Augmented Reality in the Classroom

Tips for Using Augmented Reality When Your Students Don’t Have Cell Phones

Augmented reality is easier than ever to use. Educational AR apps are getting better every day, and most of them are extremely affordable or even free. Unfortunately, there’s still one huge barrier to widespread implementation of AR in the classroom: you need phones—and a lot of them.

For high school teachers in affluent school districts, this usually doesn’t pose a problem. Implementing augmented reality in the class can be as simple as telling students to download an app.

But if many of your students don’t own their own devices, classroom AR can still seem impossible. After all, no teacher can afford to fund a classroom set of phones and tablets alone.

But AR doesn’t have to be out of reach, even for elementary classes and lower income schools. If you’ve been wanting to try AR in your classroom but don’t have enough devices, we have a few tips that will let you stock a classroom supply of AR tech for little or no cost.

  1. Determine How Many Devices You’ll Need

Once you have an AR activity in mind, figure out how many phones or tablets you’ll need to pull it off. Remember, you don’t necessarily need one device per kid. If you do partner work or create rotating stations, you can dramatically decrease the number of devices you’ll need to find.

First, figure out how many students in your class have a device of their own. If you teach elementary, make sure that parents are okay with their child using their phone or tablet at school. 

Even if you work in a high school, you shouldn’t assume that all of your kids own a phone. From financial reasons, to household rules, to groundings, there are plenty of reasons your high schoolers may not have their own phones.

And your students probably won’t want to talk about those reasons in front of their peers, so be sensitive. Give your class plenty of notice about AR activities; let them know that they’ll need a phone or tablet that day, and provide opportunities for them to approach you outside of class to tell you if they need to borrow a device.

Finally, plan to  have at least a couple of backups. You never know whose phone will be broken or lost on AR day. 

  1. Next Stop: The Library

 If you aren’t already familiar with your school’s tech holdings, head to your library to see what they have. Sure, it may seem like a longshot. You’d think you’d already know if your school had twenty-five iPads just waiting to be checked out, right?

 But, it’s worth checking out. Anyone who’s been in education long enough knows that sometimes schools aren’t great at communication. You might discover resources you never knew about. And if your school doesn’t keep its tech rentals in the library, your librarian will know who to ask. 

  1. Ask Other Teachers

No, we’re not suggesting that you beg your colleagues for their personal phones.

However, they might have a few classroom tablets lying around. Just like with library tech, you won’t know until you ask. Check in with teachers from other grades and departments, especially STEM-related departments. If you give your fellow teachers plenty of notice, most would be happy to let you borrow them for a day.

  1. Run a Crowdsourcing Campaign

Of course, borrowing tech from the library or colleagues only works if your school actually owns a few devices. This tip, however, works well for anyone.  

After you’ve determined how many devices you’ll need, turn to social media to ask friends for old phones and tablets. If you’re worried that you’ll seem like you’re begging, don’t be. Thanks to platforms like Donors Chose, most of your friends and followers are familiar with crowdfunding for classrooms. Even if you don’t ask for monetary donations, using something like Donors Chose can help lend legitimacy to your campaign. You’ll be able to explain in detail how you’ll use the devices and how your students will benefit.

You might be surprised at how many you get! A lot of people keep old phones around for a rainy day or because they never find the time to recycle them. Many people would be more than happy to declutter and donate to a good cause at the same time!

And the devices don’t need to be state-of-the-art. Even phones and tablets that are several years old will still be compatible with most AR apps.  They just need to be able to hold a charge and connect to your school’s Wi-Fi.

To get even more donations, you can even offer to return devices after your AR activities are done.

  1. Talk to Your Principal

This definitely isn’t the quickest solution, but if your goal is to use classroom AR long-term, don’t be afraid to ask for funding for your school’s tech holdings.

You’ll increase your chances if you make a strong case for AR as a learning tool. Present scholarly research, talk about your own classroom experience, share anecdotes from other teachers, and use student testimonials.

Make the same case to other teachers too. Getting more of your school’s faculty involved in AR will increase the demand for devices. A request from one teacher for a personal classroom set of tablets is a longshot. But several requests from multiple teachers for a library set have a much better chance.

Even without student cell phones and without school funding, augmented reality isn’t out of reach for your classroom. With a little persistence and resourcefulness, you can let your students experience the research-backed benefits of educational AR without dipping into your own pocketbook.


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We are always looking the latest developments around augmented reality and virtual reality in education. If you have a product, service or suggestion, please feel free to reach out to our team. If you liked this content, please share it with a friend!

Author bio: Alaina Gay is a former high school English teacher, college composition instructor, and Assistant Writing Center Director. These days, she runs her freelance writing business, specializing in content for edtech companies.  
You can find her at or via Twitter  and LinkedIn

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