The marketing campaigns for Microsoft's Kinect proclaim, "You are the controller." But enterprising teachers see a bigger role for Kinect and other tools that remove the keyboard and mouse and give the user direct control over the technology through their movements and gestures.
Former high school math teacher Robin Angotti is one of those educators. Now an associate professor of math education at the University of Washington Bothell, Angotti collaborated with two of her students, Jack Chang and Jeb Palveas, to create Kinect Math. The program uses Windows-based computers and Kinect controllers to help algebra and trigonometry students manipulate functions and graphs.
Watch Kinect Math in action in this promo video below
Angotti, Chang and Palveas have tested Kinect Math, which is available at no charge at kinectmath.org, with high school students locally and throughout the United States. Both teachers and students love the program because it puts math learning in a more natural sequence, with concrete concepts before abstract representations. "It lets kids touch math," Angotti says. Some teachers even have reported seeing kids moving their arms during tests to work through problems, she adds.
Kinect Math was released as an open-source tool "so teachers can modify it," Angotti continues, and many have. One instructor at Cascadia Community College in Bothell, for example, adapted the tool to teach physics. Angotti also has plans to add statistics and calculus modules. "I have 1,000 ideas rolling around in my head," she says. "I just need more coders."
For more on natural user interfaces in the classroom, read "Do Natural User Interfaces Have a Place in Schools?"