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?


Immersive VR for Learning Physics in the High Schools of Cyprus

Immersive VR simulations are argued to support students’ learning of complex scientific concepts due to the use of realistic graphics and interactions to represent scientific phenomena that students can hardly experience in everyday life. However, the integration of VR simulations in K-12 science classrooms introduces new challenges due to the lack of learning designs that can inform their effective deployment. In this work, we present a technology-integration scenario seeking to introduce an immersive VR simulation in Physics classrooms to support high-school students’ understanding of Special Theory of Relativity. We evaluate the learners’ experience, considering their perceptions of technology integration as well as their conceptual learning gains. 

Embodied Education: Technology-Enhanced 4E Learning in the Classroom

The concepts of embodiment and embodied learning are gaining traction in the field of Education, deeply rooted in theories of 4E (Embodied, Enactive, Extended, and Embedded) Cognition. New and affordable educational technologies (e.g., motion-based technologies, AR, VR) enable researchers and practitioners to include more gestures and body movements into their learning designs. Our recent work focuses on 4E learning, mediated by technology, in CSCL settings. The work provides insights on best practices for conducting embodied learning in the classroom and its positive impact on learning. It becomes apparent that the implementation of embodied learning in CSCL settings requires special attention to issues of classroom orchestration, referring to how teachers design technology-enhanced 4E learning classrooms and manage the learning activities and constraints in real-time. 

[Ioannou, A. (2019). Embodied Education: Technology-Enhanced 4E Learning in the Classroom. Special (invited) session at the 13th International Conference on Computer Supported Learning (CSCL 2019): What can 4E cognition tell us about CSCL successes and failures?]

Technology-enhanced Embodied Learning in Authentic Classroom Settings

Embodied learning activities supported by motion-based technologies are becoming popular in various contexts and settings. However, little is yet known about technology integration for embodied learning in groups in authentic classroom settings, as existing studies have been mostly conducted in laboratory settings. In this work, we examine students’ learning and perceptions of technology integration for group learning in a high-embodied Kinect-based condition, in comparison with a low-embodied, desktop-based condition, using the respective versions of the Alien Health game. Findings showed larger learning gains and more positive perceptions of technology integration for the students in the low-embodied condition. Factors related to classroom orchestration inform the findings of the study and guide future research in this area.

[Ioannou, M., Georgiou, Y., Ioannou, A., Johnson-Glenberg, M. (2019). On the understanding of students’ learning and perceptions of technology integration in low- and high-embodied group learning. Proceedings of the 13th International Conference on Computer Supported Collaborative Learning.]

Educational robotics as tools for group metacognition and collaborative knowledge construction in STEM education

The affordances of Educational Robotics (ER) for advancing teaching and learning has become a widely researched topic. Our work aims to investigate the mediating role of ER as mindtools in supporting collaborative knowledge construction and metacognitive thinking. Data analysis involves micro-level examination of students’ discourse, interaction with the technology, peers and the facilitator, via analysis of video and audio recordings. Findings show that metacognition, along with questioning and answering, are prevalent elements of collaborative knowledge construction around ER. Also, ER activities can help to significantly improve students’ ability to regulate their own cognition performing actions of metacognitive regulation such as planning, monitoring, and debugging . We support that ER can be used as a learning tool and can be effective in supporting group metacognition through immediate feedback, openly accessible programmability and students’ embodied interaction with the physical robot, within a CSCL setting.

[Socratous, C., & Ioannou, A. (2019). An empirical study of educational robotics as tools for group metacognition and collaborative knowledge construction. Proceedings of the 13th International Conference on Computer Supported Collaborative Learning.]

Learning through Making, Tinkering, Coding and Play

Computational-making-enhanced activities, framed as activities promoting making, tinkering, coding and play in the learning process, have gained a lot of attention during the last decade. Despite the significant interest in this type of activities, the majority of research has focused on implementations in informal learning contexts. Our work takes computational-making into the classroom allowing young learners to engage in projects using arts, crafts, and technological tools such as physical robots. We investigate learners’ knowledge gains and attitudes in the areas of STEAM, as well as their development of 21st-century skills. Our findings suggest that young students can greatly benefit from computational-making-enhanced activities integrated into the school curriculum.

[Timotheou, S., Ioannou, A. (2019). On a making- & -tinkering STEAM approach to learning Mathematics: Knowledge gains, attitudes, and 21 st century skills. Proceedings of the 13th International Conference on Computer Supported Collaborative Learning.]

Learning via Embodied Applications in Mathematics

Investigating the Role of Embodied Technologies in Learning in Mathematics: Can technology facilitate? This two-year project focused on an investigation of the potential added value of motion-based technologies in embodied learning in the context of geometry elementary education, taking into account that despite the rapid development of motion-based technologies, their role in embodied learning, positive or detrimental, remains ambivalent. In particular, as part of the project we compared the impact of a digital and a non-digital embodied learning intervention in geometry on primary school students’ conceptual learning gains, engagement and cognitive load. Results reveal that, while students’ cognitive load was not differentiated, students in the digital intervention outperformed their counterparts in the non-digital intervention, in terms of learning gains and emotional engagement

[e.g., Georgiou, Y., Ioannou A. & Kosmas, P. (Forthcoming). Comparing a digital and a non-digital embodied learning intervention in geometry: Can technology facilitate? Technology, Pedagogy and Education Journal [also presented at EARLI 2019, Aachen, Germany].

Embodied Learning IN the Classroom

Investigating Technology-Enhanced Embodied Learning in real classroom settings: Students’ Performance and Learning Gains. A three-year empirical investigation of four consecutive phases in an authentic elementary classroom environment. Results reveal significant gains in students’ cognitive performance (i.e. short-memory skills), motor skills (i.e. psychomotor ability and psychomotor speed) and academic performance in language learning and vocabulary acquisition



[e.g., Kosmas P., Ioannou A., & Retalis S. (2017). Using Embodied Learning Technology to Advance Motor Performance of Children with Special Educational Needs and Motor Impairments. In: Lavoué É., Drachsler H., Verbert K., Broisin J., Pérez- Sanagustín M. (eds) Data Driven Approaches in Digital Education. EC-TEL 2017. Lecture Notes in Computer Science, vol 10474. Springer, Cham

Learning via Motion-based 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.

[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. Tech Trends, 62(6),pp 594–601. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11528-018-0294-5 ]

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 for Computational Thinking 

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.]

Interest and Caring Behaviour around Humanoid Robots

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.]


Comments are closed.