Higher Education & K-12 Educators Connect to Support Educational Innovation

Regardless of technological ingenuity, the effectiveness of any educational technology product is dependent on its ability to address the needs of the education community. Unfortunately, a lack of access to education stakeholders has been noted as one of the greatest challenges to educational entrepreneurs. This lack of classroom and educator access can greatly hamper the innovation and product development process.

With a goal to nurture the ongoing relationships between education stakeholders, researcher, entrepreneurs and technology companies the Faculty of Education at Brock University and the District School Board of Niagara (DSBN) have combined forces to create the Educational Research and Innovation Hub.

Located within a grade 6 - 9 middle school, (it will grow to include grades 10 -12) the iHub will provide researcher and entrepreneurs with the distinct advantage of being in close proximity to education stakeholders so that they may easily observe classroom and school-wide practice, gather educational insight, solicit educator and student feedback or pilot the use of innovative products in an authentic context.

Suraj Srinivas, co-founder of Vetica, is one of many who see the incredible value in having the Hub located in a K-12 institution. “Having a hub like this in a school with access to teachers and students in a supervised environment is huge for us. We can create something, push it out there to our potential users, and get their feedback quickly which is so important to a small company like ours.

During the iHub opening on February 26, 2014, the DSBN Director of Education, Warren Hoshizaki, noted “We know there is a wealth of entrepreneurs out there searching for opportunities to use their talents and skills to support Canadian education. The expertise and resources they access at the Hub will assist them in changing their ideas into tools that improve teacher practice and benefit student learning for years to come.”

Dr. Fiona Blaikie, Dean of the Faculty of Education at Brock University, believes that the Hub is an example of how 21st century research should take place.

Once in operation, the iHub will:
  • Facilitate research opportunities that pair university researchers with entrepreneurs and educational technology companies to investigate the impact of newly created educational technologies and support the development of new innovations. 
  • House a co-working space where educators, researchers, entrepreneurs and educational technology companies can develop ongoing relationships.
  • Deliver an ongoing series of presentations, colloquium, focus groups, and networking opportunities that bring educators, researchers, software developers, entrepreneurs and educational technology companies together to connect, collaborate and disseminate innovative ideas. 
The Brock / DSBN Educational Research and Innovation Hub is not the first time that these two organizations have combined forces to support educational innovation. The school district and university were the original organizers of CONNECT 2014: Canada’s Learning and Technology Conference. This unique two-day event connects K-12, college and university educators, school leaders and technologists with the technology resources that support 21st century teaching and learning.

These endeavours highlight the ongoing relationships needed to needed to mobilize the knowledge of these combined communities and support the development of innovative educational approaches, tools and resources.

DSBN, Brock Partner to Launch Educational Research and Innovation Hub

From the Brock News

The District School Board of Niagara and Brock University’s Faculty of Education are collaborating on a unique initiative to support innovation in Canadian education and technology.

Housed inside 2,100 square feet at the DSBN Academy in St. Catharines, the newly minted Educational Research and Innovation Hub will bring together a wide range of stakeholders to cultivate powerful new learning technologies.

“We see incredible potential in this new project,” says Warren Hoshizaki, DSBN Director of Education. “We know there is a wealth of entrepreneurs out there searching for opportunities to use their talents and skills to support Canadian education. The expertise and resources they access at the Hub will assist them in changing their ideas into tools that improve teacher practice and benefit student learning for years to come.”

When the Hub officially opens its doors in late February, it will be a home to several original start-up companies. The collaborative atmosphere of the Hub will promote discussion, idea sharing and creativity amongst educators, researchers, graduate students, entrepreneurs and education technology companies.

Dr. Fiona Blaikie, Professor and Dean of the Faculty of Education at Brock University, believes that the Hub is an example of how 21st century research should take place.

“Everything unfolds in context and in partnership,” says Blaikie. “As leaders in technology education, Faculty of Education researchers and students are superbly positioned to engage with entrepreneurs and colleagues at DSBN to better serve to society, teaching, learning and scholarship.”

Dr. Camille Rutherford, Associate Professor in the Department of Teacher Education, acknowledges that there needs to be a direct line from invention to practice.

“Regardless of technologic ingenuity, the effectiveness of any education innovation is dependent on its ability to address the needs of education,” says Rutherford. “Unfortunately, a lack of access to education stakeholders has been noted as one of the greatest challenges to educational entrepreneurs that often come from non-education backgrounds.”

The Hub aims to eliminate the disconnect between educational insight and the innovation process. It will bridge this gap by providing entrepreneurs with the opportunity to observe actual classes and the strategies teachers use to support student learning. Start-ups will also be able to refine their products by observing their use in an actual classroom setting. This will allow companies to make necessary enhancements to ensure they are best meeting the needs of students, teachers and schools.

In addition to the benefits the Hub will bring to the product development process, students will also benefit from their interactions with these start-up companies.

“Students will have safe access to programmers, engineers and entrepreneurs, giving them the ability to ask questions, share ideas and learn more about potential career paths,” says Dino Miele, DSBN Chief Information Officer.

Located within the DSBN Academy at 130 Louth Street in St. Catharines, the Hub is unique in its location.

“There are a number of EdTech incubators and accelerators throughout North America, but there has yet to be a location that is housed within a K-12 educational institution,” says Rutherford.

FETC: The Place to Be

Despite Orlando's unusually cool and wet weather, the Florida Educational Technology Conference should be considered one of the best values when it comes to EdTech events. Here are the top five reasons why it is the place to be.

  1. It's in Orlando in January - For Canadians or anyone from a cold climate that may be the only argument needed. Despite the chill in the air this year, it was a nice escape from the polar vortex gripping the northern half of the continent. At the Mindshare Learning Canadian Tweetup (There were over 300 Canadians at FETC this year) the prize for the coldest hometown went an educator from Saskatchewan who was happy to be avoiding the -44 weather back home.
  2. Price - The FETC walk-up registration price (No membership needed) was $290. There were a number of online discounts that brought the cost down to $230 if you didn't register in time to take advantage of the early bird pricing. In contrast the ISTE walk-up registration fee for non-members is $448. 
  3. Sometimes smaller is better - With 8, 500 attendees, FETC is less than half the size of ISTE with is over 18,000 attendees. This can make FETC less overwhelming and exhausting. Despite the smaller size, most of the rock star presenters and technology companies listed on the ISTE website are also at FETC. A review of the conference agendas with reveal a number of commonalities when it comes to presentation speakers and topics. Regardless of the smaller size, FETC provides excellent professional development opportunities.
  4. Travel - Flying into ISTE's various conference locations presents attendees with a roller coaster of airfare research each year. With Orlando as FETC's permanent location, developing a budget for getting to FETC is considerably easier. As a vacation destination, there are plenty of flights and routes to choose from and late January also provides many off-season travel deals, making it easy and affordable to get to FETC each year.
  5. Accommodations - As a vacation resort mecca, Orlando is a very budget friendly location. I've had the pleasure of staying at the Vista Cay Resort for the past two years. This resort includes condo and townhouse accommodations that permit small and large groups to stay within walking distance of the convention centre for less than the cost of a hotel room at ISTE. Staying in a 3 bedroom, 3.5 bathroom townhouse provides plenty of sleeping and meeting space for a group of 4. Each year we notice a growing number of educator walking between Vista Cay and the convention centre. On the walk this year we encountered a couple of teachers from Saskatchewan that noted that there were part of a group of 30 people from their school district staying at Vista Cay while attending the conference. A review of my past credit card statements reveals that the cost of registration, travel and accommodations for FETC is often less than my hotel bill at ISTE. 

That should be proof enough that FETC is the place to be, but if you need a little more convincing check out the following blog posts:


Laura Gleeson - My FETC Experience
Jason Ribeiro - Revisiting FETC
Kyle Tuck - FETC 2014

Brock EdTech Internship

Rationale
Regardless of technological ingenuity, the effectiveness of any educational technology is dependent on its ability to address the needs of practitioners. Unfortunately, most EdTech entrepreneurs have advanced technical training, but lack a comprehensive understanding of pedagogy, educational research and the realities of being a classroom teacher. This lack of educational insight can greatly hamper the product development and eventual success. Pairing EdTech entrepreneurs with interns that are pursing a Masters degree in education will provide these organizations with the educational insight needed to ensure that their products address the needs of educational practitioners, while also ensuring these products are informed by best practices and current educational research.

The internship will also provide graduate students with an opportunity to apply the knowledge and understanding they have acquired in the graduate program to a growing industry that may provide them with future employment opportunities.  The rapid advancement of technology-enabled learning has foster exponential growth in the educational technology sector. It is estimated that the EdTech market will double its level of investment from $31 billion in 2013 to $59 billion by 2018 (EdTech Digest). This influx of funding should create significant growth in opportunities for educators that are knowledgeable about the EdTech sector and are able to capitalize on their educational background and training to support educational innovation.

Internship Description
In addition to working with their assigned Edtech startup, the interns will be required to participate in weekly meetings with their faculty advisor. These academically focused meetings and required reading assignments will  enhance the intern’s knowledge and understanding of the EdTech industry and related research. During these weekly sessions, interns will discuss the required research and industry readings as well as discuss and share insights gained from their individual readings, field placement, or knowledge dissemination activities.

To further support their understanding of the EdTech industry, the interns will have the opportunity to attend in-person or online a variety of EdTech conferences (FETCSXSW EDUCONNECT: Canada's Learning & Technology Conference) or other networking opportunities. During these events, the interns will be expected to network and interact with attendees to enhance their understanding of current industry challenges and opportunities, while also building a professional network. 

To support knowledge dissemination, the interns will be required to create a Twitter account and professional blog. Their blog and Twitter posts will highlight their experience while also sharing links to the key articles, blog posts, podcasts, and conference presentations that enhanced their knowledge and understanding of the educational technology industry.

2014 EdTech Interns

Accepting the Blogging Challenge – and Extending it…


This blog post is my acceptance of Lori DiMarco's challenge


1. Acknowledge the nominating blogger.

2. Share 11 random facts about yourself.

3. Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you.

4. List 11 bloggers. They should be bloggers you believe deserve a little recognition.

5. Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer and let all the bloggers know they’ve been nominated. (You cannot nominate the blogger who nominated you.)


This blog is my acceptance of the 5 challenges from Lori and I too am extending the 5 challenges to 11 people.


--------------------------------
Challenge #1 – acknowledge the nominating blogger
Lori DiMarco, (@TCDSB_21C_AICT) is the Superintendent of 21st Century Learning and Academic Information & Communications Technology with the Toronto Catholic District School Board. She is responsible for making 21st century teaching and learning a reality through her exemplary leadership of the TCDSB Project Next initiative.


Challenge #2 – Provide 11 random facts about yourself
  1. My undergraduate degree is in history 
  2. I work out to podcasts instead of music 
  3. I read 4 newspapers each day (Not the entire paper. Just enough to know what's going on). 
  4. I hate snakes 
  5. I wasn't born in Canada 
  6. I taught in the Jane/Finch community 
  7. I love to travel, but hate to unpack 
  8. I was a NCAA compliance coordinator 
  9. I spent over a decade working at summer camps 
  10. I've been to all of murder capitals in the U.S. 
  11. I have very small ears

Challenge #3 – Answer the nominating blogger’s 11 questions 
  1. Name one thing you have learned about 21st Century Learning and how it has impacted you. You don't have to use technology to be a 21st century edycator
  2. Name a favourite author of fiction. Which book or series? Why? - John Steinbeck 
  3. Name your favourite movie of all time (it does not have to be educational) and justify it with an educational reason or some learning that stuck with you - Moneyball (Not an all time favourite, but it always get me thinking how to apply similar principles to education. 
  4. What is your favourite piece of technology and why? - iPad; limitless reading 
  5. What book/reading/learning are you currently applying to your work? Disrupting Class 
  6. You are going out for dinner tonight to your favourite restaurant. What culture does this restaurant represent? Trinidadian Chinese 
  7. What blogs do you follow and recommend for me to follow? http://techenablededucator.com/ 
  8. Name one mentor who has impacted your career, how you know them and what impact they have had on you. Richard Thompson (SVSU Dean of Students); Leadership role model. 
  9. What were you doing when you found out that Nelson Mandela had passed away? Reading the news on my iPad. 
  10. Name one tradition your family adheres to. Getting together for Caribana weekend for a family BBQ 
  11. Share a link to a favourite recipe. Cajun Spatchcock Turkey
Challenge #4 – List 11 bloggers that deserve a bit of recognition and to whom you offer this challenge…

Challenge #5 – Ask 11 questions for your 11 nominees to respond to
  1. What is your favourite quote or saying? 
  2. Name your ideal retirement location. 
  3. If you could have only one educational technology resource, what would it be? 
  4. What is your favourite travel destination? 
  5. Recommend an educational game? 
  6. What is your favourite app? 
  7. What is your favourite tv show? 
  8. Have you ever paid it forward at a coffee shop? 
  9. If you had to pick a song to be your theme song what would it be? 
  10. What is the last movie you saw in the theatre? 
  11. What is the first thing you would do after winning a million dollars?

New project to highlight educational innovation: The Tech-Enabled Educator Network

Sisters Teachers are doing it for the themselves.
Standing on their own two feet and ringing their own bells.” ~ Aretha Franklin
 The Tech-Enabled Educator Network grew out of a desire to showcase the work of innovative educators to preservice students and new teachers. While committed to professional excellence, most educators are humble by nature and reluctant to promote their work, even when it is exemplary. This modesty not only makes it challenging for new educators to learn from these educational innovators, it greatly hampers the diffusion of innovation. Thus, the Tech-Enabled Educator Network seeks to take on the role of promoting the work of tech-enabled educators by featuring their exemplary blog posts, videos, podcasts, and conference presentations. 
As an education professor, EdTech geek and avid conference attendee,  I’ve had the opportunity to meet many tech-enabled educators and hear their individual stories. Unfortunately, a common sentiment is that because they are on the leading edge of innovation, they often feel isolated in their work environment.
Ananth Pai was at the cutting edge of using technology and especially games for learning in his classroom. Instead of leveraging Pai’s success, his superiors tried to ignore him and occasionally reprimanded him by reminding him to stick to school board approved curriculum. While his district hasn’t shut him down, they haven’t been supportive with resources or support.  ~ Excerpts from  Schwartz (2013). MindShiftHow Leadership Can Make or Break Classroom Innovation.
As an aggregator of educational innovation, the Tech-Enabled Educator Network hopes to reduce this isolation by providing educators with the opportunity to keep up with other innovative educators and let them know that they are not alone.
While there are lots of great educators doing great things, the network focuses on the work of tech-enabled educators. That is educators that actively use social media and take advantage of technology to embrace open, collaborative, distributed actions in their professional lives.
Tech-enabled educators understand the importance of being open so that others can benefit from their experience. Being open also creates greater opportunities to collaborate. Collaborating with other educators within their school and district, while connecting with educators from around the world is key to the development and infusion of new ideas and innovative educational practices.
“With an investment in collaboration, teachers become nation builders.”  (Hargreaves, A.,  & Fullan, M., 2013)
 Tech-enabled educators understand the importance of distributed learning and distributed leadership. Instead of monopolizing the role of teacher, tech-enabled educators facilitate distributed learning and bring a variety of “teachers” into their classrooms to support student learning and professional growth.
By embracing a distributed approach to leadership, tech-enabled educators realize that leadership isn’t about the title on the door or ones position in the organizational hierarchy. It is about influence – and whether they intentionally influence the knowledge, practice or motivation of others. Participating in professional discussions on Twitter, posting instructional resources on their blogs, or creating instructional videos are all actions that influence the knowledge, practice and motivation of other educators and thus serve to benefit the teaching profession.
The Tech-Enabled Educator Network hopes to enhance the scope of influence of these tech-enabled educators by promoting their work and bringing it to the attention of broader education community. By facilitating the distribution of these innovative ideas we hope that we can collectively support the advancement of 21st century teaching and learning.
Looking forward to a tech-enabled 2014!

You can support the Tech-Enabled Educator Network by:

Tech-enabled leadership: Using social media to enhance school leadership


Tech-Enabled Leadership vs. Tech-Savvy Leaders

While the ability to use social media can be of great benefit to the school leaders, it is imperative that these resources are used to support the essential leadership functions that affect student learning. It has become increasing popular to idolize principals that are tech savvy and showcase them as 21st century leaders. While principals that embrace the use of technology can be seen as role models, it is paramount that these social media resources are integrated into the daily practice of principals in ways that support student learning. Tech-savvy principals may be early technology adopters using the latest tech toys as part of their personal practice, but tech-enabled leaders know how to capitalize on the affordance of technology to enable leadership actions that are open, collaborative and distributed. 
Read the full article

Rutherford, C. (2013). Tech-enabled leadership: Using social media to enhance school leadership.                    Canadian Association of Principals Journal.Fall 13-19.

Getting the Most out of Twitter: A Guide For Canadian Educators


1. Don't be an Egghead: No one wants to follow an egghead.
Be sure to complete the Twitter profile with a picture and a brief description about who you are and what you do. Include a link to your blog or website so potential followers can find out more about you.  Here is a great example:


2. Share Information and Retweet: Don't just lurk or promote yourself, share ideas and links to resources. Retweet the information that you find valuable. Make sure you have a good ratio of tweets and retweets. Nobody wants to follow your never ending monologue. Just like in kindergarten, you need to listen and share to make friends. 




3. Know your Audience: If you want to use Twitter as a professional learning network post information that is relevant to your professional life. The occasional goofy picture is fine, but create a personal account if you have a frequent urge to share your beer can collection or LOL cat fascination. Sharing relevant professional information that highlights your professional interest or expertise will facilitate the development of an active learning community that will support your professional growth.

4.  Use #Hashtags and Twitter Lists to Avoid Being Overwhelmed: Your Twitter page can looking like a fast moving springtime creek once you start following more than a hundred people. Using Twitter lists or searching by #hashtags can make it easier to find the information you want. A Twitter list is a curated list of Twitter users that you can create or subscribe to. Once the list has been created you can view the Tweets just from the people on the list. This is a great way to follow the Tweets of people from your school, district, or educational speciality.

#Hashtags enable you to search the Twitterverse to find Tweets related to a specific topic. Searching by #hashtags is the most efficient way to find educational resources. Use the guides listed below to find the #hashtag for what you are looking for.


5. Follow the Leading Canadian Tweeters: The quality of your Twitter experience will depend on who you follow. In addition to following your colleagues and the organization you work for be sure to follow some of the most active Canadian educators on Twitter. The large number of followers these educators have amassed is a result of their exemplary use of Twitter. Following these leading Tweeters will give you a diverse offering of perspectives and resources. Following just people you already know will result in a echo chamber that fails to provide you with new ideas or opinions.

  • Top 100 Canadian Educators on Twitter
  • Top 100 Canadian Educational Leaders on Twitter
  • Top 100 Canadian Professors on Twitter
  • (These lists were created in early 2013. The number of followers and rankings may have changed)

    Learning From Games: Using Games to fulfill learning goals

    I recently watched an excellent video about the role of games in education that was created by Penny Arcade TV. The video serves a commentary about intrinsic motivation of video game play. Their premise is this - play is a voluntary activity, forcing students to play educational games reduces intrinsic motivation and thus students are robbed of the pleasure of play. This got me thinking about how to turn this dilemma on its head.


    Instead of teachers telling students what game they will play and what they will learn why not ask the students about what their favourite games are, why they like that specific game and what they have learned from playing that game. This could provide the teacher with an opportunity to create a learning experience for the student that builds on their interest in the game. As a former classroom teacher I know it would be very challenging to create 30 individual learning experiences that build on gaming interests of 30 students, but I do think it would be possible to create a series of lessons that address a variety of learning objectives while giving students the option to choose the context.

    1. Students could write a paper that uses descriptive language to describe their favourite game and why it is their favourite. 
    2. An additional persuasive writing task would be to have them compare and contrast their favourite game to other lesser games and provide suggestion for improvements to the favourite game. This authentic learning experience mimics the work of professional game and product reviewers.
    3. A procedural writing task could have students write out the steps to be successful in a game. The assessment of this task could be to give the steps to success to someone not familiar with the game to see if the procedures listed are accurate.
    4. Having students describe what they have learned from their favourite game  and how it connects to classroom learning could provide educators with an opportunity to explore the academic relevance of game play. Learning about mythology, geography/history, physics/engineering could enhance student understanding of game play in Legend of Zelda, Call of Duty, Gears of War, F1, Forza or Motorsport. Thus, students might become more engaged in the subjects that could improve their game play.

    These activities can also be used to engage non-gamers as well as all of these learning tasks could be applied to a variety of student interests from specific sports to a favourite novel, movie or music genre.

    Play on!


    Becoming an Education Entrepreneur

    Have a great idea to change education?
    Flickr Photo by Life Mental Health

    Step 1

    The first stop for any entrepreneurial educator should be an EdTech MeetupHackathon, StartUp Weekend or EdCamp to further develop your idea and build a team to develop the product. 

    Step 2

    Before you start creating your product you'll want to become knowledgeable about what's happening in the EdTech community and check out your competition. 

    Step 3

    Next, you'll need to do your research so that can demonstrate how your innovation will improve teaching and learning at scale. Here are some sources that you can provide with the data to understand the potential impact of your idea.

    Canadian Data 

    Ontario Data

    American Data

    International Data

    Step 4

    Develop your product / Refine your product.

    Step 5

    To ensure that your innovation works, you'll need to find some schools to pilot your innovation.

    Step 6 

    Pitch your innovation at an EdTech event to showcase your product and secure  support so that your idea can grow into a self-sustaining company. 
    * Be prepared to repeat steps 2 through 6 
    as your company transitions from a start-up to a mature enterprise. 

    Kinect in the Classroom: Integrating Gesture-Based Gaming into the Ontario Classroom

    With the launch of the Xbox Kinect in 2010, Microsoft sought to assert its position in the console gaming market. With a history of bringing innovative products to market, the Xbox Kinect would serve to highlight Microsoft’s continued leadership in the gaming industry. What many may not have initially realized was that in addition to revolutionizing gesture-based gaming, the Kinect has the potential to transform student engagement and classroom learning.

    With support from the Microsoft Partners in Learning Network, educators in Ontario have had the opportunity to investigate the benefits and challenges of using the Xbox Kinect to enhance student engagement and support 21st century teaching and learning. In addition to the hundreds of educators that have had the opportunity to participate in a variety of Kinect in the Classroom and Gamification of Learning workshops delivered by Brock University, Teacher Candidates, a number of Ontario educators were provided with access to an Xbox Kinect and a variety of games so that they could explore ways to integrate the Kinect into their classroom practice.

    Following participation in a Gamification of Learning workshop that demonstrated ways to use the Kinect to support classroom instruction, educators were asked to describe what they considered to be the benefits and challenges to using the Kinect in the classroom. The 82 comments that were captured noted some common themes (full listing of comments). The key benefits to using the Kinect in the classroom were the ability to engage students, the interactive nature of the learning activities, and the opportunity to have students participate in physical activity. The greatest challenges to using this gaming system in the classroom were identified as the limited opportunities for large group or whole-class participation, the cost of acquiring the game system, and a lack of curricular focus.

    Key Benefits
    The participants of the Kinect in the Classroom workshop identified student engagement as one the key benefits to using the Kinect. This finding supports the research literature that indicates that gaming in the classroom can have a positive impact on student engagement. A meta-analysis of over 300 research articles related to gaming for education found that playing video games as part of the classroom learning often resulted in increased levels of student engagement (Young et al., 2012). Additional research has also noted that Kinect-based learning activities support multiple physical engagement patterns, and allows students to use a larger spectrum of the their multiple intelligences (Hsu, 2010). Consequently, the Kinect’s success in engaging student may be a consequence of its ability to simultaneously address multiple intelligences, by taping into the visual, auditory and kinesthetic abilities of students (Hsu, 2010).

    In contrast to teacher-directed lessons where students can remain inactive and passive for significant periods of time, learning opportunities that stress student interactivity have been identified as contributing to successful teaching and learning (Angotti & Bayo 2012; Hsu, 2010). Being able to physically interact with educational content can make learning some concepts easier for the 15% of students that are kinesthetic learners (Hsu, 2010). Thus, it is not surprising that a number of the Kinect in the Classroom responses identified the interactive nature of the Kinect as being one of its key benefits.

    A number of the respondents noted that they considered the ability to use the Kinect to get students physically active and support the provincial mandate of daily physical activity (DPA) as being one of the benefits of using the Kinect in the classroom.


    Key Challenges
    A large number of the responses noted that they considered the limited opportunities for large group or whole-class participation when using the Kinect to being a challenge to using this resource in the classroom. A repeated theme noted in the responses was that educators had concerns about only a few students being able to use the Kinect system, while the majority of the class would be left to watch. While it is understandable that teachers would want to ensure that all students are engaged, what they may not have considered is that every student does not need to have their individual gestures captured by the Kinect camera for them to be actively engaged in game play. A number of the educators that had the opportunity to utilize the Kinect system in their classrooms reported that even though a student’s gestures were not captured on the screen, many students were happy to play alongside the “active” players, provide instructions to the players or study the active players as a means to learn from their actions and improve their chances of success when it was their turn.


    Although there are significant space limitations as to how many students can be moving their limbs while mimicking game play, educators have noted that moving the Kinect system to the gymnasium and using a LCD projector will enable large numbers of students to participate simultaneously. One educator noted that were able to have the entire school, over 200 students, participate in a Kinect dance game as part of a school-wide rainy day DPA initiative.

    It is interesting to note that a number of educators considered the cost of the Kinect system as being a concern, as the price of acquiring the gaming console was not part of any of the workshop presentations. Regardless, the Xbox Kinect bundle, which includes the Kinect Adventures game, can be acquired for $300. For anyone that may already have an Xbox 360, the Kinect camera and Kinect Adventures game can be purchased for less that $120. While spending $300 to play games in the classroom may seem like a frivolous purchase, it is important to acknowledge that the Xbox Kinect can also be used to as DVD player, media (photos, music and video) storage system, Internet browser, and video conferencing system with the addition of the Skype app.

    To alleviate the financial challenges to using the Kinect in the classroom, a number of teachers in the Niagara, Hamilton, London Catholic, Toronto and Toronto Catholic school districts have benefitted from the opportunity to borrow an Xbox Kinect system via a partnership between the Teacher Education Department at Brock University and Microsoft Canada. The loan program increased the number of educators that have had an opportunity to experiment with Kinect in the classroom and find innovative ways to use the gaming system to support the Ontario curriculum.

    Despite the number of responses that indicated a concern about a lack of curricular connection, educators that have had an opportunity to participate in the Kinect loan program report that they have found a number of interesting ways to use the gaming system to support specific learning expectations in variety of subject areas.

    By far, the easiest way to integrate the Kinect into the classroom is to use active games such as Dance Central, Just Dance, Just Dance Kids, Kinect Sports, and Your Shape: Fitness Evolved to address the Ontario Ministry of Education’s daily physical activity (DPA) requirement.  Moving beyond the provincial DPA requirement, the next most obvious opportunity to integrate the Kinect into the classroom is to use the Body & Brain Connection game as part math class. This game provides students with an engaging way to develop their mathematical reasoning while supporting kinesthetic learning. Educators also noted that compiling the results from a number of the sporting activities that are part of Kinect Sports game, allowed students to engage in data management as they analyzed and documented the game results. Adjusting the angle of ones limbs, changing the force applied or varying timing of movements and then calculating the changes in gaming performance can also provide students with an opportunity to address some of the ministry’s geometry and science expectations.

    Some of most innovative ways to integrate the Kinect into the classroom came from educators using the non-fitness games to address the language arts curriculum. Procedural writing is an expectation that is addressed at all elementary grade levels. Consequently, requiring students to write out the steps or procedures to successfully complete any Kinect game or activity challenges them to be clear and precise in their written directions. Evaluating the accuracy of the directions can be completed by having another student implement the written directions to determine if they will result in successful completion of the game.

    Oral communication is also a curriculum area that is address at all elementary levels. One innovative teacher noted that blindfolding a student, while another student provide oral directions to complete the Kinect activity challenged their students to be direct and concise when providing oral directions.

    While completing any Kinect partner game can challenge student communication and interpersonal skills, teachers in the London Catholic board have reported great success is having students with Autism engage in Kinect partnered game play to develop the communication skills of their special needs students.

    These example of using the Kinect to address oral or written communication expectations highlights the innovative ways that the Kinect can be integrated into the classroom to support the Ontario curriculum expectations.  These findings pleasantly contradict concerns related to a lack of curricular focus. The ability to use the Kinect in the classroom to support student learning is limited only by imagination of educators as they seek innovative ways to engage students and support learning.


    References
    Angotti, R., & Bayo, I. (2012). Making Kinections: Using video game technology to teach math. Prato CIRN Community Informatics Conference (pp. 1–5).

    Hsu, H. J. (2011). The Potential of Kinect in Education. International Journal of Information and Education Technology, 1(5), 365–370.

    Young, M. F., Slota, S., Cutter, a. B., Jalette, G., Mullin, G., Lai, B., Simeoni, Z., et al. (2012). Our Princess Is in Another Castle: A Review of Trends in Serious Gaming for Education. Review of Educational Research, 82(1), 61–89.

    *PDF version of Kinect in the Classroom: Integrating Gesture-Based Gaming into the Ontario Classroom with charts and response comments