Wednesday, August 28, 2013

AR & TLAP -- Taking Teaching to New Heights!

So, a few months ago I had a dream...  Dave Burgess (@burgessdave) , Drew Minock (@techminock) and Brad Waid (@techbradwaid) weren't necessarily in it...but the three of them were the reason behind it... Before your mind wanders in the wrong directions..... here's what happened:

I don't remember anything about the dream, but I do remember waking myself up saying "ARRRRR" in a deep voice. After I came to my senses, I quickly started laughing, realizing that I was now officially obsessed with Teach Like A Pirate (TLAP) and Augmented Reality (AR). Of course, mixing the two together in a dream doesn't sound THAT outlandish - not to someone who's obsessed!!  :)

However, it wasn't just in my dreams that these two educational Twitter hot topics could be connected. The reason that both of these topics appeal to me so much is because they can be used in a variety of ways. To me, using Augmented Reality IS teaching like a pirate. Dave Burgess says pirates "are daring, adventurous, and willing to set forth into uncharted territories with no guarantee of success." Teachers who try out new methods, such as using Augmented Reality, are without a doubt pirates.

(At this point, if you aren't sure WHAT Augmented Reality is or how it can be used as an effective teaching tool, please check out Brad and Drew's site: More information on TLAP and AR, can be found at the bottom of this post....)

If you know me, you know I like diving into uncharted waters. So when I first learned about the possibilities of Augmented Reality, I decided to jump in the deep end.  Although it was a few weeks before school, I began planning for Open House --- an Open House that I didn't want the students or their families to forget!

In July, I watched Angela Maiers's Ted Talk and fell in love with #YouMatter. I wrote two simple letters to my future students, and my team and I sent the YOU Matter letter to the students a few days before Open House. You can find the letters in this post :)  It's funny I actually mention both TLAP and AR in that post!

Anyway, in the envelope we also included a postcard that "came to life." We sent out a letter and postcard to each student the Friday before Open House. Here are the directions that I put in the letter and here's the front of the postcard.

AR Postcard Directions 
(Original Work by David Lane)
Using Aurasma, I created a very short aura that introduced the teachers and invited the students to Open House. This was my first attempt at using Augmented Reality and, after I got it to work, I wanted more!

So, after the letters were in the mail, I continued to plan for Open House and I decided to create an Augmented Reality tour for our students and their families.  Our building is HUGE and the fifth graders, who are new to the school, are typically wide eyed and very intimidated at Open House. So, I hoped that the AR tour would calm their fears for the first day!

I work with two other teachers, so the three of us each did a segment of the tour. The first trigger was of the following poster. I had two of the same poster in our 'middle room' so many students/families could use the trigger at the same time.

Appropriate Quote huh? :)
This first aura started at our classrooms and highlighted the computer lab, library and most importantly, the restrooms :) The aura ended at the next trigger, which is an mural painted by our school's art teacher, David Lane. I couldn't believe that the mural actually worked, but it did! This part of the tour focused on the Office, Nurse's Station, etc.

Original Work by David Lane
Again, the second aura ended at the last trigger, which was another HUGE mural painted by the same incredible art teacher. The final aura was comprised of a short tour that identified the gym, cafeteria, music room and art room. It ended with a special message from our school's principal welcoming the students and their families. He made sure to end his message saying that he couldn't wait to see the students at school on Wednesday!

Close Up...
(Original Work by David Lane)

A little farther back...
(Original Work by David Lane)
I had several comments from parents and students about the AR postcard and how they had never seen ANYTHING like that before! This was the first thing many people said when I met them. "Hi, my name is Jacob and I loved the postcard!" It was a great first impression. Of course, I went on to welcome them and point out the Augmented Reality tour that we set up :)

 Many of the kids showed their parents how to use the app, even though I only sent directions and never actually 'showed them' how to use it (Kids are so smart! :) There definitely was a different buzz at Open House because of AR :) The students were working together, they were teaching the adults and I just sat back, watched and smiled!

It's kind of ironic. I actually got more comments about the AR postcard and tour than I did about the You Matter letter.....way to go AR! ;) But to me, the main point was to generate excitement for the school year. I not only wanted to let the students know how much they mattered to us, but I wanted them to see first hand that we will go out of our way to create experiences that are unique for them.

After the 5th grade Open House was over, I ventured out into the hallway to find several people surrounding the 2nd trigger holding up their phones in 'camera mode.' I, of course, then spent the next 30 minutes or so spreading the Augmented Reality love to parents and students not on our team. I'm hoping that we will be able to do a few school-wide Augmented Reality projects this year. The interest is definitely there!

Lesson # 29 - The greatest rewards in life go to the greatest risk takers. -Jim McCormick 

(In TLAP language: The richest hidden treasure will go to the pirates who risk life and limb for success :)

So, thanks to AR, our incredible ideas can take flight....
Created with the colAR app 
And, like these pirates, we can take our students to new heights :)
Pirates are everywhere - even the Ohio State Fair!

I know that I had never been so excited for the school year to begin, and I hope the kids felt the same way! I'm looking forward to continuing my use of AR in the classroom and trying every day to Teach Like A Pirate :)

I really need to thank Drew and Brad for being very helpful and hands on. Both helped answer many questions dealing with the tour and postcard. Thank you for your patience and for being my AR heroes!

I also need to thank my colleague, David Lane, for not only being an amazing artist, but for playing a huge role in helping me with the triggers and overlays too! He has jumped on the AR bandwagon and will be instrumental in helping me take AR to the school level!

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn't thank Dave Burgess. Thank you so much for being someone we can all look up to, even if you aren't on stilts!


Thanks for reading,

If you would like more information on Teach Like A Pirate go to and follow @daveburgess, and #tlap on Twitter. 

If you're interested in Augmented Reality, don't forget to follow @Techbradwaid, @Techminock, @2GuysShow,  #AR, #AugmentedReality,  #TwoGuysShow, @aurasma, and @layar. And be sure to check out the amazing site :) 

Monday, August 12, 2013

Words and Actions - An Earthshaking Combination

Before reading this post, I must give a little background on the Tunguska Meteor Blast.

 “In the early morning of June 30, 1908 in the Tunguska river valley of Siberia, an earthshaking event so powerful occurred that it was felt over 1000 miles away in London. The estimated power of this air burst is calculated to be 1000 times more powerful than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

The Tunguska meteor knocked people off their feet and shattered windows hundreds of miles away. –

“This is often considered to be the loudest single-event in history. “–Written by Jamie Frater on

Now…onto my post:

Words and Actions – an Earthshaking Combination:

“Actions speak louder than words” is a phrase we’ve all used. But today, I ponder the question, “Can actions and words together produce a sound that is louder and has an impact greater than the Tunguska Meteor?” 

Words Matter

On July 5, I published a post that received 16 views in its first month. (You can access the link here.) In the post I included links to two letters I wrote to my future students. It took me roughly 15 minutes to write both - my audience was 52 ten year olds I had yet to meet.

The letters were inspired by Angela Maiers’ Ted Talk. Her messages that,  “You Matter” and that “You’re a Genius” resonated with me so much that I had to act. I had to stop what I was doing and tell those in my life that they mattered to me. After I said those words, I had conversations that I hadn’t had in years. Those two small words are powerful. Like the Tunguska Meteor, they shook my world. It was obvious to me to me that WORDS MATTER – but this was just the beginning…

After sharing the letters with Angela, she decided to post them on her blog that has just a slightly bigger following than mine. ;) The post is titled “Two Letters That All Students Should Receive.”  Incredibly, in five years of blogging and in less than a week of being published, this post has received the most views and shares to date on her blog. As of today, 12,500 people have viewed the post. In awe, I watched as tweet after tweet, comment after comment rolled in about the letters.  The comments that meant the most were the ones stating that other teachers were eager to write letters of their own to their students. My world was shaken yet again.

Just yesterday, Angela wrote another post, this time on, entitled “Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grade Teacher?” Again, she shared some of the words I wrote to my students, but this time she encouraged those beyond the field of education to carry on her message. Angela says it so succinctly in her Ted Talk, “Mattering is a DNA thing.” Every single human being wants to feel significant. Every single human being wants to feel that his or her contribution can make a difference. No matter your field, no matter your title, YOU have the power to share this message!

Actions Matter

As the school year approaches, and my teammates and I prepare to send the letters, I reflect on this experience. The simple act of putting my words online reached many more eyes than I intended. However, the readers can choose to read the words and forget, or they can choose to read the words and ACT!

We can say the phrase “You Matter” to the students every day, but if we don’t LIVE out those words daily by actively showing the students that we truly believe in each individual child, the words will die quickly.

Technology has created a web of interconnectedness that is revolutionary. Who knows how many students will receive letters that include the phrases “You Matter” and “You’re A Genius.” This was all possible because Angela SHARED her genius from the Ted stage and in turn gave me inspiration for the letters. This was possible because she SHARED the letters with her much larger audience of readers. This was possible because other educators will choose to ACT by writing letters of their own to students who may never have heard those empowering and inspirational words before!

Now, am I implying that my two letters shook the Earth? Absolutely not! However, WORDS MATTER and ACTIONS MATTER. Together they can be earthshaking, and the sound that results will be much louder than any sound either could produce individually.

So, what words will you speak today?  What actions will you perform? Choose carefully! Because like the Tunguska Blast- 

Your words and the conversations that follow may be an incredibly important event that occurs in another person’s life.

Your actions may knock people off their feet thousands of miles away!

And most importantly, TOGETHER we may just rock the world!

Lesson # 28:  We must be intentional with the words we choose to say and the actions we choose to perform.  We must Choose2Matter!

What are your thoughts on this topic? Please leave a comment below or contact me on Twitter (@KressClass)

Thanks for reading,