After weeks of comparing reviews and conducting trials in my classroom, I can say unreservedly that Aurasma offers the best augmented reality (AR) experience for classrooms of any iOS or Android app. The Aurasma app is more versatile and classroom-friendly than any AR app; it enables teachers to bring curriculum to life, turning almost any environment into a classroom or object into a lesson. Read on to find out why no app does augmented reality like Aurasma.
I began my tests by downloading three augmented reality apps — Layar, Anatomy 4D, and Aurasma v. 3.4.0 — on my iPhone 6 and iPad. I also borrowed my husband’s Samsung Galaxy S5 for a few days to test the apps on an Android phone. I used the apps in my 7th-grade English classroom for two weeks. My students used them during the second week so I could get their feedback too. I then assessed each app for its educational utility, user-friendliness, and efficacy.
A helpful tutorial pops up immediately, providing prompts to walk you through what you need to know. The interface is clean-looking and intuitive. What holds Aurasma back from a perfect score here is its infrequent, but annoying design bugs that impede ease of use.
The pedagogical potential of Aurasma is limitless, as it allows students to add dimension to material through video, animations, and so on. Aurasma can make abstract concepts come to life to help students see their real-world applications. The app’s only shortcoming in this area is that its learning value stems solely from user-generated AR; the content that comes with the app is mostly entertaining, not edifying.
The initial tutorial was, for the most part, all my students and I needed to get started. Nevertheless, I didn’t like that there is not a “help” section within the app, and assistance is even hard to find on the Aurasma site. Once you locate the resources section of the site, though, you’ll find useful support like the Aurasma guide and tutorial.
According to its developers, the Aurasma augmented reality (AR) app is the top AR platform in the world, with more than 70,000 users in 100 countries. Aurasma claims that it is the only mobile app that allows users to generate and share their AR experiences. The app allows users to create or view AR experiences by pointing a mobile device at a “trigger” (a photo or object) that has an “aura” (interactive experience featuring an animation, video, or image) attached to it.
Generally, the app is recommended for grades 6-12, but I tried it out in my 5th-grade English class without any problems. As long as your students know how to point and capture with a device, the rest will come naturally.
Photo credit: turkletom
When you open Aurasma, you can create an aura or choose a ready-made one. Try browsing the pre-created auras first, which are triggered by anything from the backs of $1 bills to the latest cover of GQ. Despite a disappointing disparity in quality among the ready-made Auras, they work well in whetting students’ appetites so they’ll want to create their own.
One of the pre-created auras calls for the trigger of a $20 bill. When my students pointed their devices at $20 bills, wowed gasps escaped from my class of otherwise “difficult to impress” 13-year-olds. The app showed a fireworks animation that brings the $20 bill to life while playing the national anthem.
To create an aura, users have to choose a trigger and an overlay. Users can pick from Aurasma’s library of overlays, select their own through the device photo library, or create one using the device’s camera. Once created, auras can be designated as public or private or shared with others.
Aurasma’s utility stems from its ability to engage students through technology and also add new dimensions to the learning experience. We know from neurological research that the more ways a concept is learned, the more dendritic — or memory — pathways are built, making the information easier to recall.
For example, we’re currently studying Shakespeare in my 7th-grade English class. I’ve noticed the students struggle with Shakespearean cadence when we read aloud in class. To help them, I created auras for some soliloquies that link to YouTube videos of scenes performed by a local production company. The students simply scan the page with their phones or iPads to trigger the Aura and watch the corresponding performance.
My students also participate more with Aurasma. For instance, I had each student pick a character from Shakespeare’s plays and bring in a poster describing that character. They also created an aura featuring video of a friend interviewing them as their chosen character. The posters then triggered these auras for the class to watch. My students went above and beyond with their character research to create a video their classmates would enjoy.
Aurasma’s closest competitor, the Layar Augmented Reality app, allows students and teachers to link digital content with print materials. As with Aurasma, you use it by creating videos or animations for triggers that you choose from pre-made content or from photos taken with your device. Layar is useful to educators and students in that it allows them to enhance many of the same materials — books, posters, maps, and photos — but it falls short in its versatility and accessibility.
As Tech Radar points out in its review, many of Layar’s offerings cost money to use, whereas Aurasma’s are free. Furthermore, Layar works only on printed materials, while Aurasma will also work on buildings and other 3D objects.
Other online education authorities agree with my favorable assessment of Aurasma. In the iTunes store, the current version of Aurasma has a rating of 4.5 out of 5 stars. Likewise, Graphite praised the app’s ability to “help kids make deeper, real-world connections” to curriculum and “liven up” classwork. Finally, Edutopia points out how Aurasma “brings learning to life” and deepens students’ understanding of concepts.
Many of my colleagues regard augmented reality with disdain, dismissing it as a fleeting fad. In reality (pun intended), AR is a fledgling but invaluable pedagogical tool, well-executed by Aurasma. Not only does Aurasma motivate students to engage in the learning process, but it adds extra dimensions to educational content in a way that cements concepts and encourages creative thinking.