Guest Post: Connected Education

Johnny Kissko on the importance of actively engaging students in the classroom!

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In our standards-driven classrooms, it’s easy to forget that our students are people. The reality of high-stakes testing puts us at risk of jading perceptions of our kids by reducing their value to a test score. Most educators enter the field with the noblest of intents but quickly find out that the system doesn’t always harmonize with their values and beliefs of what it means to truly educate.

At the beginning of every year, I tell my students I have two indicators that determine our success. The first, obvious method of measurement has to be their test scores. This is a non-negotiable if I’m going to maintain my job and if they’re going to advance academically.

However, the second indicator is far more revealing of my level of influence on their growth and development. If they come back to visit me the following year – when they don’t have to, when their motive is genuinely guided by a desire to simply reconnect – this reveals that the values promoted in class – values embodying lifelong learning – were well-received. This is how I ultimately measure my influence and success as their educator.

It’s a tough balancing act. Many times, it feels that one indicator comes at the expense of the other.  Can we really integrate a whole-person paradigm of learning – a model of learning that taps into the body, mind, heart, and soul – where development is promoted just as much as content?

One dimension of learning that I feel has long been ignored in our classrooms is active engagement. Even the most passionate teachers struggle with this. We’ve long known how movement and active engagement enhance academic performance. Most of us have even attended workshops that seemingly teach content while promoting high-levels of interaction, but we find out that this is hard to replicate in typical learning environments.

I’ve launched a community, KinectEDucation, to promote this dimension of learning that has been neglected in many classrooms. With Kinect technology and new software that is emerging, we will be able to promote active engagement while still focusing on standards. Coupling passionate teachers with what this technology can do, we can integrate a “connected education” – an education that truly develops the whole person within the structure required by educational institutions.

If you’re one of the educators who has felt this void, join the movement.  Tell your friends.  Share with your administrators.  We really can transform classrooms if we have people advocating for relevant software and this renewed classroom model.  It doesn’t require an overhaul of the education system, just a fresh perspective.

Most importantly, we must continue to be passion-driven and guided by the philosophy that every kid matters. Tools like Kinect should serve to facilitate a higher purpose; the technology itself should not become the focus.

Yes, it is a touch balancing act. But together, we can make it happen.

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KinectEDucation’s Facebook page is KinectEDucation.  If you have ideas for classroom software or videos showing how you have used Kinect, please share them!

Johnny Kissko

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