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Monday, January 27, 2014

App Review: colAR Mix

Want to take your Writing Workshop to the next level?! Try using colAR Mix! ColAR Mix is a 3D Coloring Book App that uses augmented reality (AR). This means that it combines layers of digital content combined with your actual environment using the camera feature on your iOS device, creating a virtual reality on your screen. Technical definition aside, it is a whole lot of awesome! We've talked about AR in a school setting using the app Fetch! Lunch Rush for math, and we want to share how you can use AR in your writing academics by using colAR Mix!

How does colAR Mix work?
ColAR Mix is a free app (with in-app purchases) that uses pre-made coloring sheets to make coloring pages come to life through AR. They offer free coloring pages, as well as 2 different packs of coloring sheets that can be used with the in-app purchases of $2.99 for each.  After coloring the page using any medium you'd like, you then open the colAR Mix app and hold your iOS device over the coloring page, using your camera to scan the picture.  The picture you made will then 'come to life' on your screen, utilizing animations and sounds that the developer has set in the app. Each coloring page does something a little different, and in my opinion some pages are much 'cooler' than others to see. Within the app you have the option to zoom in and out of your image, pause the image, take a picture of your 3D image to your device's camera roll, turn the sound on and off, and if you tilt the angle of your iOS device you can see your image from many angles, including what it looks like from the back!

First, color your page carefully! Some pages have a lot of detail so set aside a large amount of time!

Scan your page with the colAR Mix app. Make sure to try different angles. We put the page on the floor to make for easier viewing. Be prepared, after viewing it in the app you may want to go back and add more detail and color!

Here is a close up of the fish picture. You can see how the app turned the fish into a 3D image onto our breakfast table!

We also had fun interacting with the images. Here he is trying to grab the butterfly flying on the screen. Fun!!

Some Thoughts on This App

  • This app gains shelf life due to the many options of coloring pages available, and the fact that its fun to go back and change something about your picture to see how it affects the AR image.
  • Try to get the 'extension' packs for free if you can.  Right now the free sheets are all holiday images except for 1 bird picture, which is great for before the holidays but not so great now.  I decided to go with the Dover pack, just because many of the coloring pages in that pack match up the themes that I have throughout the year.
  • The app itself is a little buggy. Now that is subject to change all the time, but there are many reviews that are complaining about this recently. The only issue I had this weekend is that 3 of the coloring pages didn't have sounds when we scanned them with the app. The sound isn't necessary, but it definitely adds to the effects and coolness factor!
  • Use brighter, vivid colors.  This weekend I had help demoing this app from a 5 year old and a bunch of adults (we will keep our ages a secret!) We used color pencils mostly--colAR Mix recommends not having any colors that are too dark close to the drawing's outlines, as this will mess with the AR ability.  I thought color pencils are typically lighter and would make a good choice. While we didn't have any issues with the app not reading it, I feel like the colors could have been a lot brighter and more vivid. This would add some extra visual appeal, not needed but helpful.  I'd recommend using neon colored markers or a large box of crayons with many color options.  Still stay away from the really dark colors by the outlines though, it'd be a bummer if you went through all that trouble and it didn't work.  And yes, the adults were equally excited and mesmerized to see what happened with their coloring page as was my fantastic Kindergarten helper! This app is fascinating-there is no doubt about that!
  • The pictures aren't necessarily for little people. Which can be a good or a not so good thing when you think about it. This app should still appeal to middle and even secondary students due to the content of the coloring pages not being too childlike.  However, when looking at it through my Kindergarten lens, there were a few pictures that I wasn't a big fan of as it isn't really what my K students are 'into'. There is a person, but she is wearing a cut off belly shirt-not something I'm into promoting with 6 year-olds.  A suggestion for the developer would be to offer coloring packs that incorporate a wider range of coloring pages themes. I know not everyone wants a puppy, but it would make me more willing to spend 2.99 on something if I knew I could broaden the age appeal. Which brings me to my next thought...
  • A science or social studies pack would be AWESOME! To be able to tie in those standards in a fun way that spans many grade levels would be super helpful for schools and teachers.  Think solar system, community helpers, animal kingdom...the possibilities are endless. I should mention that they do have a bird, butterfly, fish, dragonfly, pony, shark and dinosaur in the Dover pack (this is the one I purchased).
Here at The Techie Teachers we are all about using technology to amp up our academics, not just for fun and games. And while coloring has its own fine motor skills and calming effects, we want a little more out of this app for it to make it into our classrooms. So what do we do?! Take it to the next level! The app itself provides the engagement into the activity, now all you have to do is figure out the activity. For me, it is within my writers workshop. 

I read online about how some upper grade teachers let their students choose which coloring page they wanted to do and the students then had to do a creative writing piece. Check out their article here, it sounds like an awesome project! However, for Kindergarten this is a little too vague and open-ended, as we are just learning about the writing process. So I decided to tie in some of our writing and speaking standards by creating a reporting sheet for the students to fill out, narrowing the possibilities but focusing our content and learning. 

In a few weeks we will do a week long theme of dinosaurs. This is always a huge hit with all of my students and I love it too! In the Dover pack there is a dinosaur that the students can color and bring to life.  I decided that each student will get a copy of the dinosaur coloring page and they can color it however they'd like.  To tie it in with our writers workshop they will also each need to create a report about their dinosaur. This will be a fictional report, with the students naming their dinosaur, describing what it likes to eat, where it lives, and what makes it special. We will then share our reports in small groups, first describing our dinosaur with our reports and then showing it on an iPad. I don't know yet if I can project the AR images from the app onto my SmartBoard, I will let you know. If so, it would be neat to have the image projecting to the whole class as they read their reports aloud to the class. This activity allows my students to work on our district's Writing Benchmarks, as well as Benchmarks for Speaking, Viewing, Listening and Media Literacy

If this goes well, which I anticipate it going REALLY well, the Dover pack contained pages that I can do a similar activity during my insect, ocean or farm week.  I'd like to have more images for the students to choose from and then have them write an informational report on the coloring page (ie 5 different ocean animals that could lead to small group research papers) but we will make do with what we have and hopefully the developer will take our feedback and add some more images to help make it more education user friendly!

Overall, we are fans of colAR Mix and think it is a great app to add to your teaching tool box!! Let us know how you are using, or plan to use, colAR Mix in your classroom by leaving us a comment or link below! We'd love to hear more ideas!

1 comment:

  1. I learned about this app at a Tech Professional Growth Day at school... excited that it was free! But am I understanding this correctly? It's free, the coloring pages are free... but the only way to get them to animate is to spend the 2.99 per pack?