Learning to program with Kinect

The kids are gone so now I really have to get to work.  I am converting from Win XP to Win 7.  Now if all my computers were the same brand and model this supposedly would be easy.  I could build a FOG server (I am not quite sure what that is but that is what has been suggested) and magically distribute the new OS.  Out of over 200 computers I think I have two sets of 20 that are the same brand and model.  So the FOG server is out.  So I have a bunch of DVDs and I do a bunch at once.  I end up physically touching every computer.  A bit tedious but actually worthwhile.  It amazing how many dysfunctional computers I am finding.  Broken keyboards, missing mice, bad CD drives, monitors that are dead, etc.  For some reason I cannot be informed of these issues during the school year.

While the DVDs are cooking I have started on my C# self education so I can maybe teach the kids some Kinect programming.  I am using Rob Miles “Introduction to Programming Through Game Development Using Microsoft XNA Game Studio” and his “Using Kinect for Windows with XNA”.  Grrkkk.  Learning this way puts me face down on my keyboard drooling into the keys.  Rough on keyboards and leaves a funny pattern on my face.  I had thought I had hit the jackpot when I found http://channel9.msdn.com/Series/KinectQuickstart.  Boy, that guy can click that mouse fast!  If I was good enough to follow their tutorials I would not need their tutorials. “Quick” is the word.  There are also some minor Visual Studio version differences that caused some immediate, lesson ending confusion.  I am back to the books.  I have never liked video tutorials.  With a book I can stay on one page until I figure it out.  With a video it is stop, rewind, stop, rewind – over and over again.

Teachers should be forced to learn something new every year.  It will remind them how difficult it is to learn and help them realize why so many kids struggle.  Watching the first two videos in the series is one of the finest examples of what can go wrong when an enthusiastic expert tries to teach at the rate he understands the material.  I have to make sure I do not teach this way.  (Not a major problem in my programming classes, I am in no way an expert.)

Last year I had one of my small classes (3 kids) mess around with Stephen Howell’s Kinect2Scratch software.  Very simple, easy to play with and fun for the kids.  I am not going to give up on the XNA direction but Kinect2Scratch is much more attractive to students.  If I had classes full of uber computer geeks I could point them at the book and get out of the way.  I do not have uber computer geeks (OK, I do have one), I have main stream kids that want to do fun things with programming.  Until I can get proficient enough at C# and XNA that I can explain the rough parts so we can get to the fun parts I may have to reconsider my plan for next semester.  What I need is a Kinect add-in for Small Basic.  Now wouldn’t that be fun!

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