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Anatomy Flashcard Learning System

Sonification: Making Human Motion More Engaging

Bob PozosComment

It’s the beginning of fall semester and students are returning to campus with enthusiasm which will be cooled by reality.  They will be faced with many competing priorities.  So how do I keep students interested in anatomy and physiology?   As a different approach, I am using sonification as a novel way to maintain their interest in studying human motion.

If you have ever used an X-Box with the Kinect (Microsoft Corporation) you are aware of how much fun it can be as your movements control the movement of your character in the video game in real time.  The secret of this technological feat is the Kinect which is a small camera that detects your motion and feeds the motion data into the games you play!

Sonification is the use of this technology to record human motion which triggers music.  The program that does the sonification is called Kinect Muse which was developed in my lab.

It’s not surprising if you have never heard of sonification!  It’s a relatively new field.  I think it can be used as a very effective teaching tool. When students move their arms and hear the associated music, their interest peaks.  The music changes as they move their arms up and down, fast and slow.  In essence each limb can be a single instrument or a whole band.  In addition, each arm can trigger different notes and volumes using different instruments.  (Here is a video that demonstrates sonification as a student moves her arms. Notice towards the end of the video how the frequency of the music changes as the students moves her hands faster.)

Many of my ideas for how to improve teaching come from research studies that I conduct with students. My preliminary experience with sonification in the lab suggests that it may be a powerful research/teaching tool.  I had subjects perform motor movements using sonification as a feedback signal.  What was interesting was that many students were intrigued as to how the music was being generated by their movements.  Multisensory approaches are very popular but most of them focus on visual approaches rather than auditory.    In this case, we have combined both of them so that the student sees the images and also hears the music.  In my experience, using KM, the student has a positive experience of tying anatomy with motion/music promoting a greater, continued interest.

However, at the end of the day, students need to know the material. Sonification maybe a great tool to spark their interest in anatomy and motion but there needs to be a link to the material that they are required to master. To make it easier for the students to learn all of the important information in one structured, easy to find place, I referred them to Anatomy Flashcard Learning System (AFLS) that I developed. AFLS has interactive images and tables which makes it easy for the student and me to jointly review the muscles that are creating the motion/music.  (Before I developed AFLS, I would refer students to various textbooks. That approach did not work partially due to the fact that the text is very dense and students do not like to read!)

Stay tuned as we use this approach to generate and maintain interest in anatomy, biology and kinesiology this fall!