Making ‘Kinections’

When i returned home from the Connect 13 Conference in Niagara Falls this spring I brought with me (along with a lot of new learning and inspiration) an Xbox Kinect. It was graciously donated by Dr. Camille Rutherford of the Brock University Faculty of Education. She wanted some of my TCDSB 21C colleagues and I to test the Xbox out in the classroom and see what we could come up with. One of the most innovative ideas was a mapping and transformational geometry activity created by Stepan Pruchnicky (see it here).

There are a lot of obvious curriculum connections for the use of the Kinect. As a Phys-Ed teacher, I was able to make great use of games like “Kinect Adventures” for active participation and coordinated movements. Students used “Just Dance 4” to help them prepare their dance routines. Truth be told, however, none of these uses are very innovative. Sure, we had a lot of fun and took part in some engaging activities but I figured that was all.

Then today I did something I’ve been trying to do more and more. I let go and just watched my students. Today was one of those crazy end-of-the year days when there’s somehow both too much and not enough for students to do. A number of students had been begging to play Just Dance, so I let them hook up the Kinect and just play for a bit. And right around the time that the outgoing, athletic boy turned and high-fived the reserved girl who usually has her head in a book, it came to me. This two-person dance was a community-building collaborative exercise.

One of the pillars of 21st Century education is Collaboration. One of the TCDSB’s Catholic Graduate Expectations is ‘A collaborative contributor who finds meaning, dignity and vocation in work which respects the rights of all and contributes to the common good.’ And yet respectful collaboration is not easy for all students. Some struggle to work with peers outside their social circle. Others struggle to work with anyone at all. As teachers, we spend a great deal of time trying to encourage true collaboration. As I watched one boy teach another a new dance, two normally shy girls get an ovation from their peers, and a student on a modified program coordinate the entire activity, I realized that this could be another tool I could use to promote a sense of community in our classroom. Not only that, it could promote risk-taking and a sense of safety for students who struggle with taking chances in front of others. Revolutionary? Not really I guess. But anything that will help my students work together well is important. With that in mind, I’ll be looking to have my students do some ‘Kinecting’ in the fall.

P.S. Thanks Dr. Rutherford for the use of the technology and some new learning.

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2 Responses to Making ‘Kinections’

  1. I couldn’t agree more.

    My favourite part of using the Kinect was setting it up during recess. I would always poke my head out into the hall to see if students were milling about or coming in to use the washroom. I would always ask them if they would help me “test something”. The excuse was spacing of the sensor. Realistically, I wanted them to play. My tester group grew and grew and grew. Such an unlikely bunch of new friends (all ages, varied social groups). They cheer each other on and support each other. Such a humanizing experience.

  2. wetzelm says:

    Just an idea: use the Kinect at the beginning of an activity that has group work and then let the game, (whatever it is), determine who will work together. Perhaps the introverted girl and the confident athletic boy would be the perfect pair based on their cooperation during the game. Just an idea but I love your comments about just letting them play to show you the way when it comes to collaboration.

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