Augmented learning: Using Augmented Reality in schools

Poppy Gibson

Poppy Gibson is a lecturer in Primary Education in the Teacher Education Department, coming into HE after over a decade working in several London Primary schools. Poppy currently works on the University of Greenwich's Accelerated degree programme in Primary Education, and is the Modern Foreign Language coordinator, teaching MFL on the PGCE and BA QTS programmes. Key research interests include identity, motivation, and the integration of technology into our lives.

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Modern edtech often allows hugely enjoyable ways of learning, and even fun ways of running a school. Here, teacher and ICT coordinator Poppy Gibson discusses the major possibilities presented by augmented reality to teachers.

Augmented Reality (AR) is cutting-edge technology that allows for a digitally enhanced view of the real world, uncovering hidden images, videos and texts to the user when the 'trigger' (or 'marker') image or item is scanned by a camera, adding layers of digital information directly on top of objects around us.

Essentially, Augmented Reality is hidden content, most commonly hidden behind marker images, that can be included in printed and film media, as long as the marker is displayed for a suitable length of time, in a steady position for an application (on a device such as a tablet or smartphone, by means of a camera) to identify and analyse it.

In schools, this technology can be used in many ways, the most exciting of which supports the control and programming demands of the new computing curriculum. This article shares a range of easy-to-create examples of Augmented Reality that could be used with your students; all you will need is a device such as an iPad with camera, and a suitable AR app installed on it.

Having witnessed some great examples of Augmented Reality at the BETT Exhibition in London earlier this year, I was inspired to find suitable ways to implement AR into my Year 5 classroom.

Becoming literate in the 21st century puts new demands on learners to be able to use technology to access, analyse, and organise information. Research around current practice of AR in schools (of which there is still relatively little, especially in the UK) has shown me that most of the teachers employing AR favour the free app 'Aurasma'. Aurasma allows users to engage in and create Augmented Reality experiences ('auras') of their own; my list of suggested AR activities below highlight how both teachers and pupils can use this open source tool to essentially bring their learning to life.

Note that these activities can be easily adapted to suit any age group or curriculum subject.

Cross-curricular Classroom Applications for AR

Who's Who: This is an innovative way to share more information about staff or pupils. A great way of using this is by printing out photographs of the class teacher and each member of the class, and displaying this on the classroom door. Visitors to the school can scan the image of the teacher or pupil and AR can make that person 'come to life' by opening up a hidden video, perhaps sharing a couple of sentences about himself/herself and their interests. This would work similarly well if the school has a display board of all of the staff members' photographs in the front entrance; visitors or parents can scan a photo to learn more about that person, e.g. What their role is or what subject they coordinate.

Simply display a sign next to the photographs explaining that you can scan the photos using Aurasma, or, even better, securely attach an iPad or other mobile device with Aurasma already installed onto the board, with a sign inviting visitors to use it to scan the photos; this saves them having to download the app on their own device.

Book Reviews: Book reviews are one of the most effective ways that I have found to integrate AR into the classroom. My pupils each chose a book from our class reading corner, and filmed a short video on the iPad of them reviewing the book. Using Aurasma, each pupil then easily attached the video ('aura') to the book by capturing an image of the front cover. The pupils then each put a little coloured sticker on the spine if the book to show others that the book had an AR review attached to it. Afterwards, anyone can scan the cover of the book and instantly access the review.

This AR activity allows pupils to reflect on the book they have read while helping other interested readers in the process.

Homework Help or Task Tips: This idea could help either with homework (if pupils have access to a device with Aurasma installed on it at home) or simply within the classroom itself, as long as the teacher provides each group of students with an iPad or tablet with an AR reader installed. The teacher can easily record a couple of helpful tips or talk through the problem that is on the page, and then set this video behind the 'marker'. When pupils then scan the page of their homework or class worksheet, the page reveals a video of their teacher helping them solve the problem! It can save you having to re-explain a question several times to several different pupils, and allows pupils to be more independent, working at their own pace without relying on the teacher having to come over to their desk to talk through the question.

School Magazine: Bring your school's annual magazine to life with AR! From interviews, to clips from sporting events and footage from concerts or school productions, AR can really help to enhance your yearly school magazine: the possibilities really are endless. Teachers can link video clips to triggers inside the magazine, and when the reader scans a page with their camera, the 'aura' will play itself on the screen of their device. Magic!

Creative Story Writing: I have found AR an exciting source to bring out pupils' imaginations. Let me share one successful way that I used AR with my Year 5 class. Print out a wide range of backgrounds, eg. a woodcutters cabin in the middle of a forest; a desert island beach; a cave mouth high in the mountains. Pupils are put into pairs and each pair is given one of the images. Allocate 30 minutes to write a short story based in one of the settings. They then record themselves reading their story using the video recorder on a mobile device, and attach this video as an 'aura' to the picture they were given. Once all pairs have attached their video to an image, the class can enjoy as the teacher scans each image in turn and the videos are played!

Encouraging Reading: Each staff member or group of pupils could display a 'What I'm Reading' sign on their classroom door. This can be scanned using a mobile device to pop up a video of the teacher or pupils discussing the title, author and plot of a book they're currently reading! This is a good way to encourage reading at your school and to get pupils to recommend new titles to their peers.

Project Feedback/Targets: Learning targets or feedback on a pupils work could be embedded within assignments/projects by the teacher using AR; pupils could scan a sticker that the teacher has placed on the assignment or project and a video of the teacher discussing what they thought of the work will appear on the pupil's device!

Wow Word Wall: Why not use AR to help your pupils test their knowledge of harder vocabulary, and learn new words? This worked especially well with my Key Stage 2 class, who had been focusing on using a greater variety of words in their English writing. My pupils were each given a 'wow word' printed on a card (these could be anything; I used a variety of interesting adjectives). The pupils then recorded themselves providing the definitions to their 'wow word' and then attached this video as an aura to their word card. I then displayed all of the cards on a word wall in our classroom. Then, during our next English writing session, my class knew they could use the Aurasma app on our class iPads to scan an unfamiliar word, make a classmate pop up on screen who would then tell them the definition and enable them to use the word in their work.

Interactive Art Gallery: AR lends itself perfectly to making artwork around your school interactive and 'alive'. It gives the chance for the artist (pupil) to record a video or audio clip about how they created the art, what inspired them, and what the piece is called. When people scan the art using a camera, they can enjoy listening to the pupil explaining their piece. This works particularly well during Open Days at school, where an iPad pre-installed with Aurasma and all of the different video auras can be attached to the art display ready for visitors to pick up and use.

Modern Foreign Language Flash Cards: If pupils at your school learn Modern Foreign Languages, AR can be very useful to reinforce how to pronounce particular words or phrases. Simply create a display of flash cards with the MFL words, and create a short video aura of each with the teacher speaking the word in the language. Pupils can scan any words or phrases they are unsure of, and can listen to this again and again to help improve their language skills.

On the Horizon: Finally, a great idea for use of AR is to use it to promote upcoming events such as concerts, plays and sports events at your school. Create posters advertising exciting upcoming events and features and put these up around your school; then, by simply recording the teachers or pupils talking about the event, a simple scan with a mobile device camera will bring the poster to life with further information, details or highlights!

To conclude, the uses of Augmented Reality are endless, and can have a very positive impact on pupils' learning and interaction with their school environment, their learning, and each other.

Image Credit

Do you use AR technology in your school? Let us know in the comments.

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