I Think, Therefore I Move: Understanding the How and When of Physical Embodiment in Educational Simulations and Games

Eddie Melcer – eddie.melcer@gmail.com – edwardmelcer.net

The notion of embodiment stems from the concept that cognition does not only occur in the mind but is also supported by bodily activity; situated in and interacting with our physical and social environment. Recent work on educational systems has shown the benefits of incorporating physicality, motion, and embodiment into designs. For instance, improved spatial recall and mental manipulation, more intuitive interfaces, increased engagement, greater positive feelings towards learning content, and enhanced collaboration. However, some studies have faced notable difficulty when attempting to utilize embodiment in their designs due to a broad conceptual usage of embodiment across multiple domains, leading to weak mappings between physical action, embodied cognition, and learning concepts. This ultimately raises questions of how and when embodiment can be beneficial within an educational application. Specifically 1) how can we effectively design embodiment into educational systems; 2) what affordances does embodiment provide to help facilitate learning through the meaning-making process; and 3) when a certain form of embodiment will lead weak or strong mappings between physical action, embodied cognition, and learning concepts?