Augmented Reality in the Elementary Classroom

Augmented Reality in the Elementary Classroom

Effective ways educators can use Augmented Reality in the Elementary Classroom

Learning experiences in education are rapidly evolving as augmented reality and virtual reality are making their way into classrooms. First, it is important to distinguish the difference between these two technologies. Augmented reality (AR) superimposes a computer-image overlay on an existing environment. For instance, Abraham Lincoln's log cabin can pop up in the middle of your classroom using AR Flashcard's Abraham Lincoln app. Virtual reality (VR) is more immersive in that it takes us some place else usually by using VR goggles or glasses. An example of virtual reality would be diving deep into the ocean to swim with sharks and experience the ocean habitat using Google Cardboard's VR Abyss. Both AR and VR provide unique learning opportunities that children would never be able to experience just by reading a textbook or visiting a website. This post focuses on how educators can use augmented reality to help support instruction.

My Experience with AR

I was first introduced to AR in 2013. Tyler Hart, an ITRT I worked with in Virginia, showed me how to use the app Aurasma (now called HP Reveal) to make any image (photo, piece of artwork, student writing, ANYTHING) scannable and come to life with a video overlay. The first project I did using this app was with Mrs. Johnson's 3rd grade class in which we turned her classroom into an augmented playground for parents to interact with when they came to Meet the Teacher Night. Students created informative videos about different areas of their classroom. For instance, parents would scan the student goal chart that hung in the back of the room and a video of a student explaining how they can earn stickers for crushing their math goals would pop up. The parents loved it. However, Mrs. Johnson was extremely tech savy so she was ALL IN....I knew I needed to start a lot smaller with the more reluctant teachers I worked with at the time. Therefore, I set out to find easy yet effective ways to use AR in the elementary setting that would peak both teacher and student interest so I could then build up to students creating their own AR experience for others.

Start Small

Good heavens almighty there are a lot of apps and digital tools available today! It makes MY head spin so I can't imagine how a non-techie might feel. This post contains A LOT of ideas. Find ONE that fits you and roll with it. For those of you who have been curious about AR but don't know where to begin, I encourage you to start small...

AR Children's Books

Last year I wrote a blog post entitled Augmented Reality Children's Books That Will Engage Students. Since then many other incredible AR children's books have been published but this list still has some of my favorite titles:

Using these AR books is a great place to start because you can integrate them into your reading, writing, science or social studies block. Students can hold the solar system in the palm of their hands. They can watch the main character of a story come to life and move around. They can experience a giraffe eating leaves from the top of a tree in its habitat. All you do is download the app that comes with the book and scan the trigger images that appear on each page. To see it in action head over to that blog post!

AR Coloring

Coloring??? How does this relate to academics? Well, first of all, our children need all of the practice they can get holding a writing utensil in today's digital world. Have you seen all of the articles about the decline of childrens' motor skills due to tapping/swiping and not enough time spent writing/drawing/coloring? That's SAD!!! Everything in moderation. Also, these interactive coloring pages have the potential to guide lessons for writing, descriptive words, characterization, visualizing, you name it! Quiver and Crayola's Color Alive are two I have tried out in the past. These also make great time killers for babysitters😉
Picture of my best friend's little girl and Elsa when "Aunt Juju" babysat a few years ago

There are new EDUCATIONAL AR Coloring books available that would make a great addition to the classroom:

If you celebrate Dot Day then you need to download THIS AR activity in which students design their own, unique dot and scan the sheet to bring their creation to life.

Apps (Techie Teacher tested)

There are a ton of apps for AR. Here are just a few I've tried out in the elementary classroom :

This past Friday Brad Waid met me at an elementary school here in Saline, Michigan and we went in to 2nd & 3rd grade classrooms in which Brad presented AR to the students. 

He demoed a really cool app I hadn't seen before called 1600 (free) in which you can scan any dollar bill and The White House pops up with an informative narration. I'm sure many students went home and downloaded it immediately. You should have seen how their jaws dropped when they saw The White House pop up in their classroom. Here is a quick video:

He then showed us NASA's Spacecraft 3D that allows you to learn about and interact with different space crafts just by scanning a printable trigger image.
There was also some Top Secret AR goodness that Brad shared and all I can say is WOW. Technology advancements are developing rapidly..it's mind blowing.

AR Creation Apps

I asked Brad about creation tools for AR that are alternatives to HP Reveal. He said unfortunately his very favorite, DAQRI, has shut down. Metaverse was mentioned but Brad said DAQRI was the ultimate. I haven't had a chance to try Metaverse yet but it is on my to-do list! Zapworks, CoSpaces and AugThat are others I would like to try out in the near future. Do YOU have experience with these AR creation apps or know of others? I would LOVE to hear from you in the comments below!

Merge Cube

The latest edtech craze has been the Merge Cube. They appeared in Walmart stores but weren't selling well so Walmart dramatically reduced the price to $1 per cube. That's when educators went bananas and started stocking up on these 3 dimensional soft cubes. Since then I have heard they have gone up to $7 at Walmart. What are you seeing in the stores? You can also purchase them on Amazon by clicking the affiliate image below:

Many educational apps for the MERGE Cube have already been created for the elementary classroom and they continue to create more! Keep up to date on all of the latest happenings in the MERGE for Educators Facebook group. Here is a quick video I published on my Facebook page using the Galactic Explorer app.

Kristen Brooks shared a really cool project on Twitter in which her students used the Merge Cube to make green screen videos!

Click HERE to see a list of the Merge Cube educational apps.

I'm excited to continue to explore using augmented reality in the classroom. There is so much I still have to learn!