NEW HAVEN, NY – Brianne Hartmann, a kindergarten teacher at New Haven Elementary, brought a bit of Silicon Valley technology to the classroom.
Beginning last month, her students are learning to code with an educational iPad experience called Osmo Coding.
She is using Osmo Coding to blend the physical and digital worlds and teach her students logic skills and problem solving through computer coding.
“You use an iPad with the Osmo Coding to learn. The students have a lot of fun and think they are playing – but they are actually learning!” she said.
Their favorite deals with helping a character navigate through a jungle and across rivers in search of various fruits.
Pieces with different moves and directions are placed, one at a time, under the viewer.
” It checks the pieces down here,” the teacher explained. “Children rotate a compass to set the direction. Then a number segment is added to the first piece to adjust how many steps (or in some cases – hops) the character will move. If they make a mistake, the game will give them an error message and the students will make the proper adjustments.”
Among the other ‘game’ options is spelling. The youngsters have alphabet pieces and photos are flashed on the screen.
What the object is is written at the bottom of the screen. The first letter of the word is blank.
Children slide a letter under the viewer and if it’s correct, they get a point. If not they are urged to try again.
In a more advanced version, the students have to spell the entire word. The words are age-specific, such as train, show, boat, snake, flower and so on.
If students leave their game pieces too close to the viewer, a hand appears on the screen brushing away pieces with the message for students to tidy up the area.
One of the other game options deals with geometry.
A figure of a cat or other animal is displayed. The children must use their geometric shapes to recreate the image. The program guides them along the way. When they place a shape in the proper location, the corresponding piece on the screen is highlighted.
A math game depicts a fish out of water, surrounded by bubbles. The children are challenged to solve the numbers displayed.
Using small pieces with dot(s) (like dominoes) on them they can, for example use a piece with 2 dots and another with 3 dots to solve 5. Or they can use other combinations like a 4-dot piece and another with 1 dot or 5 single dot pieces.
Their correct answers help free the fish so it can dive into the water below.
“They have to go back, problem solve, figure out how to do it. They have been really amazing. Some people might say it’s too hard for the young students to pick up. I put it out there and they know how to do it,” Hartmann said. “They absolutely love doing this. They have a set time, just like for any other lesson, to use this. So, it’s not like we disregard everything else just to ‘play’ this. I don’t set it out all the time. So, they don’t have complete access. Moderation is the key.”
She can’t get over how much this has helped the kids in so many areas, she added.
“I find myself sitting down and playing with it some times, because it is so fun. There are tons of other programs out there for this, too. I only have a few,” she said. “You should see the reaction of the students when they are using this. They get stuck on something. They work through it and when they get it, it’s like ‘Hey look what I’ve done!’”
The class started using this probably in mid-October. So they haven’t been exposed to it all that long, the teacher pointed out.
“They’re sponges, sponges. Give it to them and they’ll pick it up. They’ll figure it out. They love it. It’s a game to them. They don’t realize they’re learning,” she said. “They are learning basic shapes, numbers new words (sounds and spelling), fine motor skills and teamwork.”
She discovered Osmo through Facebook one night when she was looking for new ways to engage her students, “who are already obsessed with playing on iPads.”
“I knew immediately that the students could learn the fundamentals of computer science while ‘playing’ on the iPad. It’d be a win-win,” she told Oswego County Today.
Shortly after, she applied for grant money from a local donor, which allowed her to purchase two complete coding sets.
Every week, the boys and girls in her class look forward to their ‘STEM center’ time. The introduction of STEM skills at such a young age can also help break down the gender norms in her class, that are set as early as first grade.
The dedicated STEM learning time encourages every student to play and grow together while they’re grasping the rudimentary skills of coding without even realizing they’re learning.
“I said I have got to have this for my classroom. I did some legwork. I wrote up an application and got accepted and here we are. It is quite amazing to watch these students get excited while coding,” Hartmann said. “It’s pretty cool. I hope it expands (to other schools). Technology has come a long way and the kids know how to use it.”
Besides the games, there are books on the iPads children can listen to.
Currently, hers is the only classroom in this area with such technology.