Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Augmented reality in the classroom

Last year, I wrote a blog post dealing with the use of virtual reality to support the instructional process. I started the article with an explanation of the difference between virtual reality and augmented reality, which I feel is important to include again since, this time, the post will be about the use of augmented reality technology to support teaching and learning. The Augment site includes a well-stated overview of the two technologies.

Augmented reality is a technology that layers computer-generated enhancements on top of an existing reality in order to make it more meaningful through the ability to interact with it.
Virtual reality is an artificial, computer-generated simulation or re-creation of a real life environment…It immerses the users by making them feel like they are experiencing the simulated reality firsthand, primarily by stimulating their vision and hearing.


Touchstone Research presents an infographic that showcases how various professions use AR to support learning, access important information in real-time, and for marketing purposes. With the wide-spread use of AR, our students should be provided with the opportunity to become familiar with the the technology and use it in the classroom.


The basic use of AR requires a few things– a smartphone or tablet with a back facing camera, an augmented reality app, and a trigger image. An Internet connection is needed for real-time overlaying of information. The triggers can be something as simple as a QR code, which launches an AR event on the smartphone or tablet, or can be a special printout or photographic images that is viewed through a specialized app. The continued development of great new apps seems to indicate that the use of the app to view a specialized trigger image may be the way things are moving in the AR arena.
One fun app that is popular in schools is Quiver (formerly ColAR Mix) which uses a printed-out and colored-in page to present the student with an interactive experience when viewed through the app. The Quiver Education app (US iOS app store: $7.99 and available on the VPP), includes coloring pages specifically designed for the education market including those for cells, organs of the body, and a specialized set for celebrating “International Dot Day“.
Here is a video demonstrating how this app works.
The EON Experience VR app (iOS and Android), uses the target below to bring the hundreds of simulations included in the app to life. Many simulations can be viewed using both AR and VR. The users simply download the data for the simulation and, through the app, points their smartphone at the target. The great thing about this is the target can be used even from the computer screen!
Marketing agencies have taken to AR to the next level to allow the user to layer furniture, paint, and much more over a live image of a room. IKEA, Houzz, and Home Depot are only some of the many companies using augmented reality to support consumers. Project Color, from Home Depot allows you pick a paint or stain color and virtually paint your home’s walls, as demonstrated in the video below.
AR is even used in real-time at this kiosk in a Lego store which shows the customer the completed Lego project by simply holding up the box of Legos to the mirror.


Adding interactivity to a classroom learning experience always enhances student engagement. To be able to view and manipulate a object being learned about can lead to deeper understanding and further exploration and questions. Drew Minock, in an Edutopia article, outlines some ways augmented reality can support instruction. Here are a few of them.
  • Book Reviews: Students record themselves giving a brief review of a novel that they just finished, and then attach that “aura” (assigned digital information) to a book. Afterward, anyone can scan the cover of the book and instantly access the review.
  • Word Walls: Students can record themselves providing the definitions to different vocabulary words on a word wall. Afterward, anyone can use the Aurasma app to make a peer pop up on screen, telling them the definition and using the word in a sentence.
  • Lab Safety: Put triggers…all around a science laboratory so, when students scan them, they can quickly learn the different safety procedures and protocols for the lab equipment.
There are some great educational AR apps to support teaching and learning available.
  • DAQRI Anatomy 4D showcases the human anatomy in augmented reality. (iOS | Android)
  • Science AR has the teacher printing out the trigger Science AR posters which come alive with animation as students use the app to view the posters.
  • Amazing Space Journey allows students to take a trip through the solar system. Available for iOS and Android.
  • Star Chart projects the night sky with all the constellations, planets, and other facts while viewing the sky through a smartphone or tablet. (iOS | Android | Windows)
In addition to students using an app to view material created by others, by using an app called Aurasma, students and teachers  are able to create their own “auras” with links to information for others. (iOS | Android)
Creators take a photo or create an image, which then serves as the AR trigger, which in Aurasma is called an “aura”. Using the Aurasma app, students or teachers link that aura to online content, which may be a video, an image or photograph, or a Web site. When viewers use the Aurasma app and scan over those auras, they are presented with the online content in a floating window.
If you have a subscription to Discovery Education Streaming, you can create auras that showcase video clips from the collection and items from the other multimedia collections including image and photos. Students can also create an aura to share their projects which utilize any of these same assets from Discovery Education Streaming.
There are also some fun AR apps that allow the creation of place-based AR pop-ups. Two that are easy to use for teachers and students are Metaverse and Traces. Users can create quests, descriptors for places, and much more. Imagine the incoming freshman walking around the school and learning all about the building, or a student creating an AR overview of the local businesses as a service learning project. If you are familiar with Pok√©monGo, you will realize how engaging these pop-ups would be for students to create and share! 


There are many other ways teachers and students are using augmented reality in schools. Here are two creative examples that I discovered.
Northwest High School has made  the use of Aurasma an integral part of their school culture. (Aurasma was purchased by HP in 2017 and was re-branded as HP Reveal, and then closed down in 2019).
This educator provides a unique way to use Aurasma and Powerpoint to create interactive experiences.
There is also a new type of reality called “Mixed Reality” or simply MR, which combines some of the aspects of both VR and AR. Dr. Simon Taylor, the Co-founder of Zappar which has created ZapBox, an MR solution, states “in MR, virtual  objects or environments are anchored to things in the real world providing a new and intuitive way for users to interact with virtual content”. This started as a Kickstarter project and is now available for a very low cost.  Watch the video below to get a feel for the exciting new projects that are coming to schools soon!

Do you currently use AR apps in your classroom? Which ones are your favorites and why? Are you having students create auras to share their work? And what are your suggestions for developers for mixed reality projects which would be useful for the classroom? Share your thoughts on Twitter! #kathyschrock