Tech-i-ya 6.2—Augmenting Our Realities

Adrian A. Durlester

layarImagine, if you will, a poster in your classroom (or one being displayed on your smartboard or monitor) of a particular prayer or blessing in Hebrew text. Now imagine pointing the camera on your iPad, iPhone, or Android phone or tablet at the poster, and a video pops up of you reciting the prayer in Hebrew as the words flash along below.

Imagine a poster/picture of Yithak Rabin, and when you or a student (or a parent) holds up their iPhone, iPad, or android phone or tablet and a video about the life and legacy of Rabin starts playing. Imagine a printed or on screen poster of some piece of Torah text that, when you hold your phone or tablet up to it plays a video of that same text being chanted. Imagine print-outs of scanned copies of students’ drawings illustrating a biblical story or a theological question that play a video of the student explaining their drawing when you hold up your phone or tablet when its camera lens focuses on the pictures?

You don’t have to imagine it. It’s a reality. It’s called “augmented reality.” It’s a technique that is already in widespread commercial use. Companies are adding augmented reality to their print and online catalogues, using them at display kiosks at conventions. Disney has used it in promotions for merchandise for Frozen, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Nabisco used it in an Oreo promotion, and Budweiser beer cans and packaging used augmented reality promotions. IKEA now uses augmented reality in their catalogs to allow you to place pictures of their furniture in your own room (superimposing their image over the live image of your room on your phone or tablet.) Google Sky Map was an early form of this technology and Google Glass was one of the first major device-specific uses of AR technology. Now many museums and historical sites use AR to enhance the visitor experience. With advances in smartphone and tablet technology, these technologies are easily implemented without the need of a dedicated device like Google Glass.

This same technology is available to use in the classroom. Best of all, you can use it (albeit with some limitations) for free, with the incredible Aurasma app. The possibilities are almost unlimited. Have students make videos of each other defining and using some words. Print these words out on cards with the embedded video code, and voila! Or instead of video explanations, you can actually embed a video of the thing the word defines. For example, the word for dog could have a video of a cute little dog playing embedded in it. Interactive notebooks are all the rage these days. Imagine an interactive notebook that also includes augmented reality capabilities. Imagine scavenger hunts in the synagogue or school, or even the community.

All of this is just the tip of the iceberg. There are AR browsers like Layar, Wikitude, and Wikihood that allow you to point your phone or tablet at a historical building and learn more about it (or of course, if it’s a store, what’s on sale.) You can see historical views of the site where you camera is pointed. There are specialty AR browsers like WordLens that will translate text from any sign or poster where you point your phone or tablet. Google acquired it last year and it is now a feature in Google Translate. Microsott offers a similar feature on Bing called Skype Translate. (You do know that Google and Skype translate can already translate live audio using conversation mode. Before Google acquired WordLens, you had to take a picture to have it translate text. Now, it can do the translation in real-time on your phone or tablets display.)

You can buy AR flashcards (though no one has yet created, to my knowledge, Hebrew vocabulary or letter flashcards with embedded AR.)

Marker-based AR works by embedding code within an image (sort of like embedding a QR or bar code into an image) or by sensing a code placed on an object. Location-based AR uses GPS and other information from your device to allow it to superimpose the information on your live image. 3-D AR allows an image to be floated over your live image (like the IKEA app.)

There are already books with built in AR, but you can turn any book into an AR book, by adding, pasting, or otherwise attaching markers to pages. The most basic form of AR simply utilizes printed out QR codes on Post-It notes to link content with a video or audio link. However, the rapidly advancing technology makes far more sophisticated possibilities available to even the most non-tech-savvy user.

Some applications of AR take a lot of advance and post work by the teacher. Other uses are quick and easy to implement—it just depends on what you would like to do.

There is no shortage of augmented reality apps that can be used in education. The grandaddy of AR apps is Aurasma. You can find links to 32 useful AR apps in 32 Augmented Reality Apps For The Classroom From Edshelf on TeachThought.

The Augmented Reality in Education wiki is a great place to learn about AR.

The Two Guys and Some iPads blog offered this article about potential uses of AR in education a few years back.

Some apps are free, or have a free level and a paid level. Other apps must be purchased from the app stores.

If you’re not up on AR, then you’re behind the curve. Many of these articles and others on AR are already two years old or older!

The folks at Augment, another AR developer, recently posted information about obtaining a free license to use their products in educational settings.

There are a few developers out there creating AR for the Jewish education market. One of them is ConverJent creators of the Jewish Time Jump: NY game. Mapping Ararat, a project dedicated to exploration of a long-abandoned project from 1825 to turn Grand Island, NY in the Niagra River just south of Niagra Falls into a refuge for Jews uses AR to help people imagine and explore the site online.

Are you already using AR in your teaching? Tell us about it so we can share it. What other new apps, online resources, software, etc. have you discovered? I’d love to hear from you and maybe share your discoveries in a future column. You can reach me at I also blog and tweet as @migdalorguy, @yoeitzdrian and @havanashira. On Google+ I’m +AdrianDurlester. You can find me on Facebook, LinkedIn, or my website You can also find me on Reddit, Instagram, and other social media platforms as migdalorguy. What can I say? I like lighthouses.

That’s all for this edition of Tech-i-ya. I look forward to bringing you more useful websites, tools, apps, and technology ideas

​Adrian A. Durlester is the Music Teacher at Solomon Schechter Day School of Greater Hartford, a technology geek, digital naturalized citizen, and the resident gadfly on JedLab.