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Advances in Human-Computer Interaction
Volume 2008, Article ID 874563, 19 pages
Research Article

Embodiment, Multimodality, and Composition: Convergent Themes across HCI and Education for Mixed-Reality Learning Environments

1Arts, Media and Engineering, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85281, USA
2Department of Electrical Engineering, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85281, USA
3School of Educational Innovation and Teacher Preparation, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85281, USA
4School of Art, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85281, USA
5School of Computing and Informatics, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85281, USA
6Department of Psychology, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85281, USA

Received 6 October 2007; Revised 27 July 2008; Accepted 14 October 2008

Academic Editor: Adrian Cheok

Copyright © 2008 David Birchfield et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


We present concurrent theoretical work from HCI and Education that reveals a convergence of trends focused on the importance of three themes: embodiment, multimodality, and composition. We argue that there is great potential for truly transformative work that aligns HCI and Education research, and posit that there is an important opportunity to advance this effort through the full integration of the three themes into a theoretical and technological framework for learning. We present our own work in this regard, introducing the Situated Multimedia Arts Learning Lab (SMALLab). SMALLab is a mixed-reality environment where students collaborate and interact with sonic and visual media through full-body, 3D movements in an open physical space. SMALLab emphasizes human-to-human interaction within a multimodal, computational context. We present a recent case study that documents the development of a new SMALLab learning scenario, a collaborative student participation framework, a student-centered curriculum, and a three-day teaching experiment for seventy-two earth science students. Participating students demonstrated significant learning gains as a result of the treatment. We conclude that our theoretical and technological framework can be broadly applied in the realization of mixed reality, student-centered learning environments.