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5 Ways to Use Augmented Reality in the Elementary School Classroom

Ideas for incorporating AR into research and creative writing projects.

Susan Kunze | November 16, 2015

iPads are ubiquitous in today's classrooms, but it takes some work to find educational uses beyond games. A donation of iPads to my second- and third-grade combination classroom last year had me searching for new and exciting ways to implement them.

I set out to find ways to use QR codes in my classroom and discovered the augmented reality (AR) app Aurasma. I was overwhelmed with the potential of using augmented reality to support instruction. While QR codes act as two-dimensional bar codes that hyperlink to various types of printed information, augmented reality uses technology in which an image (marker) is linked to a 3-D video that appears directly on the image. The image appears to come to life once you hover the iPad (or iPhone) over it like a magic wand.

I was hooked. But how was I going to implement AR technology in my elementary school classroom? And how would I integrate it with my instruction? I needed something more kid-friendly that would tie into what students were learning. Ultimately, I settled on a simple way to incorporate AR into students' research and creative writing projects.

First, find an appropriate AR marker for the writing topic, which students color (if necessary). Have them research and write their stories or reports. Then use an iPad to view 3-D video on the marker using the app. Afterward have each student step behind her marker and start the video again on the iPad, taking a screenshot while it's running. It makes a great picture of the 3-D object of the story with the student in the background.

These apps became my go-to apps for AR resources:

  • Quiver (formerly ColAR Mix): This free app has a variety of markers that are downloaded from its website and colored. Not all the markers are free, but the project examples included here feature free ones. This app has had a very recent makeover, and it appears the developers are marketing it to education users.
  • Spacecraft 3D: This free app has a number of markers (no coloring necessary) with 3-D videos of a variety of spacecraft, as well as information students can use for research.

Here are five of my students' favorite augmented reality projects:

  1. Use a National Geographic Explorer article to write a simple report on tropical birds and then color Quiver markers of a tropical bird. Take a screenshot and make posters of the reports with the markers.
  2. For Fire Safety Week, have students draw a map of their home escape routes. Then they can color the Quiver fire truck marker. Make posters of the maps with the marker and photos or screenshots.
  3. Use the Quiver globe marker to identify and label the seven continents. Color the marker with colored pencils, take a photo or screenshot, and then mount it on construction paper.
  4. Right after the holidays, have students write a story about their "Favorite Gift" (given or received). Students color the Quiver gift marker and take a photo or screenshot just as confetti starts coming out of the box. Mount the photo and story on construction paper and fold it like a book.
  5. Students use the Spacecraft 3D app to research a spacecraft. They can use Popplet to make a graphic organizer, placing facts about the spacecraft around the photo or screenshot.

We all love doing AR projects! It feels like a bit of magic to share and take home. (I always send home the child's marker so that parents can download the app and watch the 3-D video.) I look forward to using more AR this year as a tool for student engagement with their writing, social studies, and science projects.