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Enacting elementary geometry: Participatory ‘haptic’ sense making

Price, S; Yiannoutsou, N; Johnson, R; Outhwaite, L; (2020) Enacting elementary geometry: Participatory ‘haptic’ sense making. Digital Experiences in Mathematics Education 10.1007/s40751-020-00079-z. Green open access

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A central assumption within the embodied cognition paradigm is that particular action experiences are instrumental in providing children with sensorimotor contingencies that form the foundation for conceptualisation of and, later, communication of mathematical ideas. Digital technology designs that foster specific movements offer promising foundations for young children’s mathematical learning, together with haptic technologies that newly bring tactile sensorimotor experiences for children to draw on. This article reports on a qualitative study examining the role of a haptic learning environment supporting 7–8-year-old children’s embodied exploration of 3D shape. It examined the in situ dynamic unfolding of interaction of pairs of children, as they engaged with a haptic device. Multimodal analysis was focused on the process of how the prescribed enaction of the device-mediated interaction, the kinds of action experiences and action schemes it elicited and the strategies children collaboratively developed to complete tasks. Findings show how specific action experiences and, later, communication experiences, were shaped, not only by the prescribed enaction of the design, but also by embodied participatory sense-making, and demonstrate the potential for haptic technology in mediating new learning experiences for mathematics. An increasing body of work within the embodied cognition paradigm provides evidence of the importance of sensorimotor experience for cognition and mathematical learning (e.g. Barsalou 2008; Cress et al. 2010; Abrahamson and Trninic 2011). A central tenet is around the role of particular action experiences: (a) in the development of action schemes as foundations for new ways of conceptualising mathematical ideas (Abrahamson and Sánchez-García 2016) and (b) in providing sensorimot orcontingencies that underpin gestural forms of communication that can be used later for explaining mathematical ideas (e.g. Gerofsky 2012; Alibali and Nathan 2012; Gallagher and Lindgren 2015; Johnson-Glenberg 2018). Sensorimotor contingencies draw on notions that perception through active engagement is intimately linked to skillful action, rather than fully computed in the brain (Buhrmann et al. 2013). The increasing potential for digital learning experiences to be designed to foster specific movement and sensory experience highlights the need to understand better ways in which these environments shape young children’s interaction and cognition. For example, children’s arm movements can be dynamically linked to visualisations that show changes in angle size (Walkington et al. 2014). Multisensory digital learning environments offer new ways for children to engage with mathematical ideas through multimodal forms of engagement. Multimodal resources provide access to information from different sensory perspectives and opportunities for participatory sense making where active participation is central to developing meaning around objects and interaction (De Jaegher and Di Paolo 2007). Haptic technologiesuse input and output devices, such as data gloves or joysticks, allowing users to feel different sensations through force feedback or vibrating sensors, and are commonly linked to related visual representations. Such technologies particularly bring the tactile into interaction, supporting constructivist, embodied forms of learning through sensory active learning experiences. Furthermore, they offer opportunities for exploiting perceptual and bodily experiences, by designing environments that shape particular actions and gestures during interaction. As Bivall et al. (2011) claim, “Providing haptic experience of a phenomenon, in addition to its visual aspects, would be expected to radically impact upon how people understand it” (p. 703), which enables learners to build richer multimodal representations (Zacharia 2015). Our study sought to identify the role of haptic interaction (through mediated action and tactile feedback) in fostering specific action experiences that might underpin conceptualisations of 3D shape, and the role of the body in participatory sense making with children aged 7–8 years. A purposefully designed learning environment dynamically combined haptic experience of 3D shape through tactile interaction in 3D space with a 2D digital visualisation. This brings forward new sensorimotor experiences for children to draw on: for example, tactile sensations as they move along edges, vertices and corners that form the key properties of shape create sensorimotor pathways related to geometrical learning. By analysing in situ dynamic unfolding of interaction with pairs of children as they engage with mathematical ideas around 3D shape, our study sought to answer the following research questions: how can haptic interaction foster specific action experiences that shape the way that children conceptualise 3D shape? How do these experiences shape children’s communication of ideas around 3D shape? How do children use their body as an instrument for participatory sense making while interacting with the haptic device?

Type: Article
Title: Enacting elementary geometry: Participatory ‘haptic’ sense making
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1007/s40751-020-00079-z
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1007/s40751-020-00079-z
Language: English
Additional information: This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.
Keywords: Embodied cognition, Haptic, Multisensory, Mathematics, Elementary school, 2D/3D shape
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education > IOE - Culture, Communication and Media
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education > IOE - Learning and Leadership
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education > IOE - Learning and Leadership > Centre for Education Policy and Equalising Opportunities
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10109988
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