Now, the district sees the platform as one way to help safely transition its neediest students back into the classroom while continuing to follow social distancing rules, said Corey Reynolds, the assistant superintendent for curriculum, instruction and personnel at Greenburgh Central. Before the pandemic forced the district to turn to remote instruction, Figueroa’s classroom was one of the first in Greenburgh Central to test the use of Kinems to support students with disabilities. The length of time students use the platform can vary by grade level — in pre-K it may be just 15 to 20 minutes. Although some teachers only use Kinems for a short period of time each day, it does allow students to engage in active learning without the risks involved in sharing physical materials, Reynolds said.
The whole-body engagement is especially important to her students, nearly all of whom are in special education. Advertisement – Continue Reading Below
“The children really loved it,” said Figueroa. “They enjoy interacting with the screen while they’re learning readiness skills like colors, shapes and receptive languages like following directions.” Miriam Figueroa, a pre-K teacher in the district, said the physical activity combined with a virtual world with bright colors and animated characters is engaging, even for the shyest students, and also for students who struggle with learning differences such as ADHD, dyslexia, dyspraxia and autism.
“When the body is active, then everything becomes more engaging, more stimulating, and children actively participate in the learning process,” said Retalis. The games can also be customized to meet several state and Common Core standards. Early grade students may practice math vocabulary and learning to count, while older students practice math operations, language and vocabulary skills, and sentence structures and spelling. Retalis, a professor at the University of Piraeus in Greece, worked with other educators, physical therapists and content developers to design multi-sensory educational games that integrate occupational therapy. The “unique recipe of Kinems” he said, is “using a theory of embodied cognition” — the idea that the body influences the mind — and body learning.
The Kinems platform was initially created to help engage children with special educational needs and to improve cognitive and motor skills, according to Symeon Retalis, Kinems’ co-founder and chief scientific officer. Because the learning needs of these students vary, Kinems can be fully customized. Kinesthetic learning is woven into each game, whether it is focused on math or ELA. Teachers can personalize activities based on individual students’ academic needs or, for students in special education, the goals in their individualized education program, or IEP. The program gives teachers real-time feedback on both learning and motor skills. “It’s really helping to mitigate the spread of germs,” he said.
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