It is not unusual these days to see pupils learning in the classroom using an iPad, laptop, Flip Video camera or even mobile phone. But Lodge Park Technology College has taken technology to a new level by using Kinect, the motion-sensing device developed for the Xbox 360 games console.
Ray Chambers, an ICT teacher, decided to use Kinect at school as a way of motivating pupils. He recognised that getting pupils to manipulate the cursor on screen by moving their bodies could add an interactive physical element to learning materials on the whiteboard.
In July 2011, less than a year after Kinect's UK launch, Chambers started programming and experimenting with Kinect in the classroom. The open-source software available at the time allowed Chambers to use a mouse cursor with the Kinect and create interactive PowerPoints. However, he was keen to find better ways to use the hardware in subjects such as English, maths, science, history and geography.
When the Kinect software development kit was released, Chambers was able to start developing new applications for many different areas of the national curriculum.
Education secretary Michael Gove's announcement in January that schools should help pupils to program software, instead of just use it, added further impetus; Chambers decided that he would teach pupils basic programming for the Kinect, too.
Programmes created for Kinect at Lodge Park include systems for making quizzes and spelling tests, and interactive lessons about the digestive system, the layout of the piano and the water cycle.
One Olympics-themed project designed to teach Year 7s about databases has proven a particular success. The students competed on a game to see which "house" in the school was better at sports. They had to use the information they found to develop their own hypotheses and publications.
"Databases can usually be a dry subject and I wanted students to be more involved, and to be able to sustain their knowledge and relate their knowledge to real-life situations," Chambers says.
His work has inspired a group of teachers, who go by the name "K-Team", to use Kinect as an alternative teaching tool. Through the Microsoft Partners in Learning scheme, the group of teachers share their Kinect lesson plans at www.pil-network.com. Chambers himself has made many video tutorials to show other teachers how to use the program.
Tips from the scheme
You do not need programming knowledge; there are many video tutorials that will show you the basics.
You can use both the Kinect and the Xbox to engage pupils. For example, in maths use them to teach about time and estimation.
Follow other teachers on Twitter. "I have got many ideas from other educators and these help me know what people want. And I can share resources with others rather than keeping them to myself," says Chambers.
Evidence that it works?
Pupils who took part in the Kinect Olympics project achieved higher attainment levels than in their previous unit of work. Pupils went from achieving low levels 3-4 to gaining levels 4-6 after taking part. Chambers' use of Kinect as a teaching tool helped to win him the 2012 Innovator in Secondary Learning Award, hosted by Learning Without Frontiers. He was also invited to present for Microsoft at the 2012 BETT education technology show, speaking about how the Xbox Kinect and Kodu (a visual programming tool) can be used in the classroom.
Approach: Using Xbox Kinect as an innovative teaching tool in the classroom
Started: July 2011
Leader: Ray Chambers
Name: Lodge Park Technology College
Location: Corby, Northamptonshire
Age range: 11-18
Intake: An above average number of pupils with special educational needs
Ofsted overall rating: Inadequate (November 2011).