Sunday, January 30, 2011

Affective Haptics

Kinesthetic and haptic techniques in the pronunciation class should, in principle, work for several reasons. One is  that movement and touch may have strong impact emotionally, especially in "touch-active" cultural contexts. In designing virtual reality environments, haptic effects are becoming more and more integrated, producing a wide range of sensory and emotional experiences. Research in affective haptics focuses on understanding how to "effect" that. In HIPoeces applications, haptic integration and anchoring, among other functions, contributes to making the learning motivating, enjoyable--and moving!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

How Rhythm does what it does . . .

It turns out (not surprisingly) that the brain "runs on rhythm." In relatively new research enabled by remarkable  technological advances we see how optimal functioning depends upon optimal communication between relevant areas--and how rhythm as generated by any number of internal and external sources appears to facilitate that integration--even in birds! When we look to design of multi-sensory and multiple-modality learning systems, it appears that you just "gotta have rhythm . . . " This suggests yet another reason why appropriate music, dance and other rhythmic pedagogical applications produce dramatic results in some contexts.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Learning in 3D

The basic tool or interface of HIPoeces work is a 3-dimensional visualized matrix which fills the visual field of the learner. The vertical axis is, in essence, controlled by pitch-movement. The horizontal axis is basically related to linear arrangement of words in conversation from left to right across the visual field, and front/back placement of vowels. A critical 3rd dimension involves going from the body outward. In brief: (a) basic rhythm is experienced "on" the body haptically, with touch and movement, (b) Vowels are positioned about 10cm out, occupying the entire visual field, (c) intonation is positioned about 20cm out, (d) consonants vary, some moving from the body out to 20cm, and (e) integration protocols are enacted at either 20cm or move from 10cm out to about 40cm. As the research linked above from e-Haptic Journal reveals, haptic engagement appears to be especially important in establishing and anchoring 3D visual/virtual spaces. As noted in an earlier post, the addition of touch to the spatial/kinesthetic/visual matrix of HIPoeces has resulted in a substantial improvement in learners' ability to work within the "same" pedagogical space consistently and recall what was learned there as well.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

In the Beginning was . . . Rhythm

There is, as far as I am aware, no published research on recall based on learners having kinesthetically or haptically experienced a text or conversation by producing it with more or less pronounced rhythmic grouping. (There is, however, considerable research in language and cogntive processing related to comprehension of parsed versus non-parsed text.) In the meantime, we assume that the parallel applies. In HIPoeces, the learner, in encountering a new text to be spoken, should very quickly be directed to firmly anchor the rhythm grouping (what we call Focal Output Groups) so that in all subsequent oral practice of the text, the rich "felt sense" of the groupings is maintained. Rhythm not only compresses syllable groups but it also provides a strong, patterned link back to the "melody," as well.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

"Haplessly" Integrated Pronunciation for Japanese . . . but cute!

This video has several of the elements: music, dance (total body engagement), speech synchronized gesture, cute--but misses on several other dimensions, including isomorphic movement, authentic expressiveness, and attention to discourse prosody. Entertaining, but not all that different from what often passes as kinesthetic techniques in today's pronunciation teaching. The students will no doubt remenber fragments of the vocabulary and idioms, and loosen up affectively in the process,  but the bizarre prosodic anchoring will more than offset what is acquired in the dance.  (Thanks to Matt Dissen for pointing me to this jewel!)

Sunday, January 23, 2011

HIPoeces Protocols and Music

Ideally, early phases of instruction and select haptic-based practice routines should be done to music. The style is probably less important than the base rhythm (beats per minute). Research on music accompanying athletic performance as summarized in the linked article from The Sport Journal points to a number of potential applications to our work.

Somatic Psychology and Neuroaffective touch

There are, of course, wide-ranging social and cultural constraints and taboos related to touch--self touch or touching another. As noted in previous posts, many disciplines employ systematic use of touch as well. Application of haptic techniques always requires careful consideration of how touch is perceived by the learner and the short and long term impact of tactile anchoring.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Analysis of movement expressiveness

A simple pedagogical gesture used in pronunciation instruction such as tracing an intonation contour through the visual field can be performed within an infinite range of expressiveness. It is essential that we be able to accurately describe what is being communicated affectively or emotionally in a given classroom "event," beyond the structure in focus. There are several systems or metalanguages for doing that.

Active recall vs elaborate study

Asher's early research which developed into the well-known "Total Physical Response" Method (TPR) was inspired by the discovery that retention may be far better for something learned quickly (rather than hammered in by drill) and then anchored in memory by multiple usage and active recall. The concept of active recall as used in the study linked above in essence means requiring use of the new language or concept in as wide a range of meaningful contexts as possible--a key assumption of the Communicative Approach to language teaching, as well. That can be an especially difficult task in pronunciation work, to be sure, but always creating a vivid, multiple modality initial learning experience (haptically anchored, of course) is at the very least more efficient.

Kinesthetic Phonics (TM)

Kid Garden (.com) has an interesting take on the role of movement in learning the sound "side" of learning how to read: "We practice Kinesthetic Phonics by flashing letter cards to students. They respond with the action/sound, standing for vowels and sitting for consonants. This emphasizes the vowels' sounds." That use of movement, not even remotely connected to the form of the language but employed simply to add salience or attention to a form (in this case a letter-sound correspondence), is not all that different from much of what goes on in pronunciation instruction today with movement, e.g. clapping hands on stressed syllables or stretching a rubber band on lengthened vowels. HIPoeces work assumes some isomorphism between the sound process and the haptic "action" that anchors it. (For example, moving upper torso in a nodding gesture on key stressed words very much like a native speaker will move in conversation.) I must admit that I do kind of like the idea of "sitting on" consonants (a la Lessac) . . . and, I suppose that at least metaphorically we do "stand" for the central importance of vowels!!!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Dance Movement Therapy

This brief article on dance movement therapy in Australia contains a very nice characterization of DMT that could apply to at least the "spirit" of HIPoeces as well. "This brings us to a fundamental tenet of our belief system as dance-movement therapists, namely that we are all embodied persons, that is, that we live and function through our bodies. The body affects mind and feeling, and mind and feeling affect the body: they are integrally connected. This goes against much traditional Western thinking with its separation of mind and body, although recent neuroscientific research is tending to support an integrated view of mind/body (which we dance-movement therapists knew all along!)."

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Haptic functions in virtual environments

Much of the criticism of contemporary methodology is deserved. Although acknowledged in theory in the field today as essential, pronunciation instruction is not high priority in most contexts. In many instances, to do a credible job with pronunciation, the demands on the classrooom instructor's time and training are simply unrealistic, at best. The future of pronunciation teaching is in virtual reality (haptically anchored, of course!)  The potential for integration of body and machine to manage the process efficiently is now techncally feasible--and inevitable.


The work of Rudolf Steiner provides a fascinating metalanguage for describing both the expressive dimension of movement and a unique understanding of how to use movement in instruction. All HIPoeces movement (upper and lower body) carries meaning and messages beyond the central focus on forms and processes related to learning pronunciation.  

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Brain Gym-ing and learning

Brain Gym and similar systems have been around for decades. (If you are unfamiliar with the Brain Gym, the video (one of two) from a British TV feature will be instructive.) What is of interest there for HIPoeces work is that the exercises are designed to "prepare" the brain, in various ways, to learn more efficiently-or to at least loosen it up and de-stress it--before the actual instruction takes place. The key difference here is that the body engagement in HIPoeces, although often employing similar moves or routines to those of Brain Gym that activate the brain in various ways and sectors, is almost always done simultaneously with learning some feature of the sound system of the target language. There are, in fact, three or four of the exercises on the video that include strokes and cross-lateral touching of the body that are very similar in form (but not in function) to those used in teaching aspects of rhythm and intonation in HIPoeces.

Monday, January 10, 2011

The "Musical Gesture" and Expressivity

Understanding the "meaning" of the gestures (or strokes) used in haptic integration, especially given the fact that most instruction is done to music (either rhythm-coordinated or as backgrounding), is an essential exercise. The movements in the visual field are certainly related to what  Kuhl, in his semiotic treatment refers to as "musical gesture," that is gesture that carries some inherent, implied meaning but is substantially bound to or interpreted through the expressive meaning of the discourse. In other words, we are accountable for the often subliminal meaning added by the pedagogical gesture that we employ.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Gesture, talk and thought

The impact of speech-synchronized gesture or gesture-synchronized speech on spontaneous speaking has been established in several studies. In this study, the movement involved may be serving several functions.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

The King's Speech

One of the most "moving" and "touching" movies I have ever seen. Along w/My Fair Lady and half a dozen others, a "must see" for anybody in this field!