The future of Kinect, in my opinion, targets education reform for many reasons. I am not a zealot for technology. I am, however, passionate about introducing new, reformed models of learning to schools and believe that certain tools can serve to facilitate this higher purpose.
In The Singularity Is Near, author Ray Kurzweil discusses seven stages in the life cycle of all technology. I used this cycle to reflect on the current state of Kinect in schools. While Kinect is used by most for gaming, using the device to support learning in schools is a fairly new concept finally taking root. I believe integrating Kinect to support learning is in the third stage of Kurzweil’s discussed cycle, where a community of innovators and tinkerers build upon the original invention and thus enable the invention to mature and flourish.
Adoption of any breakthrough idea, method, tool, or technique requires detaching from conventional thinking and accepting new paradigms. Where will these new paradigms, innovators, tinkerers and R & D lead us? It’s very early to tell, but we can make predictions by analyzing current trends in both industry and education. In addition to games, here are 10 emerging developments I predict – some concrete, some abstract – that I feel have serious implications in K12 learning environments:
1. New Data Tracking Methods
With Kinect, advanced learning analytics within most classrooms is a definite possibility; properly designed and integrated, data collection can move far beyond just gathering assessment data. Kinect being used in this capacity will serve as an excellent RTI tool. If you could analyze students’ body language over the duration of a specific time period, you would have hard data revealing levels of interest and potential behavioral issues.
Of course, interpreting body language isn’t easy; even human experts mess up when making observations. Much has to be considered before making broad generalizations. However, we can’t deny that a large percentage of communication is nonverbal; therefore, if an instructor has access to long-term data that reveals specific behavioral trends, direct intervention can be timely, direct, and accurate.
So, imagine the framework of Georgia Tech’s sign language recognition software being used for additional purposes.
2. Mobile Device Integration
As mobile devices proliferate throughout schools, this will be a great way to engage all students while leveraging accessible technology. One of the current limitations with Kinect is that one sensor can track only two students at a time. While it may not be realistic or feasible to integrate multiple Kinects in one classroom, integrating mobile devices with Kinect will be a great way to get everyone engaged. This video below shows the early stages of Kinect being integrated with a Windows 7 phone.
3. Instructional Software
Useful classroom software for Kinect need not be complex to be transformational. Those seeking to maintain traditional classroom structure will find Kinect useful as an instructional tool, much like a wireless writing tablet. There isn’t much need to alter your classroom model for this to work. As a basic illustration, imagine using the application below to throw vocabulary words, equations, or historical facts onto the wall.
4. Affordable “Touch Screens”
I believe that this development could be the catalyst that delivers Kinects to most mainstream classrooms because it’s accomplishing what similar technology does at a fraction of the price. In other words, Kinect amplifies the benefits and use of technology you were already going to purchase.
Below is a stunning new development that reveals this development in practice:
5. Kinect Accessories
Within classrooms, Kinect accessories may be necessary additions for proper functioning of the device in a restricted environment. Notable accessories include:
Nyko Zoom for Kinect: a lens attachment that allows players to stand about 40 percent closer to the Kinect.
Kinect Floor Stand: adevice allows the Kinect camera to be placed in different locations around the room.
Kinect Wall Mount: allows Kinect to be mounted to a wall in a static location.
Kinect swivel mount: I haven’t seen this yet, but I hope it’s being developed. When (and if) multiple Kinects are supported on one computing device, there will be a market for this. This could suspend from the ceiling, much like many projectors do.
6. Support for Multiple Kinects
The obvious need for this will to track multiple students at one time. While technically possible, I haven’t seen many applying this in a practical setting…yet. The video below shows this development shifting from theory to practice.
7. Gesture-Based Learning and Game-Based Learning Consultants
As this market grows, so will the need for people who have exposure to this dimension of learning. The great news is that there will be plenty of success out there for many to enjoy. If you’re one of them or want to be one of them, now is a great time to make yourself stand out.
Microsoft has recently launched a Kinect for education Facebook page where you can gain great perspective from educators and Kinect experts around the globe. If you have questions about how to use the Kinect in your learning environment, this is a great place to gain guidance from people immersed in the field. It has been an honor to serve on this amazing team that’s pioneering a new dimension to learning.
8. Repositories for Custom Development
As the Kinect education community proliferates, indie developments showcasing this technology will also increase. Check out KinectEDucation’s Kinect apps for education to see what the community has already contributed. There’s currently a contest going on promoting the custom development of such applications (ends November 30th).
9. Lesson Plan and Activity Development
When new devices emerge for classrooms, so does the need for practical examples of them being used in a real-world setting. Great news – Microsoft is developing Kinect classroom activities and is publicly providing them for free. More activities are continually being added to this excellent bank of resources.
If you’re using Kinect in your classroom and have ideas, activities, or lessons you’d like to contribute, feel free to share them in the KinectEDucation forums.
10. Continual Paradigm Shifts
Will the Kinect have enough influence to transform learning environments around the world into true 21st century classrooms? If we evaluate trends, growing research, learning theory, and the market, most findings indicate that the Kinect may very well become the new technology centerpiece in schools. The indie development scene is active and many of the basic applications designed already have potential in classrooms around the world. Additionally, policies and legislature are trending to support innovation in schools. All of these factors will influence school’s acceptance of new modalities of thinking about how we can educate our children.
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