Capturing students’ interest and making concepts come alive in a personalized way can be a challenge for educators in this technology and gadget-driven world. The popularity of gaming outside the classroom makes it an appealing and exciting platform for kids inside the classroom. Gaming can be a revolutionary technology that provides an immersive content experience, it inspires collaboration and builds connections in the classroom, community centers, and everywhere else you engage with others in and outside of the living room.

In classrooms around the country, teachers are using Kinect for Xbox 360 to bring life to their lesson plans. Pilot programs are underway in Los Angeles Unified School District, Chicago Public Schools, Houston Independent School District, Scottsdale Unified School District, Flagstaff Unified School District (Arizona), Fairfax County Public Schools and Loudoun County Public Schools. Teachers are adding existing Kinect games to lesson plans to better engage students on subjects ranging from mathematics, language arts, science and social studies to physical education, adaptive P.E. and special education.

Kinect enables teachers and school leaders to “kinect” content with learners in a way that is meaningful, accessible, and easy to demonstrate in the classroom.  Just as kids go online and experience the power of gaming, taking on digital personas, demonstrating mastery at different levels, learning from their mistakes…they become part of the experience rather than reading about a story. We believe we can take those types of technologies and apply to educational content. Every single day a kid will fail at a game time and time again, but they keep coming back for more. And in the classroom environment, they don’t do that. They shut down after their first experience of failure.  We believe that if you take the characteristics of gaming and apply it to the classroom, kids will bring that same passion to learning.

While brain research and the study of human cognition are still making new discoveries about how we learn, we do know that the more senses we employ when recording a memory the more intricately woven that new knowledge will be in our minds. Additionally, body movement has been shown to improve not only our physical health but also priming our brain to be able to learn.

Microsoft has made it easy for schools to start using Kinect to transform ordinary classroom lessons into immersive learning experiences. There are more than 200 ready-to-use classroom activities, designed by pedagogy experts that relate to Common Core State Standards. And because Kinect works with existing audio-visual equipment schools already own — televisions, projectors and white-board systems — setup is fast and easy. We have several upcoming webcasts where you can learn more (see registration here, here and here).

It's inspiring to see different ways the Kinect is engaging students to learn and participate in lessons. Here are just a few examples:

Fairfax County Public Schools, Fairfax, VA
At first P.E. teacher Adam Mohning was skeptical about bringing the Kinect into his classroom when there’s already concern students are not moving enough.  The Kinect proved him wrong, using NAMCO’s Body and Brain, Kinect Sports, Kinect Adventures, and Joy Ride along with a heart rate monitor, Adam recorded students reaching their target heart rate zones for 25 minutes.  Students also showed improved reaction time and coordination when playing Kinect Sports with motions such as hitting a volleyball.  Adam’s records also showed students took 20% of their required 10,000 steps per day during a single P.E. class.  While the effect of Kinect was positive in Adam’s class, he sees even more possibilities for Kinect in other classes and is already thinking about how to get his fellow teachers engaged.

Loudoun County Public Schools, Loudoun County, VA
Just north of Fairfax in Loudoun County, Janet Candelaria, principal at Conlee Elementary School was also a bit skeptical.  “I wanted to see the academic benefits,” she recalls.  The fifth graders in her school quickly embraced the Kinect and even took their learning into their own hands, suggesting new ways to use the device and game to work on challenging math concepts. One student discovered that the bowling game in Kinect Sports could help them determine probability of how many pins get knocked down or the angle your arms have to be at to make the device pause. Another student noticed the game could teach lessons on patterns versus randomness of how the pins are arranged and find a common denominator. 
 
Scottsdale Unified School District, Scottsdale, AZ
The after school “Kids Club” program incorporated the Kinect for 1,000 students grades K-6 and they love it!  Educators noted the Kinect allowed students to be active while having fun in a "video game" setting while also showing patience, teamwork and great sportsmanship skills. It wasn’t just the students; teachers loved working with the Kinect too! Even teachers that normally don’t embrace technology were raving about the Kinect.  In the future, Scottsdale Unified School District plans to incorporate the Kinect across the district and into the classroom.
 
Los Angeles Unified School District, Los Angeles, CA
The Los Angeles Unified School District has been rotating their Kinect consoles from one class to another.  Once the Kinect was in the classroom, teachers noticed an improvement in student behavior; students became more attentive in class, were more willing to speak up during lessons, starting coming in to school early, and getting more homework done.  One particular student had difficulty focusing in class but when the Kinect was brought in; she was engaged throughout the lesson and tried her best to complete the assignment.  Now that the Kinect has rotated out, she continues to show improved engagement in class.  The Kinect also created a sense of camaraderie among students; one teacher paired students together who needed friends or students who had difficulty getting along, and to her surprise, they worked together easily and had fun in the process.

Flagstaff School District, Flagstaff, AZ
Flagstaff School District’s K-5th graders are testing out the Kinect in P.E. classes with a focus on building skills.  By using the device, teachers are able to introduce students to higher level coordination sports like volleyball, and can more seamlessly include and mainstream students with special needs into their lessons. In one instance, Kinect helped a wheelchair bound student participate in class, completing tasks like kicking a ball without having to interact with a physical ball. Kinect also helped an autistic student stay engaged with the P.E. lessons, something that previously was not happening.

Houston Independent School District, Houston, TX
Twelve schools in the Houston Unified School District are implementing the Kinect for second and third graders, using Kinect Sports in P.E. and Body and Brain in the classroom.  One teacher, using the Kinect Sports boxing game, is implementing lessons that motivates students to connect physical activity to body mechanics, addressing questions such as, “Why are we sore?”  “Why are we sweating?”