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

Tangible Technologies in Early Education (TTEE)

Through teaching and studying a first grade after school robotics course, we are seeking to better understand how tangible technologies can be used by young children to promote 21st century skills such as spatial problem solving, metacognition, creativity, and complex sequencing. Using Terrapin Lego Bee-Bots, programmable robots, we are studying how embodiment in a variety of interfaces can affect success with the technology and scaffold learning of programming and sequencing skills. Additionally, we are conducting predominantly exploratory research into the use of engineering technology, specifically Lego WeDo kits, to facilitate children’s understanding of engineering and programming and enable a “learning-by-doing” paradigm for engineering skills. 

For more information, click here.

Researchers: Jenna Marks, Alison Lee, David Martinez, Ahram Choi,  Fran McGeeverRonah Harris

Mobile Movement + Math (M3)

[Under Construction]

Researchers: Michael Swart, Alison Lee, Archana VaidyanathanElle Yuan Wang

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
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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

Simulation-Based Learning

Project 1: Ideal gas law project
This simulation-base environment can be best applied in middle school science classroom. In this environment, students are able to learn how Temperature, Volume and Pressure of gas are interrelated and the mechanism underlying ideal gas law phenomena. Currently this is used as my dissertation study instrument.


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Project 2: Respiratory system simulation
This simulation-based environment can be best applied in middle school science classroom. The learning progress is structured following a whole-to-part, simple-to complex sequence.

Project 3: Nervous system and pain perception simulation
This simulation-based environment is designed for college-level students to learn some neuroscience concepts. This project is designed for research purposes (comparing different learning sequences and testing the function of dynamic link)

Researcher: Na Li

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 Jing Zhao

G-SUVEIS (Grounding Scientific Understanding in Visually Explicit, Integrated Simulations)

cellular_ModelThis project examines how to ground students’ understanding of physics purely in vision and haptic representations, with an emphasis on spatial representations.

Interactive Flash simulation have been created for teaching Coulomb’s Law of electrostatic force between charges, how voltage and current changes in series and parallel circuits, and how capacitance, charge, and electric field changes in a capacitor. In addition, signal transmission in a neuron has been simulated using an iterative visualization algorithm, whereby all information required to understand the action potential is represented using visually explicit, integrated animations. The iterative visual algorithm works by creating individual visual representations for each concept that comprises the action potential and them iterating each visualization throughout the simulation. Every concept in signal transmission is represented visually and comprehensively for the student.

For sample simulation, visit this website:

Researchers: Sat Virk


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