I got an email today from Osmo. It was announcing two new mobile apps that they have just added to their platform. It reminded me that I haven’t spent much time thinking about Osmo in a little while, so I thought I would take a look at some of their latest offerings to see what was new. As it happens, there have been some significant developments since the last time I visited their website, so I wanted to share some of those below. Some affiliate links are included.Read More »
The Osmo is an educational games system for iPads that has a somewhat unique hands-on approach to learning. Once you buy the base kit, there are a number of great apps and accessories that you can add to extend the functionality of your Osmo. It was designed for children aged 5-12, but some activities could be used with younger (or older) children. Although you do have to pay for some of the add-on packs, the apps for the iPad are free and this can make it a compelling option for the classroom. Here’s what you need to know.
Is the Osmo Educational?
There are dozens of new learning toys that are ideal for the home environment. However, not all of these products fit well with the curricular demands of the modern classroom. Osmo straddles both ecosystems with ease. In fact, according to their own statistics, Osmo kits are being used in over 22,000 schools in 42 different countries around the world.
To help meet this demand, Osmo created the Osmo Academy – a collection of lesson plans that are designed around curricular units that you could be teaching in Kindergarten through 6th grade. The lessons are grouped by topic and are a growing collection of the educational value that Osmo has for the classroom. Click here to download the Osmo Teacher Guide with how-tos, lessons, and more, or visit the Osmo Academy for more information and ideas.
The Osmo Starter Kit
The Osmo Starter Kit includes the base Osmo stand (which works for all models of iPads except for the 12.9 inch iPad Pro), the Tangram pack and the Words pack. The Tangram game offers over 500 puzzles that are based around the ancient Chinese game that uses geometric shapes to build a variety of forms. The Words app is a spelling game similar to hangman, but with picture prompts. There are different levels of difficulty that you can set depending on the age of the student, as well as the ability to create your own word packs and use vocabulary and images that are directly related to the content you are teaching.
There are other Osmo apps that can also be used with the Starter Kit. These include Newton, a physics-based game that requires you to bounce a series of structures that you draw on paper. Masterpiece is a drawing app that lets you take a picture, search the web, or use one of the included gallery images to trace and color your drawing. It includes a neat time lapse function creates a video of your entire process. You can also use Monster, another drawing based app that lets young students draw objects that become part of an interactive digital story.
So, when you consider all that you can do with just the Starter Kit, the Osmo can be a compelling option for elementary classrooms. Here are some links that will get you started with the free iPad apps, as well as more information on the base kit.
- Download the free Osmo Tangram iPad app
- Download the free Osmo Words iPad app
- Download the free Osmo Newton iPad app
- Download the free Osmo Masterpiece iPad app
- Download the free Osmo Monster iPad app
- Buy the Osmo Starter Kit here
Numbers is one of the add-on packs that can be purchased to extend the functionality of the base kit. It has tiles, similar to the Words pack, and you use these to solve a variety of mathematical equations. The nice thing about Numbers is that there is no timer forcing kids to rush into making mistakes, and there is always more than one way to make the target number. It’s fun, engaging and easy to pick up and get started.
The Osmo Numbers game is sold as a separate pack that can be used with the Osmo Starter Kit. However, you can also get something called the Osmo Genius Kit. This is essentially the Starter Kit with the Numbers pack included so you get the Osmo base unit, Tangram, Words and Number packs. For some reason, it is sometimes cheaper to buy the kits separately on Amazon than it is to buy the all-in-one Genius Kit, but that may vary depending on sales and special offers so be sure to check before you buy.
Osmo Creative Set
Although you can use the Newton, Masterpiece and Monster apps with paper or a classroom whiteboard, the Osmo Creative Set does add an extra layer of durability and convenience. It includes a dry erase whiteboard, six liquid chalk markers, and a microfiber pencil case that doubles as an eraser. Technically, you don’t need the Creative Set to interact and use the Osmo drawing apps, but many people do decide to purchase this add-on because of the way it seamlessly integrates with the Starter and Genius kits.
Note that you don’t get the Osmo base or any additional packs with the creative kit. You won’t be able to use the Newton, Masterpiece and Monster apps without having purchased the base kit. The Osmo Creative Set is only the whiteboard, markers and pencil case.
Coding With Awbie
Whether you are doing the Hour of Code or just looking for ways to introduce more problem solving activities with your students, Osmo Coding can help. Traditionally, coding is an on-screen activity. Everything you do involves typing or clicking and dragging things on a screen. Osmo Coding uses physical blocks that students can arrange to guide a engaging character called Awbie around a forest maze. It is simple, intuitive and instantly rewarding.
Osmo Coding starts off easy with lots of prompts and help for students, and although the difficulty level increases the more you play, it never seems to overwhelm. Best of all, you are largely free to code with whatever blocks you want. The prompt may suggest one set of blocks, but if students see another way to achieve the same objective then they can use the blocks that they decide fits best.
So, if you already have the Osmo Starter or Genius kit, Osmo Coding is a great addition for promoting logic and problem solving skills in your classroom.
Osmo Coding Jam
The success of Osmo Coding has led to a second coding pack called Coding Jam. In this version, kids combine magnetic coding blocks to create musical compositions that they can share with others. There are a variety of musical genres that can be created and a collection of fun characters that will play your musical compositions for you on the iPad. Although the coding blocks from Coding with Awbie will work on the introductory levels, Osmo say that you will still need to purchase the Coding Jam kit in order to take full advantage of this new game due to the specialized coding blocks that are unique to Coding Jam. Learn more in the video below.
Osmo Pizza Co.
Another one of Osmo’s newer additions is the Osmo Pizza Co. game. This entrepreneurial app puts students in the role of a pizza store owner. Customers arrive at your store to buy a variety of weird and wonderful pizzas that you need to make, cook and sell. When the customer has finished their meal, they pay you and students work out the correct change that is required for each customer. The app includes a variety of difficulty levels that let you choose whether students handle change in bills only or with a variety of coins. Customer tips are included for increasing the difficulty level.
There are a number of great real world applications for the Osmo Pizza Co. game. Everything from running your own business to authentic math skills that are embedded in a realistic context. The ability to upgrade your pizza store with the money you earn is a nice addition too because it forces kids to think about how much extra they will need to earn in order to buy that new pizza oven or upgrade their flooring. Even the expressions that the customers display when you make their pizza is great for kids who are still learning to recognize and interpret emotions. So, there is a lot to like here.
Additional Osmo Kits
As new packs are added to the Osmo line-up, the number of ways in which they can be combined as multi-packs continues to evolve. So, here are a few additional options that you may want to explore in order to save money on bulk purchases.
- The Osmo Genius Kit – includes the Osmo base unit as well as Words, Tangram, and Numbers packs.
- The Osmo Wonder Kit – includes the Osmo base unit as well as Words, Tangram, Numbers and Coding packs.
- The Osmo Explorer Kit – includes the Osmo base unit as well as Words, Tangram, Numbers and Coding packs. The Explorer kit also includes the Osmo Creative Set and is currently only available from the Osmo website.
- Classroom Kit – includes 4 base units, 4 word packs, 4 Tangram packs, 4 Numbers packs, a plastic storage system, 2 teacher’s guides and a classroom poster. This currently retails for $399. Available from the Osmo website.
- Classroom Kit + Coding – includes 4 base units, 4 word packs, 4 Tangram packs, 4 Numbers packs, 4 Coding kits, a plastic storage system, 2 teacher’s guides and a classroom poster. This currently retails for $595. Available from the Osmo website.
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.