At ILT, we take a grounded/embodied cognition approach to mental models. This approach says that students reason about systems by being able to visualize and mentally animate entities that interact and affect each other. We see these mental models as representing a deeper level of understanding than we usually get from students. We are currently conducting a series of research projects that examine the learning, understanding, and motivational effectiveness of various ways of providing this grounding/embodiment, using different combinations of technologies

Mobile Movement + Math (M3)

M3_Group_PicM3 is a two-year project granted by the National Science Foundation to investigate the role that mobile technologies can play in STEM learning.  The project is a collaborative effort between Teachers College and New York City public television affiliate WNET-13 and their Emmy award winning program, Cyberchase.  M3 explores the role that gestures play in our conceptual thinking about mathematical fractions.  The goal of the project is to develop a mobile gaming application that utilizes the gestures that best embody our understandings of fractions.

Researchers: Michael Swart, Alison Lee, Ben Friedman



SciMod3 is a research study that investigates how the use of a tablet, multimedia interface can impact and improve science text and graphic comprehension. Through the use of an eye-tracker and other research methodologies, we hope to discover how an expository text comprehension multimedia intervention can be developed for at-risk learners during their critical literacy period in the 4th grade, commonly referred to as the “fourth-grade slump”.

Researchers: Ben FriedmanAlison Lee, Lenin Compres

Invention Tutor

This project will develop a computer-based Invention Tutor to guide students through the challenging and messy process of Invention. The Invention Tutor will simulate the guidance of a well-trained inquiry teacher, who asks critical questions and gives feedback just at the right time, to push students’ thinking forward. This work will take us one step closer to scaling up a successful instructional technique, with the ultimate goal of enhancing deep learning and transfer in science domains, for both high and low-achieving student populations. The research will identify effective forms of support for Invention tasks and expand our understanding of the Invention process itself. More generally, findings may inform the field’s understanding of the process of discovery and how best to guide it. 

Principal Investigator: Catherine Chase
Researchers: Melissa Bradley, Jenna Marks

Math Models in Motion

Screen Shot 2013-01-14 at 8.31.16 PMMath Models in Motion seeks to improve student’s mathematical problem solving abilities by having students create and manipulate visual representations that match underlying problem schemas such as change, combination, and comparison situations. This project also seeks to discover how computer environments can best be designed to aid problem solving by exploring what virtual manipulatives should look like, how visual representations should be manipulated, and how prompts and feedback can aid students in applying problem solving strategies.

Researchers: Ben Friedman

Project LIVE: “Learning in Virtual Environments”

SecondLife_Khan1This ongoing project examines how surrogate embodiment and avatar role-play in virtual learning environments (including the MUVEs, Second Life and OpenSim) can be used to facilitate learning and motivation of learners of all ages across a wide range of domains.

Project Director: Saadia Khan


GEAR (Grounded Embodied Agent Robots)

gearThis project examines how learning, understanding, and motivation develop when students move their own bodies and then program robots to perform related movements, so that learning progresses from personal embodiment to embodiment through robot surrogates. In a series of experimental studies, student learning and understanding of programming, science, and math using this embodied experience are compared with learning without the embodied experience. The project is being conducted in Harlem schools participating in TC’s Harlem Ivy after-school program.

Researchers: Carol Lu, Douglas Huang

SimPhysics: Learning Conservation of Energy through Simulations

simphysics1SimPhysics uses a 3-D force feedback joystick to allow students to interact with a simulated environment. This unique simulation allows students to feel the weight of the object that they are holding or moving, as they would in real life. The specific simulation is a catapult that is used to teach mechanical energy transformation and conservation. When playing with SimPhysics, students can feel the differences in the weight of the projectile, feel how different types of energy affect the projectile in the air, and see how energy is transformed.

Researchers: Douglas Huang, Sorachai Kornkasem

Korean Vocabulary Learning Using Embodied Animations

The research project, Korean vocabulary learning using embodied animations, will be conducted in a college-level elementary Korean language classroom to investigate the effectiveness of embodied animations in learning Korean vocabulary and spelling for beginning learners of Korean as a Foreign Language. This research will also examine barriers and facilitators to successful implementation of high-quality academic foreign language instruction. The study uses a set of Korean vocabulary that is confusing to learn and difficult to spell and specifically focuses on comparing the learning outcome profiles of three conditional groups: Traditional Learning, Animation Learning, and Embodied Animation Learning.

Researchers: Junghyun AhnWoonhee Sung


geogamesthumbGeoGames is a set of digital activities for elementary school students that are based on research into children’s conceptions of the world and are designed to help with geography concepts and mapping skills. In playing GeoGames, students build a globe, layer by layer, in an online environment. They first build Planet Earth, adding the North and South poles, continents, mountains and rivers. They can then add political entities’ ountries and their major cities. And finally, they can map journeys. These components can be used separately or together, and in any order, depending on the teacher’s goals and the students’ needs. The built globe also appears, and can be printed, as a flat map, helping students understand map projections.

GeoGames is being developed in collaboration with Reach the World, a not-for-profit foundation that offers professional development to teachers in New York City public schools.

Funded by a grant from the National Geographic Education Fund
Project Director: Susan Lowes