teaching 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


7 Questions to Consider for Evaluating Gaming in Education

Sunday, November 27th, 2011

When evaluating gaming technologies for their use in education, these 7 questions should guide you towards well-made decisions.  The trick will be in making a decision that strikes a balance amongst all your answers.

Although there are many factors to address prior to making any decisions relating to gaming in education, I consider the below 7 questions to be most important. This framework was adapted for evaluating gaming technology from my other site, K12 Mobile Learning.  The framework should be similar for evaluating the adoption of any new tool in education.

1. What provides the most learning gains and opportunities?

Regardless of how innovative your instructional strategy may be, you must be able to show results from using it. What games are going to provide the most opportunities for gains in performance? If you can’t show how the game you’re going to integrate aligns with your curriculum, scrap it and look for something new. In my opinion, this is the first and most important criterion to consider.  If this question can’t be satisfactorily addressed, start brainstorming for new ideas.

Aneesh Bhat has this website that dynamically updates great resources for gaming in the classroom. I would definitely bookmark it and refer back to it when determining what gaming technology provides the most learning gains.

2. What requires the least expenditure of student & teacher time?

Familiarity is big plus. Find something that’s not a foreign technology so that it can be easily integrated. Fortunately, one of the biggest “plusses” for gaming in the classroom is that students are familiar with the technology, creating a less steep learning curve.

3. What requires the least amount of school funds for purchase?

Obviously, affordability is a huge determining factor when deciding what software and technology to integrate in your school or classroom.  Check your balance sheet before committing to major purchases, and keep in mind that expensive technology is also a gateway opportunity for companies to try and sell you even more expensive technology to supplement their product.

For assistance with funding, check out the following resources:

ARPA-ED: providing funds for innovative instruction.

3 Ways to Get Kinects for Your Classroom: directory of grants and resources for getting Kinects for your classroom.

Fortunately, the Kinect sensor is very inexpensive relative to what it can do. Game prices are also fair. What I’m interested to see is what price custom developers will charge for their software once more players enter the field.

For a growing directory of free apps, check out KinectEDucation’s Kinect Apps for Education.

4. Is there a large community supporting it?

Remember Sega’s Dreamcast?  It had great potential, but ultimately failed because of the lack of support.  Make sure the software or hardware you’re evaluating has wide community support that will promote longevity. This also extends to the development of lesson plans.

Conclusively, try not to integrate anything that has waning support. Don’t adopt a platform that isn’t growing or at least stable in support.

5. Can scalability be supported?

Can you (as a teacher or administrator) ensure that support will be provided once your proposed technology is a standard classroom tool?  It may be easy for you to use, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it will be easy for everyone to use. That’s something I’ve had to learn with emerging Kinect developments. This is an evolving field and PC software development is just emerging. Give it time, though.

Simplicity should be a goal, along with a strong support team to address unforeseen issues.

6. Does it respect privacy laws specific to education?

Ensure your proposed technology doesn’t violate FERPA or any other local and federal policies.  No matter how good your technology may be, if isn’t aligned with privacy laws (or all laws for that matter), it isn’t allowable. Anything promoting violence should probably be avoided. This has been a sore spot for many administrators considering the adoption of games in the classroom. There’s an unfortunate association with video games and violence. Yes, there’s a lot of these games, but it’s not requisite for active engagement.

7. What’s the expected life cycle before necessary upgrades?

How long until the product’s next iteration is released? With Kinect technology, I don’t think that this is a major issue to really consider, but when you’re spending big money, it’s always smart to check out the market.


Please consider this is not an exhaustive list.  Additionally, this only reflects my personal opinions as to what qualifies as the most important criteria to observe prior to integrating gaming technology in education.

What other factors should be considered? Share your thoughts on KinectEDucation’s Facebook page.

Johnny Kissko


When Fish Fly Project: Microsoft’s Global PIL Event

Tuesday, November 8th, 2011

I am in Washington D.C. with the honor of participating in Microsoft’s Global Partner in Learning event. I am joined with Doug Bergman, Lou Zulli, Margaret Noble, and Donna Thomas to showcase an amazing project titled “When Fish Fly” that Doug and Lou’s computer science students developed using the Kinect SDK.

This great development will be uploaded to KinectEDucation’s Kinect apps for education public directory to share with the world soon. For now, it is publicly accessible here. The folder titled “Final Build” contains the executable file and all the code. The “WFF Installs” contains just the code and files required to build the executable.

This project was developed in a quick eight weeks and is a testimony to the talent these students possess and, from a more global perspective, an emerging dimension of learning where learners literally interact with relevant content.

If you have an opportunity, download When Fish Fly and share your pictures on Twitter with event members here! The hashtag for this event is #PlLGF.  


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.


Evolve Your Podcasts with Kinect & StagePresence

Saturday, August 20th, 2011

Kinect is continually proving to provide instructors and learners with new ways to engage with content. One innovative tool harnessing the power of Kinect is Nuvixa’s StagePresence. StagePresence provides plenty of justification to purchase a Kinect for any classroom implementing podcasts. Using StagePresence and Kinect, the “flipped classroom model” can be taken to an entirely new level.

Any instructor implementing podcasts or videocasts (“vodcasts”) needs to consider using this tool to leverage the time they’re already spending creating supplemental content. StagePresence allows viewers to actually see the instructor solving the problem. Traditional podcasting methods typically only allow for a screen recording of a problem being solved. While that’s effective, I would highly speculate that the viewer (learner) is more engaged when they can actually see their instructor solving problems.

I plan to use this to create daily video instruction for my students and parents to view on their mobile devices or computers.

You can download a “Sneak Peak” of StagePresence from Nuvixa’s website. Check out my video example below for a visual example and imagine students being able to load similar content on their mobile devices and other accessible technology. In addition to what I show here, there are many other features of this software that I will showcase in the near future.


Kinect in Education Project: Follow the Progress!

Wednesday, August 10th, 2011

Kinect Education Classroom Model

This year in my class, I will be piloting the use of Kinects for learning in my classroom. I intend to fully document and blog about the experience for others to evaluate as a source for integrating active learning in their classrooms.




Here’s a basic outline of my plan:

As a bellringer activity, half of the class will interact with content using the Kinect, while the other half performs a traditional bellringer activity (journal entry, solve a few problems, construct something, etc.). This will be done for approximately 10-15 minutes daily. A similar activity will take place towards the end of class, and at times may serve as a “breakout session” in the middle of class.

At the end of a unit, students will take a common summative assessment. Data will be collected throughout each unit and will be used to compare results amongst students who participated with Kinect and those who did not. When we begin a new unit, students who previously used the Kinect will rotate and then do traditional bell ringer activities for that unit, and vice-versa.

The content students interact with will be on a laptop with Windows 7, since this OS most fully supports Kinect. The software development will come from (1) software developed with the Kinect SDK and (2) software developed using Kodu and FAAST.

For example, students will “interact with content” in a way similar to my video below. This is the Shape Games that was downloaded with the Kinect SDK for Windows 7. The content could easily be adapted for any curricula’s needs. For example, students could grab all factors of five for math class, grab anything that’s a verb in English class, and dodge anything that might create an undesirable chemical reaction in science class. These are just a few basic examples.

Conclusively, my plan is to build on the “flipped classroom” model by having kids literally interact with their content on a daily basis. By doing so, active learning is taking place within a closed environment, which is something we as educators have strived for but fallen short of for the most part.

It’s an expensive project in terms of out-of-pocket expenses; eight laptops and eight Kinects will likely cost close to $5,000; the bulk of costs would come from laptop costs. If laptops are provided, that cost drastically falls to around $1,200. I may have the option to check out a classroom set of laptops at our school (which would a great way to leverage existing technology), but I don’t want to be greedy and take them away from other teachers who equally need them. I feel that for this data to be most relevant, I need to integrate it on a consistent, near-daily basis. I am currently working on ways to obtain a dedicated classroom set of eight laptops; the Kinects are more cost-effective to obtain. If you have any suggestions or resources to direct me towards, please contact me.

Kinect Lesson Plans: Teaching Math & Functions

Thursday, August 4th, 2011

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.


Exciting Development: Easier Kinect Programming

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011

It’s about to become much easier to make software Kinect-compatible.

I recently wrote a post discussing a few things that would need to happen for Kinect to be successfully integrated in classrooms. One key point suggested was for someone to develop software similar to FAAST, but using the Kinect SDK and a graphical user interface to make it easier to employ.

Earlier today, I was contacted by the developer of FAAST at the University of Southern California ICT, Evan Suma, and he told me that he had internally developed a new version of FAAST exactly along the lines of the aformentioned specifications. A release is expected in the near future.

I am excited to see this being released and ready to test it out. Combining Kodu, Kinect, a community willing to share their developments, and accessible Kinect educational software may be the catalyst to transform classrooms into active learning environments.


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