Last week the incomparable Mark Anderson (@ICTEvangelist) hosted the fourth edition of his wonderful App Share Live event. If you are yet to take part in this, we can’t recommend it enough. Mark hosts this free app-based webinar every month and has been joined by some of the most innovative educators worldwide. In rapid succession they share bite-sized chunks of CPD and live demos of some of the best iPad apps for use in the classroom. For more information check out Mark’s award winning blog here.
So on this particular episode of App Share Live, one app in particular caught our attention – MSQRD. which was shared by Rachel Smith (@lancslassrach) Having used apps like Morfo and Chatterpix for some years nowwe am accustomed to using these types of avatar creation tools but MSQRD is a different beast altogether. In essence it’s one of the most cutting edge augmented reality platforms we’ve ever seen as it maps your face on live camera and applies animated masks over them. The selection of masks if broad and encompasses Iron Man, Obama, Harry Potter and many more, all of which are applied over your face in real time and move with you pretty seamlessly. If you haven’t seen it in action, the effect really is quite amazing…
It’s also free as the app is in fact just a showcase for the SDK platform itself (you can find out more about that here.) The app has exploded in the last few months, being downloaded millions of times and culminating in Mark Zuckerberg announcing that Facebook had acquired it!
We soon started thinking about ways it could be used in the classroom but the one thing we kept coming back to was that it needed to be harnessed carefully as some of the masks (like the zombie) could be a little scary for younger children. Educators wishing to harness it in primary schools may wish to seek parental permission or only allow students to harness it in a more controlled environment.
That being said – there’s a LOT of fun and some golden learning opportunities available from MSQRD. So we started putting together this feature on our top ten ideas for using some of the different masks. All was going swimmingly... then two days before we were planning to publish, the app changed.
Suddenly Obama, Iron Man and Harry Potter were gone, along with several other masks. we reached out to the MSQRD team about this but unfortunately didn't hear anything back. We're assuming that the Facebook deal has forced them to seek official licences for all likeneses used in the app. So we found ourselves in a bit of a fix - you see, several of the masks we had spotlighted (and produced media for) were amongst those removed. After some deliberation, we decided to leave those parts in the feature for two reasons. Firstly, there is a chance that, licences aquired, they would return to the app in the near future. Secondly, in many cases, the actual teaching concepts can be transposed to work with other masks - case in point: the new Batman/Superman masks could easily replace the Ironman idea you'll see below.
Ultimately we decided the show must go on and we would like to send a big thank you to our friends who agreed to join in the fun...
Iron Man/Tony Stark
Whilst the Heath Ledger Joker mask may be a bit extreme for classroom use, the Iron Man one (which you can manipulate with a nod of your head) is perfect for kids. Conveniently, there's also a mask of Robert Downey Jr complete with Tony Stark facial hair - so you have two options for students to inhabit the character! We're just a few weeks away from the new Marvel Civil War movie which, for the uninitiated, is a pivotal story in the Avengers timeline wherein Stark backs a government plan to register all superheroes for the safety of the masses. It doesn't go over well with everyone though and Captain America stands against Iron Man leading to the schism referred to in the title. If you are working on a superhero topic, as many schools do at some point, this is a brilliant opportunity for debate around this controversial event. Students could assume the role of Iron Man and explain the motivation for the decision using persuasive language.
NB as mentioned above - though Ironman is no longer part of the MSQRD catalogue, the new Batman vs Superman movie offers a similar premise to that of Civil War and masks for these two titans are now available:
Bear mask "We're going on a bear hunt, we're going to catch a big one! "
Inspired by the performance poetry of Michael Rosen, you could set up a QR code based 'bear hunt' around the school! Record a series videos with the bear mask, upload them to YouTube and use a QR code generator website such as Qr Stuff to create and print your QR codes. Place the print outs around school in areas that the children love to explore. The pupils can then use a QR code scanner app and watch each clue as they scamper around the school trying to track down exactly where the bear is. Why not set up a tea party at the finish! What an afternoon of high tech orienteering fun. Check out our first embarrassing clue...
The Harry Potter mask naturally offers a range of interesting opportunities related to the classic book series. Students could role play as Harry and answer questions about his actions from pivotal points in the series. Alternatively, since a golden snitch hovers around the mask when it is used, the student could write instructions for the game of quidditch and then present them in character as the young wizard.
Old Man The curious case of Benjamin Button was that he was an old man who was getting younger (although that’s certainly not happening to us at iPadEducators). Give your students the opportunity to be Benjamin in reverse; an old man with a young persons mind. A fantastic opportunity to project to the future.
Creative writing suggestions; Write as if you are older – what were your achivements? What do you regret? What was the most important event in your life? How is the future different to the present?
This one could form part of a great ocean themed virtual field trip project! Students could research a specific ocean and the creatures that live there. They could then record videos using the Scuba filter and report on what they have learned. These could then be collated and tagged in the correct places on a world map using Thinglink, creating a virtual tour of the world’s oceans. More able students could even go one further and edit a more complex video, incorporating the MSQRD clip and images of the creatures/plants mentioned, using iMovie.
The Stalin mask has become a viral sensation across Russia but in a classroom setting would be amazing as a part of a history project on World War Two leaders. Students or teachers could hotseat as the Russian leader and answer questions related to his role in the conflict or communism in general. It'd actually be amazing if they also added other historical figures from the period like Churchill!
MSQRD offers a selection of effective animal face masks including a monkey and a polar bear. These would be great fun for younger students learning about animals – the teacher could become the animal and answer interview questions about themselves. For older students, there is scope to create something quite powerful around the theme of animal rights. Students could assume the role of the animal and create video clips to use in persuasive ad campaigns made with iMovie or Adobe Voice or use an image from the app as a centrepiece in a poster made with Canva or Phoster.
Face swap Imagine waking up one morning and finding you were trapped inside someone else's body. Whilst the face swap feature may cause much laughter in the classroom initially, you could get the students to literally put themselves in someone else's shoes. What would it be like if they swapped places with their brother, mother, friend or pet for the day? Using the graphic image as the starting point, allowing your pupils to take a real life alternate viewpoint of those around them. Will they treat others differently as they see things their way for a day? Excellent hook to tackle difficult issues relating to SMSC and PHSE.
The Obama mask could obviously be utilised in a similar way to the Stalin one but since Obama is a contemporary figure, there is greater scope for work on current affairs and social issues. Students could write a persuasive political speech as the US President about a designated issue (or one of their own choice) and present it in character. The teacher could even provide the start of a speech as a scaffold for less able students and challenge them to complete it.
Bunny Ears Create a simple, effective and seasonal Easter card that children will proudly take home with them. The pair of bunny ears are synonymous with spring time and will immediately have the children's interest. Once the picture is saved to the camera roll, show the children how to import it into Book Creator as the cover page. After they have inserted a Happy Easter message on the inside you will be able to save their very first e-Card, easily shared with parents at home or families further away.