Augmented reality ed-tech company Osmo is launching Osmo Live, a way for teachers to engage elementary school kids with a combination of livestreamed remote online sessions as well as offline homework.
Targeted at kids from kindergarten to fifth grade, the Osmo Live service was fasttracked so that parents could keep their kids occupied during lockdown while parents have to work from home, said Pramod Sharma, CEO of Osmo, in an interview with GamesBeat.
“We stay at the intersection of play and learning,” Sharma said. “It’s a huge step for us as a brand. Parents need this now more than ever.”
Osmo’s products have sold in the millions. They use the camera on an iPhone and computer vision to create interactive learning sessions with things like letter blocks and numbers. If a kid tosses a block letter in front of the camera, the software can recognize it and tell if the child chose the correct letter.
More than 35,000 U.S. classrooms use the Osmo products. Osmo, owned by India’s Byju, has more than 125 employees and it has launched 17 learning games to date.
“There was one project we were working on from a while,” Sharma said. “Live learning was something that we’ve been thinking about for a long time. We couldn’t really pull off earlier. Then the COVID-19 happened, and we realized every teacher is looking for sort of a live solution for classes. We fast-tracked what we were working on. And this week, we are launching.
Likewise, the same system can show what a teacher is writing on a surface and broadcast that to the children, or show what a child is writing and show that to the teacher in real time.
Kids can actually vote on whether they are bored or excited, and the teacher can see the feedback of how everybody is feeling. The learning is also gamified, Sharma said. If a kid responds to a query, the child gets a point. If they attend class, they get two points. The point is to get the kids to come back again and again.
During the pandemic, demand for Osmo products has doubled, Sharma said.
“Gaming is a proven way to get kids engaged,” he said. “Zoom is fine for business meetings. But teachers want to engage kids with interactive experiences. Children can post answers to online queries and the teachers can correct them live.”
The child only needs a computer with a webcam and browser. If they have an Osmo device, it is helpful but not required. There is also asynchronous learning, where the teacher can assign offline work and the child can submit offline questions, to be answered later.
Osmo has begun hiring some teachers who can teach large classes (up to 100 students) in hands-on Bootcamps for children using the Osmo Live service, so kids can learn while at home. Teacher will start teaching six-week-long Bootcamps covering critical skills including Art and Creativity, Coding, and Math.
Nationwide, COVID-19 school closures have given millions of parents the responsibility of ensuring their kids continue their education at home. In tandem, children who have been confined to home for months because of shelter-in-place orders are bored and lack the socialization of the regular classroom that makes them excited to learn. Despite claims that the COVID-19 pandemic is improving, these remain critical issues for parents and their kids, Sharma said.
Dave Blanchard, who works in Teacher Development at Saint Cloud State University and helped design Osmo Live, said in a statement that Osmo Live is simple and intuitive and helps children stay engaged. He said the Osmo Live Bootcamp series isn’t just another webinar for kids. It’s extracurricular learning done right.
Osmo Live includes:
- One-to-one connection. Instructors can survey children to understand how they are feeling, ensuring everyone is heard and supported. Additionally, only instructors can broadcast, which keeps children focused on their work and minimizes distractions.
- Interactivity. A speech-to-text function, live chat feature with emojis and in-class poll questions allow instructors to incorporate live Q&As into the curriculum and multiple children to actively participate in discussions at a time without interrupting the flow of learning.
- Online/offline integration. Advanced learning requires more than watching a teacher instruct over video. Children can engage with the classes using real-world objects like pencil and paper, and share photos of their work with instructors to work through problems and collaborate with the entire class in real-time.
- Personalized feedback. At the end of each session, children are given an extended learning activity so the learning doesn’t stop once class is over. Instructors provide personalized feedback on all activities to make sure every child understands the content and stays on track.
Each weekly session lasts one hour and generates two to three hours of extended learning via offline homework. Osmo Live is designed to be used on any device. Each Bootcamp is priced at $150, and parents signing up for more than one will receive a $25 discount.
“This is a good way to teach kids while parents are busy working at home,” Sharma said. “You can put them in front of a TV, but this is better.”
About 500 children have tried it.
Teachers can share slides and manipulate objects in front of a camera. That tactile learning is good for the youngest students, so they can visually understand what the teacher is talking about.
“We can do multimodal learning, with physical tools and digital tools all put together,” Sharma said. “This is powerful because many concepts are best explained through physical manipulatives.”
Teachers can also get digital feedback, such as quick evaluations of who is understanding the lesson and who may be falling behind.