NOTE: This post is an expansion on an iBook I published a while back. I’ve used the AR app Aurasma to build and access the augmented reality layers in the Labrary for the last few years. To learn more about how to use Aurasma, check out their overview tutorial


The publishing world is struggling to develop a textbook distribution model that works well for schools. A quick survey of the digital textbook catalog shows that many titles are still not available. And when they are available, it’s often difficult to access and manage student access with logins and purchase codes.  As a result, some schools are hesitant to make a full transition to digital textbooks. This creates an enormous gap, as the primary mode of instruction remains years behind the student in whose hands the textbook resides!

The development of augmented reality (AR) apps has presented an incredible opportunity to elevate the state of the textbook without completely pushing them aside. In short, augmented reality allows you to easily create digital content that makes traditional textbooks more timely, informative, and engaging for your students.

With augmented textbooks, you can now have the best of analog and digital resources!


Not too long ago, I had the opportunity to work with one of our history teachers to augment the 9th grade history textbook. Working together, we identified content areas that could be expanded, and found digital resources to meet that need.

Using an iPad and the iOS app Aurasma, we built a series of interactive layers on top of the printed content. These layers lead to digital resources meant to provide context, push understanding, and increase overall engagement and comprehension. Here is a video showing an early version of one augmented chapter. Notice the combination of video, virtual buttons, and web links:

To create the hovering ‘Learn More’ buttons, I created a png image in Photoshop that I then imported as an image layer. Once it was added to the Aura, I added a hyperlink that leads to a webpage or video for further reading or exploration.

Here’s another example of an augmented biography of William Shakespeare, written by Aliki. We tried to provide some historical context to better understand the world of Shakespeare, and used the ‘Learn More’ buttons to lead readers towards exceptional examples of Shakespearean theater found on Youtube:

We also experimented with adding a layer at the end of each chapter that would lead to a Google Form to collect student reflections, questions, and understandings in order to better meet their individual needs.


Further Things to Consider

After reflecting a bit on this project, I’m wondering if there may be a way to build differentiated resources using a color coded system that helps students better navigate the links.

I would also be interested in experimenting with inviting students to create their own layers to resources that they found particularly instructive or engaging. Crowd-sourcing the creation of layers may further help create hybrid analog/digital textbooks that best support the learning of all students.

How are YOU using augmented reality in your class? I’d love to learn from your experiences! Please feel free to hit me up on Twitter or leave a comment below! 😄