Stephen Howell: Using Scratch with Kinect for Education

Scratch is a programming language developed by the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the MIT Media Lab. The aim is to have children (and, of course, adults) be able to develop games and create animations, art and music using software. In doing so the hope is to increase the reasoning and creative ability of the user.

Stephen Howell, a computer science lecturer, has combined the accessibility of Scratch with the widespread availability of the Microsoft Kinect to allow children to physically interact with a software program without having to touch the screen, the keyboard or a mouse.

The aim is to make learning mathematics and other subjects fun and accessible. Users can interact with the educational software simply by moving part or all of their bodies.

According to Stephen, “The really good thing is the kids can program the games themselves. They don’t have to know anything about the hardware or the maths behind it. All they have to know is that the head is here, the hands are here and the feet are here. Now what do you want to do with that?

“I created this because I wanted schools to interact with the Kinect which is an amazing piece of kit. It has a 3D camera, microphone and sound recognition…But what would be really great is getting the kids to program it. There’s no point me being able to program it. I’ll just make some boring program.

“But a kid can think, ‘Wow, I can make a racing car program. If I jump left and right it can dodge something.’ We won’t think of that but a kid will.

“We do need more evangelism for Scratch. We do need more people saying this is a fantastic tool to teach and learn programming.”

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