Future Embodied Learning Technologies (FELT) is a programme we are creating at the Singapore-ETH Centre, not funded yet. We started this process in March 2024 and are currently defining our proposal and identifying relevant use cases, synergies, and collaborations. You can check our brochure (pdf) or the following for more details.

Problem statement

We evolve in a fast-paced world, transformed through technological revolutions. As a society, we need to prepare our learners and workers to be adaptive, meaning that they can adjust to new contexts, challenges, and required skill sets quickly; but also to be tech savvy, so that they can best leverage the novel technological possibilities and rise to new professional requirements.

This is a crucial societal pivot point for several reasons.

First, by failing to support this transition, we are at risk of widening the gap between those who can adapt, and those who cannot, typically low progress learners. We need to design educational interventions that work for all learners, with various backgrounds, technological competencies, as well as physical and cognitive abilities. We need to adopt a core focus on diversity.

Second, one of Singapore’s education core values is to promote a healthy lifestyle, and support the physical and mental health of learners and workers, throughout their entire lifespan. With the rapid expansion of technology, we are at risk of creating socially alienating, emotions agnostic, and stationary learning settings, resulting in a loss of motivation, poorer learning outcomes, worse physical and mental health, and low socio-emotional skills in general. We need to design learning settings that account for well-being.

Third, while other programmes have been looking at this challenge in the past, most of them focus on observational studies, rather than interventions. Moreover, the rare promising educational interventions are often costly to implement as they require significant involvement from learning designers and teachers, and thus only benefit a selected few: those who have access to these resources. We need to start focusing on interventions that can be rolled out at scale.

We need scalable educational interventions, accounting for diversity and well-being, and promoting adaptivity and technological competencies.

Embodied Learning

The question of adaptivity is a central one in the Learning Sciences. To build adaptivity, learning interventions need to support deep understanding, and transfer. Through deep understanding, learners grasp new concepts beyond their superficial details; through transfer they are able to identify and apply them in new contexts.

In the learning context, a character identifies that a ball is actually a sphere. In the application context, the same character recognizes that the Earth is also a sphere.

Decades of research show that achieving deep understanding and transfer is hard. Novel approaches moving away from passive learning, towards active learning, are promising. A central example is “Productive Failure”, a pedagogical pattern of “learning through failure” leveraging students’ creativity, as they come up with their own solutions to carefully designed open problems.

However, these approaches rely mostly on cognitive resources. In contrast, sensorimotor resources remain critically underexplored. We argue that, to address our challenge, we must focus on embodied learning, a multi-modal active approach to learning, leveraging both cognitive and sensorimotor resources.

In the passive approach, the learner looks at the teacher solve the problem on the white board. In the active approach, the student tries to solve the problem on the white board. In the embodied approach, the student can manipulate the problem with their hands directly.

What is embodied learning? When one learns a sport, be it soccer, dance, skating, it is obvious that their body plays a crucial role. But it is also clear that learning this sport is not just about the body, the mind is also highly engaged: we easily understand that both body and mind need to be involved. What about learning other topics, like physics, engineering or even mathematics? Here, we understand that the mind is crucial. But we forget about the body. The embodied learning perspective stipulates that, rather than solely our minds, our bodies and physical environments are also central to our learning process. Learning is not just thinking in new ways, it is also moving in new ways.

Our solution

Generally, embodied learning is a strong and promising avenue of research to address the several facets of our challenge.

Embodied learning is active. Learners need to explore, manipulate, and engage with the content, not only in thinking, but also in doing. Such active involvement, when restricted to the mind, already supports deep understanding, a necessary stepping stone toward adaptivity. Expanding to sensorimotor resources can strengthen this effect.

Embodied learning is multi-modal. Enabling several modalities during the learning process is necessary as learners heavily rely on their bodies and environments for cognitive offloading to avoid saturating their working memory, for example using their fingers to keep track of complex operations. This is particularly important for learners with diverse needs, for example math anxious and highly body aware students.

Embodied learning is situated. Integrating learners’ bodies and environments in the learning process resembles closely how they learn in the real world, through complex and diverse stimuli. As such, learners can reconnect the content to their prior experiences, and are better prepared to learn abstract concepts. Moreover, these situated experiences are also closer to the application context, where learners will ultimately have to apply their knowledge, and thus support transfer, the remaining stepping stone toward adaptivity.

Embodied learning is centered on movement. Learners move more, and build a strong connection to their bodies and bodily sensations, thus improving their physical health. Through movement, learners build a deeper understanding of the interconnectedness of their bodies, thoughts, emotions, behaviors, and contexts, and improve their mental health. Tailored activities can also support sensorimotor regulation needs, especially for younger learners, and improve their well-being.

Embodied learning leverages technology. A promising avenue for embodied learning is spatial computing, namely Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), and Extended Reality (XR), through the integration of the learners bodies and contexts both in interaction and learning. But beyond this, leveraging sensing technologies and AI tremendously expands the impact of these activities through the generation of scalable interventions tailored to learners' contexts and needs.

In conclusion, embodied learning fosters adaptivity through deep learning and transfer. By accounting for learners’ context, reality and sensations, and by integrating movements, embodied learning supports diversity and well-being. By leveraging technology, embodied learning offers scalable interventions that encourage building of technological competencies.

Mission statement

We explore embodied learning interventions at scale to support all learners in developing the core skills necessary to adapt and thrive in this fast-paced world.

A process including three lenses, diversity, well-being, and scalability. Three steps, including interdisciplinary learning design, technology-powered implementation, and rigorous assessment. And three technologies, including sensing, spatial computing, and AI.


FELT Brochure (pdf)