Friday, 7 July 2017

Osmo Coding Jam Review - Code Music with Physical Blocks


We've reviewed Osmo Coding Jam, the new set and app for the Osmo interactive gaming system for the iPad.

We're previously reviewed Osmo and particularly enjoyed Osmo Coding. The new set for 2017 offers more coding but this time with a music theme.

Disclosure: Osmo sent us a Coding Jam kit to review. As always our opinions are our own.


*Note: Coding Jam requires an Osmo base and camera which is available in the starter kit.

Unboxing

The Coding Jam kit includes a set of blocks that are viewed with the camera and understood by the app. You get a variety of blocks, some with a positionable arrow and some add-on numbers.

Osmo Coding Jam is beautifully packaged. The outer cardboard packaging protects the kit, but you also get a plastic box with a lid to keep the parts in longer term. We love this! So practical. You can discard the other packaging and just keep the plastic box so that it's nice and quick to tidy up (always important!)


Getting Started

You'll need the Osmo Coding Jam app. You can have multiple profiles using the app which is great if you have multiple kids sharing a device. Kids get to pick a user name or 'stage name' that they can safely use to share their compositions. 

One of the things we love about Osmo is that you don't need a fancy new iPad to use it. We use it with my old iPad 3 because it's not in a case so it easily slots into the Osmo stand and camera attachment.



Osmo Coding Jam

When kids start they work through a series of tutorials showing them how it works. Basically, there are various instruments on screen and the blocks are used to play them. Different characters have different instruments and the characters and graphics are very cool. You have three characters playing at the same time.



My kids aged 8 and 10 found the early stages pretty straightforward and whizzed through them. Once they unlocked the 'Studio' they really started to enjoy it and started thinking about what they were doing. 

The Studio allows kids to compose their own pieces. Different characters have different instruments. You don't work with musical notes, but with small precomposed tunes and rhythms. 

Pieces composed in the Studio can be shared with others who can like them. This feature very much appealed to my 8-year-old!

You get points for working through the tutorials and getting likes. 

As you get more points you unlock new tutorial levels. As you complete the tutorials you get more characters and instruments in the Studio. 

Does it teach music?

Coding Jam doesn't teach musical notes or technical vocabulary. But it definitely lays the groundwork. My 8-year-old has been really thinking about whether sounds go together. There are lots of opportunities to think about how different rhythms work together. 

The app really fitted his musical style and interests (science and nature.) He loves the scientist who has cool electric guitar riffs.

My 10 year plays the violin and reads music, but he still enjoyed playing around with Coding Jam. He doesn't get as much from it as his younger brother but when his brother plays he asks to have a go. 

Does it teach coding?

Coding Jam introduces the basics of sequencing, repetition, and loops. It's pretty basic in terms of coding. But there's the Osmo Coding set to go further with coding. The blocks included in the sets overlap so you can create more combinations if you have both sets. 

For little kids who have never done any coding before then, Coding Jam will introduce them to the basics in a fun way. 

Age suitability

Osmo Coding Jam is for age 5-12. We'd say you could go younger than 5 with some supervision to get started. The younger end of the age range will get a lot from the kit and there's plenty of scope for pre-teens to enjoy composing their own music. Some older kids will have moved on to more advanced tools by the top end of the age range, especially if they get started when they're young. 

Verdict

Osmo Coding Jam is pretty cool for kids who are interested in music but not yet ready for more grown-up composition tools. 

It's a great way to encourage kids to do something constructive with their device that mixes real world skills with the engagement levels that a cool app can offer. 

The characters and graphics are very appealing and this was one of the key draws for my 8-year-old. The safe social sharing also adds a lot to the experience.

The kit would work well as a gift for a family with a mix of ages as they'll each get something from it. There's even scope for working together and developing those collaboration and compromise skills.

Osmo Coding Jam is one of those cool products that are fun enough to be a gift but also teaches kids and encourages them to be active creators with tech rather than passive consumers.





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