or communities of teaching practice. On the one hand, each framework can be seen as an epistemology, a theory of knowledge that offers an explanation of how learning (always) happens. On the other hand, both constructivism and embodiment have also been interpreted as prescriptive frameworks that offer guidance on how to modify teaching or technologies so that they are more effective. The goal of this talk is to open a conversation on whether these interpretations are compatible, both theoretically and in the practice of design.

Dor Abrahamson - Moving Perception Forward in Learning Sciences Discourse

Among educational researchers inspired by the embodied turn in the cognitive sciences, there is much ado about doing. Students’ motor behavior (the dynamic temporal–spatial kinesiological process of “doing”), historically eclipsed by its situated outcomes (the static, material, logical product of “done”), is now in the limelight of methods (innovative instruments generating movement data for multimodal learning analytics) and theorization (coordination-dynamics models of shifts between dynamical equilibria). By this token, while perception may be critical for enacting movement, it plays no more than a supporting role. This theoretical view is liable to engender a kinesiological emphasis in educational practice, where motor techniques are taught directly as a didactical means of improving student performance on manipulation tasks. Drawing on kinesiology, ecological psychology, Gestalt theory of motor control, enactivist theory, and dance philosophy, I interrogate the putative prominence of motor coordination in the phenomenology of enacting movement. Rather, I put forth, improvement to motor performance is epiphenomenal and consequential to the perceptual discovery of affordances in the situated domain of enactment. Once we discover how we should move to get a task done, motor actions self-assemble to enact that movement. As such, learning to move in new ways may take practice, but one’s attention and reflection are essentially on movement forms and feedback sensation, not on the intricacies of kinesiological selections, control, and performance. I offer implications for the design, facilitation, and evaluation of instructional activities, where students learn to enact movement forms that instantiate presymbolic mathematical notions. The good news is that shifting the heft of our field’s discourse from motor action to sensorimotor perception untethers the theorized phenomenology of embodied learning from the corporeal specification of particular situated enactments, opening its horizons to vistas of cross-situational application.

Ilona Iłowiecka-Tańska - Learning in The Science Center: Interaction with Hands-On Exhibits to Build Mathematical Concepts

Interaction with hands-on exhibits in museums and science centers engages learners in diverse and complex cognitive practices. The learning environment in museums is unstructured, free-choice and dynamic in terms of interactions between visitors. It therefore offers a unique space for researching the transition from naive to scientific knowledge. In interactions with exhibits – physical artifacts, embodied cognition often anticipates the verbalization of new STEM constructs. These new constructs are developed in processes of negotiating in which the critical moderator is exhibit design – but also spontaneous scaffolding offered by peer visitors, family and educators. In my presentation I will offer some cases that highlight how unique elements of the learning environment in a museum – limited control, social context, attention and objects – bear out in practice.

Karl Schaffer - A Very Brief Introduction to an Equal Partnership Between Mathematics and Dance

We will examine a couple of surprising connections between mathematics and dance, and see how playful kinesthetic activities and engaging visuals may illuminate larger questions of how the artistic mind may fuel the analytical mind and vice-versa. One of the activities involves several ways of exploring rhythm and movement. Mathematics and dance share surprisingly similar concerns: shape and geometry, pattern and symmetry, counting and estimation, design and structure, coherence and logic, change in time and space, and perhaps most importantly, a reverence for elegant solutions. These seemingly divergent disciplines may inspire each other and even address relevant, current topics. No matter what one's natural inclination—whether painting, dance, poetry, politics, physics, or design—the creative process is the fundamental fuel that drives human achievement across disciplines. This unified approach can also inspire new embodied methods for teaching and learning mathematics.

Mitchell Nathan - Embodied Meaning & Abstraction in Mathematics: Looming Questions

Learning to think mathematically about geometry means extending one’s intuitions about space, objects, and motion into generalized and abstracted properties and relations. Academic approaches often follow a “formalisms first” view of cognitive development, which leaves behind many students. Research in embodied mathematical cognition offers a framework for describing how movement and language combine to ground geometric reasoning, as exhibited by students’ intuition, insight, and proof performance. The framework informs design principles for learning and instruction, which have been applied to the implementation of a motion capture-based video game for promoting secondary-level geometry proof practices, “The Hidden Village.” Findings from experimental investigations and case studies using “The Hidden Village” in laboratory and classroom settings identify the promise of embodied approaches for promoting geometric reasoning. These experiences also highlight the challenges of moving from scientific research and theory to engineering effective learning environments that meet educational objectives.