Augmented reality is making music come to life in a Kentucky elementary school. And it could help a music teacher show that her students really do learn.
This type of reality mixes physical objects with technology to make pictures talk, in this case. At a technology conference in Kentucky's Bullitt County Public Schools, music teacher Rebecca Dennis learned about Aurasma, an augmented reality app that ties printed pictures to digital objects such as videos. She quickly came up with several ideas for how to use the app at Cedar Grove Elementary School this year.
"I want the kids actively involved in music making, and this gives me a chance to display work in the hallway and actually feel like it's authentic learning," Dennis said.
Her school requires teachers to post student work in the hallway and list the Common Core Standards requirements that it satisfied. Last year, she posted pictures of students with instruments.
But this year, she's recording 45-second videos of their best work and using a picture as a trigger to play the videos. Here's how it works.
In the hallway, Dennis posts papers that include a picture of the students, the standards they met, the learning targets and a QR code. Next to them, she posts instructions on how to access the hidden videos.
First, download Aurasma, which doesn't cost anything. Then scan the QR code with a QR reader app on a phone or tablet. This code pulls up the Cedar Grove Music channel in Aurasma, which she set to private. After following her channel, open the app, point a phone or tablet at the picture and watch the video through the screen.
Parents, other teachers and administrators can't always be in class when students are playing music. This gives them a chance to hear students play on a regular basis and helps Dennis show that her students are really learning.
"Sometimes, especially in music where you're the only person in the school doing what you do, you just kind of feel isolated and misunderstood. No one understands," Dennis said. "I think a lot of times special area teachers are just considered babysitters, but actual learning takes place in here too. So I hope that some of these videos can show what complicated music I can actually get them to accomplish."
Her kindergarten through fifth-grade students play xylophones and metallaphones, musical instruments with tuned metal bars that students can strike. They sing, speak, dance and move around in class as they make music. And just in the short time that Dennis started recording videos for the hallway papers, she's already seen them change their behavior.
"I've noticed that the kids are trying more in the classroom," Dennis said. "They want their video to go in the hallway. And I said, 'Well, I'm not going to record it unless you're all trying your best -- every single one of you. Everyone's singing, everyone's playing their instrument.'"
Dennis has big ideas for Aurasma this year.
In her classroom, Dennis plans to tie instrument posters on the wall to videos of musicians playing those instruments through the app. That way, students can see how to play the instrument and what they should sound like.
On Tuesday, Dennis will present Aurasma at a faculty meeting. And after brainstorming with a yearbook staff member, she hopes the school yearbook will be interactive this year. Teachers' pictures could trigger goodbye videos they put together. Choir or ensemble pictures could show concerts. And sports teams could have a highlight reel.
"Technology is amazing how fast we're advancing to things that we thought would never be possible."