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Kinect-based games shown to have positive impact on children with learning … –

A company called Kinems is
using personalised, video game-based learning to improve the skills
of children with motor impairments and learning difficulties.

Working with Microsoft Kinect, Kinems develops unique
educational games designed to help children with a variety of
learning difficulties including dyspraxia, autism, ADHD, dyslexia
and dyscalculia.

The games have been designed in conjunction with educators and
therapists in order to mimic exercises the children already have to
do as part of their education or therapy. The idea is that by
integrating them them into computer-based gaming activities, the
exercises increase children’s attention, motivation and pleasure
during therapy sessions, which in turn will speed up the rate at
which they acquire skills.

In line with existing therapeutic protocols, the games have been
designed to improve a range of skills, including hand-eye
coordination, short-term memory, attention span, following
directions, sequencing and problem solving. Each game is completely
customisable, so can be adjusted to suit the preferences and
ability of an individual child. The games also record each child’s
results, giving therapists, parents and teachers the ability to
track and analyse their progress.

“When we created our first game, the River game, based
on the requirements given by ergo-therapists, we went to a
therapeutic centre to test it with children,” Symeon Retalis of
Kinems tells The feedback, he says, was amazing and
hugely encouraging.

“There was one child with attention deficit and hyperactivity
who started playing the game and kept on playing the game for
several minutes in order to continuously improve his score. His
parents were amazed because they believed that their child
preferred only shooter games with lots of actions and a simple game
like ours could not stimulate him.”

Around this time the Kinems team won an award at the Innovation
and Technology Competition in Greece, an event that spurred them to
apply to the Amsterdam StartupBootcamp accelerator programme.
Kinems was one of nine projects to be chosen out 500 applicants and
now it has been through the scheme and is scaling up fast. The team
have forged strong partnerships with Microsoft and Regis
University, and have distributors in several countries.

This is not the first time Kinect or Xbox games have been used
to help children with special educational needs, but it is the
first time games have been designed specifically with the purpose
in mind of helping them and with an in-built monitoring and
reporting system that allows educators, specialists or parents
track their progress.

The games work on the basis of kinesthetic learning — the
learning style by which students adopt new ideas more easily when
they touch or are physically involved in what they are studying. A
1995 study published in the English Journal entitled Excuse me, you’re cramping
my style: kinesthetics for the classroom
, suggested that
around 15 percent of students are kinesthetic learners.

Several studies in 2011 tested the idea of using computer games
in special education, with one reporting that: “interactive [Kinect-based] games teach the
students movements which they can improve upon and mimic in
everyday life.” Another, focused purely on the potential for using
Kinect in special education noted that assistance of body movements
and gestures helped students with learning difficulties grapple
with new ideas more easily. Two specialist centres used non-educational Xbox games to help
autistic children and were found successfully stimulating, but says
Retalis, there was a consensus that “more educational content was
needed — that was the motivation behind Kinems”.

An initial clinical trial using Kinems games to improve the
visual-spatial skills of a small sample of 11 children with ADHD at
Aglaia Kyriakou Children’s Hospital in Greece showed detectable
signs of improvement in fluid intelligence across the board in a
very short space of time (nine-twelve 30-minute sessions over the
course of a month). There were also improvements in the motivation
of the children and the retention level of alertness which are
important challenges in ADHD, due to inherent elevated levels of
hyperactivity. Results left researchers positive about the
potential of the Kinems games, although they said the effectiveness
of the trial should be measured in an extended trial with a control

An unpublished study presented at the PanHellenic Conference on
Special Education examining a trial of a Kinems game being used in
a classroom concludes that “the Kinems innovative approach has high
social value for a significant part of the child population”.

Kinems has now created six different games since it started out
in February last year, and is already in the process of developing
more. The company’s aim is to keep expanding the suite of games it
offers, while also building more partnerships with distributors in
order to make sure its games are accessible to children across the
world with learning difficulties.

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