Monday, December 23, 2013

(Haptic pronunciation) movement training: mouse to mouth?

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New study by Kording of Northwestern University and the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, summarized by Science Daily, purports to show that " . . . computer use not only changes our lifestyle but also fundamentally affects the neural representation of our movements . . . " Really? The research compared the "movement generalizability" ability of heavy computer users with those who were not. Those proficient "mousers" were, not surprisingly, able to more quickly learn new mouse patterns.

What is of particular interest to haptic pronunciation teaching, however, was that after about two weeks of specifically designed mouse-based computer game playing, the former "non-mousers" had, in effect, caught up. Their brains and hands had achieved what appeared to be the same "broad movement generalization" capability. This helps explain a key phase or problem in haptic pronunciation learning--and suggests something of a solution. 

For some learners, being able to follow along with the pedagogical movement patterns (hand and arm movements across the visual field accompanied by speaking a word or phrase, concluding in hands touching on a stressed syllable) used by instructors can be initially difficult. In our experience it may take up to a month for them to be able to begin easily generalizing a movement pattern of a vowel, for example, in practicing pronunciation of new words.

There are any number of studies reported here earlier considering why that may be the case, from pedagogical to psycho-social to neurological. The concept of training learners to be better at learning movement first, in a low key, maybe even "fun" set of procedures, however, is intriguing. Whatever the cause, if "simple" movement training, rather than more radical intervention--or giving up in despair, can enhance haptic pronunciation learning and teaching up front, that is indeed big. 

Will try designing some kind of analogous "Mini-Mouse Module," or perhaps just require a few minutes of iPhone game work before or during class regularly to keep everybody up to speed!

 Keep in touch!

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