Cheryl Arnettis an elementary teacher from Craig, Colorado. In 2010, she was a winner in Microsoft’s US Partner in Learning event. I had the opportunity to meet Cheryl this past summer and have maintained contact with her through an initiative we are working on together with to develop Kinect activities. An inspiration for all, here are recent reflections Cheryl sent about integrating Kinect in her classroom.
Tomorrow will be our 30th day of school. My first graders are engaged in learning and growing. One of the highlights so far has been the inclusion of Xbox 360 Kinect games in our lessons. The children loved that from the minute they saw it, but, for me, it has been a learning process for the teacher. Using new technology tools in the classroom involves extra time and thought during implementation. The payoffs, however, can be quite rewarding. That has been the case with using Kinect.
Equipped with the TV, Xbox360, Kinect sensor, and a wide selection of games, I began the year with many ideas and expectations for inspiring learning in my students. Two obstacles presented themselves right away. The first was, and always is in the classroom, time. The second was how to manage 21 students and one gaming system. Loving a challenge, I jumped in and began to experiment.
The time issue dissolved as I moved past the need to use the games just because they were there. When any technology tool becomes a natural part of the learning process (no different than using a pencil and paper), it becomes powerful and incorporated where it will do the most good. Rather than planning times for Kinect, I am now considering the wide variety of possibilities (check out the growing list of ideas from Kinect in Education) to enhance our lessons. As with all learning tools, you start with the learning objective, then select the methods, tools, and materials that best achieve the desired results. Used in that way, Xbox 360 Kinect, or any video gaming system can become a part of learning without creating a time problem.
Management is another common issue in the classroom. Engagement has never been a problem as my students are mesmerized by the Kinect games. I could tell right away that if I could direct their enthusiasm, we were sitting on a gold mine of learning possibilities. The difficulty was that only one student could actually "play" the game at a time. The other students were cheering and enjoying the process, but there was not enough active learning participation to suit me. The game Body and Brain Connections helped me solve the problem. That particular game is full of activities that reinforce math concepts I teach. We are working on addition to 10 and learning a variety of ways to make each number. One game is called Perfect Tens (facts for 10 are an important skill to master). The player has to use his or her hands to mark two numbers with a sum of 10 before the timer runs out. We discovered that the Kinect sensor focuses in on a narrow enough area, that while one student was actually controlling the game, all the other students could participate from behind and beside the player. The results were delightful and obviously productive:
I added to the lesson, recording sheets for each child to keep track of his or her score. The children can see their own growth and are motivated to improve their score as in any video game setting. They are learning the facts for 10 more quickly than I could have imagined and they think they are playing!! (The scores will soon become another lesson as we use arrow cards to learn about place value and how to read big numbers.)
Of course, learning the facts for 10 is just one of the many skills we will inspire with our gaming system. The possibilities are endless. Patience is the key. Rather than forcing the games into lessons, I will find the natural applications as they arise. Group participation is the next key as managing the use of the tool becomes no different than passing out paper for spelling practice.
The final advantage and payoff for using Kinect in the classroom is the addition of activity to stimulate both the body and the brain! The first brain rule (Brain Rules by John Medina) is that exercise boosts brain power. Children naturally want to move so why not channel that movement into the learning process! Everyone wins!
After just 30 days of learning with Xbox 360 Kinect, I am convinced that it holds tremendous potential for education. A little time spent working out the bugs and exploring the possibilities will reap great benefits for children!
Lesson name: Teaching Math Concepts Relating to Functions with Kinect
Content Area: Math
Standards: Data and Probability, Functions, Independent and Dependent Variables, Domain and Range
Age group: Grades 8-10 (Algebra I)
Software needed: Xbox 360 with Kinect and Kinect Sports
Supplies needed: Materials for collecting and displaying data (paper or technology)
Lesson description: In this activity, students will play Kinect Sports to learn concepts relating to functions. Depending on class size, you may have students split up into four different groups. Have students assess all the potential input variables that might determine their output (performance) on any of the Kinect Sports games. For example, students may collect data on height, arm length, athletic history, etc. in order to see if they can predict performance on the Track and Field activity. This is also a great way to teach the difference between quantitative and qualitative data.
After several students have participated, have the class plot points on an xy coordinate plane, where x represents the input factor (height, for example) and y represents the output (total distance traveled, for example). Separate graphs will have to be made for each input factor assessed.
See if students can determine what input factor can be used to best determine their performance. Explain how being able to plot this performance would reveal a linear function.
Lesson name: Teaching math with Kinect Adventures
Content Area: Math
Standards: Number Sense and Relationships, Data and Probability, Computation Appropriate
Age group: Elementary 1-5
Software needed: Xbox 360 with Kinect – Kinect Adventures
Supplies needed: Materials for collecting and displaying data (paper or technology)
Lesson description: By playing any of the Kinect Adventures games in teams of two, a class can generate data by recording scores. All ages can use the scores to create graphs and charts. The scores can be used for young children to learn to read, order, and compare 2-3 digit numbers. Older students can use the actively generated data to compute mean, median, and mode. Data can be collected over time and students can use computational skills to measure their score growth as well as compare team scores. How much more engaging can data and statistics be than when generated through competitive, active game playing! The game sessions are short enough to provide time for many players and there is no end to the math that can be performed with the results. Explore the possibilities by testing scores with one player as opposed to two. Connect online with another classroom and gather data for gaming at a distance!
This application, Kinect Paint, is a lot of fun to play around with. Although developments are still early, this undoubtedly has definite implications in elementary classrooms and is further evidence that the Kinect development community is growing strong.
As this Kinect community grows, the need for accessible downloads is warranted. This is provided a single executable file, making it easier for everyone to access. Most developments thus far have required you to compile source code, which can be tedious and perplexing. That being considered, make sure you read the instructions from the provider’s site in order to get this to work, because you will need to download the Kinect SDK first. If that sounds like too much legwork, I will tell you that it is beginning to become much easier to utilize these developments.
This application is available for download at paint.codeplex.com and is also listed in the Kinect Apps for Education directory at http://apps.kinecteducation.com. Using the Kinect and a PC, you can draw using coordinated hand movements.
Check out my video demonstration below. I may be super-nerd for filming myself like this; if I am, oh well. It’s far too cool not to share.
For those of us raised in typical school settings, the memory of straight-row desks with little activity is all too familiar. As we’re all aware, the Kinect has the potential to evolve classrooms beyond this 18th century model of learning to a structure that’s aligned with brain research and the benefits of active learning.
With the release of the noncommercial Kinect SDK, several new Kinect applications are emerging. These range from simple apps (such as creating “3D air drawings”) to more complex applications (such as sign language recognition). Regardless, every single one of these developments has the potential to drastically enhance teaching and learning in all learning environments.
It may be early to see Kinect in many classrooms, but it’s becoming more evident that Kinect is being supported as an effective learning tool.
1. Facilitate Research-Supported Learning
Active learning increases academic performance. For many classroom teachers, the most challenging question has been “how.” There are so many constraints and parameters that prevent active learning from becoming a consistent classroom experience. It’s my belief that Kinect can overcome the parameters isolating active learning from classrooms. Furthermore, The Horizon Report reveals that gesture-based learning is an upcoming trend that will be integrated in the field of education over the next few years.
Conclusively, gesture-based learning facilitates active learning; Kinect is a consumer-friendly tool providing the gesture-based experience.
2. Seamlessly Integrate Technology
The irony of technology integration is that it’s most effective when it “disappears,” meaning that users are so engaged in the content that reflecting on the actual technology is minimal. For instance, the Wii offers a great active experience, but users are required to be constantly aware of the device and follow (at times) non-intuitive rules. Kinect is seamless; as long as the software is well-programmed, user awareness of the device is rare.
3. Embrace Cultural Diversity
Combining a virtual lobby with full facial and body tracking, users can globally connect with others from around the globe. Students can control their avatars in augmented learning environments with other students from anywhere in the world.. Since the device is cheap, this excludes no population. For instance, Microsoft is piloting Kinect in Africa, a sure sign this device can reach learners from all demographics and socioeconomic statuses.
Check out the Avatar Kinect trailer below, which is expected to be released in July 2011:
4. Establish Content Relevancy
It would be ideal if every classroom could have an authentic lab to further explore content, but it would also be naïve to think this is feasible. Virtual labs are great, especially in schools that may not be able to provide “real” labs. However, augmented labs that integrate gestures and Kinect will bridge the gap between virtual labs and true-to-life labs.
5. Explore New Environments
One moment, you may be exploring the universe; the next moment, exploring the human body. All of this can be done within a standard classroom. Pundits will argue that this is far-fetched. I understand their angle and arguments; after all, this new technology has had little classroom exposure. But when we evaluate learning research, instructional needs, and the relatively inexpensive price for Kinect, it becomes further evident that this technology will be a 21st century tool to facilitate instruction.
Check out the Kinect Apps for Education, where users can download and submit their own Kinect developments. Want to start creating your own Kinect software? Scope out the Teacher’s Guide for Kinect Development for beginner-level programming. Anyone can contribute; as you grow more advanced, consider downloading the Kinect SDK to create more advanced software. While it’s still new, the community forums have help to get you started with the Kinect SDK.
Check out the new and emerging section of KinectEDucation, Kinect Lesson Plans!
There’s nothing here yet; these lessons are community-generated and tweaked before being included in this directory. This is a community-wide effort; if you have any idea for a lesson plan, share it with the community!
Before being published, all lessons will meet the following criteria:
Feel free to contact me with any questions!
Success within your professional career is largely a matter of aligning yourself with the core values of your surrounding environment; but occasionally, adhering to your environment and the status quo may come at the expense of innovation. If the system you’re operating within is isn’t aligned with innovative practices, your innovative idea may not fit well within the organization and may threaten its foundation and your personal success.
Our students and our teachers deserve to be guided by best practices, not practices that place excessive emphasis on teaching “tricks” that help attain a passing score on standardized assessments. Please don’t misunderstand me – I do teach shortcuts to help attain that important passing score. It’s hard to escape, and at times, “tricks” do help students succeed as we’ve defined it. But if better options exist – options that can help teach content and minimize the “tricks” – we need to spend more time pursuing those.
Will gesture-based learning innovate schools? As an educator, I strongly feel like this dimension of learning may help teachers, administrators, students, legislators, and state education agencies share harmony amongst their respective values. For most schools, these new dimensions of learning currently exist as mere ideas that need innovators to effectively integrate them in learning environments.
It’s important to step back from time-to-time and make sure that the road we’re on is worth taking. If innovative instructional practices can help us focus on what’s most important in our classrooms – rigor, relevancy, and relationships – then that’s the path we need to follow.
Using the Kinect for learning (gesture-based learning) is just one new paradigm to explore; what other innovative avenues have you been exploring? Feel free to leave your comments in the community forum or on the Kinect Education Facebook Page.
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. Check out the Kinect Apps for Education directory to see the software that’s available and become a community member (it’s free) to start collaborating on your ideas.
Here are five reasons why the Kinect will succeed in schools and become a technology focal point of learning environments:
Reason 1: Content Relevancy Amplified
Classroom integration of the Kinect may be preliminary, but assessing its potential is not. The featured video below encapsulates an early look at what the field of education can anticipate with the Kinect as a classroom focal point.
If you’re in agreement that the Kinect could create a new classroom identity – one that’s aligned with the current parameters demanded by the structure of most schools – help pioneer this new dimension to learning. Spread the word about the free, open-source KinectEDucation community through the KinectEDucation Facebook page, Twitter, and YouTube channel.
Share your best practices and ideas relating to Kinect integration in learning environments in the community forum.
Author’s note: Microsoft is holding its annual U.S. Innovative Education Forum in Seattle this year; two attendees will be chosen based on the number of YouTube “likes” received for a submitted video. If you like the idea of integrating the Kinect in learning environments, consider “liking” this video on YouTube.