Better Learning Through Movement

And fun as well. Recently a co-worker sent me a link to some videos that were done by the Houston Independent School District about the pilot program they are running in several elementary schools. These schools are using video games involving the Kinect Sensor to help teach. And not just physical education which is sort of the default image people have for Kinect-based games but things like math as well. (video and article in English - video and article in Spanish) While test scores are not everything they are important and the early results indicate that student scores are climbing in these classrooms.

Last year I heard a talk Dr. John Medina (Brain Rules) at the Microsoft US Education Forum who talked about what we know from brain science about learning. He strongly believes that physical activity helps students learn. He believes that we are more or less wired to learn while moving and that too much sitting hurts student learning in the long run. It makes sense to me what with more blood flowing and everything. I’ve also seen that students with ADD and ADHD have to spend so much energy just sitting still that I wonder how they learn anything at all. My understanding is that in Japan students have more exercise breaks than American schools do. I suspect that extra activity also has a positive effect on students.

Others are developing an interest in Kinect projects for teaching as well. One of the teams in the US Finals of the Imagine Cup, KinectMath from University of Washington, Bothell Campus, has a project for math instruction. “The tool utilizes Microsoft Kinect to provide a new interactive way to teach abstract math concepts and visualize them in real-time.” I’m looking forward to meeting them and learning more about their project this weekend. You can also see their project video on their team page available from the People’s Choice page on Facebook.

Active learning seems to be something well worth investigating more.For now we have teachers using games that were designed just for fun in new ways. Educational games, that one hopes are still fun, are being developed as well as people become more open to the idea of games for learning.

Perhaps students can take their own creativity and create their own active learning activities using the Kinect. Maybe that is even something to include in the curriculum of computer science classes. We have some things to help (really you saw that coming didn’t you?) And maybe we’ll see a team of your students competing in next year’s Imagine Cup.

Also more information about Kinect in Education at

Game Development with XNA Game Studio

XNA game development appeals to high school students on many levels; it encourages creativity, employs the latest tools, delivers fun, and it provides the means for students to express their personal values and the power to make a difference. The XNA 5-week JumpStart, Game Development with XNA: Semester 1, and the soon-to-be-ready, Game Development with XNA and Microsoft Technologies (Advanced XNA, Window Phone, and Kinect) curriculum are designed to inspire students to learn advanced programming skills, design exciting games and create simulations that will help solve the world’s toughest problems such as those presented in the Microsoft Imagine Cup ® . Students will develop projects with C# and XNA for Windows, Xbox ® 360, Windows Phone, and Kinect.

The content is organized into clustered, topic-centered lessons and modules. Students will build upon their foundational programming skills to design and implement games and simulations that utilize input and output, involve complex logic, and apply object oriented programming (OOP), advanced algorithms, and data structures. An SDK for Windows Phone ® and Kinect ® development enable even more advanced learning. Resources include lesson plans, projects, activities and video tutorials.

Learn more about XNA Game Development and download the free curriculum resources at Faculty Connection.

1. All the development tools that you need can be downloaded for free. The first thing you will need is the Windows Phone SDK. You can download it from here:
You might think it strange to use the Windows Phone SDK, but this contains the latest version of XNA and can be used to create XNA programs for Xbox 360 and Windows PC as well as Windows Phone.

2. You will also need to download the Kinect for Windows SDK which you can find here:
This installs the USB drivers for the sensor components and the library file that contains the Kinect for Windows SDK.