Hello From Texas

You may have noticed I haven’t been blogging as much this week. I’ve been in Austin TX at the TCEA conference. I’ve been pretty busy from morning until night. Doing what? Well you may ask. I have been spending some time at the Microsoft booth talking to teachers who come by. But I have also been involved with a couple of presentations. Yesterday Pat Younpradit talked about how he is using XNA and game development in his computer science program which was cool because Pat is doing great things. Pat’s responsible for much of out XNA curriculum materials including the XNA Jump-start: A 5-week Intro to Game Development curriculum that a lot of people are using as either an intro to game development or a post APCS exam unit.

We’ve also been talking a lot about Kinect at the conference. Microsoft sponsored the game zone which includes two Xbox and Kinect systems. We’ve had a lot of teachers playing educational games. Microsoft has a web site about educational uses for Kinect where you can learn about a lot of the options schools are using. You can also read about the various games including my favorite Body and Brain Connection. I love the math game that shows a number and an equation (for example 8 on one side and 5 + 2 on the other side) and ask students to move their arms to show which side is greater than the other. IT gets students up and moving while they are learning. Not just drill and kill but thinking on you feet. I talked to a teacher who told me her kids loved it with each child not only getting a quick run at the game but actively engaged watching and shouting out suggestions to the student who was in the game.

There are a growing number of educators creating their own educational games using the Kinect for Windows development kit. From these teachers we are seeing fun new games across the curriculum. Johnny Kissko has his KinectEdcuation website for example. Lots of sharing of ideas and code at that website. Ray Chambers is a teacher in the UK who is developing educational games as well. For you computer science teachers he has a lot of posts about how to do software development for the Kinect as well. My good friend Bryan Baker gave a talk about his work with Kinect with his students as well. He’s in the process of involving teachers from a variety of disciplines to create a multi-media games that support curriculum across the board. Oh almost forgot – speaking about learning there are the Channel 9 Kinect quick start series.

One of the Microsoft Imagine Cup events this year is a Kinect Fun Labs Challenge. And… the top 100 Teams that advance to Round 2 will receive a free Kinect for Windows sensor! If you are seriously interested in incorporating the Kinect and its natural user interface for development you will want to have students enter this event. I’m hopeful that we’ll get even more good educational games out of this challenge as well.

OF course at the booth we’re talking to teachers and administrators about things like Microsoft office and Office 365 for cloud based solutions. And all the rest of the Microsoft offerings for educators. For example this list of Free products and services for teachers

So there has been plenty to talk about and plenty of people to talk to.  I’ve been working on some improved demo code for Pong (talked about this at When Just Working Isn’t Good Enough) but haven’t had a chance to write it up yet. Hopefully after things calm down next week.

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