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Learning in Artificial Environments: Embodiment, Embeddedness and Dynamic Adaptation
William Winn

Reacting against the inadequacy of traditional cognitive theory to explain how learning occurs, many educational researchers have turned to a socio-cultural, situated model of learning within which to conduct their research. However, this model has, in its turn, failed to account for some of what is observed when students work with complex, computer-supported simulations of natural environments, referred to as “artificial environments.” What is more, traditional cognitive theory has continued to evolve and, considered together with systems theory and cognitive neuroscience, is now in a better position to provide an adequate account of learning. This article brings together three ideas to form a conceptual framework for studying learning in artificial environments. These are the ideas that cognition is embodied in physical activity, that this activity is embedded in a learning environment, and that learning is the result of adaptation of the learner to the environment and the environment to the learner. The conceptual framework assumes that embodiment, embeddedness and adaptation are completely interdependent. These ideas are illustrated from research on artificial environments, particularly those that use virtual reality technologies.

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