Getting Started with Augmented Reality

Sarah Phillips attended the Informa conference last year, including a specific workshop on Augmented Reality (AR).

If you haven’t played around with some AR yet, now is the time to get started. It has been the topic of a couple of Emerging Technology Trials in 2010 and 2012.

A good app to try is Aurasma Lite which is free for iPad and Android. What you can do is create an image (or layer) to overlay onto a familiar object. Sarah demonstrated this to her colleagues here at eWorks with her business card, which she overlaid with a portrait photo of herself when pointing the device’s webcam at the card:

eWorks business card belonging to Sarah Philips, showing a picture of her on the right side

Sarah’s augmented business card

The clever part about this is that your layer gets stored in the cloud and you are provided with a link for sharing your layer with others. If you’re interested, you can find instructions on how to create your own AR layer with Aurasma.

Here is a list of other AR apps Sarah found to play with:

Enjoy!

3 Awesome Presentation Tools

PowerPoint and Keynote are not the only options for creating awesome presentations. There are some great tools out there waiting to be discovered. Three of them particularly caught our attention:

  1. Explain Everything is an app that allows you to do a presentation, write on it as you go and record your voice in sync with the slides. This video should convince you:

  2. Google Presentations works as part of Google Docs (now Google Drive); and as such you can create presentations online either by yourself or as a shared activity. You can easily import from PowerPoint and share your presentation to your class or audience via a simple link. Even better, it is completely device interoperable. Wonderful.
  3. Haiku Deck is a free iPad app that ensures you get more creative with your presentations. It focuses on the story rather than just adding text content to slides. It helps you use fewer words and combines these with images from the bank in Haiku Deck itself or from your own collection.

"So all we need to do is build an app and share it?"

Four children sitting around a table, interacting with an iPad

One of the challenges I have found in supporting e-learning projects is to figure out how to get them to complete and at the same time how to get the best shareable benefits for future e-learning activities. Projects done for the former Framework or the current VET E-learning Strategy are required to return and share their outcomes. This is so that other training providers can benefit from their findings and/or content and to save the wheel from continually being reinvented.

At the end of the recent induction morning for the E-learning for Participation and Skills funding, one of the participants comes to me with a question. He is a techie and good at his job and his question is “So all we need to do is build an app and share it?” He wants to make sure he meets all the project outcomes requirements. I said yes, but I now realise this answer needs qualification.

Sometimes apps get built that are organisation specific, in that they are integrated to the organisation’s student management system or LMS. When it comes to the end of the project the shareable app may exist but only in a form that integrates only with their system. They can make the code available but it has to be reworked and as such may not be all that helpful to other organisations. They may as well start again. (This is a similar issue to LMS outputs in a packaged form that can be shared vs. in the form of a whole course, as a sophisticated design does not easily package.)

For mobile projects it brings up the issue of designing for mobile: should organisations create an organisational-based app on which all their other apps are custom built, providing easy access and functionality, or should they customise generic apps that anyone can use and that do not reference any database or LMS of the original creator?

On one hand, the latter is better in terms of shareable project outcomes. On the other hand, the former is better for model development outcomes where the benefit is the story of how they went about embedding the new e-learning development activity. I am not saying either is better – in the past I think we have gotten too caught up in sharing content which leads to some of the shareability problems – when in fact the best outcome is the sharing of the development model in the context of their organisation. What matters is that projects need a clear goal at the start as to what they are offering and delivering.

Delivering both shareable content and learnings is rare. Usually project teams, often new to e-learning or fixed in old ways of thinking, can only deliver either a poorly developed learning resource or a model report. The best win-win for project outcomes is when a team delivers a learning resource (ie. a packaged learning object or generic app) that is highly shareable (rather than just technically shareable) and facillates sharing of the organisational model developed in the process.

Photo: NASA Visualization Explorer (iPad app), by NASA Goddard Photo and Video on flickr.

Wikis and Online Presence

While doing an online induction recently, for some of the latest round of the E-learning for Participation and Skills Project, I went on to Wikispaces to look at shared workspaces for projects. It seems to work well for collating knowledge into an easy and familiar place for educators (as well as getting them familiar with the learning advantages of wikis :-)).

Live-Chat window showing one message: 'Hi there! Thanks for dropping by. Can I help you in any way?'

Live-Chat with Marlene Manto

It was wonderful to see written in the bottom right hand corner of the screen “Marlene is Online”. It was Marlene Manto, the Strategy E-learning Coordinator for SA, who also provides technical support on Wikispaces for all teams. The new Wikispaces functionality opens a 1-on-1 chat with Marlene enabling instant personal support. Unfortunately, only one person can chat with Marlene – or whoever is available – at a time. However, in this age where we expect to see presence in online spaces as we do in Facebook, it is a terrific innovation that will translate well into teaching.

The functionality, called Live-Chat is provided by ClickDesk and integrates with a number of platforms including WordPress and Drupal, alas not Moodle just yet.

Wikispaces has also just released its app for the iPad. Until now, Live-Chat has not been working well on the device, although I was able to get it working in Skyfire.

To those in E-standards who are running the Emerging Technology Trials, you can take advantage of this functionality right now: E-standards are going one step further by getting projects to blog their progress as well as reporting into Wikispaces, taking advantage of the many features of blogging platforms that wikis cannot provide, and hopefully mixing content from blogs into wikis in some interesting and innovative ways.