Having been a fan of all this augmented reality for some years now, the AR flashcards from Octagon Studio caught my eye late last year. At the time, I couldn’t source any (cheaply) in Dubai but after seeming them for myself at BETT Middle East (courtesy of Denaster) I managed to get my hands on three sets of these awesome cards. These flashcards do what all AR does, in that you scan them with the relevant app and digital content comes to life from them on the screen, and they do it really, really well. The inclusion of sound and various interactive elements elevates these learning tools above many other AR platforms. I have three sets – Dinosaur 4D+ This pack includes 21 cards which feature a range of animated dinosaurs coming to life in front of your eyes. I really love the interactive elements of this pack – you can strip the dinosaurs down to their skeletons, bring up on screen facts and even switch to a drive mode and use an onscreen thumbstick to navigate the dinosaur around the screen and as such the real world space they appear in. It’s pretty cool to have a T-Rex walk across your desk!
You can access mini-factfiles on each beast complete with the 3D models and a globe showing where they lived. Added to this is an integrated VR mode wherein you can either view the AR content through a VR headset in situ or select from one of several panoramics with the 3D models in a more natural setting.
Space 4D+ This set includes the planets, Sun, Moon and other key space themed objects like the International Space Station, the Mars Rover and many more. There are 37 cards in the pack so it really is a bumper set. The VR mode option is present again here as is the ability to view the image in quadrants for a holograms style view (Dinosaur 4D+ has this too.) There are some lovely animations on these cards, from orbiting planets to the launch sequence for the Apollo 15-17 Mission.
Animal 4D+ This is a collection of 26 animals, from A-Z (crafty use of Queen Bee for Q!) The models are animated and complete with sound effects. VR mode is absent from this set but the mini-factfiles are present.
The pack that I got also came with five additional food cards which can be used to interact with the animals in AR – for example if you put the bananas next to the monkey he will take one, peel it and start to eat. Very cool.
Playing the Cards Right When I started putting this together, I decided that I wanted to do more than just outline what the cards did, I wanted to provide some suggestions on how to actually use them for teaching and learning. Something like this can easily be seen as a gimmick but like most forms of edtech, it all comes down to how you harness it. So let’s run down a cluster of ways that the Octagon Studios cards could be used in a classroom. Integrate into a Multimedia Project All of the apps that go with the cards incorporate a screen capture tool so an image including the AR content can be saved to the camera roll and imported into another app. Students could produce a full multimedia project about one of the animals/planets/dinosaurs using an app like Book Creator to collate and present the content. Even better - have one student take a card each and create pages on their chosen topic then merge the books to create a whole class book.
Creative Writing Stimulus I’m a huge fan of using engaging tech like this as a hook for creative writing. The pitch could be that a miniature dinosaur is found in the classroom or that a science experiment goes wrong and all the animals are shrunk. Plenty of scope for imaginative writing right there. You could even take a screenplay approach and write the next blockbuster movie.
Independent Research Tools The integration of the facts within each app means that the cards could be used as a part of a classroom display and used for independent research alongside more traditional tools like non-fiction books. Alphabet Animals Since the animal cards are alphabetised, they could be integrated into the EYFS classroom as a part of phonics learning. Many classes will have a sound or letter of the week - well now they can have an animal of the week too! It could even become the class mascot for the week.
AR Adaptations Both the animal and dinosaur cards provide a great tool for learning about physical adaptation. Students can rotate the animals and inspect them to identify the different ways that they are adapted to survive in their habitat. To take things further, the image could be imported into an annotation platform and labelled.
Comparing Dinosaurs You can actually scan more than one card at a time. This means that you can have two dinosaurs next to each other and compare them. A great opportunity for speaking and listening as well as potential for broadening the use of comparative language.
Want to take this concept to another level? One of my favourite TED Talks is from palaeontologist Jack Horner and focuses on how several types of dinosaur may have in fact been the same creatures at different times of the lifecycle. The video could form the launching point and the Dinosaur 4D+ cards could then be used to analyse the evidence.
The Octagon Studios 4D+ cards can be purchased from all the normal online shopping platforms or directly from their website - www.octagonstudio.com/4d/en where you can also download some sample cards to try with the apps for free.