My Left-Field Lesson - Bring life to objects

13th December 2013 at 00:00
With the help of a smartphone or tablet, your display walls can become truly interactive

At the EdTech conference at Harvard University this year, I was introduced to QR codes on steroids. For those who aren't aware of QR codes, they are essentially printed barcodes that a smartphone can scan to access internet-based content such as a video or virtual business cards. They are an amazing tool, one that I had been using for some time to provide students with links from worksheets, and for other basic interactive functions.

Yet the innovation at Harvard far exceeded this and has had a much bigger impact on my classroom; it is called Augmented Reality (AR).

AR takes QR codes a step forward by bringing printed material or other static mediums to life. With an AR app, you can point a smartphone or tablet computer at an object and that object can turn into a video, a game or an animation - anything you want.

It seemed like the perfect tool for our school, which is in its second year of being a 1:1 iPad school. The opportunity to enrich our students' experience so creatively was too good to miss, so we set about getting to grips with the technology. First, we decided to use the Aurasma app to facilitate the use of AR. This enables students not just to access AR but also to create their own AR experiences.

Then we set about using the app. As a music teacher at an elementary school, I used it to do the following:

- Link text about historic composers to video or audio of modern musicians performing work by the composer.

- Link lessons to video of children performing great classical music, to inspire my students to follow in their footsteps.

- Prompt students to create their own AR experiences - or, as the app calls them, Auras - to demonstrate their understanding of the topic at hand and to create work related to that subject.

Although Auras can be created on an iPad, it is much easier to make them on the Aurasma Studio website. After becoming a partner, a free upgrade is available that provides even more options or actions for the overlays. It can be an incredibly creative tool, and there are, of course, many other AR tools out there.

It is not just students who have fun creating Auras. Using the Aurasma app, I made an interactive display board featuring the musicians we were studying. When a student points their iPad - with the app loaded - at one of the pictures, a blue spinning circle appears for two to three seconds, and then the AR video of that musician emerges. Depending on the setting, the Aura either disappears as soon as the iPad is moved away from the image, or the student can double-tap to make the Aura full-screen, allowing the student to move away from the image while watching the video. You can watch a YouTube video of my class using the board here: bit.lyAurasmaClass.

Experiencing AR really is this simple. I am excited about how Aurasma will allow my students to demonstrate their understanding and share musical compositions. They really love it.

Cherie Herring is a SMART Exemplary Educator and a musictechnology specialist at Hammond School in Columbia, South Carolina, US. She blogs at


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