Kinful is a program that combines new technology with more traditional materials to foster social-emotional learning (SEL) in K-12 students. Kinful produces kits with all supplies required for over 85 hands-on SEL exercises, virtual reality headsets and cameras, and a global library of student-created VR videos. Kinful hopes that through making SEL technologically exciting and easy to facilitate, more educators will be able to integrate it into their teaching.
The Kinful kit is a pure delight to open. Composed of everyday objects, games, and VR supplies, the kit immediately sparks intrigue and promises a varied set of learning activities. From card games to feats of physical dexterity requiring nylons and coins, the activities present a range of engaging challenges that are informative to those participating. Even as adults, my coworkers and I felt Kinful was a great exercise in team building, collaboration, and just generally getting to know each other better.
The virtual reality component of the Kinful program is just one part of a larger experience. It was a nice companion to physical activities focused on community building with peers. Giving students the opportunity to watch, create, and share videos across the globe takes SEL to the next level, but Kinful doesn’t let this supersede SEL skill development happening within the immediate environment.
Kinful conducts consultations with schools utilizing their kits, and I found their guidance extremely helpful. The contextualization of the activities helped me better understand their purpose, how best to use them with students, and how they fit in the larger, measurable scheme of SEL. The Kinful co-founders’ willingness to work with clients to personalize kits and curriculum and develop content-specific stations makes their commitment to serving educators and addressing their needs clear.
While my onboarding session emphasized the importance of context in enacting Kinful activities, it would be nice if that information was presented in writing as well. Without thoughtful facilitation, the kit might seem like a set of entertaining but seemingly irrelevant games. Adding explicit objectives at the top of each activity page would be helpful to guide and orient educators so that they can clearly articulate to students the intended learning goals of Kinful.
Beyond providing greater clarification for each activity’s purpose, I think more guiding questions linking the activities to intercultural exchange, one of the pillars of Kinful’s program, could encourage deeper discussion, reflection, and growth. The curriculum only relies on this facet in the VR component, but intercultural exchange is also an important part of being in a classroom. While playing with Kinful, my coworkers were able to parse out how different approaches to game playing, from the role of cheating to competition, was due to our respective family cultures.
In general, while the website emphasizes that Kinful is a program "powered by student-centered virtual reality," overselling the VR takes away from the in-person activities that make up the majority of the Kinful experience. VR does expose students to other experiences and perspectives, but it’s important to recognize that exposure (without dialogue between video viewer and video creator) doesn’t equate to interpersonal understanding. The activities students engage in alongside their classmates, though, offer opportunities for real exchange. Kinful might consider connecting video creators and viewers in the future, but for now, I think it’s helpful for prospective clients to know that the strength of this program is in the set of physical activities focused directly on teaching students about themselves and how to interact with and relate to others.
Kinful is a highly adaptable program that could really benefit classrooms, afterschool programs, camps, and specialized interventions. I think there is still room for clarification and expansion within the curriculum to strengthen the program, but as a new tool to facilitate social-emotional development, Kinful has a lot to offer.Image: provided by Michael Auerbach