Blipp-tastic AR Fun!

Photo Credit: milos milosevic via Compfight cc

Ever since I took this position as a tech integrator, I spend most of my time reflecting on whether or not the things I teach are truly integrated into our curriculum. Some of the many questions I ponder include, "Is it using tech for tech's sake?", "Does it change how or what students are learning?", or "Are they developing 21st century skills?". I came across the SAMR model for technology integration last year when I was still teaching Kindergarten, and it immediately helped me to think a little deeper about whether or not what I was doing was just "cool" or if it took learning to the next level. If you are unfamiliar with the SAMR model, it was developed by Dr. Ruben Puentedura, and there are many resources available on Kathy Schrock's Guide.

When using the SAMR model, I often wondered if a task was just at the level of 'Substitution', was that alright? Did I always have to teach "above the line"? These are questions I still think about to this day. I'm beginning to think that to strive to always hit 'Modification and 'Redefinition' every single time is HARD. I also think that if occasionally we integrate technology at a 'Substitution' or 'Augmentation' level, we shouldn't automatically feel bad for not pushing the envelope further. At the end of the day it all really depends on your objectives and if you met them. Sometimes technology doesn't always help you hit those objectives, in fact there are scenarios where technology might even hinder the process. For these reasons, reflection has become an even more important part of my job because I have to make these calls each time I walk into a meeting with a team to discuss how I can help enhance what they do in the classroom.

Augmented Reality Adventures

Augmented reality has hit education with a lot of excitement and increasing popularity. When I first came across it last year, I was immediately intrigued. As I discussed augmented reality with more educators working with lower elementary students, many of us, including myself, still weren't completely convinced about how this tool could truly be used in a way that was authentic to the learning of the youngest learners in our school community. In other words, many people felt they could still meet curriculum goals with or without it. Sure, I could use it to make learning more accessible to my students, but it involved very little hands-on creation on the part of the students. I knew that these reasons alone would be a deterrent for many teachers of early childhood to even want try it out.

Recently, an interesting opportunity presented itself to me, allowing me to continue my AR adventures! It began when I was contacted by Layar, an augmented reality app, because I had written a post about how I used their app in my Kindergarten classroom last year. In June 2014, Layar joined forces with Blippar and they wanted to see if I would be interested in trialing BlippBuilder as a platform for augmented reality in education. Blippar is currently working on specific features tailored to education that will be launched in early 2015. BlippBuilder and additional features will be free for educators, and campaigns created with Blippar will not expire.

As someone who has tried out Aurasma in the classroom, I was eager to see how Blippar could possibly rival Aurasma, an augmented reality app that has already made its way into schools around the globe.

Blipp-tastic Fun!

I started out by playing with the BlippBuilder and learning its different functions. I found that I could easily upload a marker image. Then with their simple drag and drop platform, I added buttons on top of this image, and gave each button an action or command that it would do when tapped. Each of these buttons could also be animated. This initial experience, led me to think about how I often use technology to allow students to show their learning and understanding in a variety of ways, for instance in math. Students often demonstrate their understanding by explaining their thinking on how to represent numbers or solve problems. Take a look at my first attempt at creating a blipp about the number 13.

When I had finished this, I thought it was pretty cool. The scan was stable and best of all, I didn't have to follow a channel in order to scan it, I just needed to have the app!

As cool as this was, I wondered about how to involve our younger students in this process more. The interface of the BlippBuilder is quite simple, but perhaps still a little complex for the little ones. It is possible though that with some guidance, it could be slowly introduced.

What struck me was that I could create my own buttons by uploading images. THIS was where I saw some potential in involving younger students! What if they were shown an example of a blipp, but told they could design their own blipp. Everything from the marker image, all the way to the buttons and the function of each button could be student created with pencil and paper or another tool of their choice. This would draw on so much thinking and creativity! Perhaps they could even go through the design cycle as they plan their blipp and test ways to create functions for each button. If they wanted to attach a video to the button, they would have to think about how to create the video and what tools to use. The same thinking would occur for an audio clip or an image. They could test out their blipps with their peers and get feedback to continue adding to or improving their blipp.

I decided to redo my blipp, and this time I created my marker image and three of my buttons using pencil and paper.I chose to draw because I put myself in the shoes of a Kindergarten student, this is one of the most accessible creation tools at this age and probably the most comfortable too. I also added two more buttons to show you some other features of the BlippBuilder. Finally, I added an introduction video which I took in front of a green screen. Using the chroma filter function, I took out my background so that you could still see the marker image behind me. Finally, I adjusted the animations of each button to fall onto the screen as I mentioned each in my introduction. Take a look!

A great function illustrated in this video is the 'peel away' function, allowing for viewers not have to hover over the marker image after scanning it. There are some other interesting features such as the ability to take a photo of or with a blipp. If you'll notice in the video, there were three small icons at the bottom, one of which was a camera. If you wanted to get creative, you could use this tool to get viewers to take selfies with your blipp, for instance, and make it a truly interactive experience! ;) Here's an illustration of one way you could make your blipps interactive using the camera.

 Comparing Tools

When all is said and done, I had to ask how this tool was different from Aurasma. So I tried to create the same thing using Aurasma Studio. Here's what I found with Aurasma in comparison to BlippBuilder:

  • Aurasma did not allow me to attach just an audio clip, only video

  • I could not add buttons to trigger different actions

  • Videos played automatically upon scanning

  • All overlays hovered above the trigger image once scanned without the need for a tap to start

  • You must maintain holding the device over the trigger image in order to view

  • Must follow a channel before you can scan

  • You create simple Auras on an iPad, where BlippBuilder functions only on a browser

Here is the same creation using Aurasma, I could only add three overlays beacause there was no function to create a poll or audio clip. I also was not able to use the buttons I made, rather the overlays appear immediately. This could be a good or a bad thing depending on what you are trying to do! :)


I am excited about the possibilities of Blippar for education, and how simple it is with drag and drop features for creation. One thing I do wish was possible was the ability to create on a device like an iPad. I tried to start creating a Blipp through the browser on my iPad but was unable to because of the lack of Flash. If this drag and drop platfrom could be brought to touch screen devices, it would definitely open up so many more possibilities for the little ones. Blippar explains that their reason for not moving into mobile devices for creation is to maintain high quality blipps. I can see where they are coming from as I have had much more trouble scanning Auras that I create on the iPad than when I use Aurasma Studio.  I look forward to trialing this exciting tool with my students!

I think that sometimes learning about and understanding a program or an app can inspire valuable learning, as Blippar has done for me.  I feel that the creation of a blipp would allow students to not just meet their curriculum standards and benchmarks, but to also problem solve and foster creativity. What do you think? Is it necessary to always begin from curriculum, when integrating technology or can we sometimes let technology inspire us?

Thank you Blippar for letting me trial BlippBuilder! :) If you would like to trial BlippBuilder at your school, contact Blippar directly at their new website, Blippar for Education.