Augmented Reality

Imagine a classroom display board covered with useful and interesting information about a particular topic. A typical display might include pieces of pupil writing, art work, key words, photographs and commercial produced posters. Lovely though these displays are, they are static. If you want dynamic, ever changing content on your walls you need to invest in digital signage equipment: an investment that most schools can only realistically afford for the more public parts of the school if at all. And as for incorporating sounds, nice though the idea of a talking wall display is, the reality is that sound travels, is intrusive and hearing the same thing over and over again can be really very irritating!


But wouldn’t it be great if you could temporarily and cheaply bring parts of your wall display to life? If some of the pictures moved (think portraits in the Harry Potter movies), if French vocab could be heard as well as read, if the 3D objects could pop out from the wall. This is all possible using augmented reality and with the right app, incredibly easy.

Augmented reality (AR) is a live direct or indirect view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented (or supplemented) by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data. As a result, the technology functions by enhancing one’s current perception of reality. (Graham, M., Zook, M., and Boulton, A. "Augmented reality in urban places: contested content and the duplicity of code." Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2012.00539.x 201)

Or in ordinary language; AR is a way to use a picture to trigger the playing of a video, slideshow or 3D graphic. How does it work? In principle augmented reality works a bit like a QR code. The originator of the QR code uses a piece of software or app to create a QR code for a particular web address. The QR code is printed in a magazine, or on tee-shirt or mug, anything really. The user then scans the QR code with a QR reader app on their smart device (smart phone, tablet, iPad…) The QR code triggers the device to open the QR code’s associated web page which could be a static page, a video, a booking form or any other web based artefact.

With augmented reality rather than using a QR code as the trigger almost anything in the environment; an image, an object or location, can be used a trigger to play a video, a piece of music or display a 3D image on the smart device If you haven’t seen AR in action before it worth having a look. You’ll need a smart device with an AR app.

We used Aurasma as it’s free, easy to use and available for iOS and Android. Download the app, then create an account – just a username, password and an email address are needed. Next search for the E2BN channel and click ‘follow’. Now the fun begins. Opening the Aurasma app activates the device’s camera. Initially you should see half a dozen small circles moving on your phone screen. Align you device’s camera so that you are viewing this image. It might take a few seconds for the small circles to change into a larger circle and a ring. If it’s all working as it should by now you are smiling because you are watching a video of my dog! As long as you keep at least some of the trigger image within the camera range the video will continue to play.

How did I do that? First I used my iPhone to create my dog video. Then, in Aurasma, I followed these three simple steps. (I drew the trigger image and photographed it because I couldn’t get the dog to sit still long enough to take the photo!) The whole process only took a few minutes with getting the dog to play nicely and creating the trigger image being the most time consuming part! Having created by ‘aura’ (Aurasma’s term for the augmented reality content), I added it to the E2BN Aurasma channel and set the channel to public.

Augmented Reality in the classroom? So whilst AR it’s a lot of fun, and the fleeting look of awe I saw on my teenage daughter’s face when she first saw this was priceless, is it useable in the classroom?

Check out these two blogs from people who have tried it.

If you use Pinterest there are lots of links to AR in education here: And Craig Thompson’s, (E-Learning Advisor (Primary) Cambridgeshire ICT Service ) E2BN Conference presentation on using AR in the primary classroom is available here: - It’s session 2G

AR in the classroom – a few ideas

  • Speaking Word Walls: Pupils 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.
  • Interactive Newsletters: Pupils create news videos with the iPad and insert an image in to an associated piece of writing e and then Aurasma can make that section come alive. Imaging video of last weeks netball match playing alongside the written report. You could even do the same with the school newsletter to parents!
  • A Talking Portrait Gallery: (Early years/Year 1 with adult help) Pupils create self-portraits using traditional art materials. Display the portraits. Each pupil takes a photograph of their portrait as the trigger for Aurasma and records themselves saying what they like about schools. This would be truly amazing for that first parents evening – be sure to send details of how to download the app before the event!
  • Book Reviews: Pupils record their book reviews as videos and use the front cover as a trigger. Want to share you ideas for using AR in the classroom? Add them via the comments feature.

Latest from the Blog