Embodied Play And Learning Using Technology

How can technologically-mediated ‘play-like’ activity enrich the learning experience and support the development of knowledge and skills, based on the assumption that we Learn as we Play while engaging our (physical or digital) bodies and brains?

Motion-based embodied learning games 

Within the spirit of playful and gameful design for learning, our recent studies have been inspired by technological advancements, namely motion-based technologies (e.g., Xbox Kinect, or Leap Motion) and contemporary theory of Embodied Cognition. Embodied learning, under the lens of Embodied Cognition theory, emphasises on the inseparable link between brain, body and the world; it considers that the active human body can alter the function of the brain and therefore the cognitive process. That said, embodied learning environments compose an emergent category of digital environments, which integrate gestures or even full-body movement into the act of learning. Much of our recent work on playful and embodied learning is currently under review.

Gameful design for learning

A model of gameful design for learning using interactive tabletops is the outcome of a series of studies concerned with playful collaboration and social outcomes, including social perspective taking, peacemaking, mediated by interactive tabletops. The model was enacted and evaluated in the context of socio-emotional education. Traditional lessons were enriched by collaborative work on interactive tabletops using gameful activities. We demonstrated the ways in which the students draw on recently-acquired knowledge, engage in dramatic play, share the digital space and collaborate intensively to achieve a new and refined understanding of concepts and behaviors linked to perspective-taking. We discussed how tabletops, in synergy with constructivist pedagogy and principles of gameful design, enable communication, collaboration, and perspective-taking.


[e.g., Ioannou, A. (2018). A model of gameful design for learning using interactive tabletops: Enactment and evaluation in the socio-emotional education classroom. Educational Technology Research & Development: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11423-018-9610-1. ]

Embodied Play and Learning on Interactive Surfaces

The notion that engaging the body brings additional value in learning has lead researchers in evaluating technology-enhanced, whole-body learning experiences. Yet, we still need compelling evidence for the applicability of relevant tools and methods in school classrooms. We conducted a series of exploratory case studies with elementary-school students using interactive floors or walls in typical school settings. Results demonstrate that embodied learning methods are well received by both students and teachers, can be successfully used in formal educational settings, can promote children’s engagement, and can help researchers to advance their views of the mechanisms of cognitive processing; yet, cognitive phenomena require more careful investigation.


[e.g., Ioannou, M., & Ioannou, A. (2018). Playing with fractions on an interactive floor: An exploratory case study in the math classroom. In J. Kay & R. Luckin (Eds.), Rethinking Learning in the Digital Age: Making the Learning Sciences Count, 13th International Conference of the Learning Sciences (ICLS) 2018 (Vol. 3, pp. 1635-1636). London, UK: ISLS.]

Movement-based Learning using Kinect-based Games

From an embodied learning perspective, the active human body can alter the function of the brain and therefore, the cognitive process. In this work, children’s activity using motion-based technology is framed as an example of embodied learning. This work focuses on the use of a series of Kinect-based educational games by elementary students with special educational needs in mainstream schools. Results based on psychometric pre-post testing in conjunction with games-usage analytics, a student attitudinal scale, teachers’ reflection notes and teacher interviews, demonstrate the positive impact of the games on children’s short-term memory skills and emotional stage.


[e.g., Kosmas, P., Ioannou, A., Retalis, S. (2018). Moving bodies to moving minds: A study of the use of motion-based games in special education. Techtrends: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11528-018-0294-5 ]

Expanding the Curricular Space with Educational Robotics 

While initiatives worldwide continue to place pressure on schools to improve STEM education, the already overcrowded curriculum often leaves little space for the integration of new courses or topics. In the end, most educational robotics activities are done outside the curriculum such as in after-school programs and summer camps. We work on the creative and non-intrusive integration of educational robotics to support the current school curricula. We present examples of expanding the curricular space, by integrating educational robotics in an existing course units.


[e.g., Ioannou A., Socratous, C., Nikolaedou, E. (2018). Expanding the Curricular Space with Educational Robotics : A Creative Course on Road Safety. EC-TEL 2018. Lecture Notes in Computer Science, Springer (in press).]

Educational Robotics and 21st Century Skills

A few studies have investigated the effectiveness of educational robotics (ER) as technological means which can support the development of CT but, issues of measurement of CT (i.e., using validated instruments) seem to hinder the validity of these investigations. This work addresses students’ CT gains linked to their participation in ER activities. Quantitative results show that the students who participated in the ER interventions demonstrated significant improvement in their CT skills. This work extends the evidence of the potential of using ER to improve students’ CT skills in K-12 contexts.


[e.g.,  Constantinou, V., & Ioannou A. (2018). Development of Computational Thinking Skills through Educational Robotics. EC-TEL 2018. Lecture Notes in Computer Science, Springer.
Socratous, C., & Ioannou, A. (2018). A Study of Collaborative Knowledge Construction in STEM via Educational Robotics. In J. Kay & R. Luckin (Eds.), Rethinking Learning in the Digital Age: Making the Learning Sciences Count, 13th International Conference of the Learning Sciences (ICLS) 2018 (Vol. 1, pp. 496-503). London, UK: ISLS.]

Preschoolers’ Interest and Caring Behaviour around a Humanoid Robot

The study involved NAO and four children in pre-primary school aged 3-5 years. NAO was placed in a playground together with other toys and children were encouraged to interact with NAO and play as they wished. The results of the study showed that children can easily interact with this humanoid robot. They showed particular interest to NAO when he danced and when he was in need of help (for example when he fell down) demonstrating caring behavior such as kisses, hugs, and cuddling.


[e.g., Ioannou, A., Andreou, E., Christofi, M. (2015). Preschoolers’ interest and caring behaviour around a humanoid robot. TechTrends, 59 (2), 23-26.]

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