Identifying Embodied Metaphors for Computing Education

Andrew Manches, Peter Edward McKenna, Gnanathusharan Rajendran, Judy Robertson

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Abstract

Computing education is increasing in global importance, with calls for greater understanding of conceptual development that can inform pedagogy. Here, we report a study investigating elementary computing concepts through the lens of Embodied Cognition. Sixteen students (9 female) studying university-level computing were asked to explain their understanding of computing concepts (without materials) in individually video-recorded sessions. We analysed the gestures generated for three elementary concepts: algorithms, loops, and conditional statements. In total, 368 representational gestures were identified across 48 (16 × 3) explanations, thereby providing evidence that offline thinking in this domain is embodied. Our analysis of representational gestures showed that participants drew upon two overarching embodied metaphors in their explanations: 1) Computing Constructs as Physical Objects, in which participants simulated manipulating physical objects (e.g., pinching) when referring to range of computing constructs, and 2) Computing Processes as Motion along a Path, whereby participants moved their hands along one of three body-based axes when referring to temporal sequences. We contrast our findings to similar research in mathematics and discuss implications for computing pedagogy – namely the role of gesture in the classroom and technologies that can exploit embodied metaphors.
Original languageEnglish
Article number105859
JournalComputers in Human Behavior
Early online date31 Jan 2019
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 31 Jan 2019

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