Freeing the Ed Tech

In September of 2018 and all of this academic year, I have been releasing all the ed tech kits to the shelves.  In a wildly successful experiment, ed tech like littleBits, Sphero Sprk 2.0, ozobots and OSMO are left to fend for themselves on the open shelves in the library.

Other years while I was acquiring the ed tech, I had a conversation with almost every student who took out these kits to use in the classroom.  Although this was wonderful in getting to know students and how they were using the tech, it was not sustainable as a model for taking out technology kits.

As I released the kits to the shelves something wonderful happened.  All of the kits were loaned for classroom use and lesson planning, all the time. Not a one left anywhere.

It showed me that students know how to use these kits in the classroom and are just waiting for a chance to integrate them into their planning.  The initial training on most of the kits is self taught by Youtube and by the other resources the Doucette has like the research guides.  Students are beyond prepared to introduce technology into their curriculum planning.

However, I also noticed something else.  Once the kits are gone there is no back up.  Even when I want to teach with the kits to special groups or classes, I am facing the same timelines as students, putting kits on hold 10 days before any time of teaching.

And so, we are adding MORE of the kits that are most popular to the shelves.  More Ozobots.  More Sphero Sprk 2.0 (and their mini partners).  Thanks to the generous contribution of Werklund School and Dr. Lock, we will have more of everything on the shelf.  Hopefully, this will mean that more students will have more access to more ed tech by the fall.  And if more students are integrating more ed tech into more classrooms, the sky is the limit.  Our next innovators and entrepreneurs will be challenged to take the next steps after technology is embedded in classrooms to make education the most interactive and engaging time in a student’s life.  And that is a very good result.

App of the Week – Osmo Coding


Cost: Free*

Size: 83.2 MB

Version: 1.1.0

Updated: August 23, 2016

*Keep in mind that because it is an OSMO product, the app is free but you must purchase the initial OSMO genius kit for $129.99Cdn with the base camera deflection equipment and the OSMO coding manipulatives for $69.99Cdn.

I am a real fan of this product.   The genius kit, as mentioned in an earlier blogpost, contains the camera deflection equipment and base for your ipad as well as the tangram, and word set.  The number set is purchased separately.

And, although I love a free app, the continually innovative products that are coming since the OSMO base kit are good value for the 5-12 age group.

For a quick how-to video, my favourite is Antonio’s World, even though the OSMO CEO has also had a kick at the can with a YouTube video on the subject.  Antonio’s script and editing is much tighter than Pramod Sharma’s video and he gets you the information you need to start using your kit fast with a “just the facts” approach.

Now for the app and manipulatives.  I’ve included pictures in order for you to see them rather than have to describe them to you.  Each magnetic instruction card directs Awbie, a strawberry munching monster, to move in a direction at the turn of a dial, walk, jump or grab and pause for second sober thought.  As your directions help him gulp up strawberries singly or from various treasure chests, you gain strength and rewards to acquire items to make the levels easier.  It is very fun to play and I’m sure most 5 year olds would concentrate on the game aspect and not the coding knowledge they are acquiring.  Once you or your students are ten and up, I think the logic of coding languages would be hard to miss.

I am considerably older than the intended audience and the play was fun and engaging even for me.  My coding age is probably six and I am no digital native.  The trial and error way of moving Awbie around is very fun.  It has a very “try again” sense about it without any negative screens  even if Awbie is going in the wrong direction.  If you allow him to step on a  lily pad he does dunk in the water and pop up, unharmed, so you can try again.

I would recommend the whole package of Osmo again as I did in this blogpost.  It is a great investment for a learning centre in your classroom.  There are lots of different processes to work through that focus on a variety of skills.  Learning coding is becoming a new literacy for students and this kit balances learning and fun, especially for the K-6 crowd.




Librarians on the Road – Part II – University of Alberta

We all felt a little envious of the Technologies in Education – Support and Solutions space at the University of Alberta.  Containing about 50 staff members including peer mentors, this space has many techie treats to experiment with and learn how to use.

Red Chair Sessions are held to give students quick ways to use various websites, apps, and Web 2.0 tools in their classrooms.  Instruction is given by peers and lasts a manageable 30 minutes in between classes.

Maker ideas are tried out and the results displayed to challenge students to try out maker strategies in their classrooms.

This staff wants students to learn about the latest technologies and try them out in this risk-free environment. The space and staff were both very welcoming.

Coutts Library at the University of Alberta  also offered some library spaces we could explore and learn from.  They have a wonderful puppet collection and encourage students to use it for their field experiences.

It is good to get out and see some other education spaces and how they use technology in the classroom to help undergraduate teaching students grow into tech-savvy teachers.

Osmo and ipad to try out!

Osmo and ipad to try out!

Osmo for Ipad

Osmo is a set of interactive games to add to your iPad.  With the use of the camera installed in the iPad, a stand, and a small mirror device, an iPad becomes a reflective surface for 3 free Osmo apps.

With a Canadian retail price of $100, it would be a great addition for school age children who spend time with an iPad anyway.

Tangram works with the shapes that come with the Osmo kit to help children build various tangrams.  A child works through levels to achieve dexterity choosing shapes to match the image on the screen.  Need a clue, Tangram shows hands placing the shapes to help you along. imgres

Words is the app that works alongside the letters contained in the Osmo kit.  From a series of photographs, a child must spell the word implied by the picture.  Not as easy as it sounds sometimes.  Challenging and interesting.

Newton is the third app in the Osmo series and the most engaging in my opinion.  Set a blank piece of paper in front of the on-screen Newton app and look for the target.  Draw on the paper the lines you plan to direct the balls to hit the target.  It was very fun to find out what works and what doesn’t.

I just noticed a fourth app associated with Osmo called Masterpiece.  It was released today so I will review it soon.  This relatively small kit has some growth potential.  A stand and reflector that is easy to set up and many activities to challenge any child from ages 5 to 11.  I’m predicting as more apps appear on the scene, the age range will also grow.  Masterpiece is a drawing app that may have greater appeal to students up to 15.

Look for more innovations from this creative team of inventors.