learning with kinect


Welcome, Cheryl Arnett, to KinectEducation! Wife, Grandmother, World-Class Educator

Monday, December 19th, 2011

It makes no difference where you’re from; Cheryl Arnett embodies the attributes of your ideal, world-class elementary teacher. An inspiration for all, her nineteen years of teaching experience at Sunset Elementary in Craig, Colorado qualify her as one of the world’s best.

In case an award is needed to backup her credentials, she has those, too.

Cheryl’s passion and abilities as an educator revealed themselves when she and her partner from Beirut, Lebanon won two awards at Microsoft’s 2010 Innovative Educator Forum. Her ability to relate to people on a personal level helped establish partnerships with classrooms around the world, earning her the ePals Ambassador award in 2010. Cheryl was also a coach in Microsoft’s 2011 Partners in Learning Global Forum in Washington, DC.

Projects Cheryl is currently working on? Cheryl is also a member of Microsoft’s amazing Kinect in Education team and spent this last semester using the Kinect in her classroom while developing outstanding Kinect activities. Cheryl also serves as an Advisory Board Member on the Bridges of Peace and Hope, where people work “together to promote respect, understanding, and communication” around the world.

On a personal level, Cheryl has served as a great source of inspiration for me. As KinectEducation has evolved, it became clear that what was originally anticipated and sought after was becoming reality.  We’re doing something much, much bigger than ourselves here, and Cheryl shares this same vision. We need more people like Cheryl on board to carry this out effectively.

Most importantly, Cheryl is a wife, mother, and grandmother. Cheryl would never say it about herself, but she’s kind of a big deal. :)

Welcome, Cheryl Arnett, to KinectEducation!

Join the mission


Classrooms of Tomorrow, Today: Kinect Math App Available for Download

Tuesday, November 29th, 2011

I’m confident that I know how I’m teaching functions in my math classroom from now on! 

“Kinect Math” is more than just evidence revealing the classrooms of tomorrow.  It’s proof that this classroom is here, today.

Created by University of Washington Bothell students and professors,  this development reveals the power of custom-developed Kinect applications for mainstream classrooms. Robin Angotti demonstrated this development at Microsoft’s Partners in Learning Global Forum in Washington D.C.  I visited with her briefly about it at the event, but this is the first time I’ve seen it in action (video below).

Jack Chang made this available for download in KinectEDucation’s Kinect Apps for Education directory.


Jack Chang and Jeb Palveas  were the UWB students who developed this project.  Robin Angotti developed the original idea and Kevlin Sung served as the team’s mentor throughout development.  More information about the entire team and their development is available here.

This is an excellent representation of how coupling this technology with passionate educators will facilitate a “Connected Education.”  For future developments with this software, your ideas and experiences with this software are highly valued.  If you have any feedback that you can pass along to this team, please do so.

Johnny Kissko


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.



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.


Become a Blogger for KinectEDucation

Wednesday, October 5th, 2011

In April of 2011, I sent out a call for anyone interested in blogging for KinectEDucation to submit a request. I think the call was too early because the Kinect had been out for a short amount of time, and as an educator, I’m also aware that integrating new ideas usually happens at the beginning of a school year.

Over the last two weeks, I’ve visited with a few people who have expressed interest in blogging for the site.  As such, I’m opening up the form again for those interested in blogging for KinectEDucation to submit a request through this blogger request form.  This is open to developers, teachers, administrators, parents, students, and anyone else with an interest in education.  Location is not a factor; in fact, international input is a primary objective of this.

Selections are limited to those with the most relevant experience in some direct capacity (writing, developing, implementing, etc.).  If you have any questions, please contact me



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.”


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