Normally the conferences I attend are about educational technology or computer science education. Events like ISTE, MASSCue, TCEA, SIGCSE or CSTA’s CS & IT. But the last two days I have been at the New Jersey School Board Association annual workshop. We’re hear talking about Kinect in Education. Yesterday we had a talk on their conference exhibit hall’s main stage. Today we were in the exhibit hall demoing Kinect and talking to attendees about Kinect. We’ve had some great conversations. Kinect in Education is still in its infancy and people (both in schools and at Microsoft) are still figuring out where and how it fits. This is especially true for beyond Physical Education where the application is pretty obvious. In fact I think if I demo Kinect enough I will start to like the shape of the guy on the screen. I also had a chance to talk to some students at the conference who were showing off their robots.
There were students showing off several classes of robots that are part of the FIRST Robotics family of events. They have events from grade school and middle school up through the FTC and FRC event for high school students. The students with me in this picture are part of FRC or FIRST Robotics Challenge. These are the “big robots” that can weight up to somewhere around 150 pounds. Microsoft has donated Kinect devices tor all FRC teams for the upcoming 2012 season. All of these students knew about that already which shouldn’t have surprised me. These are sharp kids. They are all ready thinking about what Kinect for control of a robot might mean for them and their team. I can’t wait to see what they come up with. Them and the 2400 other FRC teams we expect to see using these devices. My hope is that they will also start to think of uses for the Kinect beyond the robots. That would be pretty exciting.
I have to say that a conference for school boards is different from one for teachers. And I don’t just mean for educational technology teachers. For one thing there were a lot more people wearing suits. I was dressed ok I think but without a jacket and tie I felt a little under dressed. And the booths were different. I counted at least three but maybe there were four booths with putting greens. The one below was the best of them though. And the food! Yes there were food service companies displaying the sort of food they would (in theory at least) be offering for students. The bread display below was just one of many I saw. And there were exhibits by insurance companies, architects, lawyers, and companies that sold artificial grass and “dirt” for athletics fields. Who knew that there were companies who made a business out of providing specialty dirt for baseball diamonds?
All in all it was a good event and we had a lot of good conversations about Kinect in Education. But for me I missed talking to teachers. Thank goodness most of my favorite ed tech conferences are still to come. I hope to see some of my readers at one or more of them.