Fun with fads: embodied learning

“Embodied learning” lets students combine computer simulations with movement, reports Ed Week, visiting Elizabeth Forward Middle School in Pennsylvania. The school invested $35,000 in a SMALLab.

. . . a student learning about chemistry would be able to grab and combine molecules in a virtual flask projected on a floor mat through the use of motion-capture cameras that sense movement and body position.

“By combining concepts like kinetic learning and collaborative learning, students are able to absorb information more effectively,” claims David Birchfield, one of SMALLab’s creators.

While many of the lessons deal with learning in the stem subjects—science, technology, engineering, and math—Mr. Birchfield cited a scenario that involves students’ bodies symbolically filling in for a character in a novel. If they want to access information about their characters’ thought processes, for example, students tap their own heads, or for content about characters’ emotions, they touch their own hearts.

Teachers and students like the lab, says Principal Michael Routh. However, it’s too soon to say whether students are learning more.

Let’s take this one step further, snarks Katherine Beals on Out in Left Field: Replace virtual reality with Reality.

Instead of waving wands in front of projected images to explore gravity and blend colors, students could pick up and drop objects in 3D space and manipulate actual 3D light-emitting devices and prisms! Instead of grabbing and combining molecules in a virtual flask projected on a floor mat, students could use actual chemicals and actual flasks! And instead of accessing information about their characters’ thought processes by tapping their own heads, or about characters’ emotions by touching their own hearts, they could pick up an actual 3D book and read it!

It’s just a thought experiment, writes Beals.

I tried out an embodied learning lab at a high-tech school in Chicago. A partner and I used wands to move a line of light on a mat to . . . Hmmm. Make a shape? At the time, I knew the goal, but not what students were supposed to be learning.

Schools find wiggle room in PE mandate

Fourth graders act out vocabulary words such as bewildered, marvel and reminded at a Rochester school, reports the Democrat and Chronicle. To teach number placement, Michael Ram has students change order in a line.

“There’s always an opportunity to get them moving,” said  Ram, who even taps into the transition time between lessons for physical activity.

The district laid off most of its PE teachers to save money, then told classroom teachers to meet the state requirement of 120 minutes of physical activity weekly for K-6 students. Some try to integrate movement with academic lessons, while others schedule breaks for Wii athletics or Dance Dance Revolution.

Rather than passing out lesson materials, Wendy O’Rourke organizes materials at stations throughout the room and has her students walk around to collect them. During a reading lesson this week, O’Rourke equips each of her students with a Velcro mitt and has them sit in groups tossing a ball to each other every time she says the word toss. She hopes this will not only help her students pay attention so that they listen for the word, but keep them moving.

It’ll never replace jumping jacks, but might make lessons more engaging, writes The Quick and the Ed.

Keeping second-graders on the ball

Rachel Anglin, a second-grade teacher at Greenbrook Elementary in Southaven, Mississippi is on the ball. Anglin and her 24 students are sitting on exercise balls donated by a local fitness center, reports the Memphis Commercial Appeal.

The balls “help the mind,” Anglin says. “If your body is working, your mind is working.”

The rules state, “Two feet on the ground,” “Balls stay on the floor,” and “No jumping, rolling or bouncing high.”

A little bouncing is fine.  “It helps them get the wiggles out,” Anglin says.