School Uses Gaming to Encourage Students with Disabilities to Interact with Curriculum with Hands and Voice
Lagoa Secondary School, in Portugal, is enriching classroom instruction while making learning activities more accessible for students with disabilities. One creative step they took was to incorporate Microsoft Kinect for Xbox 360, an advanced gesture-based
gaming system, into their curriculum. This gives teachers exciting new ways to encourage learning, promote class cohesion, and empower students of all abilities to strengthen social skills and boost subject-matter proficiency—all while students learn and have
Overcoming Obstacles to Learning
Located on São Miguel, part of the Azores island chain off the coast of Portugal, Lagoa Secondary School is a public school that serves students ages 12 to 18. The school has a significant proportion of students with cognitive disabilities—from autism to
moderate mental retardation—who also manifest deficiencies in skills like hand-eye coordination and fine-motor dexterity. Some students were formerly only able to interact with classmates for brief periods of time before withdrawing. Others struggled with
verbal communication, concentration, and memory impairments. Educators noted that many of these children became socially isolated and had difficulty keeping up with peers academically because they could not fully participate in classroom learning activities.
School administrators searched for a way to enhance traditional instruction by incorporating assistive technologies into daily routines. They sought to promote a more integrated classroom environment and improve collaboration among students of diverse learning
styles and abilities. Teachers also wanted to find new ways to engage students and improve learning outcomes by creating memorable, interactive educational experiences.
Innovative Technology for Immersive Education
In 2010, Lagoa Secondary School adopted Microsoft Kinect for Xbox 360, a controller-free gaming system that lets players interact with content by moving their bodies and using their voices. “We were already familiar with Microsoft’s strong commitment to
supporting the goal of a high-quality education for every student through its Windows-based accessibility tools and other assistive technologies,” says Leonardo Amaral, Principal at Lagoa Secondary School. “When we took a closer look at how easily it works,
we knew that Kinect and the educational content available for use with the system were a perfect fit for our needs. It shows that Microsoft continues to take its passion for accessibility in education to the next level.”
Measurable Impact on Student Performance
The school uses Kinect as a vital part of its instructional program. Kinect uses a motion-sensing input device that enables students to 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. “The interface is completely natural and intuitive, so everybody can get involved right away,” says Amaral.
To evaluate the impact of the technology, administrators and teachers closely monitored student performance over a 12-month period. They tracked improvements in concentration and retention of information, in addition to desired social behaviors, such as
leadership, communication, and teamwork.
For example, one student, who was only able to interact with classmates for seconds at a time, exhibited the ability to participate in group learning exercises that involved Kinect for up to 10 minutes. Another student, who has difficulty communicating one-syllable
words, started articulating commands such as “jump,” “forward,” and “backward” in perfect synchronization with the Kinect Adventures game he played in class. A third student, who has attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), demonstrated increased focus
over time through the use of Kinect in the classroom and the enhanced ability to apply critical thinking skills, such as abstract problem-solving, outside of the game context.
Integration of Kinect Provides Personalized Learning Experiences
As a Mentor School in the
Partners in Learning program, Lagoa’s school leaders are committed to innovation and preparing students to be 21st century learners.
Lagoa Secondary School plans to further integrate Kinect into daily learning activities. “We’ve found countless applications for Kinect in our school,” says Amaral. “First and foremost, it directly supports our mission to provide a meaningful and stimulating
education for all of our students; second, it helps teachers reinforce teamwork—while still providing personalized learning experiences; and it’s a fantastic tool for measuring the amazing progress that our students are making every day.