Today’s educational technology often presents itself as a radical departure from the tired practices of traditional instruction. But in one way, at least, it faithfully follows the conventions of the chalk-and-blackboard era: it addresses itself only to the student’s head, leaving the rest of the body out.
Treating mind and body as separate is an old and powerful idea in Western culture, dating to Descartes and before. But this venerable trope is facing down a challenge from a generation of researchers—in cognitive science, psychology, neuroscience, even philosophy—who claim that we think with and through our bodies. Even the most abstract mathematical or literary concepts, they maintain, are understood in terms of the experience of our senses and of moving ourselves through space. This perspective, known as “embodied cognition,” is now becoming a lens through which to look at educational technology. Work in the field shows promising signs that incorporating bodily movements—even subtle ones—can improve the learning that’s done on computers.
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