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Augmented Reality for the Classroom - Learn How to Create Your Own Engaging Experiences


What is Augmented Reality?

Augmented Reality (AR) is when your view of reality is altered through technology, by adding pictures, gifs, videos, or even GPS data to your field of view, usually through the use of an AR application on your smartphone.  Whatever application you are using has different features and capabilities. Pokemon GO is a popular example of embedding visual images into your environment, as seen through your camera lens. Just to clarify, virtual reality is different, in that it completely simulates a different reality, whereas Augmented Reality changes only an aspect of it.

How Can Educators Use Augmented Reality?

Using digital media to explain complicated topics is nothing new in modern education. Teachers can load up YouTube videos, or other media, to enhance their lessons and provide a context for learning. Augmented Reality is a new way to embed real-time, in the moment context for learning, that is engaging, and fully customizable. For example, when a student is reading a textbook to learn about a concept, and sees an illustration, that illustration can trigger another image or video, with the use of a mobile AR application, that can further explain or elaborate on the concept.

The lowest barrier to using Augmented Reality for many teachers is to use their smartphone, with an AR application downloaded on it. The possibilities for this technology are endless, especially when you, the user, can create images, find gifs, or animations to embed into an Augmented Reality application. This technology is great for visual learning, and can be utilized within the context of the learning experience; whether it be from a textbook, a math equation, or from being outside, observing something (a plant, a mural, a statue, a building). All different kinds of visuals can trigger Augmented Reality overlays with useful, educational content.

Photo courtesy of - an augmented reality company

Create an Augmented Reality Experience for Your Classroom Using Aurasma

(Disclaimer - I do not work for Aurasma, I simply found the app easy to work with and chose to use it for this article)

In searching for the right tool to suggest to teachers, I wanted to find one that was free/very affordable, and was pretty easy to use. There are a number of companies that provide AR technology, including Aurasma, and Layar, and I chose to test out this tech using Aurasma.

I have provided instructions for how to create an Augmented Reality experience that teachers might be interested in, where the trigger is a two-dimensional image from a textbook or worksheet. This technology also works if you use a two-dimensional image on a computer screen.  In my scenario, I want my students to learn about Levers, and on a worksheet I’ve handed out to class, there is an illustration in which I’ve embedded an AR overlay that will further explain how levers work. I chose to find an animated gif for my overlay content—again, this is what will appear when students direct their cameras toward the two-dimensional trigger image. It’s a simple illustration of this very cool, and customizable technology 

- Download the Aurasma Application - available on most devices (iOS, Android, etc.), and then visit the Aurasma website. Your account name will become your “channel”, and you can title it something like “Mr Jones 7th Grade Classroom.”

- Once your students also download the app, tell them to search for and follow your account (or channel as they are also called). You can create a classroom wide activity, or ask that your students share or borrow their classmate's device.

- Decide what aspect of a lesson you would like to enhance through Augmented Reality. Since one of the affordances of this technology is allowing real-time visualization, I’ve chosen an animated gif about levers, for a lesson on the basic laws of physics.

- You will need to select an image that the program can save as the “trigger” image for the embedded gif overlay. It can be a picture from a textbook, or on a worksheet. I suggest using 2D images as your trigger images, because using a 3D object is kind of tricky.

- Select an image or gif that you want to appear when your student points their smartphone toward it—called the overlay. I found a gif online, and downloaded it to my computer.

- I recommend using the desktop site for uploading all content (or assets, as the program calls it); including your trigger image, and the overlay, because I found an issue uploading a gif using only the mobile application.

- When your students point their smartphones at the trigger image (using the Aurasma app), the animated gif will appear.

To View My Augmented Reality Demonstration:

- Download the Aurasma Application on your mobile device.

- Click the Search Icon, and select the Channels tab

- Find Melissa Pelletier - Education World, and follow me.

- Using the Aurasma Application, view the image below. My embedded lever gif should appear.

This technology can be engaging, informative, and provide a great context for learning. There are already lots of opportunities around the world to view existing AR experiences, and its becoming easier for educators to harness the unique capabilities of this medium.


Written by Melissa Pelletier, Education Technology Contributor