Microsoft’s Kinect motion sensor was used in our school for special needs education to improve students’ motor skills. The students describe their own movement problems , experienced in real life situations. Improving their motor skills is part of increasing autonomy and citizenship inside and outside school situations. Students who participated in our project, experienced dynamic balance problems (‘I often fall when I play outside’) and physical fitness problems (‘I get quickly out of breath when I play soccer with my friends’)
Stated objectives/research questions:
1) What is the effect of training dynamic balance and physical fitness with the Kinect?
2) Does working with the Kinect improve motivation for motor learning?
Design of the learning environment
The available games for Kinect were selected on suitability for physical fitness- and balance training for our students. Students trained their skills with the Kinect during a period of 15 weeks. Physical fitness training was provided twice a week. Balance training was provided once a week. The balance-exercises could be made more difficult by standing on a balance board.
Students plan their work by choosing to train the motor skills they need in every day life. They play the Kinect games that are most similar to their own real world problems and they reflect on the learning process through feedback given by the Kinect . Once a student is used to learn, using the Kinect, little supervision is needed.
Example of planning and self regulation: A student wants to play tennis in real life, but experiences postural balance problems. She describes the problem and chooses a Kinect tennis game to learn the necessary movements . She can choose to play the game alone or to collaborate with another student or teacher. While participating in the virtual game the student sees her own movements as movements in the game. After each game she can view her own recorded performances and this facilitates self reflection. The types of feedback, given by the Kinect, facilitate appropriate motor planning and self reflection. The student gains knowledge concerning the trained motor skills and develops better judgement on his/her competence (= perceived competence). Generalization of the learned skills to ‘real world’ situations is plausible because the skills were trained in an implicit way.
Knowledge building & critical thinking
The student gains knowledge concerning his/her own motor skills, but also concerning psychological aspects like perceived competence, increased confidence and self-esteem. Self-reflection is an important tool for critical thinking, facilitated by the way feedback is given by the Kinect.
Evidence of Learning
Kinect has really changed the way students experience education! In our school this type of ICT application has proven to be very useful to train motor skills as part of the curriculum in special needs education. Kinect has several features which make it suitable for students with physical disabilities. First of all: the students don’t need a controller! Every movement the student makes is a movement in the game. This technology invites students to move just like they would as if they were really playing the game indoors or outdoors.
Our students have poor fine motor skills. Fine motor skills are necessary when using a regular controller, but the Kinect-games are controlled by our own body movements. The type of feedback, given by the Kinect through pictures and video’s of the student, offers the student information to asses his/her own performance. This provides a basis for improvement.
The use of Kinect technology makes it possible to learn new movements in a natural way (at a subconscious level). This ‘implicit motor learning’ will increase the learning outcomes and when motor skills are trained in an implicit way they generalize to ‘real life’ situations more easily. Learning by using Kinect results not only in more fun and motivation, but also ensures a longer attention span, which is often lacking in students in special needs education. It also suits the interest in gaming and lifestyle of this age group.
Learning outcomes/research outcomes
1) Significant improvement of balance (measured with the Movement-ABC test), and significant improvement of physical fitness (measured with the Shuttle-run GMFCS-1 test)
2) Significant increase in motivation (measured with motivation questionaire)
Extended learning beyond the classroom
The learning activities, which are trained with the Kinect, are based on motor problems experienced by the students in real life situations. The main goal is to implement the acquired skills in every day life outside the classroom. This will result in increased autonomy and citizenship of the student.
Kinect technology makes it possible to train motor skills in almost ‘real life’ situations and to learn new movements at an automatic level (subconscious level). Futhermore, the motor skills are trained in a implicit way so they generalize to ‘real life’ situations more easily, as we know from scientific literature.
Some Kinect games require collaboration between students. They have to negotiate and plan together whether they, for example, go left or right and whether they jump together to achieve their goal. When the game is completed, the students discuss the results together, based on the feedback from the Kinect. Collaboration with the teacher often takes place as well. The teacher can make the exercise harder or easier by standing on the balance board together. The collaboration trained inside the school situation will help the students to be more cooperative when playing outside with their peers.
DUTCH presentation of the project