Inspired by movement-based games like the Wii, NYU-Poly professor Katherine Isbister studies the way that movement influences learning. As an example, she has piloted a program using “power poses” with middle school girls learning math. She hopes to demonstrate that these poses will reduce math anxiety, leading to better learning outcomes. She is also director of a new Game Innovation Lab at NYU-Poly.
Isbister is looking pretty specifically at the emotional experience of movement. I also like to incorporate movement into my classes in two ways. One is that a movement-based exercise is memorable. Getting the students out of their seats redirects their focus, which inevitably will wander during a long lecture. Second, movement allows the students to directly experience distance and space, for spatial subjects. For example, in my economic geography class, I discuss various mathematical models of optimal location, e.g. where do you want to put a hospital so that it provides the lowest total travel time to the served population? In introducing this topic, I will have the students physically place themselves around the classroom and count floor tiles as they move from their “house” to the “hospital”.
Using movement in this way is actually a lot less ambitious than what Isbister is doing, as I’m using movement to get across content that, at its core, already involves movement—of people or goods. But whereas the subject of economic geography deals with movement through space, Isbister is studying movement of bodies, and the cognitive and emotional affects of that movement. Nonetheless, her research indicates that I’m on the right track, and should be doing more lessons like this.