SMALLab’s FLOW Encourages Students to be (Physically) Active Learners
1.30.12 | In some classrooms, students are often told, “Sit down.” Or, rather, “Sit down, NOW.” But classrooms using FLOW encourage students to stand up, move around, and make some noise.
It’s based on SMALLab’s mixed reality platform, the Situated Multimedia Arts Learning Lab, which uses human-computer interaction to teach academic concepts. To make it work, students use their hands and bodies to create and manipulate images, sounds, text and graphics. The lessons are often collaborative and multimodal, meaning students can see, hear and touch their experiences.
With the new FLOW, this technology can be used with any existing Interactive Whiteboard or projection surface using a single motion-capture camera, similar to the Xbox Kinect. Students move about in 3-D spaces, engaging with the lesson content. “This kinesthetic engagement,” according to the launch announcement, “opens new pathways to learning.”
SMALLab was created in 2010 by an interdisciplinary team of researchers and media experts at Arizona State University, led by David Birchfield. The spin-off company, SMALLab Learning, was founded that same year by Birchfield and Mina Johnson-Glenberg. It mission is to advance embodied learning in schools and museums.
The work has been supported by the MacArthur Foundation and the National Science Foundation, among others, and has been tested in classrooms around the country, including at the new Chicago Quest charter school, modeled after Quest to Learn in New York City. Read about it here.
The Institute of Play, Quest to Learn’s founding partner organization, helped create Color Mixer Scenario, one of the games used in the curriculum. Students learn how to identify parts of a whole by controlling the amount of red, green and blue light that is mixed in a virtual spotlight. By raising and lowering their arms, students are able “to see a dynamic mix of colors, hear the impact of their actions, and feel the relationship between gesture and how a variable changes.”
In conjunction with the launch of FLOW, SMALLab is holding a national design contest for K-12 teachers. Teachers are invited to submit proposals for how to use embodied learning in the classroom—and specifically how to use the FLOW platform to address difficult learning concepts. Winners will receive a free Flow installation and a copy of their proposed scenario, built by SMALLab’s developers. The entry deadline is April 1.
You can watch SMALLab in action below:
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