Flying Fish & Kinect help lead the final U.S. team to the Partners in Learning Global Forum

PiL Global Forum logoAs many of you might recall there was a fair amount of blogging activity around the Partners in Learning 2011 U.S. Innovative Education Forum we hosted in July. The event brought together just over 100 educators from across the country to showcase and highlight innovative teaching practices that are making positive impacts in the classroom. A post I did highlighted the finalists from this event who would go on to represent the U.S. at the Partners in Learning Global Forum in November 7-10 in Washington, DC. Another post listed each participant by state with a short project description.

The U.S. event combined an exhibit of all teacher projects, hands-on professional learning and new activity we dubbed “learning excursions,” where we organized educators into collaborative working groups and sent them to interesting sites around Seattle including Pike Place Market, the Space Needle, the Seattle Underground, and the Seattle Asian Art Museum. The activity served multiple of purposes, we certainly wanted to have these educators see some of the highlights of the Seattle area, as opposed to be locked-in a conference center on Microsoft campus for two days. We also wanted to see what kind of learning activities might be generated when top-tier educators are paired up with similar subject-matter and grade level peers and sent to unique places in a community and asked to come up with an engaging, 21st century learning activity that could be used by teachers across the country.

The results were amazing and much more than we expected. We could tell early on in that this cohort of IEF educators were special. Once we assigned the groups via our online community ideas were flying back and forth and brainstorming had begun! As the educators arrived on-site they quickly connected face-to-face as bonds had already been formed online. We set them off on one lovely Seattle afternoon and groups spent a few hours at their destination gathering artifacts, taking pictures, videos and finalizing their learning activity as a team.

And then came what we affectionately dubbed our “Oprah moment.” The educators didn’t know this, but we announced at the forum that the team with the top learning excursion activity (as voted by their peers) would fill the final slot to represent the U.S. at the Partners in Learning Global Forum. This upped the ante a bit as teams dove in deeper to make these projects great (and to be fair, we gave them until the end of August to complete their projects).

So, we have winner. Chosen by their peers. A team which brought together computer science teachers, a math teacher and a media arts teacher, created the project titled: “When Fish Fly – Pike Place Fish Co.” integrating computer science, fine arts, business and economics asking students to “…collaboratively research, design, and integrate a game simulation replicating Pike Place Fish Market that incorporates the business process, customer interaction and physical energy across multiple content areas. The completed project will support dynamic interaction using the Kinect system and will serve to facilitate an active learning model of education in the targeted curricula.”

The intent of “When Fish Fly” is for students to work in a collaborative design team to create an Xbox Kinect game (using the Kinect SDK among other tools) that replicates the sights, sounds and “sense of place” of this iconic venue within the Pike Place Market (you all have likely seen or heard of the Pike Place Fish Co., it’s the fish market where they throw whole fish when you place an order!). Of course not all students will have a chance to visit this market so the lesson was extended to be applied to any noted venue or location in your community.

Here’s the team that created this project. They will be joining hundreds of innovative educators from around the globe this November in DC:

  • Doug Bergman, computer science, Porter-Gaud High School, South Carolina
  • Johnny Kissko, math, Frenship High School, Texas
  • Margaret Noble, media arts, High Tech High, California
  • Donna Thomas, computer science, Sherwood High School, Maryland
  • Lou Zulli Jr. , computer science, Lakewood High School, Florida

If you would like to see the actual project, complete with alignment to 21st century skills and even a code sample, go here (you may need to register with the Partners in Learning Network to view the project, if you are not already a member, it is free to join).

One of the educators, Lou Zulli has even begun to implement this project in one of his computer science classes (see kids below!). I look forward to checking in with him in a couple of months to see how it is progressing.

When Fish Fly dev team at Lakewood High School:


Testing their new app, When Fish Fly, trying to “catch the fish” with Kinect:

Tiffney Kitiratanasumpun catching












On a separate, but related note on Kinect : On Friday we released new lesson ideas and activities for use in the classroom with Kinect. These resources, aligned to Common Core Standards, were created by a team of educators (including one member from this team – thanks Johnny!). Check out the site and let us know what else you need to bring together gaming and learning in the classroom.