Saturday, July 12, 2014

"Embodied Cognition" We Think With and Through Our Bodies

I love learning new terms and putting language to concepts; it helps me to learn it better and also helps me to explain it to others better. Allowing students to move so they can learn and think has been a constant theme in this blog, and the term "embodied cognition," thinking with and through our bodies from the article "The Body Learns"  by Annie Murphy Paul on Slate.com discusses the importance of getting the body involved in the learning process.

In a series of experiments carried out more than a decade ago, Arthur Glenberg of Arizona State University "found that children’s reading comprehension improved when they acted out a written text, using a set of representational toys (a miniature barn and horse, for example, accompanied a story about a farm). Glenberg then demonstrated that the same procedure could work on a digital platform: In a 2011 experiment, he showed that having first- and second-grade students manipulate images of toys on a computer screen after reading a story benefits their comprehension as much as physical manipulation of the toys."

Games are also an important learning tool for students and not just for the young ones either; we use games all the time at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Never make the mistake of thinking that what you're doing is too childish for the students in front of you; they'll love it. Here's a great game described in the article: 

"Mina Johnson Glenberg (who is married to Arthur Glenberg and also works at Arizona State, as director of the university’s Embodied Games for Learning lab) is taking the embodied approach even further, designing educational games that engage learners’ entire bodies.
program called the Alien Health Game, for example, presents students with this scenario: “You have just woken up to find an alien under your bed. It is hungry and it is your job to figure out what makes it healthy.” From an array of foods, users learn to choose the ones that are most nutritious, and then must dance, jump, and exercise to help the alien digest his meal. (A bonus: The game is so physically active that it measurably elevates users’ heart rates.)"
Take a few moments to read it, and you just might agree. Of course the challenge, as always, is implementing this type of learning in a system that is set up to keep students quiet and in their seats. But that's the great thing about being a teacher: rising to the challenges and making them happen for our students.

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