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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 they work from home, said CEO Pramod Sharma 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 they picked the correct letter.

The company claims more than 35,000 U.S. classrooms use its products. Osmo, owned by India’s Byju, has more than 125 employees and it has launched 17 learning games to date.

Above: Teachers can use Osmo Live to reach kids on all devices with online classes.

Image Credit: Osmo

“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 [it] 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 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 claims. “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.

Above: Osmo Live is a way to combine physical and digital education.

Image Credit: Osmo

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. Teachers 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 their 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.

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 enable 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. Each Bootcamp is $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.”

Osmo says about 500 children have tried it.

Osmo helps kids understand problems using physical toys.

Above: Osmo helps kids understand problems using physical objects.

Image Credit: Osmo

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 on who’s understanding the lesson and who may be falling behind.

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