Business Impact Article
Posted: 3/21/2012
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Down Syndrome Corporation School Uses Gaming System to Enrich Learning for Students with Down Syndrome

Based in Bogota, Colombia, the Down Syndrome Corporation provides specialized instruction for students of all ages. As a core part of its mission to enrich learning opportunities for its students, the corporation identifies and incorporates innovative accessibility technologies into its curriculum. The Down Syndrome Corporation recently adopted Microsoft Kinect for Xbox 360, which offers students the capability to interact with educational gaming content in a natural way—using body gestures and voice commands. Now, students with Down syndrome are developing math and reading skills, as well as hand–eye coordination, by using Kinect learning activities.

All teachers can attest to the challenge of finding creative ways to keep students interested in learning. This challenge is more pronounced when students have Down syndrome, a genetic condition that impacts brain and body development.

A Need to Go Beyond Traditional Teaching Methods
Established in 1988 in Bogota, Colombia, the Down Syndrome Corporation provides specialized educational programs and services tailored to the needs of people with Down syndrome and their families. “We know that it is not easy for our kids to learn in formal academic contexts or through traditional instructional methods,” says Luz Garcia de Galindo, Chief Executive Officer of the Down Syndrome Corporation.

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* We discovered that Kinect is a revolutionary tool for helping young people with disabilities relate to—and physically engage with—a broad range of concepts. *

Luz Garcia de Galindo
Chief Executive Officer,
Down Syndrome Corporation

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Along with using techniques to help students improve cognition and memory, the organization emphasizes the importance of frequent exercise for students throughout the day. “Extended periods of inactivity can aggravate the thyroid problems that affect many people with Down syndrome,” says Marcela Fernandez, Director of Development for the Down Syndrome Corporation. “So we’re always looking for ways to incorporate movement into our curriculum.” Executives began looking for ways to enhance instruction by incorporating interactive technologies into lesson plans. “Our students benefit immensely from experiential learning,” says Garcia. “We wanted to go beyond traditional visual aids or presentation tools. Instead, we were looking for a solution that offered students a chance to immerse themselves in the lesson and become the focal part of the learning activity.”

A Revolutionary Educational Tool
The Down Syndrome Corporation chose to adopt Microsoft Kinect for Xbox 360, a controller-free gaming system where players interact with content by moving their bodies and using their voices. “At first, it might seem like Kinect is all about a fun diversion from schoolwork,” says Garcia. “We discovered that Kinect is a revolutionary tool for helping young people with disabilities relate to—and physically engage with—a broad range of concepts.”

The Down Syndrome Corporation now uses Kinect as an integral part of its curriculum. Kinect uses a motion-sensing input device so that students can use physical gestures to interact with the content on a television or projector screen. When the game requires a player to jump, for example, the player simply jumps, rather than using a keyboard or controller to simulate the action.

Impressive Results
Over the past two years, teachers have noticed that students have progressed in key cognitive and behavioral areas, while also showing enhanced physical coordination. “With Kinect, everyone can participate in the same game, and yet each child can get something different out of the experience,” says Garcia.

As children take turns playing Kinect Adventure, one of a series of educational games that can be used with the system, teachers are able to monitor student performance in several areas. Teachers can track one student’s cumulative progress in physical agility, as she moves her body to navigate a virtual boat downstream while reaching for the adventure pins that float past. During that same game, teachers can observe improvements in decision-making skills.

And, as they watch the game player, they also notice how all of the other students are paying close attention to the action and cheering on their peers. “It’s such a fantastic thing to see our children soengaged in personalized learning, and at the sametime forming closer bonds with each other,” says Garcia. “Isn’t that what education is all about?”

Teachers use Kinect to work on specific objectives with each student. With one child, they may be focused on following directions; with another, they are working on speech and audiology through the child’s use of verbal commands throughout the game. “The results from our use of Kinect over more than a year have been very impressive,” says Garcia. “This gives us confidence to implement the technology in a more comprehensive way throughout our curriculum in the coming years.”

Kinect in Education
Educators are enhancing traditional lesson plans with attention-grabbing, body-moving experiences that help students stay engaged. Find
Kinect classroom activities, including activities for special education students, at:
www.microsoft.com/kinectineducation

Accessibility in Education
www.microsoft.com/education/enable

Empower all students with accessible technology.
Students with disabilities and learning style differences face unique challenges in learning and in life. Microsoft is dedicated to building accessibility into our products, and also providing accessibility resources for educators.
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