As a techie I’m usually involved in the backend services such as email and web filtering, but recently I’ve become more interested in technology in the classroom. I’ve been an avid gamer for many years and have owned most of the consoles produced. This has lead to an interest in Games Based Learning.
Recently I had the opportunity to take my Xbox 360 Kinect into a year 4 class and what an afternoon it was. It was the end of term and the school where having a play afternoon and the year 4 class where bringing their Nintendo DS’s in. As an alternative I asked if I could take my Kinect in. I’ve wanted to try it for a long time and the chance to use it in a fun sense was ideal.
The Xbox 360 Kinect is a Microsoft motion sensing alternative to the Nintendo Wii that doesn’t require controllers. It utilises a number of cameras to track movements of the whole body and allows for a full immersive experience. Its still quite early in the Kinect development and has limitations such as only allowing a maximum of 2 players at one time, but I was sure it would go down well in the classroom.
Once I got over the initial excitement of me going into a classroom full of kids, I began to think about what I could actually do. I’ve read a few articles on Kinect in the classroom and the feedback has been its best used in small groups. Potentially depending on how many wanted to play, I could have had up to 30 pupils. Another problem I had was year 4 pupils are aged 8-9 years old and many games I first thought would be good had an age rating of 12. I managed to narrow it down to Dr Kawashima’s Brain and Body Exercises, Kinect Sports and Kinect Adventures. I knew I could get requests for dance games but games such as Dance Central where inappropriate due to the song contents. Even Kinect Sports has a 12 rating due to the boxing element. What I found interesting is Wii Sports for the Nintendo Wii has boxing but only has a 7 rating. Having played both I believe the lack of controller in Kinect Sports makes it more realistic and therefore requires the higher rating.
After much dilemma I decided I would split the class into either 4 or 6 teams and play the track and field element of kinect sports. The individual game selection part of the game allows you to select the following track and field events:-
Time sprint – This allows up to 4 players with each player having one attempt
100m Sprint - This allows up to 4 players but with 2 players running at a time
Javelin - This allows up to 4 players with each player taking turns and each having 3 attempts
Long Jump - This allows up to 4 players with each player taking turns and each having 3 attempts
Discuss - This allows up to 4 players with each player taking turns and each having 3 attempts
Hurdles - This allows up to 4 players but with 2 players running at a time
The plan if their where 6 teams was to play each event with a player from 2 teams at a time. If 4 teams I would play each event with the 4 teams.
My concern was each team would have 6 players and I wasn’t sure how the other pupils would react when they where not playing. Initially I thought they could just play with their Nintendo DS’s if they didn’t want to cheer for their team member. But an enthusiastic teacher gave me the idea to ask the pupils to write notes on the use of Kinect and the games that where being played.
Armed with my plan I nervously entered the classroom and was introduced by the teacher. I explained what we where going to do and asked who would like to play. A few pupils where not allowed to or preferred to play on their DS’s, which lead to the perfect number of 24 who wanted to play. This meant I could split them into 4 teams of 6 and each pupil would play one game. The teaching assistant in the class (who just happened to be my wife ) would keep the scores and there would be a prize for the winning team (Easter eggs, losers got cream eggs). On the advice of another teacher I gave each member a random number from 1-6, which corresponded to the event they would play.
As the afternoon went on it was great to see how the pupils responded. As soon as the first pupils stepped up, there was an excitement and competitiveness around the room. In their teams they discussed how best to complete the events and cheered their team mates on. It turned out 2 teams tied for the lead at the end so we had to play a tie breaker. I then picked a random player from each team who competed in a single event, which then determined who won. Although it was mainly a fun session the pupils where given pen and paper asked to write comments about the games and kinect in general. The overall feedback was fantastic, but there where comments about the difficulty of some games and the fact they only got to play one game.
Summary of thoughts;-
- Overall I thought it was a positive experience all round.
- Although playing track and field with teams was good, the limitation of only 2 players able to play at one time did hamper the enthusiasm. I and am hoping Kinect will support 4 players in the near future.
- Technology in the classroom can be powerful, it generates excitement at the very least. Which could then be channelled into a more curriculum context. But with creative thinking, can be used for various parts of the curriculum.
- Having had the opportunity to use the Xbox Kinect used in a fun context I would like to see it used in a curriculum way. Fortunately, I have an enthusiastic teacher in another school that would like to do just that. I just need to wait for SAT’s to finish and hopefully I will see it used in an actual lesson.