'Embodiment awareness' research aim to help the blind learn math more quickly

May 24, 2005

Blacksburg, Va. -- Francis Quek, director of the Center for Human Comuter Interaction (HCI) at Virginia Tech, has received a $750,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to study embodiment awareness, mathematics discourse, and the blind.

Quek uses the term "embodiment awareness" to convey the way in which a listener accesses and comprehends communications. This area of research is grounded in psycholinguistic theories that are based, in part, on the fact that when we speak, our embodied behavior of gesture, gaze, posture, and facial expression become part of the communicative process.

"Our brain is designed to function within a body," Quek said. "True communication includes the underlying mental imagery, which relates to what is said as well as what is displayed."

Gestures help reveal the major points of accompanying words and help the listener focus on important elements of a conversation.

The NSF project also focuses on math discourse and education for blind students, who typically lag one-to-three years behind their sighted fellow students in math, Quek said. Mathematical reasoning is rich in spatial imagery revealed in gestures, which have the capacity to create images that serve as "objects of contemplation." When a graphic or illustration is available for math instruction, the lessons usually include gestures of spatial reference to the graphic.

Research with individuals who are blind suggests that they have remarkable capacity for visual imagery, memory, and conceptualization and are able to access graphical content through tactile image technology.

However, Quek believes that lack of visual access to the embodiment of the instructor makes mastery of the material more difficult for blind students. He proposes to remedy this problem by giving blind students the use of tactile devices that can provide elements of embodiment awareness.

"How do you keep the student in communication with the teacher?" Quek asked. "One thing we can do is to build a series of devices that will send images to blind students, and make the images into something they can feel."

He has assembled a multi-disciplinary team that includes Virginia Tech researchers in the fields of computer science, psychology, education, and disabilities research and services.

The team will perform a series of perception and action experiments to test how well the embodiment devices work. They will then perform a second series of experiments with blind and sighted students in mathematics instruction, captured on video. They also will run pre- and post-tests, to assess the quality and quantity of imagistic content and to determine the correlation, if any, between these and the formation of math concepts.

Quek said the project should have significant direct impact on inclusive mathematics instruction at all grade levels for visually impaired students. "Providing a sense of embodiment awareness to students who are blind has not yet been studied," he said, "and it has the potential for empowering such students."

Quek also predicts that understanding the channels for embodiment awareness will affect the design of future distance learning systems, and will provide insights on how best to provide embodiment cues to students in Internet-based instruction.
-end-


Virginia Tech

Related Blind Articles from Brightsurf:

Identifying the blind spots of soil biodiversity
Soils harbour a substantial part of the world's biodiversity, yet data on the patterns and processes taking place below ground does not represent all relevant ecosystems and taxa.

Strong convictions can blind us to information that challenges them
When people are highly confident in a decision, they take in information that confirms their decision, but fail to process information which contradicts it, finds a UCL brain imaging study, published in Nature Communications.

A tactile robot finger with no blind spots
Researchers at Columbia Engineering announced today that they have introduced a new type of robotic finger with a sense of touch.

Exposing blind spots in the carbon budget space
The impact of 1°C of global heating is already having devastating impacts on communities and ecosystems across the globe.

Optic nerve stimulation to aid the blind
EPFL scientists are investigating new ways to provide visual signals to the blind by directly stimulating the optic nerve.

Identifying artificial intelligence 'blind spots'
A novel model developed by MIT and Microsoft researchers identifies instances in which autonomous systems have 'learned' from training examples that don't match what's actually happening in the real world.

Seeing and avoiding the 'blind spot' in atomic force measurements
Researchers have discovered a 'blind spot' in atomic force microscopy -- a powerful tool capable of measuring the force between two atoms, imaging the structure of individual cells and the motion of biomolecules.

Giant flightless birds were nocturnal and possibly blind
If you encountered an elephant bird today, it would be hard to miss.

'Blind' Cheetah 3 robot can climb stairs littered with obstacles
MIT's Cheetah 3 robot can now leap and gallop across rough terrain, climb a staircase littered with debris, and quickly recover its balance when suddenly yanked or shoved, all while essentially blind.

Researchers map brain of blind patient who can see motion
Since the visual processing centres of her brain went dark after a stroke, a Scottish woman has been unable to see objects.

Read More: Blind News and Blind Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.