Osmo – My Favorite Ed Tech Tool

Have you had a chance to play with Osmo? If not, I’m about to change your world.


The Osmo system is a series of apps for the iPad that utilize the camera to create a hands-on workspace in front of the iPad. Using the base and a variety of Osmo manipulatives, the work space moves to the table, instead of on the screen. Digital learning becomes hands-on with these games. The Osmo system has several great games, and the promise of more to come. Words, Numbers, Tangrams, Coding, Pizza, and those are just the games I own. Today, however, I’m going to focus on Osmo Words and how it will completely revolutionize your vocabulary instruction and practice.

osmo wordsOsmo Words is a word guessing game that puts an image on screen, and corresponding bubbles for how many letters are in the word. Students can play in teams or together to figure out what the picture represents. Players guess the word by throwing letters into the center of the table, and the score is calculated by how many red or blue letters are correct. Points are taken away for incorrect letters.

So how is this going to change your vocabulary practice? While Osmo has a bunch of pre-made albums to use in class, it is also completely customizable (and shareable). Teachers can create PowerPoints that can be converted to Words albums very easily. So the sky is the limit on what you do with the albums. We use Osmo Words in all four subject areas in my fourth and fifth grade classes. In ELA, we use the Osmo to practice our Greek and Latin roots. I’ve put together a couple of huge review albums that have images that represent the roots. For more targeted practice, I’ve also got a series of albums that practice a specific Greek root. The pictures are of words that have this root at their base. In math and science, we practice our content vocabulary. For each unit, I’ve put together albums that have images that represent specific vocabulary words. For instance, the landforms unit has images of a variety of terrestrial and aquatic landforms. In math, the albums may show different geometrical shapes. In both science and social studies, instead of relying just on pictures in the albums, I’ve also added short review questions. We review for major tests using these review question albums.

Osmo is perfect for learning stations. It easily engages groups of 2-6 students, letting you, as the teacher, focus on more direct or guided instructional groups. The cool thing is that all of the albums I’ve made are in the Osmo MyWords database, so they can be shared with anyone. Teaching is a team sport!

My albums are all geared toward upper elementary students. However, there are a bunch of great albums online that focus on early literacy skills. In fact, I’d hazard to say that the majority of albums are geared towards early elementary. Simple sight word practice, word families, and guessing games are easy to find and download. My family particularly likes the United States geography album.

Osmo Words is only one of the awesome games in the Osmo system. As I’ve tried to limit my gushing here, I’ve gotten more and more excited about pulling out my Osmo this year. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions on how we use the Osmo!


Real Life

Hello all! For those of you that are still hanging around, either through email subscriptions or reader programs, thank you and I apologize. Real life happens. For the past three years, real life has happened, and blogging got put on the back burner.


I’ve decided to focus more on my personal professional growth this year. (Is personal professional a thing?) I’m talking about growing myself professionally – on a personal level. Not through mandated professional development or plans. Basically, I want to focus on the parts of education that make me happy, feed my soul. Self-driven, it’s-important-to-me, kind of growth.

So please stay tuned. I’ve got great things in the works this year!

SCSHA Presentation

I am super excited to be presenting Friday at the South Carolina Speech Language and Hearing Association convention!  A couple of colleagues and I are giving a session called Tying Technology to the Common Core.  It will focus on creation based learning using the iPad in both therapy and education.  Participants will leave the session with a list of iLesson ideas and ways that they can immediately go back to their settings and begin incorporating tech.  We are focusing on just a handful of really well done apps and giving examples of how we’ve used them within our own classrooms.  We’ve even talked to the developers of these apps and gotten over 50 promo codes for various apps to give away at the end. If you are interested in checking out our session – join us tomorrow at 2:00 at the Embassy Suites Convention Center in Charleston.  Hope to see some of you there – please come introduce yourself if you stop by!


Top Five Talking Head Apps

Obviously, I took my summer vacation seriously – and did not lesson plan at all.  Okay, at least not on paper.  I did, however, do lots of research on apps.  I write app reviews for a great website called Fun Educational Apps.  Our focus is educational apps for children of all ages.  I got to use a ton of new apps and found some great ones that I’ve already brainstormed some lesson ideas with.  We also do a Top Five series a few times a month.  My most recent blog post for that site featured my Top Five Talking Head Apps.  What is a Talking Head app you ask?  I consider it any app that either records or mimics your voice and as a bonus, you can add your own photo too.  I love creation based apps and these are some that allow my students the freedom to express themselves in any way they want.  I’d like to invite you all to check out the post as it features an iLesson idea with each of the apps.  You can find the post here:

Top Five Talking Head Apps


I hope as school begins for some of you (including me!) and the rest of you enjoy the dregs of summer, you’ll check back to see what we’re up to this year.


Alliteration – iLesson style

We’ve been working on figurative language the past few weeks, and I have to say that tying technology into figurative language has been a lot of fun!  With my love of creation based apps, these activities have been a perfect match.  I hope to post several small iLesson plans in the near future showcasing some of our great projects.

ImageWe started with alliteration as our first skill.  To start off the lesson, we of course did some note-making.  Instead of using a podcast this time, my students explored the app Baby’s First Monsters: ABC.  The app features the Alliteration Academy.  Each letter of the alphabet is represented by an alliteration about a mythical monster or legendary creature.  After making sure that my students knew that I didn’t want to know anything about the actual monsters, they were given the purpose of defining the word alliteration using just this app.


Locating alliterations in Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World”.

Our next activity hooked my students immediately because they got to listen to music. Using the iPods, students had to listen to Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World”.  The rule, as always, is to listen to the song twice.  The first time is always just to listen.  The second time students played the song, they had to write down as many alliterations from the song as they could.  I set a timer, and allowed them ten minutes to do this.  After coming up with a few – and the obvious title of the song – I put a copy of the lyrics up on the Smartboard.  Students used highlighting tools to identify the alliterations they heard and any others that we missed.

ImageOur last activity used a new app that I just discovered,  iFunFace.  The app uses pictures either from an album or using the camera feature and creates talking bobble heads.  The students developed their own alliterations and then created mini-movies of their talking heads.  While the app I used is the full version, there is a free version available – it just has less of the accessories and voices.  Students chose to either use a photo of themselves, or to locate a Creative Commons photo that represented their alliterations.  The results were hilarious!  Check out a couple of our videos:

Fox alliteration 

Crocodile alliteration 


Make it a Requirement, not a Choice

Dr. Scott McLeod is celebrating the 6th anniversary of his blog, Dangerously Irrelevant by calling all bloggers to participate in Leadership Day 2012.  Its purpose?  To blog about effective technology leadership and provide administrators with some insight into what we’d like to see happen in the world of educational technology.

I’ve thought a lot the past couple of days about the most important thing for administrators to know about educational technology.  I desperately want my new principal to embrace digital learning with the obsessive fervor I have for it.  I want her to understand that apps are great – but there are so many other uses and ways to incorporate iDevices.  I want her to see how incredibly engaging technology, when used the right way, can be for a class of fifth graders with the highest discipline rate in the school.  But I think the thing I most want to see from my administrator is a requirement that everyone begin incorporating some aspect of technology into the classroom.

I’ve spent two years trying to drag the faculty of a combined elementary middle school, kicking and screaming, into the digital learning field. Teachers, I think by nature, can be some of the most stubborn people on the planet.  Our (yes, me too) resistance to change can be our greatest downfall.   I fear we hurt our students by not being more willing to change our outlook and our practices to fit what today’s students need.  I call on my principal to make this change a requirement, not a choice.

1. Make it a requirement that all teachers document in their lesson plans the various technologies that will be incorporated in each lesson or unit.  Even if the administrator never looks at the plan – having a space where the teacher must show technology use will stress the importance of using it.  If the spot is blank during the planning stage, then there will be time for the teacher to remedy the situation and create a lesson using technology effectively.

2.  Require teachers to sign up to demonstrate a lesson incorporating digital learning.  Administrators are required to a do a certain number of observations of each teacher.  Make one of these observations a technology observation.  Within the first semester, teachers must sign up for an observation showing how they incorporate technology efficiently in a lesson.  I think it’s important to require this in the first semester so that teachers get a taste for it and will continue to use digital learning strategies for the remainder of the year.  I also think it’s important to allow teachers the freedom to sign up for the observation.  This first ensures the lesson they are being observed for uses technology, and second it gives teachers a little bit of ownership in the observation process.  Additionally, I’ve always said that the best way to learn these new technologies is simply to use them.  Forcing teachers to incorporate them will hopefully show  the extreme benefits of educational technology and take some of the inherent fear away from trying something new.

3.  Provide professional development – and attend it yourself.  Do this in a number of different ways, the same as you would in class.  Have teachers you’ve observed teaching outstanding technology rich lessons teach model lessons at faculty meetings.  Have teacher “Appy Hours” where round table discussions and idea sharing can happen freely.  Provide instruction in specific technology tools using said technology tools.  For example, teach educators to use podcasts by having them watch or create a podcast.  Make grade levels responsible for building a digital Personal Learning Community (PLC).  Require each grade level to find and share one quality blog or post a month and instruct teachers in how to build their own PLC.  Most importantly, provide teachers with a forum to celebrate successes, discuss lessons that need some help, or ask questions.

I hope that in my role as technology coach at our school, I can convince my new principal to adopt some of these practices.  I hope that these ideas give you a place to jump start your own digital revolution.  I would love for others to share how administrators are making educational technology a priority.   I know I can always use a fresh idea when presenting to my faculty.


iLesson – as defined by me – any lesson integrating technology to engage students and create higher order thinking.

Last year I got caught up in the educational technology push, and have never looked back.  Continuing on with my not-so-slight obsession with ed tech, I’ve decided to try my hand at blogging.  My idea is to have this be a resource for other teachers wanting to incorporate technology into everyday lessons.  I will be blogging as a teacher and a tech coach, and hope that by doing this, I can inspire other teachers to try some of these iLessons.  I hope that readers will know that each of these lessons is in no way perfect, but were created and used in a real classroom.

A little background on me, so you know where I’m coming from.  I am a special education teacher and the tech coach for an elementary/middle school in South Carolina.  My students are primarily third through fifth grade.  Though, the ability levels I teach range from first to sixth grade.  I teach students using both modified and unmodified common core standards.  We serve a community where 80% of our students receive free or reduced lunch.  Though we are a very rural school, we are a leader in ed tech in our district.  We house eleven iPod carts (each housing 40 iPods), a set of 12 iPads, and a set of 7 MacBooks.  In my own classroom, I have two iPads, and use iPods from a cart every day.  The iLessons I hope to highlight can be adapted to 1:1 device classroom, or a 1 device classroom.  I hope that any teacher looking to jump-start a technology rich curriculum will find these ideas useful.

Please feel free to comment and ask questions.  I have found that there is no better way to create a personal learning network, than by finding like-minded teachers online.