Augmented Reality in the Classroom: Writing Numbers 1 through 9

Teaching number formation on the ipad with augmented reality

Have you heard of Augmented Reality in the classroom? The minute I read about it, I knew I had to try it in our Pre-K classroom. I think of augmented reality as one step beyond QR codes. We did a lot with QR codes last year. We used them to self-correct our counting activities and I figured out how to attach audio files to make a couple of sight word activities. When you scan a QR code, it gives you information, usually in the form of text or a website. Augmented reality is similar in that you scan an image and receive information. What’s different is that instead of scanning a QR code, you scan a picture, which then plays a video. The potential for Augmented Reality as a teaching tool is huge. It gives children easy access to direct instruction, even when the classroom teacher is tied up working with another student. Augmented Reality could be particularly powerful in early childhood settings because it is so simple to use. The only skill a child needs to access the video is the ability to scan the appropriate image. I know from my experience using QR Codes with my class last year that this is a very manageable objective, even for preschoolers.

I decided that I wanted to try using augmented reality to supplement the instruction for one of our major beginning of the year objectives: number writing. It can be a challenging concept for children to learn. We teach number formation with poems. Each number 1-9 has a poem that we introduce it with. That poem gives hints on how to write the number. For example, the poem for number one is “A straight line down is one. That’s fun!” Number four is “Down and over and down some more. That’s the way you make a four!” At the beginning of the year, the children often forget the poem, as well as how to form the numbers. I decided to create one demonstration video for each number, and then attach it to the image of the number. So if the child needs to write an eight, and can’t remember how it goes, he or she can simply scan the image of the 8, which will trigger the video that I made which shows me writing an 8, along with the poem.

There’s an app I used to accomplish all of this. It’s called Aurasma and is available on both Apple and Android devices. I used my ipad to create videos and the Aurasma app to link the videos to the scannable images. I also use the Aurasma app to scan the images.

Creating Scannable Images or Trigger Images:

The scannable images are called “trigger images.”  Creating the trigger images turned out to be much more challenging than I had originally imagined.  It actually took me 3 tries to create images that were distinct enough for Aurasma to be able to tell them apart.

On my first attempt, I created these:

Augmented Reality #7 Elephants

I thought that the polka dot frame as well as the 7 elephants to the right would make each image unique enough to be recognized by Aurasma. Turned out I was wrong.  The app consistently played the wrong video when I hovered over the different trigger images that I had created.

Next I tried trigger images that were more image and less number.  They looked like this:

Augmented reality take 2 #5-8

I liked the idea that the pictures show the value of the number and help reinforce number sense with the children. Unfortunately,  Aurasma couldn’t distinguish between these images either.  I finally realized that Aurasma really seemed to key into the background of the picture.  The last set of number cards I made looked like this.

Augmented Reality Number Collage BEST

You’ll notice that each number has a unique background. Aurasma liked these number cards.  It was even able to tell the difference between cards that had the same background in different colors.  When choosing a trigger image,  Aurasma rates your potential image as red, yellow or green.  I translate that in my own mind to, “won’t work, might work and will work.”  All of my previous images had earned a “might work” rating.  I was suprised that Aurasma actually let me create an Aura with a “Yellow” trigger image rating, but it did.  None of the auras I made with a Yellow rating worked reliably. I’ve learned that you really need a “green” trigger image rating for the app to work. The last set of trigger images I created all had a green rating, and all consistently played the correct video.

Creating the videos or overlays:

The “overlay” is what you see after you have scanned the image.  For this activity, the overlay was a video I made that showed the children how to form the number correctly. My daughter used the iPad to film me writing the number and saying the number poem.  It’s just a short clip that repeats for as long as the iPad (or iPod) is held over the image that is the trigger. Here is the “overlay” for number 7.

Once I had the video made, I used the Aurasma app to attach the number video to the trigger image. Now whenever I use the Aurasma app to scan the trigger image, the video will play. I’ve read about other teachers using Educreations to create their overlays.  I’m interested in trying this next time. I learned about Educreations when I went to iPad School.

Using the ipad to teach number formation

Putting it to work in the classroom:

I’ve created a deck of “trigger” images, one for each number, that I’m going to keep right next to our counting jar. Each morning the children count the number of items in the counting jar. Next they place the same number of unifix cubes on a plate with their name on it. Finally, they write the number of items they counted on a post-it note. My hope is that when they find themselves unsure about exactly how to form the number that they need to write,  they will scan the appropriate card to watch the video. I also plan to make the deck available during the center activities we do that involve number writing.

What I learned and how I hope to use Aurasma in the future:

In the future, I think I’ll probably have more success if I use Trigger Images that already exist in the classroom.  Creating unique trigger images was really challenging.  I think I’ve learned enough about what Aurasma is looking for that I could create images more quickly in the future, but I think it might make more sense to use what already exists in real life. For example, one of the ideas I’ve read about involves “reading the room.”  It takes the traditional “reading the room”  idea and adds another layer.  When children are “reading the room” they’ll have the ipad and be able to scan a variety of trigger images that the teacher has created overlays for. So they may scan a particular chart, and then see an overlay where the teacher reads the chart aloud to them. I still have to flesh this idea out a bit, but I think it has real potential in our classroom.

I’m also interested in seeing how well Aurasma is able to recognize individual artwork, as well as individual student portraits.  I’ve got some ideas for back to school night that I’d love to try if I can get all of the pieces to fall into place.

It will probably be months before I’m able to really implement my number writing augmented reality activity in the classroom. It takes us 9 weeks to introduce all of the numbers, and we’re still a few weeks out from the start of school. Despite the fact that I haven’t actually tried the activity with my students yet, I’m so excited by all the possibilities, that I have to share it now. I promise to post an update in a few more weeks and report on how this really works in the classroom!

Read more about Augmented Reality & Aurasma

I first read about Augmented Reality on My Hullabaloo and Kleinspiration. They offer descriptions of Augmented Reality & Aurasma that are a bit more detailed on the “how to.” There’s a free ebook download on Kleinspiration that walks you through creating your own Aura.  Also check out Two Guys and Some iPads. They’re doing neat stuff with Augmented Reality.

There really are are so many possibilities with Augmented Reality and Aurasma. Truth be told, my students got a wee bit burnt out on QR codes last year. (And truth be told, so did I!) I’m not sure I see that happening with Aurasma. Having the ability to attach a video to almost any image has the potential to open the door to so many hands-on, active learning experiences that lead to real learning and engagement. I can’t wait to see where it takes us.

Do you plan to use Augmented Reality with your students? I’d love to hear your ideas.

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{I linked up to Technology Tailgate today. Check out other Technology Posts at their Tuesday Link Up}

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  1. says

    I am SO excited to find your blog!! I learned about aurasma this spring but really didn’t have the time to research it. I have absolutely fallen in love with this technology. I do have questions though… for example, if you create an aura on one iPad do you have to use that same iPad to access it? I really want to use this but I don’t always have access to the same device… sometimes I am using my personal phone or iPad.
    A Little Kinder Told Me So

    • says

      I’m so glad you found me! I think that you can set it up to use a variety of devices if you put it on a public aurasma chanel, but i haven’t figured it out yet. It’s on my to do list. :) I’ll let you know if I figure it out. I think Erin Klein talks about this somewhere on that Kleinspiration post I linked to. Let me know if you figure it out before I do. :)