Today, I made my first foray into the world of Augmented Reality. Nothing ambitious, but a fantastic way to hook the children into our literacy work for the week, and to pre-empt our alien Learnpad animations.
To be honest, the plans for the day escalated quite significantly, largely due to my childish nature and my love of a gimmick, but clearly the enthusiasm of the children and other adults contributed massively.
The initial plan was to show the children a very brief Augmented Reality clip of a spaceship on the playground, made with Action Movie FX. The Headteacher (HT) was roped in to share this video footage with the children, and that was a far as it was meant to go. However, over the weekend, I discovered Simitator, a website for creating fake tweets and Facebook conversations.
These proved to be a huge help today – more of that later. I created a tweet from the alien leader to the HT and a Facebook post between the aliens.
In my excitement, I shared these on Facebook, and so along came the next step from a friend: the Class Tools Breaking News website. In came David Cameron – our little video clip had turned into an issue of National Security!
The drama began at the end of assembly today, when the HT announced to the school that Year 4 would have to stay behind to receive some worrying, rather shocking news. The faces of the staff around the hall were fantastic, as there were actually a few I hadn’t managed to show my clips to! The HT was amazing – he created a whole back story, embellished with all kinds of anecdotes, and shared the social media and news images. The children were hooked – their faces ranged from disbelief to worry to amusement – we had it all! Sadly, due to his busy schedule, the HT didn’t have time to notify the parents, so we had to write the letters for him – what a responsibility!
This was where the lesson was supposed to end, but break time brought about some new revelations. The children spent the whole of break time looking for evidence. I was faced with a huge plastic bag full of rubbish, ranging from discarded fuel rocks to scorched moss from the vapour trail to plastic alien scales. Apparently, the “new” gouges on the playground had occurred where the spaceship had vanished, a (very faint) circle on the floor was caused by the blast, and supposedly smelled burnt if you got down on the floor and sniffed it! They scrutinised the wall where the spaceship disappeared, and found tiny pock marks, apparently from where it disintegrated into the wall! I have never been mobbed by quite so many children at the end of a break!
So as not to dampen their enthusiasm, I sent a group of children down to present their “evidence” to the HT… who swiftly appeared in the classroom looking extremely concerned, and joined them on the playground sniffing scorch marks! It seems this evidence was serious enough to warrant involving the Prime Minister, as thHT reappeared in the classroom a few minutes later in the middle of a phone call to Mr Cameron himself!
As the children finished their letters to their parents, they were all eager to contact the aliens directly to find out their intentions. It just so happened that I had 14×10 squared paper in the classroom – by sheer coincidence, the number of characters allowed in a tweet! So, they moved on to composing tweets to the Alien Leader, with the most detailed but succinct being chosen to send. At lunch time, the winning tweet was sent and, surprise surprise, a reply was received. The children were over the moon to have received a response directly from the Alien Leader.
Of course, at the end of the day, when the children all had their letter to take home to their parents, I did have to come clean – there were some real believers in the class, and it didn’t feel it fair to send them home without knowing the truth. But rather than being disappointed, they were all amazed at the amount of trickery involved. Many have gone home today wanting to download new AR apps.
Without doubt, this will be a day that I will not forget. Technology played an enormous part in it, but without willing and extremely enthusiastic adults and accepting children with wild imaginations, the technology would have meant nothing. I’m not sure it can ever be replicated, but I am certain that the children will remember today too. Hopefully, their alien animations will be all the more meaningful because of this experience; I can’t wait for phase 2 tomorrow!