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Gadget of the Week: Taking tablet to kids’ level

Regret at buying a child a tablet computer can turn into a great educational experience with the Genius Starter Kit, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

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What is it?

The Genius Starter Kit from Osmo is designed to stimulate interest and improve skills in maths, spelling, creativity and other educational and learning games. Aimed at children aged ages 6 to 10 and older, the games move from beginner to expert levels as kids become more adept with them, meaning they allow for continuous learning.

It works in tandem with an iPad – any model made from 2012 onward – with the tablet fitted into an adjustable Osmo base for different-sized devices and a reflector fitted at the top of the tablet, which allows it to interact with activities and play pieces. The system gives audio and visual feedback that adds to the fun and interaction of the learning experience.

For example, the Tangram app uses the iPad camera to pick up the positioning of shapes in front of the unit, and the system gives audio and video feedback. However, it is not always the sharpest, either in sound quality or detection of positioning, which is sometimes hit or miss.

That said, it offers a vast array of educational exercises, including visual problem-solving skills, puzzles, math, addition, counting, subtraction, multiplication, geography, marine biology, physics, freehand drawing, listening skills, reading, spelling and vocabulary.

It comes with five game apps, namely Numbers, Tangram, Words, Newton, and Masterpiece, which each have different levels.

The Words app is particularly valuable and useful in this era of diminishing emphasis on language skills: it expands a child’s vocabulary in a fun way, assists with the sounding of syllables, and engages the child actively in improving verbal ability.

It is great for shy children who don’t want to acknowledge difficulties with regular lessons, and has even been praised by parents looking for ways of addressing autism. An essential element of the process is positive reinforcement, which is not always in abundant supply in a classroom.

The set-up can be expanded with additional games and expansion sets, meaning that it becomes an educational ecosystem rather than a one-off toy.

How much is it?

Starting at R2299 from the iStore.

Why should you care?

Most parents who buy iPads for their children for educational reasons quickly discover the perils of excessive screen-time, the ease of access to games in iPads, and kids’ unintended uses for the devices. School learning programmes tend to be resisted or resented by the kids, due to the pressure to perform. The Genius Starter Kit turns education into fun, through experimentation in a stress-free environment.

Biggest negatives

  • It is available only for iPads, which are no longer the best-selling tablets in South Africa.
  • It requires an email address and child’s details for registration. Collecting personal information about children is counter to privacy principles – and sometimes laws – and will encourage entry of fake information.

Biggest positives

  • It is compatible with all iPads except generations 1, 2, 3, in other words all those made from 2012 onward.
  • No data or Wi-Fi needed to play.
  • Infinite variations for stimulating drawing skills.
  • Unlimited content for playing with words.
  • Vast amount of puzzles ensures the experience of the kit does not grow stale from over-familiarity.

* Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter on @art2gee


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