Using Augmented Reality in the EFL Classroom

Csilla Jaray-Benn's picture

Speaker: Stephen Pilton (King’s Education, Oxford)

Using Augmented Reality in the EFL Classroom

Stephen Pilton’s opens his talk by asking us to imagine we are students at his language school in Oxford. We can see different images moving on the screen; a poster advertising the language programmes at his school, a music club and a local café. He then takes us to a page from The Lizzie Bennet Diaries (US drama based on Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice) and finally to a student worksheet with gap-fill exercises on phrasal verbs. All very different types of information, but all related to student life at the language school. The information itself is not new, but the way it is presented is absolutely ground-breaking.

So how does this happen? Stephen doesn’t press any buttons, he just points his iPad at the screen and the magic happens: images start moving, before they transform into videos where we see students singing at the music club or having a coffee in the café; the correct answers appear in the gap-fill exercises, and as he points his iPad at the reading text, a video begins to play.

This is augmented reality, where we superimpose videos over images to take the viewer into an imagined, but real-life setting. The technique is based on the principle of overlaying three elements: text, audio and image.

As Stephen explains, augmented reality is everywhere, but the question, is how can it be used in the language classroom? As the examples above show, this technique can be used for developing reading skills, for building vocabulary and for listening tasks.

Stephen goes on to demonstrate other examples of augmented reality tasks. He shows us a scene in a supermarket where we listen to the teacher’s voice modelling a typical conversation. Another innovative activity is an ‘augmented reality treasure hunt’, designed by the students themselves. This is where students create a ‘street’ by sticking pictures of places from their city around the classroom. As they walk down the ‘street’, they can find out information about specific places in the form of video or text by pointing their device at a sign, or a particular building. Stephen suggests students find this activity very engaging. Finally, Stephen shows us an image of a street today superimposed over an image of the same street in the past.

To create augmented reality images we need two things: an app called AURASMA, which is free and works without registration, and access to the Aurasma Studio website ( where the images can be uploaded.

Switching back and forth between the iPad and the screen, Stephen then demonstrates how to create an augmented reality image:

  1. He takes an image of a colourful LP cover. This will be used as a trigger image.
  2. He asks the audience to wave as he records us on video.
  3. He uploads both the image and the video to the website where they are superimposed.
  4. He links them to the channel that students follow.

Having done this, we then view the augmented reality image we have just created using the AURASMA app.

In the future, augmented reality could lead to the development of a new type of course book. Indeed, Stephen shows us a sample chapter he himself has created using this technique. By pointing an iPad at a text or an image on the page, students can trigger further images, texts or videos related to that content. These can range from answer keys, to dictionary links, films or even CDs or DVDs.

To conclude, Stephan suggests further uses of augmented reality in the language classroom. These might consist of:

  • A cultural quiz where each question has a video, song or slide show attached.
  • Reviews of songs, books or films where students can read the review then watch a film related to it.
  • Speaking tasks for exams with sample answers attached to the question.
  • A school brochure, which can come to life with videos showing life at school.
  • City guides written and featuring student-created videos
  • An augmented reality course book with links to useful websites; listening material or videos attached to photos in the book; extension tasks; answer keys; useful functional language attached to speaking tasks.

To learn more about augmented reality in the classroom, go to:

or contact Stephen at: