Think Bigger

How big do you think?

What constraints limit your practice and how you think about education and learning?  Do you consciously try to reduce or remove those barriers and boundaries by being a learner?

change ahead smallAnd when you look at new things, new opportunities, what do you wonder about?  What’s your first question when you see something potentially disruptive to the status quo of schools?

I’ve written about boundaries before, but after ISTE 2013 it’s an appropriate topic to revisit.

I had the opportunity to spend Sunday in an augmented reality workshop featuring Aurasma.  If that’s new to you, Aurasma allows you to create augmented reality experiences by linking a target image (what you point your smartphone camera at) with an overlay (content that is displayed on your phone when the app recognizes what you are pointing your camera at).  The result of linking a target image to an overlay is called an aura (that term is specific to the Aurasma design environment).  To check out what an aura looks like, download the Aurasma app from iTunes (for an iphone or ipad) or for an Android device in Google Play and point it at the back of a US $20 bill.

Imagine being able link an image of an object (such as the face of a statue) with any type of content located in the cloud (such as a video of the person represented by the statue).  Imagine making any recognizable physical surface interactive with content from the Web (a thought from my good friend David Warlick).  Imagine doing the same with a “digital surface.”  (Note:  I’ll let you think about that one.)  Imagine creating a public channel in Aurasma so that every student in your school with a smartphone could access content in a completely new way.  And imagine when the Aurasma app is available on Google Glass. What could you do, what would you do, with this capacity?  More importantly, what could your kids do?

The educators in the workshop wanted to build scavenger hunts for kids.

OK, a starting point…but that can’t be the end point, right?  Why take this technology and retro it onto something that’s probably not really interesting for students in the first place, and certainly not pedagogically compelling?  And again, why not start with this question:  What could my students do with this technology?

There is a big difference between teachers using technology to teach with and students using technology to learn and create with.

Why scavenger hunt?  Why is that the starting point for thinking?  Why not wonder and dream about things never done before?  Where’s the imagination?

Also at ISTE, as you might imagine, iPad presentations were plentiful and probably rightly so.  It’s a great product, the penetration and use of the product is off the charts, and a lot of schools have jumped on board with implementations.  All the more reason to rekindle imagination and some new thinking, right?

Enter Bloom’s Taxonomy.  My question:  why create Bloom’s Taxonomy wheels (here, here, and here) that link iPad apps to the various levels of Bloom’s?

OK, again, a starting point…but where’s the new vision of learning?  Why retro an iPad and its apps onto an old framework?  And I know it’s comfortable and its known, and educators like Bloom’s, and its nice to have buckets to put things into…but…

Instead, why not focus on the true affordances of the device as a starting point:  1)  linking learners to learners everywhere, and 2) linking learners to information, resources, conversation, people and ideas.

How would you do that as an organization and learning community?  What does it look like?  What does it mean for student learning?

Start there and use design to build a new vision of a student learning experience.  Look forward.

We all can think bigger.

Making things better is good.  There is always room for improvement in what we have always done.  But the time for more is here.  In fact, it was here a while ago.

Education needs new starting points.

It’s time to do new.




  1. John Patten says:

    Hmmm… have it on my phone but have not had much time to play with it. So who ever captures the image of an object first gets the right to associate the choice of Aurasma? Little unclear on the concept?

    So I could take a picture of someone’s house and then associate an Aurasma and data with it? Anybody could then point their device at that house and see the data I associated with it? If this is the case, this sounds like a nice way of doing digital graffiti 🙂

    Or, I could see how kids could visit a Civil War cemetery and create Aurasmas for some of the fallen; contributing to the knowledge base of the community and learning as they go…


    • davidjakes says:


      The key is to create a public channel (you can have both public and private). If the channel is private, the target image and overlay is local to your phone. No one else could use the app to see your aura (the combination of target image and overlay). By creating a public channel (done through Aurasma Studio, free account at, anyone pointing the app at the target would see the overlay.

      Yes, you could do that in the cemetery, the only thing would be to have users download the app and indicate in someway the hotspots (target image) so they would know when to use the app.

      I like the idea of linking storytelling into augmented reality as a community service. Nice idea.

  2. Great post David. I agree there is a lot of potential for QR in education, in fact this blog has given me an idea I might develop before discussing (thanks in advanced). But my original thought is that there are earlier technologies that need to be fully utilised before we cement our thoughts on QR as the definitive destination. For example, media streaming only fully covers music and video at the moment and books should be fully accounted for for academics. Books play a major role in the development of young minds and we should focus our energy into a media (ebooks) which some still do not understand how easy it is to do so.

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