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September 10, 2013 Bring Magic to Your Open House With Augmented Reality! By Erin Klein
Grades PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8, 9–12

    With open house right around the corner for many schools, I wanted to share an idea I tried last year that received positive feedback. My students created an interactive bulletin board where parents could see their child instantly pop up in a live video simply by hovering their device over the paper on the wall. The students enjoyed the project, I appreciated the activity because it was simple and fun, and the parents loved the results. It was all rather magical. And here's how it started.

    When my husband, Jason, and I attended our daughter's kindergarten open house years ago, I remember how fun it was looking at the children's drawings of themselves in the hall. These drawings were done on a paper plate. As parents, you were supposed to try to identify your child's drawing based on their colorful details since there were no names on the front. When you thought you had found the correct one, you were to lift the paper plate to check for the child's name. I remember coming home and having Riley ask if we found her drawing. She was so excited about this opportunity to involve Jason and I in a fun way. For years, I adopted a similar activity for my own open house displays. Last year, I decided to modify the idea a bit to integrate technology.  


    What is Augmented Reality?

    Augmented reality is when a layer (typically a video or another image) is added over an existing image to enhance it in some way. Think of it as 4-D, or four-dimensional. If 3-D enhances visuals to appear more realistic as we view them, 4-D actually alters the object(s) you're viewing not only by enhancing their appearance, but also by offering additional information in a more interactive manner.  

    I like to explain augmented reality by using examples. Imagine looking at a book and being slightly confused about the content. Wouldn't it be nice if you could push a button on the page and have the author pop up like a hologram to explain what he or she was thinking of to offer a more clear understanding of the material? Well, instead of pushing a button on the page of the book, with augmented reality, you can simply hover your mobile device over the page and have a video automatically start playing to describe the information with more detail. Thus, the viewer's experience is enhanced through the integration of technology.

    While this may seem complicated, it's actually rather simple to create your own "auras," or augmented reality layers. Trust me, once you start and get the hang of it, you will begin augmenting everything. My colleague, Ashlie Smith, at Cranbrook Educational Community just augmented her entire science lab. She made brief tutorials demonstrating proper use of the lab equipment. Now, when a student in her science class has a question, he or she can independently problem solve by holding their mobile device over the equipment piece to start playing their teacher's demonstration. The student no longer has to wait until the teacher is available, and the teacher is available to work with more children throughout the class time. We all know how precious time is, and when we can use technology to help us gain any additional minutes, that's a wise decision worth learning more about! She's also flipping her middle school science class (where students watch her lessons via video at home and come to school ready to do experiments and discuss the content with their peers to dig deeper, enhancing their understanding of the material). You can view all of her video lessons on YouTube by clicking here and selecting the red button to subscribe to her channel.  

    This post wouldn't be complete without giving you a demonstration of augmented reality, and I found a fantastic video sharing how one school has used this technology in creative ways to support and enhance their curriculum and drive student engagement.

    To learn how to make your own auras with the free application, Aurasma, you can visit my site on the subject and see other classroom uses for utilizing this application with your students. You can also download my free 19 page e-book that walks you through each step.

    Please note that if you make an Aura on a device, you can only view the Aura on that device. If you want to have other people see the Auras you create, they must first subscribe to your Aurasma channel. So, you would first need to set up an Aurasma Studio Account to get started with your class channel. It's simple and free. My advice would be to set up the account/class channel on the device you plan to use to create the Auras.   


    Start Your Own Augmented Bulletin Board

    I took the traditional "guess your child" activity and put a spin on it using augmented reality. It was a hit!  

    I passed out the template to each child. You can click here to get your free template for your class. The students drew pictures of themselves on the top and listed a few clues about themselves below the picture. Before the open house, I sent out an email asking parents to download the free Aurasma app and sign up for our Aurasma Studio Class Channel (you can click here to subscribe to my personal class channel from a mobile device).  

    After the students were finished drawing and writing, I filmed a brief video of each child saying a super cute message to their parents. One of my darling girls said, "Hi Mom and Dad, it's Katie, you got it right!  Love you!" Her voice was so animated and her smile so bright. Then, she blew a kiss at the end. There is something so precious about seeing a seven-year-old get so excited about connecting with learning in a fun way.  

    Now that I had the videos saved to my camera roll and the papers hung in the hallway, I quickly added each video as an overlay to each paper. Then, as parents came to Open House, they could see all of the wonderful drawings in the hall, read the clues, guess their child, and hover their mobile devices over the paper they selected. Instantly (after opening the Aurasma application), their child's video started playing. You should have seen their faces! It was such a delight! When you see augmented reality for the first time, it really is a magical "do it again!" kind of experience.

    I can't wait to share this activity with the parents this year. The great educator and author Harry Wong always encourages teachers to share their ideas, so I couldn't resist sharing this one with all of you. I hope you like it, try it, and share it. It was a lot of fun for our class, and I truly hope it is for your class as well. Happy augmenting!



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