Wednesday, July 22, 2015

How to use Osmo in the Classroom

This article was first posted on Daily Genius in April 2015


Today the field of educational technology is literally bombarded with new ideas and devices that promise to revolutionize the way we teach.  Some of these newcomers have strong potential and promise a unique learning experience.  One such product is Osmo.  Osmo is an innovative device that transforms an iPad into an interactive classroom accessory able to add a level of excitement that engages students in the learning process.
Osmo is made of a vertical base for the iPad, and a reflective mirror that sits in front of the camera.  These two unassuming accessories work together to change the physical space in front of the iPad into an area of active engagement that interact with a number of iPad apps made for Osmo.

Osmo Kit
Osmo will only set you back $79, but for that money you get a well-designed Kit along with four Osmo apps you can download for free.  Aside from the base and the reflective mirror, Osmo comes with a set of tangrams and two color-coded sets of alphabet letters.  This may seem simplistic at first, but these modest accessories can guarantee hours of enjoyable learning and turn mundane and repetitive learning activities into highly appealing and engaging lessons.

Words App
Words is the most interesting, and the app with the highest educational value of all Osmo apps.  Words has a lot of potential in the elementary classroom and the fact that it is highly customizable makes it ideal for all elementary grade levels, from Kindergarten to 5th grade.  The app consists of two sets of color-coded alphabet letters that the students can use to interact with the app.  The objective is to guess and use the correct letters in order to match the target word on the iPad’s screen.  Words does a superb job in differentiating and offering diverse levels, which enhances the experience.  For instance, K-1 students can start using the Junior level, while everyone else can use the standard level that comes with the app.  Even within the standard level there are four different difficulty levels.  Depending on the level you choose, words may be single or multi-syllable words, and a picture in the background may provide little, some, or a lot of support. 
Users who own an Osmo unit can create an account at playosmo.com, and this is where things get very interesting.  From there the teacher can generate his/her own lists of words and pictures.  The implications of this are staggering.   
Due to its highly customizable nature, Osmo allows teachers of all subjects to create their own albums, therefore making Osmo relevant to any subject, math, reading, social studies, or science.  Creative teachers can design spelling bee contests, math games, science vocabulary quizzes, social studies puzzles, Cloze sentences, and the list goes on.  Furthermore, at my.playosmo.com/ teachers have access to a growing number of public albums they can download on their iPad for free, ensuring that there is always something new to engage the students.


Words App for Osmo from Nikolaos Chatzopoulos on Vimeo.
A short tutorial on how to create private albums on the Words App of Osmo

Masterpiece
The newest addition to the Osmo family, Masterpiece, is a fun and super engaging drawing app that can elevate the excitement in any art class.  The app contains a good number of curated pictures that, when selected, transform into drawings that you have to recreate.  The camera tracks your pencil’s every move while it guides you to follow the lines, which allows you to be incredibly accurate while drawing.  In addition, the app records in real time every line you draw, and comprises a time-lapse video of your drawing, which is a very neat feature.
Following in the Footsteps of Words, Masterpiece allows the user to import his/her own pictures, opening the door for some quite astonishing challenges.  Self-portraits, familiar landscapes, and favorite pets are only some of the things the students can interact with and draw using this truly intuitive app.

Tangram App
Tangram is an old Chinese game made of a square divided into seven basic geometric shapes that can be put together to create hundreds of other shapes.   Osmo’s twist on this old game is ingenious and highly interactive.  The tangram app displays a shape on the screen and the objective is for the students to recreate this shape using the real life tangram pieces that come with the Kit.  The app is designed to adjust the difficulty level and the support it provides to the student, therefore the teacher can differentiate lessons and activities to meet the needs of a diverse group of students. 
Although tangram is ideal for K-2 students, as it can be used to introduce students to the properties of 2- dimensional shapes, upper elementary students can benefit from working with the app as well.  The app can be used to teach students how to visualize 2- dimensional shapes, and to think out of the box in order to combine commonly used shapes to create unusual forms and arrangements. 

Newton App
Osmo’s doodle application easily earns the title of the most basic app of Osmo.  Newton is a game in which the objective is to draw lines on a piece of paper placed in front of the iPad, in order to force the balls falling from the top of the screen to hit certain targets.  This is the equivalent of a pinball game played on the iPad.  Although Newton falls short in providing some strong educational value, it is still great for hand-eye coordination practice for K-2 students, not to mention the hours of fun students can have challenging each other.

Apple TV & Osmo

I am a strong believer of the fact that an Apple TV can make a great classroom accessory, and I have written about that in the past.  Using Osmo in conjunction with an Apple TV opens up a wide range of possibilities in the classroom.   One of Osmo’s greatest strengths is its ability to make the learning experience social.  However, you are still limited by the small size of the iPad’s screen, so only a small number of students can share the experience.  Mirror the iPad to an Apple TV and you have a very different picture.  The whole class can participate and be part of a lesson, in which physical interaction goes well beyond the usual tapping of the iPad’s screen.  That’s learning at its best!

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