Embodiment and Learning Theory Research

Embodied interaction with gestural interfaces (such as the iPad) involve more of our senses than traditional (mouse-based) interfaces, and in particular, includes direct touch and physical movement, which are widely acknowledged and recognized to help assimilate and retain the new experiential knowledge that is being acquired. There is growing evidence that gestures affect both thought and learning. In addition, there is a growing body of research that validates the use of physical manipulation of objects (whether actual or virtual using touch interfaces) promote learning.

Our recently released MathGlow app is a culmination of 7 years of rigorous research that demonstrated the merits of using the iPad in early math skill development vs. a computer with mouse and keyboard. You may read the full thesis on the Columbia University site: Do Gestural Interfaces Promote Thinking? Congruent Gestures and Direct-Touch Promote Performance in Math.

  • Movement (gestures) and touch were proved to support children's learning (Alibali et al., 1999; Chu & Kita, 2011; Goldin-Meadow, 2009; Segal, Black & Tversky, 2011)
  • Physical manipulation with real objects demonstrated support of learning (Barsalou, 1999; Glenberg et al., 2004; Ramini & Siegler, 2008)
  • Gestures (of gestural interfaces) that are congruent with the learned concepts were proved to promote children's learning performance (Segal, Black & Tversky, 2011)

The Gestural Interfaces of the iPad and iPhone combine gestures and touch:

  • The manipulation of objects on the screen of an iPad/iPhone is more direct and therefore supports children's cognition
  • The design of congruent gestures with the learned concept is crucial to support the cognition and learning (Segal, Black & Tversky, 2011)

iGeneration's MathGlow application was tested in schools on 130 children ages 4-8 years old:

  • Children who used MathGlow on the iPad performed better on addition and number-line estimation tasks than children who used mouse based interfaces. (Segal, Black & Tversky, 2011
  • Improved Number Sense Skills: MathGlow's Racing Numbers game predicts and can improve the child's math abilities. Number sense skills are correlated with children's future standardized test results and improved math skills.
  • MathGlow research by Segal, Black and Tversky is being published in "Theoretical foundations of student-centered learningenvironments." by D. Jonassen and S. Lamb (2011) 

MathGlow research by Segal, Black and Tversky was presented in the following conferences:

  • The Psychonomic Society Conference (Cognition), Nov. 2010, St. Louis, USA
  • NYC Subway Summit for Cognition and Learning, Feb. 2011, NYC, USA
  • APS: Association for Psychological Science, May 2010, Boston, USA
  • CHI: Human-Computer Interaction Conference, SMART workshop April 2010, Atlanta, USA
  • AERA: American Educational Research Association, April 2012, Vancouver, Canada.