Saturday, August 27, 2011

Making Kinect-tions in the Classroom

I awoke to the most marvelous message on Facebook this morning. Two of my friends, one in Beirut, Lebanon, and the other in Kandy, Sri Lanka, (it is actually incredible that I even have friends in those faraway places) had connected as a result of a project I had invited each of them to join. Friendships are formed so easily and quickly thanks to social networking. The world is an amazingly different place than it was when I was a child, and I am determined to make sure my classroom is an amazingly different place than the classroom of my childhood.

A new addition to the tools in my first grade room this year is an Xbox 360 Kinect gaming system. That, in and of itself, is pretty remarkable as I would have argued not too long ago that kids spend way too much time playing video games and that they have no place in education. An open mind, however, and exploring shared links on Twitter, have resulted in a complete "360" degree change in my thinking. I can't wait to put the ideas to the test with my young students.

The first game we will use is called Kinectimals. The delightful virtual pet game will undoubtedly be engaging for children, but it can be so much more than that when incorporated into a classroom. We will use the game as a basis for exploring a wide variety of Colorado State Standards for first grade. The characters in the game include various feline cubs such as lions, tigers, leopards, and panthers. Those cubs will be the basis for first grade research and reasoning as the students use a variety of resources to locate information about each type of cat. As they research, they will explore first grade science standards including learning that offspring have characteristics that are similar to their parents' and that living things have physical characteristics to help them survive. Locating the geographical homes of each cub will be an engaging way to satisfy the social studies standard exploring maps and globes as they represent places. The game itself will present a number of opportunities for the kids to write as they describe the cubs and write about the experience. Deeper connections can be made if we explore the type of cat that would be included in the game for our geographical home and create new elements for the game based on their discoveries. Students can compare and contrast the habitats of the cubs in the game to the habitat of our local wild cats. Mathematics skills are easily reinforced using the game. First graders learn about the whole number system and place value relationships to 100 as well as how to solve addition and subtraction problems. The game offers frequent opportunities for students to play games that result in scores. The scores can be compared and graphed. While watching one student play, the rest of the class can reinforce the counting back strategy of subtraction while they count along with the countdown timer! The "kinect-tions" are endless and I am certain the engagement will be high.

I am just beginning my own learning in this area and I'm so excited to see where this takes the children in the coming year. There are many resources online to explore the possibilities. Check out this one: KinectEDucation. Of course, there are many ways to teach, but connecting the standards with physical movement and highly engaging fun seems to me to be a kinect-tion for made for success!

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