Reality +


Kippleboy (2012). Augmented reality at Museu de Mataron. CC BY-A 3.0 Retrieved at: www.

As I watched the Aurasma TED talk and imagined a world where people wore glasses that augmented their realities automatically, I couldn’t help but feel a wave of anxiety. The anxiousness was due in equal parts to both the thrill I felt, and the fear. As an English teacher and avid reader,  images from books like Feed ( M.T. Anderson), Fahrenheit 451 (Ray Bradbury), and Ready Player One (Ernest Cline) swam before my mind’s eye. Will we someday each have a “feed” inserted into our brains that allows businesses to tap into our thoughts and advertise products? Will students someday attend school within a 3D augmented reality, turning our education system on its head?  Will we build screens inside the walls of our homes that allow us to escape inside of our television programs, and video games? For the first time, these sci-fi situations are coming disconcertingly close to reality.

As a person, I fear that technologies like these ones may become tools in the hands of corporations and consumer-driven industries, rather than being largely used for educational purposes. I also fear that these technologies could create an “escapist” mentality within our culture, where people are allowed to escape to “more interesting” realities, while losing sight of the very real work there is to be done within our naked reality; similarly to how people can escape into materialism. However, as an educator I find the augmented reality technology to be a thrilling prospect, something that could amp student engagement and learning to new heights, and allow students to experience a myriad of situations that would have never been accessible otherwise.

To that end, I will explore some of the ways I would implement Augmented Reality and QR Codes into a classroom or library.

QR Codes

QR Codes, also known as Quick Response codes (Byrne 2014), allow anyone with a QR reader app to quickly scan an image and reach a pre-set destination. Most people are pretty familiar with QR codes as they have become a fairly popular advertising tool, for a lot of major companies, as well as local businesses and artists.

Our reading for this week had a wealth of suggestions for what one could do with QR’s in the classroom/library. My favorites were:

  1. Use QR codes on classwork assignments to lead students who finish early to an extension activity. ( Walsh, 2014). In the 6th grade, I teach students with a range of capabilities. From students who read on a 2nd grade level, to students who are brushing the limits of 11th and 12th grade reading levels. In this type of teaching differentiation is key. Beyond just providing an extension activity, you could pass out QR codes that lead to lexiled passages. The nice thing about QR codes is that they are androgynous,so students wouldn’t be able to tell which students got the “easier” passages. No one has to feel bad, and everyone gets what they need. You just decide as the teacher which student gets which code.
  2. I absolutely loved the idea of using QR codes to spur student reading. The Daring Librarian (2013), suggested printing QR codes that lead to book trailers (which could be self created or borrowed). She recommended putting these codes in bathroom stalls alongside the caption “Do not scan these”. For middle schoolers, especially, this tempting warning, would not go unnoticed. I would probably shoot for books with tantalizing themes, that really get the head buzzing (i.e. murder mystery, Bluford Series, previously censored books).
  3. Richard Byrne’s Post about interactive bulletin boards (2012), definitely got me thinking about an upcoming project. I have received a grant for an interdisciplinary unit involving Art, English, History, Science, and Math. The Unit centers around the text Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans. Each student will receive a copy of this text and it will be incorporated in each of their classes. In math students will use geometry to create freedom quilts, in English students will participate in a literature circles, in science students will work in the school’s garden, and in history and art students will interview the personal history of an elderly neighbor, family member, or friend, and create a portrait and narrative that highlights that person’s life experience. Our plan is to showcase the student artifacts in a physical museum created at the school, but it would be awesome to augment student products and displays with QR codes leading to additional information, videos showing the students’ work, and audio of students explaining their work and the experience of creating it.
  4. One idea I want to share is the first lesson I created as teacher, that utilized QR codes. The Unit I was teaching was called “The Opposite of Fear”. Within this Unit I asked my students to explore how art forms from music, to literature, to graffiti, have been used across history and cultures to enact social change. For this particular lesson, they read an article about the secret messages that slaves would embed into spiritual songs, as a way to inform others how they could escape to freedom. After reading the article, students rotated in groups to different QR codes which linked to recording of historically important spirituals. At each station they had a dry erase “worksheet” with stem questions that asked them analyze each song and make an inference about it’s subversive message. They used iPad’s to scan QR codes and listen to each song, and then worked in groups to decipher clues embedded in the song’s imagery. At the end of the lesson students participated in a poll anywhere activity, where they shared their inferences about each song.
  5. I was inspired by the article “QR Codes Can Do That?” to use QR codes for “bellwork” (Burns, 2016). When Jan Collin’s came to our school to give a training about making inferences, I chose to come up with a warm-up that presented students with 6-word memoirs. The students’ task was to read the memoirs and come up with inferences that explained what they understood about each 6-word statement. Originally, I displayed these texts on the promethean board, and asked students to write about them in their notebooks. We then shared verbally. Here, I provide a QR code that links to a google form, where students can record their thoughts. When the activity is complete  a second QR code would be provided, so students could access their classmate’s responses, and read all the inferences that were made, therefore explaining their own understanding of the text.

QR Code: Six Word Memoir/Making Inferences QR Code:


QR Code: Student Responses to Six Word Memoir Warm-up:

sixwordmemior-Student responses

Augmented Reality

From my birth in 1990, to today, I have had the pleasure of experiencing a number of artistic displays that could be considered “augmented reality”. Anyone else remember when TGIF shows (including Sabrina the Teenage Witch and Boy Meets World) went 3D? Not to mention countless movies, shows, and Imax movie theater experiences that were offered to the public throughout the 90’s and early 2000’s. 90’s kid, like me, or not, if  you’ve been to theme park in the last 20 years, you’ve probably experienced some form of augmented reality.

Luckily, being a nerd myself, I benefit from all the luxuries and glamour that nerd-ism provides, including a friend who has so far bought every prototype of the Oculus Rift available ( a technology that is strikingly similar to that described in Ready Player One).  While my partner, Randy, has spent way more time with the visor on than I have (he’s much more the gamer type), I did take a worldly spin on the Oculus. I was able to walk around in both Venice and Paris, perusing a model of the architecture and landscapes authentic to each location. It was a dizzying, and highly engaging experience, where you truly do lose sight of the room around you, and even your own body, although, like most “gaming” experiences I’ve had, it did not come very naturally to me. At the time that I used Oculus, the graphics were not on par with what my generation has come to expect in games and movies, but I can only imagine how amazing the Oculus is today, and will be in the future.

A friend, who recently  came for dinner, paused in the middle of the room, steadied her phone with a focused effort, and deftly captured an image using her phone’s camera feature. This image was one that I could not see, and yet it was clear to her via the augmented reality of an iPhone game. Unbeknownst to me, she was capturing a pokemon right there on my sofa. The implications for education are endless, and if we plan to compete with consumerism(and you better believe I do!) we better start harnessing these technologies for the  building of critical thinking and creativity in our students. It’s  not unwise to note that as these technologies become reality, digital citizenship becomes a piece of the puzzle that we simply can’t ignore. Whether it’s teaching a student how to discern “bull honkey” from “too legit to quit”, or letting students know how to use ideas without stealing them, it’s going to matter. Our number one goal is to educate, but our responsibility is also to protect (and I don’t mean censorship).

Wherever else it leads there are some obvious education benefits to using an “augmented reality format”. Here are some ideas that I would use:

  1. As an animal lover, activist, and enthusiast, I would love to see 3D models through augmented reality app’s replace authentic dissection. There are already digital versions of dissection available for students, and they can only get better. For me, being forced to take part in the  dissection of the frog, and the cow eye, was rather traumatic, and because I choose not to replay the memories of those experiences themselves, I also have trouble accessing the knowledge that I may have obtained in the act of dissecting the parts. 3D models take us into a more peaceful future.
  2. As a kid, I grew up in the forests and peaks of the Shenandoah Valley, and loved to play, hike, and camp in the Blue Ridge  Mountains. One thing I would love to create would be an  Aurasma, or other App, that allowed me to add textual information to mountains, trees, flora, and fauna. Nature is very close to my heart, and I can see augmented reality as a way to help  students and adults form a relationship with nature. Hypothetically, these messages could also include:crops that would thrive in the area, things to avoid doing as they hurt the ecosystem in your local area, things to grow or do, as they benefit the ecosystem in your local area. Goals of this project would be to save bees, and local/native inhabitants of any area. This could be used in environmental education.
  3. While Augmented reality makes a natural pair with Math and Science, I also think it has it’s value in History, English, and all other subjects as well. Consider virtual models, field trips, and student created layered presentations, and applications are there for the plucking.

I played with Aurasma app on my phone and on the computer, and it was easy to take photos and add pre-existing overlays to them. However, I would need to play with it a lot more to learn how to create my own content for overlays. Obviously creating your own content, that fits your “trigger” like a glove, is the way to go, but it may take a while for me to become an excerpt. I think it will prove to be well worth the trouble.


Byrne, R. (2014). QR codes and augmented reality: when and where to use each. Free Technology from Teachers. Retrieved at:

Byrne, R. (2012). Interactive bulletin boards. Retrieved at: Free Technology for Teachers.

Jones, G. (2013). QR code loos and pocket reviews. The Daring Librarian. Retrieved at:

Walsh, K. (2014). 25 fun ways to use QR codes in teaching and learning. Emerging Ed Tech. Retrieved at:



Reality +

5 thoughts on “Reality +

  1. Wow – your introduction really made me think about possibilities with augmented reality that had not yet crossed my mind. I totally agree with you – people are already addicted enough to tech and look down at their screens more than they do out at the world; what will the future hold for us if indeed we can live through this augmented reality?? Scary on many levels. Exciting on some, but I really see some negative impacts coming along too. Whereas this could be used to escape reality, there are also many ways it can be used to enhance reality. I love your ideas for using Aurasma or other similar apps to bring science, math, art, and nature to life. I also got a big kick out of the Daring Librarian’s bathroom stall QR codes for book chats – what a riot! Too bad her principal made her take them down!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I think you have a great point about using the QR Codes to differentiate learning experiences for students. Students often get embarrassed about where they are in the learning process and won’t always ask for help, so this is a little more discreet. My daughter is dyslexic and while she has been making huge strides, she is at the age where she is starting to worry about what her friends think and this would be a good way to meet students where they are right now.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I enjoyed your post. There really is so much to be said about augmented reality and virtual reality. It is fun, but also scary, to predict how it will be in the future. I agree that it means new and exciting possibilities for education. I’m not sure how much it will take over our lives. I recently saw part of a tv series on FX called Mr. Robot that showed a future “smart house” with everything in it totally controlled by a tablet and things were going wrong because it had been hacked and it was driving its owner crazy. whew. not sure about that part of the future.


  4. The Daring Librarian’s tactics remind me of what VCU’s Health Systems employs via a newsletter called the Stall Street Journal. They are able to get their messages across in really creative manners. It’s good to see an example of a school using the ubiquitous cell phone for good!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s