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Elementary students learning science in an MR environment by constructing liminal blends through action on props

Xintian Tu (Learning Sciences, Indiana University Bloomington, Bloomington, Indiana, USA)
Chris Georgen (Wheelock College of Education & Human Development, Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts, USA)
Joshua A. Danish (Learning Sciences, Indiana University Bloomington, Bloomington, Indiana, USA)
Noel Enyedy (Peabody College, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee, USA)

Information and Learning Sciences

ISSN: 2398-5348

Article publication date: 9 July 2021

Issue publication date: 9 August 2021




This paper aims to show how collective embodiment with physical objects (i.e. props) support young children’s learning through the construction of liminal blends that merge physical, virtual and conceptual resources in a mixed-reality (MR) environment..


Building on Science through Technology Enhanced Play (STEP), we apply the Learning in Embodied Activity Framework to further explore how liminal blends can help us understand learning within MR environments. Twenty-two students from a mixed first- and second-grade classroom participated in a seven-part activity sequence in the STEP environment. The authors applied interaction analysis to analyze how student’s actions performed with the physical objects helped them to construct liminal blends that allowed key concepts to be made visible and shared for collective sensemaking.


The authors found that conceptually productive liminal blends occurred when students constructed connections between the resources in the MR environment and coordinated their embodiment with props to represent new understandings.


This study concludes with the implications for how the design of MR environment and teachers’ facilitation in MR environment supports students in constructing liminal blends and their understanding of complex science phenomena.



This work was supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. IIS-1629302. The authors appreciate the REMAP team from UCLA and Inquirium LLC for their great work on designing the STEP environment. The authors thank all researchers and graduate students from the Indiana University and the University of California, Los Angeles for their efforts and contributions.


Tu, X., Georgen, C., Danish, J.A. and Enyedy, N. (2021), "Elementary students learning science in an MR environment by constructing liminal blends through action on props", Information and Learning Sciences, Vol. 122 No. 7/8, pp. 525-545.



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