Sunday, February 5, 2012

Gaming and Learning 'Kinect' in the Classroom

Well the 2012 school year is in full swing.  This year I'm teaching grade 5/6; a multi-age classroom full of 31 unique students.   We have just completed week 2 of Term 1. A highlight of our 2 weeks together would be the implementation of our new XBOX 360 Kinect.

Using the Kinect in the classroom has enabled me to begin to harness the culture of my students and embed it in the educational concepts I wish to teach them.  Upon reflection, I have noticed that concepts of game design can promote a positive classroom environment and inform my practices as a facilitator of student learning.

For example, when reflecting with my students of our use of the Kinect in our classroom, we brainstormed the following positive aspects when using the technology:
  • When playing on the Kinect we have the ability to fail, pick ourselves up again and work together to succeed.
  • We can all play the game our way.  Just because we're different doesn't mean we can't achieve the same goal.
  • We can try new tactics when we play games, we can experiment with outcomes and try again if our efforts end in disaster.
  • We can experience each others thinking.  "What I might do to achieve a goal may be totally different but just as valid as the person next to me.  We're all different, that's what makes it fun."
I believe that:
  • Gaming approaches to education present an excellent opportunity to engage students in activities both familiar and unfamiliar.
  • Using gaming technologies such as the XBOX Kinect system assist children in establishing links between existing interests, skills and personal knowledge.
  • Gaming builds a connection between the educational contexts of the home and school environments, promoting the immersion of children in relevant, real life experiences. 
  • Gaming creates avenues for collaboration between students regardless of their gaming ability.
As a teacher I have watched and noted how the use of the Kinect has helped strengthen and even connect bonds between students in and outside of the classroom.  Because the Kinect can be multi-player, it provides students with scenarios where they may be playing with a student who they do not normally interact with. Regardless of their former interactions, in every instance students will team up with a partner and exert themselves to achieve the high score.

2 weeks in and we negotiate when and why the Kinect is booted up and engaged with in the classroom.  So Far we have played Kinect adventures and Dance Central 2.  Both games give students a clear understanding of what is needed of them to complete levels and objectives with minimal instruction time.  The games allow for failure and prompt students with helpful tips even simplifying the expectations of the player if things are a little difficult.

Using the Kinect in the classroom
Students work together to achieve a common goal.

To me I have noticed 3 things that students appreciate when playing video games that I can use to inform my teaching practice:

  1. Give students clear, explicit and unchanging expectations when I set them a task.
  2. Give students the freedom to achieve a goal/task with an approach that is comfortable for them.
  3. Provide help/simplify the task if students find it too difficult but don't change the expectation/goal set in step 1.

I look forward to continuing to use the Kinect in our classroom. Stay tuned for some student posts about how we incorporate these 2 games into our weekly classroom schedule.  If you use the Kinect in your classroom or any other video game software I would love to hear how you use it and what impact it has had on your students and their learning.  Leave a comment below and share the learning!

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Play some Tetris!

Or try some Pacman!