Sunday, October 27, 2013

Join the #ARevolution Post #3: Augmented Reality Apps in Education

Welcome back to another post in our series about Augmented Reality!  This week’s post is going to focus on some of the great apps that we have found that can be utilized in your classroom immediately to enhance your student’s learning experience!  And please if we miss any Augmented Reality apps that you love, let us know in the comments!


DAQRI is the world’s leading augmented reality developer, providing custom software and creative solutions to clients across a broad spectrum of industries. ( Daqri is using their 4D technology to create educational experiences that allows students to learn like never before.

One example is their free app Anatomy 4D, which allows students to explore how each system in human body works.

Another example of Daqri’s 4D technology is shown in their recently funded Kickstarter campaign, Elements 4D. Elements 4D lets you interact with elements of the periodic table using beautifully crafted cubes. This application will allow students to view various modes of chemicals and their interactions, to deepen the learning experience.



Aurasma, is a free open source product that allows users to engage in, and create, augmented reality experiences of their own.  Educators, and more importantly students, can use this tool to enhance their learning experience and essentially bring their learning to life. Many educators have collaborated to create this list of meaningful ways to use Aurasma in education.

ColAR Mix
FREE App (upgraded version cost $1.99)

ColAR Mix is one of those apps that we show everywhere we go.  It’s easy, it’s fun, it’s exciting, and more importantly it doesn’t cost a ton of money!!  What ColAr Mix does is allow you to print a coloring page off their website (there are now 12 different pages).  You then color the page, open your ColAR Mix app (on your iOS or Android device) and watch your coloring pages come to life right in front of you!  It’s pretty incredible!  Now we will tell you, you only get 4 coloring pages for free with the free app.  But if you pay the $1.99 upgrade you can have access to ALL of the coloring pages, even coloring pages they’ll be coming out with in the future!  We promise you, after you see one page come to life, you’ll be paying the upgrade fee to watch the others!

AR Flashcards
FREE app

AR Flashcards is a FREE educational app primarily designed for your little ones (Pre-K, Kinder and 1st).  You can download the app free from an App store, then you’ll need to go to the AR Flashcards website and print out the cards. (Word of Advice: The cards must be printed out in color and we advise not to laminate them because the laminating paper causes a glare which sometimes doesn’t allow the cards to work).

After printing out the cards you can scan them with the app and watch them jump to life!  You’ll get the entire alphabet (as well as a few dinosaurs) and when the kids scan the card, the animal pops up on the screen, and if the child taps the animal the animal will speak it’s name and letter it represents.  A totally fun and inventive way to get kids to learn their letter and sounds.

AR Flashcards: Space
$0.99 app

AR Flashcards Space is designed by the same company who designed AR Flashcards.  The entire premise behind AR Space is pretty self-explanatory, but you can scan cards that you print out from their website and scan them and watch the planets come to life.  When children tap on the planets they’ll hear the name of that planet along with a few interesting facts.

NASA 3D Spacecraft

Nasa 3D Spacecraft is an interactive augmented reality app that allows for students to use 1 trigger image, or marker, to explore an abundance of spacecrafts! The benefit to having only 1 trigger image is that multiple students can interact with a different spacecraft at the same time. This app give students an amazing opportunity to explore how NASA learns about the Solar System.

TRACLabs Atlas AR by FuelFX

TRACLabs Atlas by FuelFX  brings a robot to life giving students the ability to “program” its arms and legs in a series of steps, then playing the steps in quick succession. Here is the iOS link and Android. Terri Eichholz has an amazing post about using this app in her classroom.

Fetch! Lunch Rush! by PBS Kids

This fun app uses augmented reality to engage students in solving addition and subtraction problems. Each math problem is timed, challenging the students to increase their quick recall of addition and subtraction facts. This is an iPhone app but still works well on the iPad. Our students loved this game and can be used with anywhere from 1- 4 students per device.  

Planets! (Coming Very Soon!)

Planets! will allow students a learning experience like never before. It creates a new and engaging way to explore our Solar System. This mind blowing app brings a new depth to learning with cut away views of each planet including detailed information of each layer.

Now you may be reading some of these and thinking “wow those are some pretty amazing tools, but how can I actually use these in my classroom in meaningful ways?”  Well that’s what we’re writing about next week!  Our post next week will be all about using Augmented Reality in Education!  Stay tuned, and in the meantime go out and play with some of the tools above, and don’t be alarmed if you start to feel like a giddy little kid again!

**This post was co-written with Drew Minock. You can follow him on twitter @TechMinock or visit his Website.

Olympic Athletes, PBL....and GROWTH! (Finally!)

I know I know I's been a few weeks since I've blogged about my classroom!  Let me apologize!  I've been learning my limits, and have taken on a little too much for the month of October haha.  But here's what's been happening...

So we've gotten to do a bunch of really great things the last couple of weeks.  My students got to talk to Olympic Athlete Giddeon Massie about pointers getting ready for their 5th grade track meet.  That was a blast.  The coolest part of that Skype was that at the track meet I overheard two of my boys reminding each other that Giddeon told them "it's ok to be nervous!".  Love that!

There's also been a couple days in the last two weeks that I've had to be out of the classroom.  The cool thing is though, that that is never a big thing!  It's never that big of a deal for me to be out of the classroom because I always record lessons to show while I'm gone.  But they're not your typical lessons.  I record them as if I were there in class, so they're interacting lessons.  Kids must talk back to the video is if I'm still there!  The subs have told me it's quite entertaining to watch.

We also got to participate in a group Google Hangout (GHO) with Olympic Gold Medalist, and friend of mine, Steve Melser.  He took questions from us and 5 other classes from around the US!  It was great for my kids get to meet yet another Olympic Athlete.  They even missed half of their lunch to talk to Steve!

But this week we also took our second district exam.  If you follow my posts, you know that our first district exam was a disaster.  I wrote about it here.

To say I was nervous about this exam is an understatement.  I knew my district was watching me.  Not only am I REFUSING to teach test formatted questions and worksheets, but I've also been out several days for conferences and stuff.  So I knew there was a lot riding on this.  But let me tell you, failure is motivating if you let it be.  And we took the failure of the last exam and used it to our benefit.

Well my kids took their exam, and we scored 78%!!!  That's an almost 40 point gain!  We were thrilled.  But  my students are funny, they're more concerned with how the other schools did.  Now I haven't seen all other 4 elementary schools yet, but of the 3 I have seen we scored higher!  Why does that excite me?  Because I feel like I'm getting somewhere and comparing myself to the other schools gives me a baseline of who we compare.

There are so many negative people out there who are constantly telling me I could do it better.  I should be teaching the test.  Everyone else does worksheets, why don't I?  Why am I so against all of that?  And more....and my answer to that, is that I want my students to LOVE math and more importantly, LOVE learning!  I don't know of any student who has said "I loved doing that worksheet!!!".  And I sort of enjoy taking our district exams because it gives me a baseline of where most of my students are and how I can now go about reaching their needs!  But more importantly, there was growth.  We're not at 100%, which is where I always want to be, but we're getting there!  Growth is what's important!

We also finished our first huge PBL project this week.  It was quite the interesting experience.  I blogged about this project in a previous post too.  But the kids really liked getting in there and creating and it gave me a lot of time to work with small groups.  There is still work to be done that's for sure.  But we're off and running! (pics coming soon).

Another highlight of my week was watching my students present their projects for their first PBL activity in reading.  After reading The Lemonade War, they had to design a product and create an entire advertisement plan as well as their financial plan and so much more. Then they had to present it to us "Shark Tank" style where the teachers chose who we were "investing" in!  It was a BLAST!  I'm hoping my reading teacher blogs about it this week, and if she does I will share the link for sure!  But here are a few photos.

**Also, a quick "request" from all my readers....please keep me in your thoughts this next week.  I have TWO Keynotes that I am having to give.  One in Houston, TX, and one in Williamsburg, VA.  I am FREAKING out and nervous as all get out.  So I'll take all the prayers and positive thoughts I can get :-)

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Join the #ARevolution Post #2: Why use Augmented Reality?

Augmented reality(AR) is a tool we believe is very powerful and a game changer, but we often field the question:

Why use augmented reality?

During this post we hope to answer this important question, as well as inspire you to start using augmented reality in your classroom, school, community, and more!

Augmented reality promotes an active environment for students to engage in a magical learning experience. It use to be unthinkable to interact with elements like Mercury, explore the solar system, or control a NASA spacecraft without ever leaving the four walls of your classroom. Augmented reality brings this unthinkable idea to reality!

“I think that it allows for connections and understandings that cannot otherwise be made.  This is a type of communication that can bring students and their parents closer together, as well as teachers, students, and their families.  When in a setting that does not allow for an actual experience, it can offer the next best thing - such as exploring space or meeting animals and people who live on the other side of the world.  It enhances learning and relationships.” says Terri Eichholz, an elementary gifted and talented teacher and educational blogger.
Mike Willard, a Kindergarten teacher at Highlander Charter School says,
“As a beginner in AR, the hook is amazing. My students are super engaged whenever we use AR apps or try a new AR project.
As I mentioned before, I think there is use as a formative assessment tool. If enough auras and/or projects are created, the growth seen throughout the year will be pretty incredible to witness. ”

As Mike stated, students are engaged in their learning, creating a deeper understanding of the content being explored. Research has also shown that when you have an emotional experience, you are much more likely to recall information rather than just the typical rote memorization.  

Aurasma, is one example of an open source augmented reality app, that allows students to create personalized AR content and share it with the world.

Rocio Watkins, a middle school ESL and religion teacher at Western Christian Schools, thinks that creation is the most important reason to use AR saying, “Creativity, something which is almost a dying discipline nowadays, is the most important value of AR.  Autonomy comes second, as the child has the freedom to create anything that pertains to the objective of the lesson.  The novelty of it leads to intrinsic motivation, as the students desire to complete the assignment out of enjoyment.  And lastly, it is fun (and I personally love it).”

As teachers we are often looking for ways to entice our students and build a love of learning and seeking knowledge.  With AR, it is much easier to create an experience that is unique and special.  Augmented Reality really does open up a world of possibilities and ways to build excitement within your classroom.  

In the next two posts we plan on covering some of the different tools that are available for you to use NOW to start experiencing and creating your own Augmented Reality adventures, as well as ideas on how you can really utilize AR effectively in your classroom.

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**This post was co-written with Drew Minock. You can follow him on twitter @TechMinock or visit his Website

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Join the #ARevolution Post #1: What is Augmented Reality?

Augmented Reality is something that has really taken off in the educational world as of late. There have been many who have tried to define exactly what Augmented Reality (AR) is.  Is it just a fancy QR code?  Can it really transform your student’s learning?  What in the heck is AR? Our hope with this week’s article is to really give you a clear view of what exactly the term Augmented Reality means.

PBS Kids: Fetch! Lunch Rush app

Augmented Reality is defined in the dictionary as: “an enhanced image or environment as viewed on a screen or other display, produced by overlaying computer-generated images, sounds, or other data on a real-world environment.” (
There are two ways I like to describe the magical experience of augmented reality to someone new. Picture yourself walking through the halls of Hogwarts. The pictures hanging on the walls of Hogwarts are not your normal, static pictures but are alive and interactive with the students. Another example to think about it The Night at the Museum. During the day the exhibits are your normal exhibits, but at night they come to life. This is the power augmented reality brings to education. It brings the learning experience to life!
Recently, we sent out a survey asking other educators to define the term “Augmented Reality” and what exactly it means to them.  Here are a few of the responses we received:

Augmented Reality gives "life" to student work. It takes ordinary to extraordinary and super to super-sensational as student effort becomes a marvel!” - Diane Peterson (@dpe40317)

“I see AR as adding digital layers to the real world in order to connect information, thoughts and feelings across time.” Stephen Lethbridge (@stephen_tpk)

“Technology that allows you to have experiences that you cannot normally have”  Terri Eichholz (@terrieichholz)

“Augemented reality provides experiential learning that is layAR-ed into-or on top of and when scanned like magic brings the image being scanned to life!”  JoAnn Delaney (@JdelaneyJoAnn)

We see Augmented Reality as a game-changing tool and the future of educational technology.  It takes the world that’s right in front of us and enhances it.  It can be something as simple as scanning a paper and having an instructional video pop up all the way to scanning a photo and completely interacting with the 3D world that has appeared!  

ZooAR app at San Antonio Zoo

We’ve seen augmented reality used in many different settings from the supermarket, zoos, museums, and even NASA!  Corporate America is also embracing the idea behind AR and the engaging experience it brings customers.

Some have called AR, just a fancy QR code, but we see it as so much more. We like to call it a QR code on steroids because it can do so much more. Unlike a QR code, AR does not require a URL to function. You can make it an augmented reality experience engaging with interactive click throughs to make phone calls, text messages, to write an email, add events to calendars, and much more.

Well where does this leave us with Education?  How can this new and innovative tool be used in the educational world?  Tune in next week as we discuss “Why use AR in Education?”

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Thursday, October 10, 2013

Planning, Learning, Creating - Our First Project!

This week we started our first project.  As you can tell from my last post (if you had a chance to read it), this week was kind of like our Genesis.  It was us starting over.  It was me starting again.  I feel like I'm hitting my groove, I feel like I'm in my put it bluntly, I'm back!

I don't know what was up the first 6 weeks, but it was a mess.  I was all over the place.

This week we started our first project!  We started our "Planning a Party" project.  You can see all the elements to the project HERE.

Last six weeks we covered Place Value, Decimals (ordering and adding and subtracting), multiplication, division, and rounding.  I wanted a project that would encompass all of that (and prime & composite since that's where we're moving now), so I created our Plan a Party project.  I did a variation of this last year, but this year I included many more elements.

First off I did NOT print out the expectations for the students.  I shared it with their Google accounts as to save paper and so no one could say they "lost" the paper!  Soooooo much drama avoided!

This week what was accomplished was a little less than I had hoped, but we're still learning good time management haha.  My class times are about an hour, BUT we spent the first 10-15 of each day this week with a challenge problem.  As I said in my last post, I noticed reading was a huge deficiency this year.  So to help that, I am starting every class with a VERY challenging word problem.  They work in pairs to solve and the first two groups to solve get lunch and a movie in my room that day!  It's been great!  They're working so hard and the kids I least expected are the ones figuring the problems out!

I also did not explain the project the students are doing AT ALL.  I gave them the expectations and told them they would have to read to figure out what to do.  Each group is also allowed 5 questions throughout the project to ask me (usually I do three, but hey it's our first project).  And yes, asking to go to the bathroom counts as a question :-)

The kids have done exceptionally well with figuring things out on their own, even if they are still struggling with following the directions exactly as they're written out.

While the kids are working on their projects, I've been very "hands-off" and pulling two or three kids at a time to work on skills they didn't seem to master from our first exam.  It's been great having that time to really discuss with them some mistakes I saw and ways they could improve!

I can't wait til next week when groups will start wrapping their projects up.  There hasn't been a "hard" deadline set, mainly because I'm not sure how long to give them just yet, but it will be at some point next week that they'll be expected to be finished!

It's so nice to have a week where I feel accomplished, hoping to keep the ball rolling!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Failure, Evaluation, Starting Over and Saying 'I'm Sorry'

image courtesy of

Wow.  What a week this last week was.

We took our first content exam this past week.  It covered quite a bit of standards, but I felt relatively sure my students were ready for it.  Now keep in mind, for the first time in my career, I spent the entire first 5 weeks of school NOT teaching ANY test formatted questions and we did ZERO worksheets.  Last year I did the same thing but didn't start until mid October.  This year it was from Day 1!

We took the exam, and scored 37%.  Terrible, right?  Out of the 5 elementary schools in my district we were also the lowest (though not by much).  I have never been the "lowest" elementary school.  To say I was devastated would be an understatement.  I cried on my way home, got angry, and felt defeated.  I have never felt like such a failure.

The next day, I spent the class time going over the test.  And what did I learn?  I learned that my students actually do have a firm grasp of the math I've been teaching.  What's the issue then?  The issue is their reading skills.  They don't know how to read and comprehend what a question is asking.  Then I realized....every single activity that we had done leading up to the exam, were math activities with NO reading involved.....there was my mistake!  How could I have missed that?

The other "positive" about this exam was it gave me a clear view of who I need to keep an eye on these next few weeks before our next exam.  But as I worked with kids I started to become a little less upset about the scores.  Now I know the percent passing was 37%, but my average grade was in the mid 60s. So that gave me a little more promise.

Was I happy after everything? No.  I am a perfectionist.  I want every single student of mine to be successful no matter what we do.  Whether that be an exam, or project, or even just watching one of their flip class videos.  I want my students to feel proud.  And I think they felt as upset as I do.

We didn't have any students on Friday, thank goodness.  I was broken, I was hurting and I need to re-evaluate things.  After I finished some parent conferences in the morning, I sat in my room wondering where it all went wrong.

I knew what I needed to do.  I needed more reading, I needed more deep evaluation of the math, I needed more period, but most of all I need to be better.  So I went away for the weekend.  My wife and I took a trip to a resort and just kind of disappeared for a few days.  Laid by the pool, went shopping, watched the sunset on the lake, that kind of stuff.

And as I came back I felt rejuvenated, and I was ready.  Ready to start over.  Ready to say to my students "I'm back.  I'm sorry I wasn't my best.  I'm sorry I didn't prepare you enough.  I'm sorry I let my own disappointments threaten the education you should have been receiving.  I'm sorry there were many days I emotionally disappeared because I felt so broken. I'm sorry, but I'm here now.  And together we can do this".  It's not going to be easy to apologize to my students, but I know I must.

I know my students must see me take my part in them not doing as well as I had hoped.  I had become complacent.  I had become lazy, and and I had thought it would just "come".  It didn't, and I know I didn't put in near enough work.  And that blame does not fall on the students.  It falls on ME.  I'm the one who started the year broken, and never could seem to get my act together enough to give them the best teacher they've ever had.

But guess what kids?  I'm back, and I'm ready.  I've failed, I've re-evaluated, and I'm ready to start over.  So let's go!
Argus (c) Poster