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Kinect in the Classroom

Andrew Miller

Instructional Coach at Shanghai American School
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One of the most interesting ways game-based learning (GBL) is being implemented is with the use of Microsoft’s Kinect. Kinect specifically is an accessory to the Xbox 360, where motion and gestures control game functions. From sports games, to “hack and slash,” the Kinect physically involves the player in gameplay. But why use it in the classroom? And how should you use it in the classroom? Today I present not only a great rationale for use the Kinect in the classroom, but also some specific ideas and resources for doing so.

Brain-Based Learning

As articulated in Edutopia’s “Six Tips for Brain Based Learning,” using active, physical modalities can help the learning process. John Medina author of Brain Rules shows how exercise boosts oxygen-rich blood flow to the brain, which helps students concentrate better. In fact, many schools and classrooms are integrating more physical activity into the school, not just your regular P.E. class. Naperville Central High, for example, uses “brain breaks.”

Instead of having the physical activity as a break from learning to engage in later learning, the Kinect can use the best of both worlds, coupling brain-based physical learning and gestures with learning of content. In addition, we know that games engage us and motivate us to play, provide needed feedback, and provide a safe space to fail. These are all principles of brain-based learning!

Building Lessons

When building a lesson to use the Kinect, make sure you know the instructional purpose of using the Kinect. If you intend to use it as part of the lesson, why are you using it as opposed to something else? Is it used as guided practice? A formative assessment? An extension activity? A piece to differentiate? These are all good purposes, and you might use one or more of them in the lesson planning.

Another important consideration is what game to use. This also relates to cost. Kinect Adventures comes with the purchase of the Kinect itself, but you may have to purchase other games. If cost is a concern, there are many ways to mitigate this issue. I’m a big fan of Donors Choose, and I’ve been successfully funded through them. Just make sure you indicate specific objectives and clear plan. Also, Microsoft offers discounts on the Kinect, and includes a great chart that can help you make decisions for buying.


There are a great many resources to find not only lessons that use Kinect in the classroom, but also apps that can support more specific learning. One example is Kinect Math - A Kinesthetic Learning Experience that allows teachers to make abstract mathematical concepts more interactive through using the Kinect. Students can manipulate graphs, variables, and more.

In addition, Microsoft has a huge library of classroom lessons, many of which are aligned to the Common Core standards, as well as other learning objectives in physical education and science. The lessons include step by step instructions, grade level and the game that must be used with the game.

There is a great opportunity to use the Kinect in the classroom to not only meet specific learning goals, but engage in research-based practices for learning. Consider developing your own lesson and submitting it to an open-source database of GBL lessons. Let’s work together as a GBL community to uses games effectively in the classroom.

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Comments (8) Sign in or register to comment Follow Subscribe to comments via RSS

Edtechspert's picture
Director of Teaching and Learning at Appleseeds Academy

Great tool for gaming. Really enjoyed the article! Thanks

Marilyn Williams's picture

I am a gifted specialist for a K-5 school. Do you know of any situations where Kinect was used with the younger kids in a school setting? Any comments would be greatly appreciated!

James G.'s picture
James G.
Adapted Physcial Education Norfolk VA

I am so glad to see other educators using game based learning, I am an adapted Physical Education teacher and have been working with classroom teachers to use interactive gaming. I have collaborated with peers to created thematic units based around games to make learning fun and realistic. It was a lot of fun making it and seeing the reaction of the students.
I currently use PS2 "eyetoy", wii, and have a few switch games. In regards to the cost of games and ways to get cheaper games, I have worked closely with my local GameStop and explained to them who I was a how I planned on using the games. In doing this, the guys at the store have helped me out with information on games, cost and returns.
I would love to know what games you use for the kinect and if you use other gaming consoles and games

Candice's picture
4th grade gen ed teacher from Philadelphia suburb

Excuse my ignorance on the subject, but I have never heard of this. I am intrigued by this idea! One question though: how is this different than having a smart board or just playing "regular" games.

Coach Walker's picture

Gaming is a great tool to get students actively involved in all subjects. Students of today are so technology driven, therefore, anything that involves playing a game usually gets their interest. As a PE coach, many times I have allowed students to play a game with the dance moves, which is getting exercise in, while the students are still enjoying playing the game. Students lack motivation to do regular exercise, so letting them incorporate game playing in exercise, they are eager to get involved.'s picture

How is this going to work in the classroom? Is this a great idea to get student more interested in learning or is it stupid idea? In my opinion it not the best way because students could take advantage of it and think of it as a game.

Katelyn's picture
Special Education Teacher, Missouri

I am currently student teaching in a district autism room and I think that the use of a Kinect in the classroom is a great idea! We use many different game based learning strategies with our students because it is of great interest to them. I think that the use of a Kinect would be extremely motivating to the students and would have great benefits for overall performance in the classroom. My students are constantly wanting to get up and move around and I think that this would be a great way to allow structured movement within the classroom. This would also be a great motivator for my students to get their work done so that they could enjoy playing games on the connect for choice time.

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