A little background for those of you new to this blog: I teach Gifted and Talented students in Kinder through 5th grades. I have been teaching for 23 years, and a parent for 11. I love educational technology – but I love my students and my daughter even more. I only endorse products that I think will benefit children and are of good value.
It seems like a simple thing. Set up an iPad vertically on a sturdy base. Place a small mirror over the iPad camera, and pieces that are on the table in front of it are instantly recognized by special apps designed for this purpose. Suddenly, the tangible and the digital interact in a way that few have imagined. And, just like that, you have Tangible Play’s Osmo – an educational learning tool that will transform the use of mobile technology in the classroom.
Instead of students working in isolation, they gather around Osmo to collaborate. Instead of silently concentrating on trying not to slam a bird into a pipe, students discuss strategies and brainstorm ideas. Instead of mindlessly consuming images and information, students creatively interact with each other and this set of iPad games that require problem-solving and higher order thinking.
The evolution of this game is a testimony to how developers and educators can work together to create a product that is a valuable learning tool. From the beginning (and I was fortunate enough to get in on the early stages), the Tangible Play developers sought out educators to beta test their project. They created a Google account where teachers could give feedback and suggestions. This interaction, and subsequent changes made to the games, showed that those of us in the classroom have an important voice and our experience can be a great asset to developers of educational technology.
Some examples of changes that I’ve seen:
- The Tangrams game originally had a “Cheat” button. Due to teacher recommendations, this was changed to a “Hint” button.
- The Words game began as a Red Team vs. Blue Team game. Now, there is an option for a cooperative game
Numerous other revisions have occurred in the games – and they have all been for the better.
Osmo currently has 3 apps that can be used with the set: Words, Tangrams, and Newton. The Words game is the hands-down favorite for my students. I am partial to it, as well, because it allows you to create your own sets of pictures. As any teacher can imagine, this opens up a world of possibilities for content reviews and teaching new concepts or vocabulary. It also makes Osmo an asset to a teacher for any age group or subject, as you don’t have to rely on the Words game provided (though it’s awfully fun, too).
I love how the Tangrams game scaffolds for students. It allows them to start with simple puzzles, and then choose more difficult ones as they work through it. They also have to earn points in order to use any hints.
Newton is pure fun and has great potential for creativity as students try to think of tangible ways to keep the digital ball on track.
I am recommending Tangible Play’s Osmo for 2 reasons. Number 1 is that it is good for children. I can personally attest that it fosters collaboration, problem-solving, and creativity. The second reason is that the company behind this product is genuinely interested in getting it right. When I first received the kit, the developers did a Google Hangout with my students and me to help us set it up and answer any questions we might have. (Of course, once the game was set up, the students were no longer as interested in chatting as I was!) Since then, they have been in regular contact through e-mail and Google Plus.
Osmo officially launches today. They are currently accepting preorders at a 50% discount until June 22, 2014 – to be shipped in the fall. Discount price will be $49 for the base + Tangram, Words and Newton.
For teachers – even if you only have 1 iPad, this is FABULOUS for centers or even for projecting on the big screen. For parents – my 11 year old daughter and I love playing this together. It’s easy to make it into a fun family game!
I cannot recommend this product highly enough. I have been using the free beta test version, and I am still purchasing more, if that tells you anything! Watch the video below to see this amazing educational set in action.
If you choose to purchase an Osmo, please use this referral link.