With its tokens and pieces to manipulate, the Osmo educational game suite offers an excellent balance between the physical and virtual worlds. It allows children to play while learning – which should (also) appeal to parents.
Both nemesis and guardian angels of overwhelmed parents, our view of the place of tablets in the lives of our children is a double-edged sword. On the tails side, it allows you to quickly put a cartoon on a Smurf while you are overwhelmed in the kitchen. On the face side, she can literally absorb the toddler’s mind – with the potential rages that entails when taken away from her.
Many actors continue to consider the tablet not only as a tool for passive media consultation, but as an educational partner where the child is active. Among these, the Indian Byju’s (yes, that’s the name of the parent company!) and its Osmo brand. A brand that is developing an original solution: placed on a support and decked out with a module redirecting the gaze of the webcam, the tablet and its games will interact directly with pieces placed on the table. A good compromise between modernity and old-fashioned games?
Simple setup, iPad or Kindle Fire required
Let’s first specify what we tested: the kit Genius Starter Kit (119 €) as well as the “Coding Starter Kit” (€119). Which brought us an extra base, which is of little interest – if you take the starter kit, just “Coding Family Bundle” to save €20. The test subject was a six-year-old human male with all his teeth…milk. Osmo was, in our case, tested in its English version, since the animal is bilingual and likes to play in this language.
The French version is identical, because it is one of the 100% translated languages – other languages currently only benefit from a partial translation of certain kits. the Genius Starter kit consists of a base and the reflector for the camera, as well as three boxes containing the game modules: the letters, the numbers (classic and dice) and a tangram. The code kit contains blocks that the child can assemble to create basic programs.
All dressed in white, the tablet stand is very stable and at no time during the various gaming sessions (several dozen over the past six months) has the tablet failed to fall. And for good reason: the child does not have to touch it. Because most of the work is done by the front camera. Camera that does not see your toddler’s face at any time since the device comes with a “sensor”. In fact, a piece to mount on the camera that incorporates a mirror that redirects the vision of the tablet to the table on which the child plays with the pieces. The various software in the Osmo ecosystem recognize these parts and it is through them that the little ones will interact with what is displayed on the screen.
As for tablets, if the beginnings were confined to iPads, another type of (almost) Android tablet is supported: Amazon’s Kindle Fire. The reason is that the audience for this product is very American (Anglo-Saxon, in the broad sense even), and that Apple and Amazon reign supreme there, with ultimately few references – which makes the work of physical support more simple. Next to them, the horde of tablets from Asian brands makes hardware adaptation and software monitoring more difficult. Note that iPads with a physical button have the advantage over more modern versions, since the “sensor” intended for them costs €15 extra.
Several applications to install
On the application side, it must be understood that there is a central application and satellite applications. So understand that you must both install the main application, as well as each of the applications of the different kits that you have purchased. The main application allows you to create an account and navigate between the different worlds of “game” applications. But once an application has been launched for the first time from the “master” application, all you have to do is relaunch it so that your little one’s account is connected. Because Osmo allows you to switch between different profiles. Above all, it offers parents the possibility of keeping an eye on the activity of their children.
Installable on both iOS or Android (and any Android), a smartphone application makes it possible to check the playing time and to have precise reports on the progress of the prodigal son (or not). Let’s be honest: access to the tablet of our little test animal (my son) is extremely restricted. The interest of this control application was therefore of little interest in terms of control.
As far as tracking results is concerned, unless you have specific requirements for your offspring to take the ENS entrance examination at eight years old, again this app is not essential either. Unless you want to validate by the results of the games difficulties that you have already detected.
For the youngest children, be aware that it will sometimes be necessary to help him on sometimes difficult subjects. Depending on the age and the children, the presence of the parents is a plus, if only for certain mathematical operations, not yet covered in the last year of kindergarten/beginning of CP. Or words he doesn’t yet know how to spell, shape-building tips from the tangram, or the fundamental logic of applying code.
Gamification of learning, low-power and stable applications
Parents may like the word ‘educational’, but children – fortunately and quite logically – prefer the word ‘game’. And by this necessarily empirical test by its nature – a single child, an evaluator who is both judge and party, etc. – you could say that the chemistry works. The monster (mine, therefore) loved the calculation applications, letters, as well as the tangram. Each application seeks gratification (or gamification) differently: for the calculation, we pilot a small ship that sails the seas to discover new species that we identify after having successfully completed operations. And as in most video games, the game mechanics are based on the increase in complexity (quite finely adjustable) as well as on the collection of different animals.
For the code, the universe is quite close to a platform game… the concern being that there is no penalty when we send a character into the water or against the trees in the event of an error. Suffice to say that the poor character spent a lot of time drowning and bouncing (children are sadists) just for fun! The letter game (words) is played as a (very friendly) competition where the child must write words. Again, classic game mechanics are in motion, including the collection of accessories to customize your character. The music is not much sought after, but nice and the graphics, far from being complex, are basic and colorful.
One of the satisfactions is that the apps work well, even on old hardware. We thus carried out the test on an iPad Mini 4. Launched in September 2015 (and dating from that time!), the device runs with iPadOS 15.7 (it was not entitled to iPadOS 16), and works with an aging A8 dual core. If the apps are a little slow at startup, they are all playable and perfectly stable. In several tens of hours of play, never any crash, nor any penalizing slowdown.
To finish on the educational side, if science has yet to look into the real effects of tablets on psychic mechanisms – and there are studies that come in regularly – it seems that we can still use common sense: it’s less the tablet that poses a problem than the nature of the uses. So to the question of whether tablets are real educational tools, the answer is simple: yes… If they are accompanied by an appropriate application context. And in the case of Osmo, the promise is kept… as long as the parents play their role as supervisors.
With its system of tokens to be handled by children, the Osmo tablet and its basic applications allow you to establish a completely different relationship with tablets. Unlike educational apps based solely on what happens on the screen, Osmo keeps children in the physical world with its letters, numbers and other pieces of tangram or code. The acquisition cost is quite high, but the €120 kit represents a good investment for all parents who want their children to learn through play. Very good point: the applications are not very greedy and even work on Fairly old iPad (2015 in our case). But we still regret that Android tablets are deprived of this very good educational collection.
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Osmo test: the educational game on tablet that makes your child interact with the real world
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