Even though the Osmo Words game has been around for a few years, many people probably do not take advantage of its full potential. The Words app is engaging and fun, but can be even more powerful educationally by customizing it.
If adults sign up for a free account at myOsmo, they can add their own albums of pictures and words that can be downloaded to the library on the mobile device being used to play Words. For example, my first graders choose their own countries to study. As we learn about different features of the countries, I add photos to an album in myWords that they can then use to review.
You can find instructions for customizing the Words game here. Using your own albums not only allows you to make the game relevant to current learning topics in your classroom, but also to differentiate. You could use the same pictures in different albums with different vocabulary. Or, you can associate a picture with several words of varying difficulty. For example, a picture of the Taj Mahal may prompt the students to guess Taj Mahal, India, or even tomb.
The online album customization is made even easier with links to UnSplash, an awesome resource of Creative Commons photos. Or, if you don’t want to make your own album, there are many that other teachers have made and shared publicly that you can also download to your device.
Woohoo! Here we go! This is the beginning of this year’s “Gifts for the Gifted” posts – a series of articles I do each Friday in November and December to give teachers and parents ideas for great toys and games for your children. To see what gifts I’ve recommended in the past, take a look at my Pinterest Board. (I also have one for Books for Gifted Children.)
I reviewed today’s product, Osmo, in May, but some of you may not have been readers way back then. You should definitely check out that first post as it gives some details that I will probably leave out in the interest of brevity in this article.
Put quite simply, Osmo is a set of accessories for your iPad that allows players to interact with real physical objects that are recognized by your iPad within Osmos’ free apps. My classes (K-5 gifted students) tested the product out last year before it hit the market, and absolutely loved it.
In case you are concerned that your child or students will get bored with the 3 apps, I can assure you this hasn’t happened in my classroom yet. The company does hope to add additional apps in the future, and they have made significant updates to the current ones over the last year. In addition, the Words app allows for customization so that you can basically create your own games using photos and words that you load yourself. (See instructions here.) This feature is tremendously powerful in a classroom setting. You can make Osmo a center to practice certain words, differentiate with several albums, and do class play to review vocabulary by mirroring your iPad on your screen.
There are two reasons that I recommend Osmo: it’s good for kids and the company is extremely supportive of its customers – particularly educators. If you are looking for a great gift to give a teacher (perhaps pooling money with several parents) or a unique gift to give to a younger family member, then Osmo is definitely a great choice. You can purchase Osmo directly from their website, or at an Apple store near you.
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.