By Patricia (Pati) Ruiz
NSF recently hosted the Advancing STEM Learning for All 2016 Video Showcase. The showcase included 156 videos of innovative work being done in the STEM fields across the country. I served as one of 35 facilitators for the 2016 showcase, which means that I reviewed and commented on the videos, and used a rubric to vote for best videos. The videos from the 2016 showcase (as well as the 2015 showcase) are all publicly available for anyone to view. They can be filtered by several categories, such as keyword, age/grade level, and state. As a K12 educator, I found the age/grade level filter especially helpful as I tried to find projects related to the work that I do in 9-12 education.
One topic that blew my mind was the work being done around embodied design. Embodied learning designs set up the conditions for learners to engage their body in learning activities through interactive learning environments and whole-body interactive simulations (Lindgren, Tscholl, Wang, & Johnson, 2016). In a recent study of middle school students, Lindgren, and colleagues (2016) found that enacting physics concepts and experiencing these critical ideas in an immersive, whole-body interactive simulation led to significant learning gains, higher levels of engagement, and more positive attitudes towards science when compared to viewing a desktop version of the same simulation. One of the researchers behind this study, Robb Lindgren, submitted this video to the showcase: Gesture Augmented Simulations for Supporting Explanations. Other examples of embodied learning include a video about Advancing New Science Learning and Inquiry Experiences via Custom-Designed Wearable On-Body Sensing and Visualization and this one about VEnvI: Learning Computational Thinking Through Creative Movement.
Wanting to learn more, I went to circlcenter.org where I found the DIP: Developing Crosscutting Concepts in STEM with Simulation and Embodied Learning project and the Promoting Learning through Annotation of Embodiment (PLAE) project. I also found more information on VEnvI: Exploring Grounded Embodied Pedagogy in Support of Computational Thinking. As a teacher, I appreciate projects with content and ideas that are immediately applicable in the classroom. For example, VEnvI software is available for download and use in classrooms; the team is currently seeking funding for wider dissemination to teachers and students. Their software allows students to program a virtual character to move in realistic ways. In the showcase video, the VEnvI team shows clips of the dance routines that they have developed to help students learn programming concepts. Students first learn a dance routine and then move to computers where they program their avatar to do the same routine they just learned. You can see students repeating the routines as they write their program, engaging their bodies in the learning activity. I haven’t found the dance routines available to teachers online, but I can clearly see the value of movement to teach basic computer science concepts.
As a teacher who might benefit from this team’s work, I hope the team gets more funding for the implementation stage of this project. Thinking about other practitioners who might also benefit from the work by this team makes me wonder how the team might disseminate this project to a broader audience. Modifying the VEnvI website to provide a space for teachers to develop and share content for the tool might be one way to do this. Like other projects that are still in the development or concept stages, this project will be very interesting to follow.
I encourage other teachers and practitioners to take a look at the Advancing STEM Learning for All 2016 Video Showcase. Comments and videos are accessible on the Video Showcase site, so go check them out. While you can no longer comment there, you can leave comments here about the videos and we’ll get them to the researchers. Please look for next year’s showcase where you, too, can provide feedback to researchers!
Lindgren, R., Tscholl, M., Wang, S., & Johnson, E. (2016). Enhancing learning and engagement through embodied interaction within a mixed reality simulation.Computers & Education, 95, 174-187.