Sunday, October 12, 2014

Making the Most of Osmo

In colorful letters adorning a slick white box, my Osmo arrived a few days ago.  Like thousands of other educators, I pre-ordered Osmo.  My intent was primarily curiosity, as I’m typically a fan of any new technology, and often chase rainbows in an attempt to revolutionize my classroom and jazz up my instruction. This time my 'rainbow' is red, orange, yellow and blue and is called:

Osmo’s mission, “to promote social intelligence and creative thinking” really appears to be accurate!  When my Osmo arrived, I opened it on my kitchen counter with my two teen-aged boys.  We fit it together within 30 seconds and downloaded the Tangram app.  In no time, the three of us were working together, rotating shapes and solving puzzles.  We were working collaboratively, creatively and solving problems.  It was terrific.

Next we opened the Newton app.  The novelty of the experience was the biggest hook.  Seeing our hands projected as scribbled images on the screen was fascinating.  We, admittedly, got a little silly with this one and tried many non-typical ways to encourage the dropping balls to hit the target.

The Words app is, “hands down” my favorite.  A great battle erupted between my son and I as we raced to slide the right letters across the countertop in an effort to decode the hidden words

Experimenting further with Words, I’ve discovered what I believe will be the absolute hook for teachers in the classroom, the ability to customize Word to include your own vocabulary for your curriculum.

Ideas for Osmos's Words

#1.   Character traits word sets!!  Provide students with an image and/or a definition of their targeted character trait vocabulary words. to create an interactive practice station.

#2.  Have students customize the images for vocabulary and create their own word sets….they can take pictures of themselves being melancholy, vivacious, cantankerous, etc.

#3.  Spelling Lists.  Make your images incomplete spelling words using the Osmo tiles that were provided!  Leave out the letters that complete the word.  Students will have to spell the word correctly.  (Powerpoint document with Osmo(like) tiles for screen capturing spelling words)

#4. Latitude/Longitude. Provide students with  this map of latitude and longitude.  On Osmo, provide the latitude and longitude coordinates of a specified location.  Students use map and slide tiles to identify the location.

#5. Create 'cloze' sentences
#6. Customize vocabulary for your units!!   Would work GREAT for foreign language classes!
#7. Create multiple choice questions and students respond with A, B, C, D letter tiles

Create your own Albums 

1.  Create a slide for each image.  I really like Powerpoint, the built in templates make for very attractive slides

This is a slide I formatted to challenge students with their spelling words.  (Template available here!)

These are slides I created for a landform challenge!!

Create math questions:

Provide vocabulary definitions:

2.  After you've created your slides, save them slides as  .jpg images.

3.  Open your my.playosmo  account.  Upload each picture, assign a difficulty and type in the corresponding word for each picture.

Here's a video tutorial!!

Osmo MyWords in action:

Customized curriculum, hands on with Osmo....and Your Smarticles!!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Pretty Pretty Pictures with Pixlr

I like clipart. Each pretty picture that adorns my pages, websites, lesson plans, smart notebook files, powerpoint files, etc. adds a special touch or contributes to the theme in some way. is a great website for you to use to edit/customize/create or otherwise manipulate digital images. Pixlr's free editor shares several features with Photoshop, and for me has worked swimmingly as a free alternative.

Standout features of Pixlr include:

`It's free
`No log-in or plug ins required
`Image importing and exporting
`Supports: .jpg, .png, .gif and even .psd
`Allows you to create, edit, crop, resize and reformat clipart/images

If nothing else, pixlr solved one pesky problem whose solution had always eluded to remove or change a background on a piece of clipart.

For a quick 'how to', please watch this video!!

Image editing with Pixlr and Your Smarticles!!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Ponderings of an Open Sim Pioneer

My students and I have been on an amazing journey this year. We've had the privilege of engaging in learning and exploring through a virtual world.  I began this journey back in August and, at the time, I had no idea the massive journey I was about to undertake.  Islands of Enlightenment was conceived by Andrew Wheelock of Erie Boces and essentially was an effort to bring students into a virtual learning environment through a platform similar to Second Life.  I became involved in the project on year #2 to help create a gamified virtual world focused around Medieval Times.  I had some experience gamifying my curriculum (  .....and so I leaped on board and that is where the Heir of the King was hatched.

This project involved students exploring the Kingdom of Stormfield....a Kingdom in need of an Heir. Each student donned an avatar and logged into the virtual world. The unit was gamified so that learning took place in the form of earning badges and earning XP points in lieu of grades. Each level along the way, students expanded their knowledge of the Singularity Open Sim platform and also gained critical knowledge of feudalism and Medieval Society. The final project took the form of Evidence Based Writing whereby students were required to state a claim regarding the rightful heir to the throne of Stormfield and provide evidence to support their claim.

For more:

After the project, unquestionably, students clamored for more.  But when you're done, you're done, right? NOPE!!  I couldn't let it go (and neither could they).  So off we went into project #2 the Invention Convention.  In this project, students were given a store front in a mall and were taken through the patent process from Product Conception, Prototype, Patent Application to Marketing and Sales....all within a virtual world.

For more:

With both projects, I marveled in so many ways: at the challenges, at the depth of learning that takes place when teachers and students take risks, and  at the rewards of 'letting go'.  As I result, I have concocted this list of ponderings about being on OpenSim Pioneer.

#1. Parallel Play
You can't know it all....don't try.  Learn from your learners.  Explore with your learners.  There is great joy and a rich experience in the journey itself.

#2.  Let things Unfold Organically
The Heir of the King was prescribed and prepackaged and involved a LOT of preparation...countless hours.  It was a great way to expose students to virtual learning experiences and with the Gamification component, it was HIGHLY motivating.  Invention Convention involved WAY less preparation, nonetheless, there was an EXPLOSION of creativity

#3. Be Patient (with yourself and with your learners)
You'll need to troubleshoot on the spot.  You'll need to repeat yourself.  You'll need to enlist the aid of more intuitive digital builders to help others. You WON'T know everything. The system WILL crash.

#4. Creativity Can't be Anticipated.
With the patent project, I had a general idea of what I wanted and provided a skeletal framework to the students with a basic set of objectives.  Each student had a storefront and they were asked to decorate.  HA!!!!!  My students expanded their stores, added second levels, built tree houses, formed groups added lounge areas, pools, massive signs, etc.

#5. You ARE Teaching!
It's like's IN there.  It wasn't until I sat down, reviewed the CCLS and brainstormed that I realized over 12 standards were solidly covered within the patent project from communication and collaboration to cross curricular connections and in the Heir of the King project we had completed an entire unit of study!





Sim-ply Amazing.....Using Your Smarticles!!