When I first saw Osmo, it was a Kickstarter project. I was curious. It looked like a great idea, but would it work in a classroom, and would it ever become a reality or not? Turns out the answer to both questions was a resounding “Yes!” Last summer at iPadU: Slide to Unlock Learning, our keynote speaker, the excellent Matt Gomez, brought one with him and let us try it out. Suddenly it made so much more sense. The Osmo is tailor–made for a classroom.
Since then, I have used it several times at work, and showed it off to lots of teachers. They all love it! Part of the appeal is undoubtedly its simplicity. It takes no time at all to set up and can be used by just about anyone, regardless of their experience on an iPad. However, it is also somewhat unique in the way that it encourages collaboration and the use of manipulatives to solve a problem.
The Osmo comes with a base that an iPad sits on. It looks like the white iPad charging dock that Apple used to sell for 30-pin iPads, but it comes with an clever adapter that lets it fit any iPad model in existence, (save the original iPad 1 that lacks the camera that the Osmo relies on). While sitting in the stand the iPad seems stable and secure, however it should be noted that it will only fit in the Osmo dock if you remove any protective case you currently have on the iPad.
It also comes with a small red reflector that clips onto the top of the iPad in order to bounce the front camera detector onto the desk space or tabletop directly in front of the dock. You also get two game packs – Words and Tangram– both of which have free companion apps in the App Store. An additional game called Newton, also free on the App Store, needs nothing more than paper and a pencil. The cost? $80 USD.
Words for OSMO is a puzzle game that is somewhat akin to a visual hangman. Students guess the word by placing a letter tile under the red reflector on the iPad and wait to see if it is one that appears in the word or not. Osmo scans the letter instantly and without hesitation. In fact it is so fast that there is a two-player mode where students can race to solve the puzzle by playing against each other with different colored tiles.
The words are sorted into albums based around a specific theme. This helps with differentiation and use across multiple grade levels. For instance, there is an ABC pack where students could be guessing the first letter of the object in a picture, or doing something more challenging like identifying vocabulary associated with recycling, biomes or rocks and minerals. Each pack can also be played in one of three difficulty levels. Better still, if you sign up for an account online, you can create your own.
Tangram for Osmo is much like you would expect. You arrange the Tangram tiles to create the picture that is showed on the app. However, this also comes with a range of difficulty levels. They app starts off by showing you the color and outline of the shapes you need, moves on to just the outlines, and then shows you just solid black shapes. It gets challenging the more you play it, but is always accessible to young learners too.
Newton for Osmo, like I mentioned earlier, needs no special equipment, however, it does need a healthy dose of problem solving skills. When the game starts, balls drop from the top of the screen. The objective is to guide these balls towards targets on different parts of the screen by drawing lines on a piece of paper for the balls to bounce off. It is great fun, and increasingly challenging as you move through the different levels. For a more eco-friendly approach you may want to use a small whiteboard and a dry erase marker. It works just as well.
So, if you haven’t heard of Osmo before, you soon will. It’s hard to ignore, and even harder to put down once you start using one. It’s ideal for centers or stations in an elementary classroom and is a great way to get students collaborating and communicating with each other to solve problems together. Watch the video below and you will see what I mean.