3 Things Kinect Needs to Be Successful in Education

It hasn’t even been a full year since the Kinect was released; furthermore, it’s only been a little over one month that the official Kinect SDK was released. While it’s still early to see the Kinect hit mainstream classrooms, I’ve made some early observations that might help others integrate Kinect in their learning environments. Please keep in mind that these are a reflection of my early observations and will assuredly change as time progresses.

Using written and verbal communication I’ve had with other educators as a source, here are three things that must be addressed to allow teachers to effectively integrate Kinect in their curricula:

1. Reformed classroom model

Here is the model I’ve proposed for integrating Kinect in a standard classroom:

Kinect Education Classroom Model

You may choose to adapt the structure and modify the projected cost to fit your needs, but this provides a decent framework. Consider that for a relatively small price, you can transform your classroom from the traditional model to an active learning center where education is engaging, personalized, and aligned with brain research.

When the straight-row model is needed for assessments or instruction, simply realign the desks.

The way I intend to pilot the use of Kinect in my classroom next year is to have the desks set up as shown above when students enter class. For 10-20 minutes, they will interact with their content, which I will then follow with instruction and other forms of assessment. Depending on the activity, they may realign their desks to the straight-row model or leave them as they are. At the end of class, students will interact with content again, just as they did at the beginning of class. When the next class comes in, the desks are already structured in the way I need them and I can repeat this process for all classes.

The challenge is in finding the content. However, more development tools are emerging and the process is getting easier to seamlessly develop your own active learning content. You can create your own games and adapt the content to meet your needs.


2. Software: User-Generated and/or Commercial

Earlier this year, I designed a teacher’s guide to Kinect integration. From feedback I’ve gained, it’s been useful, but that feedback may be skewed. I’ve found that the teachers integrating “indie” Kinect developments in their classrooms at this point have a stronger background in computer science and it’s still an intimidating process for educators in other content areas.

In my opinion, the best thing for Microsoft or any other independent developer to do would be to develop software similar to FAAST, but (1) use the official SDK to do it and (2) provide a graphical user interface for it. This would simplify the process for anyone to make software Kinect-compatible.

For those who have never heard of FAAST, it allows you to bind gestures to keys. For example, you could program the software to input the “s” key when leaning left twenty degrees, or the left arrow key when you step left 12 inches. However, it’s a little cumbersome to use. If you’re interested, check out the guide linked above for more details.

I’m also a fan of commercial software, but I just see more opportunity to target standards and individual classroom needs if the software is developed by education stakeholders. I’ve set up a community where people can upload and download their own developments to allow Kinect integration in classrooms. While it’s still emerging, I expect its effectiveness to evolve.

For example, I recently had the opportunity to play with Kodu, which I was first introduced to during a learning session presented by Pat Yongpradit at the Microsoft Innovative Educator Forum in Redmond, WA. The simplicity of designing education-relevant applications with this software was very appealing, but my biggest “aha” moment came upon realizing that Kodu plus Kinect integration has the potential to completely redefine what a typical classroom looks like. Applications don’t have to be complex to add a new active learning dimension to typical classroom content. Here’s a brief video of Kodu in action:

Adrian Dede also introduced me to Interrobang, which could give interactive content further meaning by introducing a badge system and providing a healthy level of competition.

Check out the emerging Kinect Applications for Education community, where you can download and upload Kinect software for education. It’s early and there isn’t a much content yet, but my thought is that once good content is produced and uploaded, classrooms will start evolving.


3. Paradigm shift

In work I’m doing with other educators, the end response to integrating Kinect in classrooms has been positive, 100% of the time. I have yet to find one educator that denies the implications that Kinect has for their own classroom and the field of education as a whole.

However, initial responses often reflect apprehension. Putting myself in the minds of other teachers, I understand. When first mentioning using Kinect in education, this is often deciphered by teachers as meaning “playing shoot and kill games in the classroom.” This is a classic example of the law of association. The only exposure many people have to video games is the negative attention received in the media.

I’ve learned the best way to approach anyone about using the Kinect in their classroom is to define it as an input device first, much like a mouse or a keyboard operates. This breaks that negative association and people become much more receptive to listening further.

We continue to talk about 21st century learning as if it’s still the year 2000. Say good-bye to rhetoric by promoting the use of active learning in classrooms and contribute your lesson plans, ideas, and applications to KinectEDucation.

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