education kinect


The Whole-Person Learner: Kinecting the Gaps in Education

Tuesday, December 6th, 2011

At the beginning of every year, I tell my students I have two indicators that determine our success. The first, obvious method of measurement has to be their test scores. This is a non-negotiable if I’m going to maintain my job and if they’re going to advance academically.

However, the second indicator is far more revealing of my level of influence on their growth and development. If they come back to visit me the following year – when they don’t have to, when their motive is genuinely guided by a desire to simply reconnect – this reveals that the values promoted in class – values embodying lifelong learning – were well-received. This is how I ultimately measure my influence and success as their educator.

It’s a tough balancing act. Many times, it feels that one indicator comes at the expense of the other.

On the outside looking in, it sounds fairly straightforward…but it’s not, as any student, teacher, or school administrator will attest. Even when I’d speak to student teachers at Texas Tech University, I always struggled advocating for this model.  I always knew it was the ideal model we needed, but I had a hard time answering how to effectively and consistently integrate this paradigm across all content areas.  All I could really do was point to the research and show what I now feel like was a very “canned” ways of doing things. 

But do that too long and it becomes rhetoric.

Before reading further, please watch the video below created and submitted by Kartik Aneja (download here).

and, if you have yet to see the “Kinect Effect,” watch this:


…I think we’re finally moving beyond the rhetoric.

The aim of KinectEDucation is to facilitate this “Connected Education” by developing, promoting, and integrating Kinect resources in classrooms. Certainly, it’s about showcasing Kinect developments, exploring resources that promote gaming in education(thanks Pat!), helping others learn how to program with ease, and integrating standards-driven activities for Kinect in education.  

Although Kinect bridges the gaps that have existed in education and can literally connect all dimensions together, it can’t be done with a device alone.   While Kinect is integral, we also need passion-driven educators like Melanie Wiscount, Gareth Ritter, Lee Kolbert, Cheryl Arnett, and Pat Yongpradit who promote content that teaches social awareness.  We need educators like Angela Maiers who are guided by the philosophy that there are no lazy children, just children who have yet to find something they’re passionate about.  Finally, we need visionary leaders like Ollie Bray to help ensure we use technology to promote development equally as much as we promote content.

At KinectEDucation, we’ve gathered an amazing  group of people who are passionate about education and are experts within their respective fields, many of whom will be formally announced soon.  But this is not about a group of people and is not limited by region. These are just the people who have expressed initial interest in contributing towards this renewed classroom model. This community is open for everyone to contribute; an open platform is needed if we’re going to do this.  Together, we can make big things happen around the world.

Everyone has a unique skillset.  If you have a similar vision and possess skills or content to contribute, share them.




The Kinect Effect – An Education Revolution

Monday, October 31st, 2011

Wow.  Sometimes, words alone won’t do justice.The societal impact of Kinect will be huge; this Microsoft video encapsulates what the “Kinect Effect” will be in education and beyond.  What’s most exciting is that this is just the beginning.




10 Future Developments with Kinect in Education

Thursday, October 20th, 2011

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.


What are your ideas?  Feel free to contribute them publicly or contact me



Kinect in Education Project: When Fish Fly

Tuesday, October 11th, 2011

This past summer, I had the opportunity to collaborate with a select group of amazing individuals – Doug Bergman, Lou Zulli, Margaret Noble, and Donna Thomas – in Microsoft’s Innovative Educator Forum (IEF) in Redmond, Washington on a learning excursion.  One of the objectives of participation was to collaboratively develop a project that could be integrated in our classrooms.  The project we decided upon was to have students develop a game that simulated the “fish tossing” witnessed in Pike’s Place Fish Market.  While the project was well-received and well-praised by all members, the scope of the project seemed daunting.

What happens when you “turn a classroom of Computer Science students loose?”  Simply stated, they will create phenomenal and unprecedented work.  

In a mere eight weeks, high school students from Lou Zulli’s and Doug Bergman’s classes have already developed this application using the Kinect SDK.   In this program that’s a work-in-progress, users can “catch” fish and receive cash based on the type of fish caught. 

Here is a an overview of the project’s objectives:

“’When Fish Fly’ is a Kinect game creation project designed to replicate the sights, sounds, history and “sense of place” of Pike Place Fish Market while actively engaging the student design team in the 21st Century Learning process. The intent of this project is not so much to get other educators to complete a project on this specific location at Pike Place, but more so introduce a way of looking at a new kind of semester long project which increases learning by allowing students to incorporate game design, Xbox 360, Kinect, multimedia technology, motion, art, and Computer Science as they collaboratively research, design, and program a game simulation. This concept is intended to be used as a model to be replicated for any location in any city in the world, it is not location specific!

In addition to the game play, there is also a heavy educational component to both building the project as well as playing the completed game. We want educators and students to consider the different roles that might apply in their own area of interest (i.e. paying customer, business owner, or employee) and introduce the idea of project creation from different prospective, each with its own purpose, skills requirements, and implementation issues. This project has two focuses: 1) to have the students bring  leading edge technology into their learning in an innovative way , and 2) to learn and teach about a specific business, location, activity or institution.  In order to simulate the location as accurately as possible, students also observe and record the many types of people interactions, transactions, and activities that occur in the market. The completed project will support dynamic motion-based interaction using the Kinect camera system.  Part of the creative challenge and fun of this project is determining what motions and kinetic movement to incorporate into the project. With the Kinect cameras being the central input device(s), it is through gestures that the navigation and action of the game is controlled.

This kind of project could take advantage of the passions of students, by encouraging them to  consider designing such a game to bring to life something they love such as a baseball game, a music recital, a family-run business, an entire favorite city (consider gestures that might relate to each famous sightseeing place),  or even a space shuttle launch.”

While this begins to describe the gist of the project, Rob Bayuk, Senior Education Marketing Manager for K-12 with Microsoft, wrote a blog post in September that further captivates the development of this cohort and the ideas generated during the learning excursion that took place in Seattle, Washington. 

I have personally used this in my classroom, and it was a major hit with the students.  Ultimately, the goal is to share this development with others around the globe to integrate in their classrooms.  This will take the project to a level beyond its above stated objectives and serve as a strong testimony to the power of global collaboration.

From a “real-world” perspective, fishing is a cultural phenomenon.  What was initially an activity designated for survival has evolved into a past time for families and friends. Fortunately for us, innovators thousands of years ago pioneered fish hooks.  Today, these hooks can be purchased from most stores; as a result, the masses can focus on the art of fishing rather than developing the tools needed to fish.  If we studied the history of humanity and our advancements, we’d discover that every major shift is marked by the use of new tools and new ways of processing information.  As illustrated with the fishing analogy, those who embrace new methods prosper; those who don’t are lacking relative to their potential.

The tool itself is irrelevant without supporting assets.   It is my opinion that for many schools, the development of immersive applications like “When Fish Fly” and practical activities promoting whole-person engagement symbolize the innovative fish hook developed thousands of years ago.

When the time is right, Lou and his students will release this application for other educators around the globe to download and integrate in their classrooms.  I hope to provide pictures and videos soon from global users.  Certainly, this could be a “catch” heard around the world.

I’m confident that all participants in this event would validate my belief that the IEF made major contributions towards professional growth and created lifelong relationships.  Read about all the US forum finalists that will be competing at the Global IEF in Washington, D.C. in November to gain further perspective on the amazing things teachers are doing in their classrooms.



Building Capacity for Renewed Perspectives

Sunday, October 2nd, 2011

Many teacher preparation programs approach education from a perspective that incoming educators are already familiar with. Even with college courses that teach modern pedagogical approaches, sixteen years of schooling have ordained many educators into teaching philosophies that reflect the practices of their former teachers. “New” teaching strategies are foreign and put us into a realm of perceived unknowns.

Ironically, some of these “new” and foreign teaching strategies – such as promoting movement for retention, incorporating mobile devices for academic gain, and taking risks for prosperity – tap into the very core of who we are as human beings. Movement, mobility, and risk-taking are three assets that are hard-wired into us and should be intuitive. We need to align our pedagogical philosophies with the whole-person paradigm of learning.

Easier said than done, I know. Given the constraints we’re operating within, what can we do to build our capacity for tapping into this whole-person paradigm?

We can make straight row desks the exception by creating physical learning environments.

We can chunk learning , promote activity, and alternate routines to maintain audience participation and active brains.

We can incorporate immersive learning with standards-driven relevancy.

We can make progress through trial and error and informed risk-taking.

We can move beyond our content and gain perspective of the whole-person paradigm to promote further success.

Assuredly, the problems facing education won’t be fixed with a five-point bulleted list. However, we can be proactive by creating a new trail for others to follow.



10 Excellent Resources for Kinect in Education

Saturday, October 1st, 2011

For those new to exploring the Kinect as an instructional tool, here are some outstanding resources worth exploring.  This is a non-exhaustive list and should serve to establish a framework for educators and developers considering the development or adoption of Kinect applications for education.  As Kinect gains more visibility in education, you can fully expect more resources in the future.



2011 Horizon Report: This report explores emerging technologies relevant to the field of education.  Gesture-based learning is expected to hit mainstream classrooms withinin the next two to three years. 

NCLB Reform: Standardized assessments and the oft-cited unattainable goals of NCLB have stifled innovation in some schools. If this act is reformed, I would expect innovative teaching practices to increasingly be more visible in classrooms.

John Medina’s "Brain Rules" book:  This will help you gain insight into the reality of education versus what it should look like with respect to how people most effectively learn. 

Common Core Standards: 48 states have adopted these standards, which provide a framework for teachers to know that they’ve taught what they’re expected to teach.  For anyone developing applications, pay close attention to these.  Administrators need to see that your applications are addressing standards before adopting them. 

Grants (such as ARPA-ED) from major organizations and federal sources are supportive of innovative instruction.

Microsoft development of Kinect classroom activities: for pundits, this clearly reveals that (1) it’s being marketed as an educational device and (2) there’s high value and definite curricular relevancy with Kinect commercial titles.   I highly recommend checking these activities out to establish a frame of reference for just how powerful Kinect can serve as a teaching and learning tool.

  Kinect pilot programs and custom development:  I recently visited with Radu Burducea, Microsoft Director of US Education, about Kinect pilot programs taking place across US schools.  Right now, ten pilots are live nationally and the K-12 Kinect product launch is on track to be released in October 2011.  Explore noncommercial development of Kinect education applications in KinectEDucation’s Kinect Apps for Education directory.  Most of these were built by an emerging community of developers as part of a contest.

  Exploring the possibilities: this video explores the value of Kinect in learning environments.  It was developed in April of 2011; since then, many new developments have emerged.  Check out these amazing Kinect developments for further ideas. 

Channel 9’s Coding for Fun: Anyone looking for project ideas and source code for Kinect projects should bookmark this excellent resource. 


What’s most remarkable to me is how quickly this has all developed.  Less than one year ago, Kinect had yet to be released. We’re just beginning to witness how transformational this technology will be for education.  My hope is that reformers advocating for change realize that many of the limitations imposed on classrooms (understandably out of necessity to maintain structure) can potentially be minimized with this device. 



Kinect for Learning: Enhancing Therapy with Analytics

Thursday, September 29th, 2011

Kinect for Learning Idea

While this submitted idea comes from a source beyond a K12 classroom, it’s entirely relevant because of its integration of Kinect to enhance learning.

Dawn Sanders is a medical school massage owner in Albuquerque, New Mexico and is looking for a programmer who can help her assess, monitor, and create a warning system for the body mechanics of a massage therapist.  Generally, the profession struggles to help students and graduates apply correct leverage without hurting or damaging joints. 

For those like myself who are unfamiliar with medical massage, Dawn explains it as the application of evidence-informed massage therapy to the human body that integrates knowledge of anatomy, physiology, and pathology.  Emphasis is on the whole-person and isn’t isolated to one dimension. 

To help Dawn, contact me for more information or visit Dawn’s website (linked above) and contact her directly. 



Kinect Apps For Education: What’s In Your Wishlist?

Tuesday, September 27th, 2011

The self-sponsored Kinect in Education Contest is generating interest from hobbyists and programmers that come from diverse backgrounds.  While outstanding at what they do, some have minimal exposure to the needs of the 21st century educator and are asking what teachers would benefit most from.  The feedback I can provide is limited to my own experiences, so I wanted to tap into the bank of knowledge from educators globally to give deeper understanding.

If you could create a “wishlist” of ways to use custom-developed Kinect applications in your classroom, what do you most need or want?   Provide your input below and please be as descriptive as possible.

To get an idea of what’s been submitted so far, check out KinectEDucation’s Kinect Apps for Education directory.


Your Name

Your Email Address

What are your ideas and / or needs?

Thank you for your input!



Kinect in Education: Innovate by Making Little Bets

Thursday, September 22nd, 2011

“Discovery doesn’t happen in a vacuum, which is why doing things, however imperfectly at first, opens us up creatively.” – Peter Sims, Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge from Small Discoveries

In the book Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge from Small Discoveries, author Peter Sims proposes that by making several “little bets” within our respective careers, we will eventually discover and develop ideas that are both achievable and affordable to implement in our workplace.  Rather than outright rejecting typical organizational models of hierarchy, linear systems, and extreme efficiency, we can spend a little time to take small ideas and experiment with them to make big discoveries and change that are fitting.

In most classrooms, there’s a strong emphasis on teaching facts and minimizing errors.  Problem solving is approached from the perspective of getting the right answer; after all, assessment scores determine teacher effectiveness and we have to play the game. The problem with this approach is that these elaborate and predetermined procedures stifle opportunities to experiment and generate new ideas to enhance and reform teaching and learning. 

The most effective models of learning are as timeless as our ancestry.  Learning doesn’t happen at predetermined times.  Learning doesn’t happen at fixed locations; in fact, studies reveal that most learning happens in informal education environments.  While we have an argument for reform, we still struggle with innovation. We’re afraid of “messing up.” Quite simply, we don’t have a lot of time to mess things up.

But, it’s better to fix problems than prevent errors. Over time, innovative practices are iterated and refined where they then become valuable assets to the classroom. For example, in my third year of teaching, I piloted a web-based RTI program in my class that I developed. It linked results from student assessment data to resources (videos, practice problems, notes, etc.) relevant to the standards attached to each problem. Students would then individually work on their specific areas of need; it was dynamic, accessible, and highly targeted.

In a nutshell, here’s what happened: students who were going to already do well did that much better, but there was no difference in the scores for students whose scores were already low. I didn’t adequately address the lack of the motivation from these students. With the next iteration, I tweaked the software and addressed classroom management factors to increase motivation. Assessment scores for this population improved the following year.

Here’s another example: at one point in time, the ballpoint pen was an unwelcomed tool in the classroom.  Students had used pencils for so long; why use a pen? For one, they’d forget how to sharpen pencils; secondly, what would they do when they ran out of ink?  It took people willing to make “little bets” for pens to become acceptable artifacts in the classroom. 

How can you make these “little bets” to welcome innovation? Here are six fundamentals that the author proposes:

  • Experiment: Make trial and error a regular part of your classroom practice.
  • Play: When new ideas are emerging, you may too quickly judge it to be ineffective. Play quiets this inhibition and keeps good ideas flowing.
  • Immerse: Look beyond the textbooks for ideas on new things. What’s going on in industry that you could bring to the classroom? Gather ideas from sources outside education.
  • Define: Throughout the implementation process, use new insights that define problems and needs before solving them. You may figure out a solution to a problem that you weren’t initially trying to solve.
  • Reorient: Be flexible and make necessary changes.
  • Iterate: Repeat, refine, and keep testing

Follow this path of discovery before believing your ideas have no place in the classroom.  Like the ballpoint pen, we need pioneers and advocates for new tools and models of learning.

For further reflection, check out the video below that captivates the essence of making “little bets.”



Kinect for Learning Analytics and RTI

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

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.

Imagine a swivel holding multiple Kinects and projectors mounted from a classroom ceiling. With Kinect’s player recognition capabilities, every individual’s participation throughout a lesson can be assessed by interpreting individual’s gestures.  Then, this data can be assessed and stored to provide the teacher objective feedback regarding students’ facial cues and body language relevant to learning.

Assuredly, interpreting body language isn’t simple; 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. Assuredly, this could serve as an outstanding RTI tool.

I certainly see a place for this in many learning environments, but keep in mind that this is 100% speculation on my part.

Check out this video below of Microsoft’s Lightspace to gain perspective and a glimpse of how this technology may apply to classrooms.



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