EMBODIED COGNITION PROJECTS
At ILT, we take a grounded/embodied cognition approach to mental models. This approach says that students reason about systems by being able to visualize and mentally animate entities that interact and affect each other. We see these mental models as representing a deeper level of understanding than we usually get from students. We are currently conducting a series of research projects that examine the learning, understanding, and motivational effectiveness of various ways of providing this grounding/embodiment, using different combinations of technologies
Project Director: Dr. John Black
iWorld (Imaginary World)
This project examines whether having students create their own video games increases their engagement, understanding and learning of different math and science concepts used, as well as their language arts skills. As part of this effort, we have developed a semester-long after-school program for younger students in which they learn what constitutes a game, different aspects of game and graphic design, and relevant computer programming concepts (such as loops and variables) and mathematical concepts (such as operators). Using Scratch, a programming language developed at the MIT Media Lab, students are designing and creating a variety of game genres (including action, adventure, platform, side-scrollers, pinball, strategy, and racing) or even inventing new ones.
Researchers: Cameron Fadjo, Greg Hallman, Ronah Harris
ARIA (Associating Real and Imaginary Agents)
This project investigates whether having students program physical robots increases their engagement, understanding, and learning of different math and science concepts when compared both to traditional instruction and to programming animated robots on the computer screen. As part of this effort, we have designed an after-school program for 3rd- to 6th-grade students who use the LEGO Mindstorms NXT to build, program, and test simple robots that meet a series of increasingly complex challenges.
Researchers: Jonathan Vitale, Eric Carson, Tim Chang
HEAT (Handheld Embodied-cognition Augmented-reality Technology)
This project investigates whether having students program and directly control robots with handheld devices, such as cell phones, increases their engagement, understanding, and learning of programming concepts. As part of this project, we have designed an after-school program for 4th- to 8th-grade students who use the LEGO Mindstorms NXT to build, program and test competition-level robots.
Researchers: Daoquan Li, Insook Han, Seokmin Kang, Carol Lu
REflective Agent Learning environment project (REAL)
Inspired by Betty's Brain, and other teachable agents developed by Daniel Schwartz and his colleagues? our group REAL (REflective Agent Learning environment) attempts to investigate further the impact of learning by teaching, and develop our own novel framework that incorporates learning by teaching in an educational gaming environment. Our system architecture is based on the classic Intelligent Tutoring Systems, which allow us to understand learners better by providing adaptive, just-in-time instructions. The real-time communication between the client and the socket server through the web makes it possible that pedagogical strategies and the main reasoning mechanisms be maintained and updated with ease; it also allows us to gather and analyze the data about the students?mental models for further evaluation.
Project Director: Dr. John Black
GeoGames is a set of digital activities for elementary school students that are based on research into children's conceptions of the world and are designed to help with geography concepts and mapping skills. In “playing?GeoGames, students build a globe, layer by layer, in an online environment. They first build Planet Earth, adding the North and South poles, continents, mountains and rivers. They can then add political entities' ountries and their major cities. And finally, they can map journeys. These components can be used separately or together, and in any order, depending on the teacher's goals and the students' needs. The built globe also appears, and can be printed, as a flat map, helping students understand map projections.
GeoGames is being developed in collaboration with Reach the World, a not-for-profit foundation that offers professional development to teachers in New York City public schools.
Funded by a grant from the National Geographic Education Fund
Project Director: Dr. Susan Lowes