Fletcher Students Explore “Tangible Learning” with OSMO

Students at the Fletcher Elementary School are armed with a new tool in their learning arsenal.

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Fletcher teachers explore OSMO during a recent staff meeting.

OSMO is a revolutionary new technology that uses the camera vision of an iPad, along with a specially designed reflector, to recognize and capture what is happening in front of it. In other words, it combines digital vision and recording with the physical manipulation of materials.

“This tangible learning changes the way we teach our children how to interact with technology,” said Kira Westbroek, whose role at OSMO is to support schools with integrating the technology into the curriculum and recognizing teachers and schools that use it to its fullest potential. “Technology doesn’t just have to be flat. It’s not just swiping or typing anymore. It’s an interactive and educational experience.”

The Fletcher School purchased 15 OSMO units last month as part of a Launch FWSU Grant underwritten by the Bay and Paul Foundation. Ten Launch FWSU Grants were awarded to innovative projects within the Franklin West Supervisory Union. A team of four Fletcher Teachers, including art teacher M.C. Baker, Librarian Emily DiGiulio, kindergarten teacher Jenny Blackman and music teacher Jennifer O’Neill, received one of the six $1,000 grants and secured additional funding from Friends of Fletcher Elementary, the schools parent group, to fund the OSMO initiative.

“We wanted to apply this really innovative learning tool across the curriculum to engage learners even more in the skills that we are already teaching,” Baker said. “It is a purposeful technology connection and a compliment to everything we are already doing.”

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Students use the OSMO Pizza Company application to practice math skills such as making change and learning fractions.

Baker has used OSMO in all of her art classes during the past several weeks, and every student has had a chance to experience them. Fletcher purchased eight gaming applications for OSMO that support math, coding, literacy, art and science. A favorite application of students’ is the OSMO Pizza Company, in which student pizzeria owners literally build model pizzas on the table and serve customers. OSMO “sees” every move the students make, and respond accordingly. The app teaches students about fractions and making change. Many classroom teachers have also integrated OSMO into their daily literacy and math routines.

“Students like the fun games,” sixth grader Lindy Langlois said. “But, it sneaks in a little bit of education, too. It’s like hiding broccoli with ketchup.”

Fourth grader Anna Howard agreed. “I really like OSMO because it’s just like playing a game but it helps you with your learning. It’s so much fun you can barely tell that there’s learning in there.”

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A kindergarten student uses the drawing feature of OSMO to record and replay her progress.

“It’s educational and fun,” fourth grader Carver Leadbetter said. “It just makes everything so much more fun because it’s interactive. You are building and drawing things in front of the iPad and OSMO helps you record and see them in a lot of different ways.”

“This is a tool that we will steep into all subjects across the curriculum,” Baker said. It’s not just another thing we do. It’s an extension of the learning that’s already taking place.”

Despite all of the school’s students having experienced the OSMO, Baker has not always been the one doing the teaching. Art buddies – a pairing of sixth grade students and kindergarteners – puts Fletcher’s oldest students in a leadership role and makes them responsible for sharing OSMO with some of the school’s youngest members.

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Two sixth grade students use OSMO with a kindergarten buddy.

“We connected with the younger kids over OSMO,” Langlois said. “We realized that we had interests in common, like coding or drawing. You learn a lot from the skills in the game but also how to be with other people.”

“OSMO has helped to bridge the gap between kindergarteners and sixth graders because the younger kids can show us something they know and they can be proud that they have learned something on OSMO from us,” sixth grader Julia Slingerland said. “For me it’s like being a helper teacher. They look up to you. They get to make the decisions about OSMO but you get to help them make the right ones. It’s cool because it’s like a bond and a new best friend except they are little.”

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Fletcher Elementary purchased a variety of applications for OSMO, include games that support math, literacy, art and science.

Launched in 2013, OSMO is the brainchild of two former Google employees, Pramod Sharma and Jerome Scholler. Sharma first began exploring the combination of digital technology with physical manipulation as he worked to build Google’s book scanning machine. Scholler helped create Chrome for Android.

Westbroek said that new applications for OSMO are constantly being discovered, including using the technology to support memory in the elderly.

“OSMO is about making the technology see what the person is doing rather than the person just doing technology,” she said. “It’s about making technology tangible. Not just staring at the screen but working with the screen.”

On her work with Fletcher specifically, Westbroek said the school “has been willing to do whatever it takes to get what was needed to support students.”

“OSMO reminds me of virtual reality,” Langlois said. “It brings to life what is in front of you. It’s a learning experience but it doesn’t really feel like it in the traditional way. It brings a little bit of every subject like math and science and reading into every experience. It is a great way to learn.”

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Flexible Learning Environments: FWSU maximizes flexible learning environments by redefining the school day, promoting learning experiences that extend beyond the classroom, and fostering creativity, innovation, and personalized learning opportunities for all.

Indicators of Success: (1) Staff, students and community embrace digital, social, mobile learning styles. (2) Students engage in answering authentic questions and solving problems in collaborative settings.

Action Steps: (1) Increase access to resources for all students. (2) Develop opportunities for students to demonstrate transferrable skills in authentic settings.

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