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Letting Students Explore Technology

I use Greenfoot for one of my programming courses and last year support was added so that you could use a Kinect with Greenfoot to write interactive programs. While my students were not quite at that level I thought I would peak their interest and see what they would think of using a Kinect in class. On a day before a break I brought in a Kinect and loaded the sample programs that Greenfoot provides (http://www.greenfoot.org/doc/kinect). I let all of my computer classes play with it with great results. They laughed, tried different things, and even created contests. This day did not involve any coding but they used their creativity and problem solving skills. Here are my two favorite results (you may have to look at the sample programs to fully understand what they are doing but I think you will get the gist):

1. There is a stick figure program that recognizes a person and then will allow you to "paint" on the screen. Students took this to a new level as a contest to see who could write the best word with the "paint". They even had a partner so when they had to stop writing to move their hand elsewhere the partner pushed the pause on Greenfoot and then pushed run when they were ready. For pictures, see:


2. There is another program that drops balls and when the Kinect recognizes a person you can hold your arms up and catch the balls. With this program the students changed the image so they could catch all kinds of things. One pair of students changed it to an image of a man and then using some umbrellas in my room played on the song 'It’s Raining Men'.

Click this link to see screen shots we took of a couple of the best words and the Raining Men.

Letting the students try out technology and go where they want to go with it does get them excited and then they want to know more. They were looking at the code on their own and figuring out ways to change it to do what they wanted the programs to do. It was a great time of exploration and creativity. This is something I want to incorporate more in my classroom so that my students see the excitement of computer science and that they can do what they want with it.

Stephanie Hoeppner
CSTA Ohio Vice President

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