Monthly Archives: June 2012

Review of the year – where has it gone!!

What a year this has been in terms of my professional development and my discovery of using Twitter as a form of CPD, discovering new and exciting ideas and pedagogies, which I have used in my teaching throughout the year.

It began around October time, when a colleague of mine suggested to follow @SENICT (Ian Bean) as he was coming to our school to run some training. The idea was that we could ask him some questions before he arrived so that the training was suited to our needs. Before this, I had done what many people do and sign up to Twitter to follow celebrities (yes, I did follow Stephan Fry). I did not understand Twitter and what purpose it had in terms of myself developing as a teacher. After following Ian I started to follow people who were similar and wrote a few things about what I was doing in my class. This is when things started to snowball and soon I was immersed in picking up new ideas and chatting to like minded people. I joined #ukedchat on a regular basis and soon found some excellent blog posts to follow and read.

I really liked the idea of blogging and especially after seeing the effect of Quadblogging (fantastic idea created by @deputymitchell) was having with schools around the world, I wanted to try it with my class. I currently teach a mixed ability 16-19 SLD / MLD class who range from a P8 to a level 3 in Maths and English. I found the impact immediate and they were engaged in wanting to write down what they were thinking and share this with whoever would listen. They needed support in creating their blog posts but they seemed enthralled by idea that anyone from around the world could read their posts.

From seeing my class have their own blog, I decided to take the step and create my own blog. This was mainly to reflect on what I was doing but also share my passion for using technology to create an inclusive environment for the students I work with. I have enjoyed the process of creating blog posts and sharing my experiences with others. This has led to many different collaborations inducing the use of iPads and the Kinect in SEN. (I would recommend following @trinityfieldsit and @littleangelssch as they are leading the way for using the Kinect in SEN)

Over the year, through the use of Twitter and my own desire to refine my practice I have picked up loads of great ideas and theories which I hope to continue to use now and in the future. I particularly like the idea of SOLO taxonomy and will be working on ways to enable the students I work with to understand this so that they move forward in their understanding of how to progress.

I have been fortunate enough this year to move on with my career and I am not stating that Twitter and blogging have been essential in me doing this, but I feel that without the use of these two tools I would not be in the position I find myself today. I feel through the use of these I have been able to reflect, refine and develop my practice as a teacher which has enabled me to continue in my professional development and meet my aspirations of moving up in my career.

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Kinect in the Classroom

Kinect is a motion sensing input device which allows the the user to control and interect with a range of apps using gestures and spoken commands. The device features a RGB camera, depth sensor and multi-array microphone which means it can provide full body 3D motion capture, facial recognition and voice recognition.

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The Kinect was originally released to work with an X-box 360 to play games, but since the launch the release of open source drivers meant the Xbox Kinect could be connected to a PC which led to developers creating a wide range of applications for the Kinect ranging from controlling on screen avatars to playing music using movement.

In February, Microsoft released the Windows version of the Kinect along with the software development kit with a view to promote development for the device.

I feel that there is lots of potential for the Kinect in a special needs environment from using in classrooms to support teaching and learning,to providing a wide range sensory experiences for student.

Now for those wanting to try this out you have two options which I hope to explain below:

Xbox Kinect

The Xbox Kinect will work on a Windows XP (or higher) PC and you will need to install the drivers to get it working. The easiest way to get started is to visit http://visikord.com/download#demoplay and download the software. Included with this are the drivers you need to get the Kinect working on you PC. There are other ways to install the drivers but I want to keep it simple and also you get to try out some excellent software as well. (Have written post on visikord)

Once you have the Kinect up and running visit the OpenNI arena which is open-source community which you can download different applications for the Kinect. (Would recommend Fuzzy Painter)

Windows Kinect

The Windows Kinect will only work with Windows 7 PC and you can download the drivers and Software Development Kit from http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/kinectforwindows/develop/developer-downloads.aspx

Hardware requirements:
32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64) processors
Dual-core, 2.66-GHz or faster processor
USB 2.0 bus dedicated to the Kinect
2 GB of RAM
Graphics card that supports DirectX 9.0c

Also to start coding and developing you own applications you will need Microsoft Visual Studio which is available to download here:
http://www.microsoft.com/visualstudio/en-us/products/2010-editions/express

The Windows Kinect is relatively new to developers and as there are not as many applications for it as yet. I feel that within the next year we will begin to see more and more applications arrive as this version is being actively supported by Microsoft.

Here are some more links for you to explore some of the applications being developed for Kinect:

Coding 4 Fun

KinectEDucation

Some excellent blogs to look at regrading the use of the Kinect in Education:

Ray Chambers Blog

Kinect Generations

Primary Parper – Ceri Wiiliams

I would be interested to hear from others who have used the Kinect System in education and how they have been using It. The next step for me will be to add some mini reviews of applications I have used in the classroom.

Kinect and SEN – Visikord – Turning Music into Visuals

This post leads on from a previous one which looked into using some software called Po-motion to create an interactive wall display. Since installing this system, I have been in contact with a fantastic teacher, Anthony Rhys (@trinityfieldsit) who has been doing some fantastic work with his students using the Kinect system and Ipads. He has also set up a great wiki at on apps to use with SEN http://ipad-sen-plcsouthwales.wikispaces.com/ He was the one who originally pointed me in the direction of the Visikord software and as soon as I got our hands on a Kinect I knew I had to try it out.

Visikord is a piece of software originally designed for nightclubs and parties. It turns your TV, smartboard, projection etc. into a mirror-like ‘smart screen’ which gives off stunning visual effects as someone moves to music. It allows the user to interact with the music both through sound but more importantly vision. The software works on a PC (Windows XP or higher) and you need a Microsoft Kinect or Asus Xtion.  The software is free to download as a demo version and this is the version I have been using in class.

Here is a video example of Visikord in action:

The link to download the software is http://visikord.com/introduction/visikord-for-home

The setup I  used is an XP laptop with an Xbox Kinect connected. Installed on this are the Primesense and OpenNi drivers which come with the download of Visikord.  I trialled this with some of my sixth form students and they instantly liked trying to produce different effects in time with the music.  Also those students who tend to shy away from physical exercise, wanted to have a go and were very active and wanting to interact with the music.

Later on, one of our PMLD students had a go with the software. What was great to see was the instant reaction to the sound and the visuals coming from the screen.  Though the student only had limited movement the Visikord software still pick this up and produce visuals to match the music. They were attracted to the bright visuals and in turn were responding to these and the music. I really like the potential for using Visikord and the Kinect especially in relation to our sensory room at school.

Over the next few weeks I will add a Kinect in the Classroom section to the blog which will look into the different options for setting up the Kinect (windows or xbox version) and recommend some of the open source software that is being developed that would be useful for SEN students.

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