Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Tech Tips Tuesday

Coaching Others - Aurasma App for Maths

In recent weeks I have been sharing my journey as I explore the use of Aurasma in the classroom. This week I share about a Maths rotation activity a co-teacher and I created. This is the infamous co-teacher who introduced me to Aurasma in the first place and encouraged me to explore it further. Together we designed a Maths rotation activity for students to use with word problems involving sharing money.

Our idea
We wanted to use Aurasma as a self-check method for students on completion of some word problems. The aim of this was for us to practise using the Aurasma App to deliver content.

Our plan
Students visit displayed posters and try to work out the answers using their own strategies. Once they feel they have accurately answered the question, they use Aurasma to scan the poster and see a video of our explanation.

We made images with Sketchbook Pro and printed these to make posters, along with the word problem students were to solve. In this case the word problems were about sharing money between a group of students. We used an iPad to create a video overlay of our explanation, and created our trigger image by taking a photo of the poster. We saved all auras to a public channel for students to access.

In the Classroom
Four groups of students rotated through this activity. A lot of time in the first session was spent getting the iPads sorted and "following" my co-teacher. We then explained that students would use the toy notes and coins available to help them to find the answers to the questions. They could then check their answers using the iPad video explanation.

Unfortunately, I learnt a hard lesson about the need to use unique images for the trigger images. As I had reused my characters and just added to the slides when creating the images, students found that the wrong overlay popped up when scanned. We then had to do the second set of rotations without the Aurasma element.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Tech Tips Tuesday

Exploring Aurasma Studio with Maths

One of my coworkers has been trying to get me to look at Aurasma for quite some time, so I finally decided to take the plunge. After a little experimentation I decided to design a Maths lesson with it for our Maths rotation activities. My idea required greater functionality than the Aurasma app could provide so I went to Aurasma Studio instead. For more information on the basics of Aurasma, click here.

My idea
I wanted my lesson to involve problem solving with multiplication and division - possibly including money as a bonus. Our rotation groups are based on ability, so I wanted to embed different levels within the task so students could experience the task at their own level.

My plan
I wanted to use pictures from grocery store catalogues as triggers for pop-up questions, with secret bonus questions (as extension) to be revealed with an action. I visited the grocery store and got a group set of catalogues.

Triggers - I used my iPad to photograph images of the catalogue items and uploaded these to my iMac.
Overlays - I used Sketchbook Pro to write up question cards which I saved as images, also uploaded to my iMac. I made some 'special bonus question cards' and uploaded these to my Flickr account - as they needed to be located at a URL in order to make the task work.
In Aurasma Studio I uploaded a trigger image - one of the catalogue items. I then added multiple question cards as overlays (one a multiplication question, one a division question). Finally I added an invisible overlay over the item price which, when clicked, took the user to my Flickr image where an extension question was displayed.

In the Classroom
Four groups rotated through these activities. The first group was the extension Maths group, and while we took some time to get everyone loaded up and following my channel, they still managed to have a pretty good go at working through the questions and recording their answers in their maths workbook. I wrote the 'shopping list' on the board so that students knew which items to look for. Those students who made it through all the questions explored the 'secret bonus questions' as well. Students worked through at their own pace.
The two mid-range groups worked through the questions at varying degrees and without the need to get the iPads set up to begin with. For the support group, I asked that they begin with only the multiplication questions, returning to the division if they had time after that.
All students seemed to enjoy the activity, even with the technical complications with wifi, location services and 'following'. Some groups found it useful to capture a screenshot to refer to so that they wouldn't have to hold the iPad still the whole time. In order to mark the work with students it helped to have a copy of screenshots of all the questions.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Tech Tips Tuesday

Introducing Aurasma

Put simply, Aurasma is the prettier version of a code reader with augmented reality elements. When you point your device at a trigger image (with Aurasma open), it performs an action that has been determined by the creator of the 'aura'. Unlike the Q code, however, in order to view an aura, the user must first follow the creator of the aura. Aurasma's appeal is in the 'magic' of finding hidden treasures in the world around us.

One of my coworkers has been trying to convince me to look into Aurasma for quite some time, but I just hadn't found the time. However, on a sick day recently I decided to give it a go, and was excited by the possibilities. It took a good day to get my head around both the Aurasma App and Aurasma Studio, but from that I developed a plan to implement the technology initially in Maths rotations, with further plans for Literacy later in the year. Initially I am working to create resources for students to access, but as we progress I would like to provide ways for students to create their own auras.

Basic terminology
Trigger - the image that Aurasma recognises which then triggers an action.
Overlay - the action that takes place when triggered. This could be an image, video or website.
Aura - the combined trigger with overlay, which someone can experience.
Channel - a collection of auras. This may be public, for others to find through search, or private.

Possible application


  • pop up questions for items in a grocery store catalogue. This can allow for opportunities to differentiate.
  • video teacher explanation for Maths questions posted around the room - to be used for self-checking
  • pretend notes and coins with information about that denomination, and or questions relating to it.
  • students create their own word problem to go with a number sentence and demonstrate how to solve it. Other students can then view these.
  • students order images by their perceived capacity and then scan the image to see a video of the measurement to check their estimation. Groups could be responsible for photographing and recording the measurement of one container.
  • posters of shapes or solids with a video of students labelling the parts and describing the features. These could be displayed in room.
  • students print graphs of collected data and attach an overlay explaining their findings. To extend, there could be a pop-up questionnaire for people to share their opinions.
  • Book reviews which are displayed when the cover is used as trigger image.
  • Students reading a short story aloud when the cover is used as trigger.
  • Comprehension questions which pop up on some pages when students are reading. Students can record their thoughts to a group wall using Padlet when they tap on a specified area of the page. (Need Aurasma studio for this idea.)
  • Book Study - students could add graphic organisers (eg. story map, sociogram, Venn Diagrams) to the texts they are reading and make book marks to show other readers which pages the Aurasma links are on.
  • Character profiles could be linked to the cover or pages of a text.
  • use artwork as a trigger image and a student explanation as the overlay
  • include Aurasma items in newsletters or classroom reflections
Some Concerns
As always, the technology provides a fun way to engage in learning, but needs to be monitored to ensure that quality work is still produced and a high level of accountability is maintained. Any use of technology is costly in terms of time and effort, particularly when learning something new. Some of the difficulties I have found so far:
  • Aurasma Studio and the Aurasma App offer different options in terms of setting up channels and adding overlays. Once you know how they both work you can make decisions to use the one most practical for the situation.
  • There is a time delay between the creation of an aura and its availability to other users. Therefore, you may not be able to create and view items in the one lesson period.
  • It may take a little time for students to find and follow you the first time.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Tech Tips Tuesday

Comparing Styluses

A couple of years ago I bought myself a 10-pack of cheap, colourful styluses to use with my iPad. I think that so far my little boy and I have used three.  One lost its stylus tip. One got bent at some point, and the clip snapped, but the stylus still works. And the third is still going strong. I bought myself a set for my class this year and labelled them with student names so each is responsible for their own. We had one go missing in the first week, and a couple are looking a little sad, but they have been the best solution for cheap simple styluses for kids.

I, however, a great lover of all things stationery, would like something that does a little more. So Mobile Zap sent me a couple to review. The beauty of both of these is that they are both pen and stylus - a very handy tool for a teacher who wants to mark student work whilst recording notes on an iPad. I decided to give each a week in the classroom.

Olixar Laserlight Stylus Pen
I didn't spend much time determining which to test out first, and in fact, the first got tested out at home before I even had a chance to take it to school!

The Olixar Laserlight Stylus Pen is the fun choice. With a laser pointer on one end, it's hard to go past! I had my little guy in stitches at bedtime as I pointed the laser around his room using a very authoritative teacher voice to explain the posters on his wall. I also used the laser to point out features (albeit tongue-in-cheek) as we read Flat Stanley on the IWB. My students loved it! 

Also included in this stylus is an LCD torch (which I didn't have much use for in my week with it in the classroom) and a black ballpoint pen.

The stylus itself works fairly well and while the tip was wider than others I have used, it didn't seem to have a noticeable impact on my handwriting. It also felt like it stuck or gripped a little on the glass when I wrote, making it harder to write with for longer periods of time.

The frame of the pen/stylus is thicker, or wider than other styluses I've used, which may have greater appeal to some users. The stylus tip is on the cap of the pen, which also has a clip. It has a pleasing appearance and looks like a normal pen at a quick glance. It comes in a little black box making it an easy gift for a teacher.

Note: When using this pen for the first time you need to remove a little plastic tab from the battery capsule in order for the torch and laser pointer to work.

Week 2: Elago Stylus Ball and Pen
Elago Stylus Ball and Pen
This sturdy stylus has a sleek and stylish design and comes with a spare stylus tip. I tested the stylus with both writing and drawing on the iPad and found that the tip was very precise. In particular, it worked well when using the paint fill tool in small spaces - accurately filling the selected area. It moved smoothly across the iPad screen with no gripping.

The black roller ball pen is also of high quality, and handy to have on the other end of your stylus. This pen would make a great gift given the sleek design and dual functionality. It is the ideal pen for the minimalist and is unassuming in its simplicity.

The Verdict
I enjoyed using both of these pens, and found it hard to make a clear decision on which I would prefer. I love the multi-functionality of the Olixar, and thus would choose it based on these features, however the stylus tip itself is not as easy to use as the Elago. Given that, I find myself leaning toward the Elago Stylus Ball and Pen which gets the most important features right.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Tech Tips Tuesday

Experimenting with Book Creator

At my little guy's Mothers' Day celebration, his class of 3 year-olds (and a couple who are 4) read a big book called "The Cat Sat on the Mat". They then read a class made book on the smart board "The Frog Sat on the Log". We decided to make our own version on the weekend using the iPad to take photos of my little guys teddies sitting on a chair.

Each page an extra teddy is added to the chair until the first teddy roars and scares the others away! After taking the photos and adding the text I got my little guy to narrate for the book, adding an audio recording to each page. These play when the icon is touched.

What I liked:
  • Simple to use
  • Allows for images, text and audio
  • Grid lines appear to help you line things up
  • Exports nicely to iBooks for easy reading (and listening)
  • Can be exported to PDF (without audio)
My gripes:
  • I could have saved time if there was a simple way to duplicate pages and then switch out the photos. It was hard to ensure that pictures were the same size and that the text sat in the same position, particularly once the pages had been turned.
While it did the trick, and pretty quick, I'm not yet convinced it's the best way to go for making books on the iPad. I must say though, it was nice to be able to publish it so easily to iBooks and see it in a "library". I think this is a big bonus for students who need that motivation.