Guest post: Educator Combines Biology and Gaming with Kinect to Engage Students and the Community

As part of a continued occasional series of guest blog posts by Microsoft Partners in Learning US Forum alumni, this week we feature educator Daphne Bradford from Crenshaw High School in Los Angeles, CA. Daphne participated in 2011 US Forum and was recently accepted for the 2012 US Forum as a Round 1 finalists. I wanted to thank her for taking the time to put together this post and acknowledge the work she, her collaborating teacher Jacqueline Lopez and their students have accomplished this year.

Applying to the 2011 Innovative Educator Forum was one of the best decisions of my education career. Always looking for innovative ways to prepare inner-city high school students for college and career, I was up late one night searching for information about the process and cost of certifying Crenshaw High School students in the Microsoft Office Suite: Word, PowerPoint and Excel. During my search I unexpectedly stumbled upon the application for the Microsoft Partners in Learning Innovative Education Forum, now known as the US Forum. I had no idea searching the internet would result in me being chosen to represent some of the top innovative educators in the United States.

Daphne at 2011 forum

Like a lot of teachers who hesitate about applying to things like this, I didn’t think I had a chance since I only used the Microsoft Office Suite with students at Crenshaw High School in Los Angeles, CA. Many of the other applicants used Microsoft tools such as Photo Story, Movie Maker and Skype. After communicating with Rob Bayuk, Program Director, US Partners in Learning, I was encouraged to take a chance and apply. I completed my application on the last day during the last hour of the submission deadline and to my surprise I made the second round finalist cut.

My first experience at the form was amazing. I learned so much about the free and cutting edge innovative tools Microsoft has to offer I couldn’t wait show and tell other teachers about OneNote, Kinect and cloud computing. Most importantly I had glimpse at what the technology future holds for our “global” 21st Century existence. I left Redmond, WA with a bigger vision, which was to integrate gaming into the classroom to get students excited about STEM education. I was on a mission to go back to Crenshaw to introduce inner city students to the profitable world of gaming technology using the Kinect sensor. My motto for the young innovative minds on the Cougar campus would be “don’t just play the game, be the game.”

The first gaming project I began working on involved creating a software design for the Imagine Cup 2012. My digital media team students love the idea and I recruited my partner teacher Ms. Jacqueline Lopez, one of the best biology teachers on campus, to add her Science to my Technology game plan. Together all of us worked hard with Microsoft Academic Developer Evangelist, Sam Stokes, to produce a kid friendly educational design to make learning biology more fun. Considering none of us had any gaming experience, the digital media team did an awesome job submitting their first imagine cup entry, Fantastic Crenshaw Gamers. All of the positive buzz about Kinect gaming at Crenshaw high school resulted in a visit by the Microsoft Team (see below).

Daphne with MS teamAn invitation to participate in the Los Angeles Unified School District Family Summit Make Me Proud: On the Road to College and Careers was also extended to my Imagine Cup students and me. The digital media team will demonstrate their Kinect gaming skills in the EduTech tent at the summit on May 5, 2012.

Making the April 15th early decision cut for the 2012 US Form is even sweeter this year because my partner teacher Ms. Jacqueline Lopez will join me in Redmond, WA for the prestigious event.

Our Kinect gaming project showcasing how teachers can make learning biology more fun in the classroom is ambitious and impressive for two African-American women trying to level the “gaming” playing field for economically disadvantaged students and women. We will make Crenshaw high school, our students and Microsoft proud.

I encourage educators across the US to apply to the 2012 US Forum. Don’t miss your chance to become a Super Star teacher with Microsoft.

Daphne Bradford (@daphne99)

Digital Media Teacher, Crenshaw High School (Los Angeles, CA)

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