By Brandon Martin
Perhaps one of the greatest uses of the advances of 21st Century technology has been in the education sector. From McGraw-Hill to Galileo, there are plenty of companies investing resources to convey learning concepts to children. All educators have their go-to brand.
For Meadow View Elementary School Librarian Amanda Johnson, that brand is OSMO™.
“OSMO™ is a game that is made by a company called Tangible Play, Inc.,” she said. “It comes with game pieces and you use the iPad. It sits on a stand and it has a reflector that goes over the front-facing camera.”
The reflector allows the camera to see any pieces laid out on the table in front of the stand. This feature allows for a variety of lessons to be learned.
“You’re adding, subtracting, making words and a bunch of different things,” Johnson said.
Johnson is so big of fan of the product that she has even been named an OSMO™ Ambassador.
“I’m a fan of using OSMO products with my students and they have an ambassador program,” she said. “So I filled out their application and they were happy to have me.”
Meadow View had multiple software kits when Johnson came to the school and she said she was immediately drawn to the OSMO™ tools.
“Once I got to using them and saw how much the kids loved using them, that’s what drew me,” she said.” Seeing them interact and having to use a physical manipulative to get the answers they need to progress in the game was a plus to me. Those pieces help make that real world to technology connection.”
She said the games don’t get stagnant either. Much like with other technologies, the possibilities are seemingly endless.
” A lot of the games are customizable, so being able to change the levels the students are working on and then you can actually import your own site’s wordlist and have the kids spell them out. You can customize that to whatever they are doing in their classroom.”
Due to the limitations of her time with the children, Johnson said she can’t speak to the long-term impact of the education tool but she certainly sees interest from the students.
“They do really seem to enjoy it and you can also see where it gets a little competitive. In the games, sometimes they will play in partners and they have to race to see who can find the letter they are missing first,” she said. “They are just really engaged.”
Johnson also drew a comparison to how far education has come in just her own lifetime.
“I remember as a kid, sitting and taking notes. That’s not how they are doing it. They are up doing activities and they are moving,” she said. “It’s just another way to get them to connect with the content.”
OSMO™ is far from Johnson’s only tool either. You could say she’s a collector of sorts.
“I am a technology fan. We have robots in my library. All of our students have iPads so we are using those for different apps like coding. We’ve got circuitry kits. We’ve got an array of things,” she said. “I try to tap into all the STEM interests that our kids have.”
In the future, Johnson hopes the technology will reach other areas of the schools as well.
“I think this is something every elementary school kid needs to have exposure to,” Johnson said. “I think it would be great to have one in a classroom setting, as part of a teacher’s literacy or math stations when they are doing their rotations. Especially with the ability to customize the games. I think this is just something that appeals to the kids that we are working with now.”
She said, not only are the games great for teaching the children, the student’s are quickly becoming the masters.
“A lot of them are better than me,” she said. “Sometimes they’ll ask me how to figure something out and I can point them to another kid in the class because they have already figured it out.”
The games are helping the students advance quickly and that’s an exciting prospect for Johnson who gets to marvel at the accelerated growth.
” To think by the time my 1st and 2nd graders are in 4th and 5th grade, they’ll be ready to do things already on a middle school level,” she said.
Johnson said she is grateful for being acknowledged by OSMO™ and she is happy to carry the innovation torch into the future.
“It’s always nice to use products and be recognized by companies that see what we are doing with this and seeing how our uses are valuable to the community,” she said. “So it’s good to have you working with other teachers and sharing ideas for how you are using this.”
What it means to be a librarian has come a long way, according to Johnson.
“You think it’s all just come in, get a book, read for a little while and leave but there is so much more. The future of libraries has changed,” she said.
Another way you can look at it, as she said with a chuckle, “I’m not yo mama’s librarian.”