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QR Codes Part Deux: Week in Review


           Friday Dialogue from                

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                                      Your Two Favorite Educators 

As Emily and Aubrey look back over the week they use their razor sharp wit to discuss QR Codes revisited and Bring it On!

1.  Why is it so significant to choose tech for the classroom that can be used in a variety of ways?

Emily:  Students learn in different ways.  Providing flexibility in assignments, materials, texts, and technology is important to help students learn more effectively.

Aubrey: I think “flexible” tech provides teachers the ability to become experts.  Part of what scares all of us away from using technology in the classroom is whether or not we can use it again and again.  If the answer is no, I’ll never use this medium again why bother?  I want applications that can serve in a variety of capacities.

2.  Why is it important that we revisit past lessons we’ve share via www.wheretheclassroomends.com ?

Emily:  I think it is extremely important.  When working on a post I am often overwhelmed with everything I could incorporate.  As a result, there are many What does Emily say?weeks when I say to myself “I’ll just have to do another week of this topic.”  I think it is really important to revisit QR codes (and really anything technology based).  Technology keeps expanding and our knowledge of how to use it in the classroom keeps expanding.  It isn’t like teaching Shakespeare, which never changes.  Technology evolves so rapidly that we need to keep presenting ideas and ways to incorporate it into the classroom.

Aubrey: I feel the same way.  Revisiting areas of focus proves that culture, technology, current events–all of it plays a huge part in what shapes a humanities class is shaped.  I would be worried if we didn’t revisit ideas and lessons.

3.  Does the QR code enhance daily life?  Or, is it simply a detractor that provides too much extra and unnecessary information for the individual?

Emily:  It certainly makes things easier.  However, I don’t think they “provide too much extra and unnecessary information.”  Instead, my biggest fear with QR codes is just how easy it makes research.  QR codes make me curious about the ways in which students’ research abilities could be compromised.  Of course, this is years away and achieved through more things than just QR codes, but it is a long-term concern of mine.

Aubrey: Love it.  Don’t care if it provides me with too much information.  I want to know everything if only for a second.  Now, it is clear to me that after I look up this information I will immediately forget it and then be forced to look it up again later on.  This matters very little to me.  I need to know.

 

 

4.  Are QR codes just a fad?

Emily:  I know I’m not supposed to say this, but I do think they are a fad.  They keep popping in and out of trend reports.  I feel like they are seen more now but dwindled in use in the winter months.  I like the efficiency of them and think they are helpful in navigating directly to a page but just don’t know how lasting they are.


Aubrey:
Actually I think they’re a fad too.  I’m fairly certain we won’t be talking about them in 10 years.  They are a fun little gadget and they’re good for directing students to material but I do find them somewhat ugly.

5.  
This week I’ve provided several model assignments focusing on student choice and QR codes.   Please participate in the model lesson  below.

 

Pop Culture via QR Codes

Please choose one of the QR codes below.  Review the material and construct a response that identifies the tone and big picture importance.  

Bring it on?

Choice #2

                  

Choice #1

 

 

 

 

 

Emily:  I choose QR code #2:  Bring It On the Musical.  This play came to Chicago and I begged my friends to go with me.  They refused.  I am now What does Emily say?without the musical interludes of Torrence Shipman.  I will never forgive them for this.  I can’t focus on the tone because I’m blinded by how perfect the musical is.  It highlights the capitalistic nature of our society through the rise of a poor school being able to compete at Nationals.  Bring It On is the true American classic.  Bottom line.

 

Aubrey:  Hah!  I knew you’d choose two.  I on the other hand am much more interested in Adam Levine & Christina Aguilera’s feud.  Don’t tell anyone but I like to watch The Voice.  Usually in secret.  It’s shameful but there you have it.

QR Codes: Final Projects

Too often, I find myself trying to come up with intensively specific projects for students.  Massive amounts of two-sided, collated and stapled assignments consisting of multiple steps and checkpoints.  This intense need to plan for every single aspect is probably rooted in the very real understanding that students procrastinate.  They need guidelines. However, the level of intense project creation that then falls upon me is crushing.  Constantly tweaking, changing and revising the steps only helps to further sour me on the actual assignment itself.

What I want is a creative assignment to end a novel or a unit of study.  One that easily proves students can think critically and problem solve.  One that has them implement technology.  One that has them actually create something related to my class, that practices skill sets learned in my class and that proves them thoughtful and creative.  Did I mention that I would like it to be of their own design?

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Sigh.

This is a lot to ask of teens.  They need guidance to think outside of the test prep bubble in which they’ve existed since elementary school.  So think of this project like an assignment in creativity, problem solving, big picture thinking, writing OR like a James Bond style mission, that is of course if you choose to accept it.

Novel/Unit Project with QR Focus Basic
1.  The goal of a project like this is to give students a list of tools and a general overview of rules.  Their job then becomes creating the project guidelines and the final product.  Think Fed-ex Day but with some determined parameters/tools.  Focused on novel or unit but on any aspect the students choose.
2.  Set expectations and tools for the assignment.  If you’re going for the element of surprise, split students into groups.  Hand each group a paper bag filled with the tools they’re allowed to use.  Example:

  • Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close QR lesson (This gives you that 007 feel.)
  • Images of tools they can use (This gives you that MacGyver feel.)
    • Cell Phones
    • QR Codes
    • Computers
    • Any other tool you want to throw in for good measure

3.  Ask that they construct an “official” assignment that could be used in a “real” course.  They should pick an idea, issue or part of the book to highlight.  Examples might include a QR Map of Holden Caulfield’s adventures in NYC or an assignment that asks students to use QR codes in

4.  Ask that they set achievable and challenging goals for each week.

5.  Provide class time for achieving these goals.

6.  Ask that they present their final project and product.

QR Codes: Poetry & Speech Units

It’s clear to me that students don’t understand tone.  Not one bit.  They just don’t hear the inflection.  It’s not as if they don’t try; they just misread.  Over and over again.  And while I’d love to do all the “voices” for them in every single text we read there simply isn’t the time.

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In order to combat student “deafness,” QR codes offer the ability for students to listen clearly to text as performance.  Consider a unit of study that depended on students listening and reviewing.

While QR codes could be used to direct students to any type of podcast, they are incredibly helpful for teaching poetry and short speeches.  In such a context, students have the ability to choose their own “text” and listen, review, take notes, even evaluate.

Imagine an assignment where before being given the text or speech or poem, they’re made to choose based on title alone.  To ask them to construct a choice by simply examining a title is a lesson in itself.  This type of an assignment allows students choice, teaches listening skills and focuses on the significance of tone.  To begin with, consider using resources like The Writer’s Almanac or The Poetry Foundation.  They both offer wonderful readings that can easily be turned into QR codes.  If you’d rather use speeches, try History.com’s wonderful resource of audio and video speeches including many from presidents.  American Rhetoric also offers MP3 audio files for many of its top 100 speeches.

Basic Assignment Overview

  1. Review our QR Tutorial to use web address to create QR Codes.
  2. Ask that students bring Smartphones, tablets or iPods as well as headphones.
  3. Offer students two QR codes for two different “texts.”  Provide them the title and/or speaker.
  4. Ask that students simply listen and construct a series of observations.  If your QR codes are for speeches you might ask students to SOAPSTone based simply on what they hear.
  5. Provide students the actual text for their choice.  Have them listen a second time and annotate looking specifically towards how tone is created.
  6. Ask them to construct an overall evaluation/review of the text’s tone.

While the steps are simple and the idea unoriginal, the purpose ultimately is to get them to listen.  Too often they resign themselves as soon as we pass out paper.  Instead, ask them to listen first and respond second.  Providing them a “second” reading is crucial and listening offers them the ability to truly reflect upon style, purpose and tone.  I’ve included a sample poetry based lesson featuring QR codes as an example of how something like this could work.

QR Codes: Journals & Openers

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Sometimes I feel at the beginning of class that my act is huge flop.  It’s tough to know how to start.  Classroom management, attention and engagement rarely occur simultaneously.   And no matter the variety of journal prompts or moral/ethical debates outlined students frequently treat this “opening” work like a chore.

Within this realm, QR codes can become an incredibly practical application.  Imagine being able to implement media literacy along with student choice.  Imagine a written response or evaluation.  Imagine students happy to discuss in small groups or with the class as a whole their own perspective on the podcast or video that they digested after scanning a QR Code.

Opening Activity: Choose Your Own Adventure

Okay so not every student will chortle with delight when you explain that “adventure” in this case means choosing their own QR Code.  But you will peak their interest when you explain that these QR cods will take them to a short podcast or video that will require to explore a moral/ethical dilemma or an area of focus your are currently studying.   Using the QR code is simply the vehicle via which they begin an opening critical thinking exercise.  The goal is not to replace writing.  Instead the end result should be a list of student constructed essential questions and a written argument about the material.  Below is an example of what this type of lesson demands of students.

  1. Ask in advance that students bring headphones and Smartphones
  2. Provide students 2-3 QR codes from which to choose.   Each QR code should direct them to a short video or short podcast that raises big picture issues.  TED’s “short talks” would be a good resource from which to select or UPENN’s 60 Second Lectures.  If you’re teaching poetry you might provide QR codes that link to episode’s of NPR’s The Writer’s Almanac with Garrison Kellior.
  3. Ask that students listen to or watch their choice at least twice.
  4. Have them complete a listening, questioning and reviewing activity in their journals.

While this is simple it will help jump-start your class.  Pick videos or podcasts that complement the material you are teaching or that highlight a skill set students are practicing.  Here is an QR JOURNALS Example.

QR Codes Part Deux: Overview

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Implementing tech is daunting.  It requires that teacher be both troubleshooter and cheerleader.   Things go wrong when students and technology mix.  Computers are slow.  Students are impatient.  I’ve answered the same question about text boxes three times.  It’s enough to make the best of us say, “Take out your copies of The Things They Carried and read silently.”

People can argue all they want that the digital native now sits in every seat in every classroom, but I don’t buy it.  Students are just as frustrated, impatient and incapable as I am.  They can’t figure out how to import video or change font size either.  This is, of course, why any type of worthwhile classroom technology must have multiple applications.  Technology that is multipurpose helps teachers with troubleshooting and students with familiarity.

In an effort to do just that, this week we revisit the QR code.  As far as “tech” goes, it’s simple.  So simple that in these waning days of the school year you could easily implement a QR code activity with little trouble and impressive results.   When we posted about QR in the classroom this past November our goal was to teach students the role of QR codes in society and to revamp classroom learning stations into QR stations.  This time we’ll post on how QR can extend classroom learning, provide student choice and teach students to evaluate/review areas of focus.

Our previous posts are listed below to get you started.

  1. QR Background & Infographic
  2. QR Tutorial
  3. QR Codes in Popular Culture
  4. QR Learning Stations
  5. QR Week in Review

Week in Review: Blogs as Text

Friday Dialogue from 

                                      Your Two Favorite Educators 

As Emily and Aubrey look back over the week they use their razor sharp wit to discuss if Perez Hilton really could best Harry Levin from TMZ and/or if reading substantive blogs provides excellent supplemental reading.  

1.  What relevance is there in using blogs as “texts” for students?

Emily:  One thing I really like about using blogs is that they are usually brief, What does Emily say?which allows students the opportunity to study one thing really well.  Too often students don’t read our assignments.   They are “too” long and students can be lazy or intimidated.  Choosing blogs that engage students helps ensure they actually read and gives them the chance to express their opinions and beliefs.

Aubrey: All I want them to do is read.  I take that back.  I don’t want them to read crap.  Let me try again.  I know they’ll read it but I’d like them to be able to read it and identify it for what it is.  Then, I’d like them to read something that isn’t crap.  How’s that for articulate?  As goofy as it sounds, I love good blogs.  They give me a fresh perspective every day.  Plus they exist within a space that seems as conversational and personal.  Remarkable blogs allow me to show students that good writing exists on topics of interest.  No fights.

2.  What makes it difficult to teach blogs, videos, digital literacy and all things media?

Emily:  I recognize the irony here, but blogs are so ubiquitous. Everyone has one, including students.  I think the hardest part about teaching blogs and things of the such in the classroom is trying to differentiate quality from crap.  I’m afraid that blogs are encouraging people just to put whatever they want on the worldwide web and people are taking it for fact.  I think we have to keep modeling for our students what good writing looks like and how to evaluate the sources they consult for their “news.”

Aubrey: I think there are quite a few problems.  Finding reputable, thoughtful media is time consuming.  There is no list of great media to use in my classroom.  Teachers often advocate for students writing via blog but it is rare that I find anyone who suggests reading via blog.  To find good blogs takes time we don’t have.  I also think that even when I get students a list of credible sources, blogs, writers, they skip the list.  The result?  The most impossible and ridiculous sources of information.  This of course pushes my delicate mental state over the edge.  No matter how many times you offer examples they still struggle to follow guidelines.  When it comes to online content it’s a necessity.  And so, that can be discouraging too.

3.  What importance do you place upon inquiry research within the English classroom?  Can reading a blog lead to self-selected research and perhaps even, gasp, global citizenship?

Emily:  Absolutely.  In fact, I think that this might be the only way for students to engage in truly meaningful inquiry.  If students are taught to look beyond the immediate they will be much more analytical and thoughtful thinkers, a skill highly coveted in this day and age.  However, the key is how to foster the intrinsic motivation to want to pursue more information about a topic found in a blog.

Aubrey: Inquiry research is so important but it takes many steps.  Fostering that intrinsic motivation is tricky because it requires that they ask more than just base level questions.  That puts a great deal of burden upon us to teach and reteach.  I do believe that sometimes you just can’t get there through fiction.  Because they are such literal thinkers they need non-fiction consistently.  Reading a blog from a news outlet is a step towards making them thoughtful and capable of empathy.

4.  Pop culture gets a bad rap and sometimes, so do those blogs with the same focus.  In what capacity should popular culture be used in the classroom?  In light of my pop culture blog resources from Thursday, how do blogs change how educators handle pop culture?

Emily:  I think it is important to approach using pop culture in a way that brings about scholarly discussion about life, society, our country.  I’m afraid that some What does Emily say?might naturally resort to discussing pop culture events only, which would encourage students to only look superficially at a topic and think it is permissible evidence for arguments.  I think it definitely has a place but that typically it should be used by students only to really highlight what is wrong with our country.  As a result, I think teachers need to be cautious about celebrating celebrities instead of using pop culture as a catalyst for meaningful inquiry about real issues.

Aubrey: I agree.  It can be difficult to get students, in general, to move beyond the literal.  When it comes to integrating pop culture with learning,  I think that step becomes much more difficult.  Most of us treat pop culture as if it’s trash.  And while there’s certainly a lot of trash, it’s a readily accessible “text” if treated thoughtfully.

5.  In a cage match between TMZ founder Harry Levin and blogger Perez Hilton who wins?  What if I change cage match to dance off?  Sing off?

Emily:  Oh….so tough.  I definitely think Harry is smarter.  He is a former lawyer, you know.  But Perez seems like a diva with a mean backhand.  I think I would pick Perez above Harry in every category.

Aubrey: Oh please.  Harry would win every single time.  He is certainly stockier and he always seems to be drinking a protein shake.  This doesn’t necessarily make him suited for singing but I’ll take my chances.  You and Perez are going down.

Blogs as Text: Sports & Pop Culture

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As a continuation of yesterday’s post, today we’ll focus on using pop culture, sports and current events blogs in the classroom.  It’s easy for me to sell any teacher on the idea of implementing blog reading that delves into current events; students need to be global citizens.  But pop culture and sports blogs can tricky.  Students need to gain more than the latest gossip and team scores.

While TMZ and Perez Hilton have their place, the blogs I’ve chosen to highlight today cover all of the same issues but with the type of style and “smarts” that makes them attractive to classroom teachers and still engaging to students.  As with anything you aren’t simply looking to entertain your students.  While offering these blogs can be part of a reading “choice” program, expectations should still remain high in terms of the social, political and cultural commentary students construct in response.

Ultimately, all of these blogs offer up “news” in varied formats but more important, they provide commentary.  Often the arguments they formulate are both relevant and engaging.  It is this type of writing that enriches student reading and knowledge.  The fact that it’s a blog simply makes it a tech forward and readily accessible choice.  Don’t forget to see our lessons for writing and annotation extensions.  They are ready to implement along with any blog driven reading assignments.  And remember, all of these are simply suggestions and starting points.  Always check The New York Times blogs for more choices.

The blogs overviewed are the best choice for offering content and commentary.  Also included but not overviewed are blogs that provide substantive information on the areas of focus and less commentary.

Current Events

Analysis & Opinion-Reuters

Anything dealing with current events demands that students read and choose based on their interests.  Reuters’ blog about current topics spans the globe and offers lenses through which to interpret the news they provide.   While posts can be challenging, they will engage students in online opinion pieces that debate global politics and the role of the U.S.

Don’t forget to examine The New York Times Room for Debate site.  While not a blog it is still an incredible useful supplement for students.

Information driven blogs include: The Two-Way, The Lede, Global Spin

 

Sports

Sporting Scene-The New Yorker

I can’t think of a better scenario.  The New Yorker, with all its style and grace, creates a sports blog.  Every post is so well crafted you will think you stumbled upon a non-fiction treasure and your students will never stop thanking you when you tell them that they can supplement their reading with a sport blog.

Information driven blogs include: The Early Lead, ESPN Sports Blogs

 

Pop Culture

Monkey See-NPR

This is by far, one of the best pop culture blogs to use with students.  Post include thoughtful commentary on TV, film, literature, and everything else popular culture.  These blog posts don’t just identify current trending topics.  Instead, they evaluate the usefulness of these trends.  Nothing is better for teaching students argument evaluation and the larger implications of pop culture.

 

Information driven blogs include: Celebritology 2.0, Media DecoderThe TV Column

Blogs as Text: Technology & Science

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It’s easy to think that all blogs are gossip driven.  Perez Hilton rules supreme.  But most major news publications today run a significant amount of blog based content. And this content is well written.  Whether these are blogs from The Chronicle of Higher Education or The New Yorker, the goal is always the same: find good writing on interesting topics that can reach a high school audience. Consider your goal with using blogs as supplemental texts as twofold.  First, you want to provide students choice and engage otherwise unwilling readers.  Second, you want students to practice assessing and evaluating textual arguments in a variety of mediums.  Don’t forget to examine yesterday’s post in order to peruse lesson plans for writing and annotating ideas in regards to reading blogs as “texts” in the classroom.

In an effort to help “jump” start this process I’ll highlight science and technology blogs today, current events/popular cultures blogs tomorrow.  My “picks” are simply a starting point for you as you make the decision to implement more blog as supplemental reading.

The New York Times is an amazing resource for blogs.  Be sure to checkout their index before beginning any blog reading assignment.

Science & Technology Blogs

The New York Times

Bits

From apps to cyber security to the online presence of celebrities, this blog has a little bit of everything for the student interested in technology, business and policy.  Often posts even discuss big picture implications and the role of technology in society. 

 

The Washington Post

Faster Forward

This blog focuses on stories about technology, specifically “gadgets.”  The writing is easy to read and posts include video and image which allows students the challenge and satisfaction of working in different textual mediums. 

 

Wired Magazine

Geek Dad

These posts are written by parents about everything from poetry to film to tech. Since the posts are written by a variety of authors, studying voice throughout is a great focus. 

Wired Science

Videos and image populate this blog.  Posts range from nature to outer space offering a variety of lenses through which students can read and experience any element of science blog writing that might engage them. 

Danger Room

A personal favorite, this blog deals with national security, technology and current events.  Interested in safety at the London Olympics?  Concerned about how military technology adapts? The posts are incredibly engaging even for an English teacher. 

NPR

Krulwich Wonders

We’ve highlighted Krulwich Wonders before.  It’s a great blog of just about everything you could ever want including, but not limited to, the science of language, architecture, nature, etc.  It will easily become a student favorite. 

All Tech Considered

Posts about tech on this blog range from information about start-up companies to the ethics of tech in modern culture.  Very readable and engaging for any student. 

13.7

All of the contributors for this blog are comprised of professors with science specialties, as well as one philosopher.  The posts are engrossing and deal with a variety of big picture arguments that are rooted in science and philosophy. 

Blogs as Text: Assignments

It seems that the expectations assigned to English teachers becomes larger and more nuanced with each year.    Teach technology.  Read a variety of texts.  Create global citizens.  Nurture critical thinkers.  Produce analytical writers.

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Implementing blogs as “texts” is an easy way to address all of these issues at once.  You might consider having students read blogs daily, weekly or 2-3 times per quarter depending on your time constraints.  Since many English teachers implement an exploring the issues, or a follow the columnist assignment adapting such an exercise that focuses on columns/editorials could easily be adapted for a blog reading assignment.

When students can actually choose a credible author with journalistic presence and style who blogs they win.  Instead of one column per week students could follow their “blogger” each day or several days a week via your classroom.  Even better, students can follow a blog that focused on a certain type of content that they find highly interesting.   The New Yorker, The Washington Post, The New York Times, Wired, The National Geographic all have blogs.  Well written and small in size they are easy for students to “digest” and they provide thoughtful writing and meaningful content.

By following a respected blogger students can become experts and global citizens.  We complain about their lack of knowledge and their inability to assess arguments and style.  Reading a blog of merit is a means towards achieving this goal.  Below are some basic ideas for you to implement along with a blogs as text unit. Tomorrow I’ll provide a list of blogs to give students as choices

Reading Blogs as Text Assignments

  1. Have students read and construct a SOAPSTone chart and précis paragraph.
  2. Ask that students annotate using a tool like awesome highlighter or Evernote.
  3. Ask students to identify explicit/implicit arguments in the blog post.  Even ask that students identify the values/morals of the writer based on their voice.
  4. Instead of summarizing ask that students construct a list of essential questions as they read.  These questions should identify the big picture arguments of the author and pose them in the format of moral/ethical questions.
  5. After having read several posts or for several weeks asks student to do a style analysis of their author.
  6. Ask students to construct argument prompts in the fashion of the AP Language and Composition test or the SAT based on the moral/ethical arguments consistently raised by their “blogger.”  Provide them with a list of ideas or a starting point for prompts based on the debate topics Emily’s previously identified in her GRE post.

Blogs as Text: Overview

It is difficult to get 6-12th graders to read.  This isn’t even an argument about getting them to read well, closely or critically.  They just don’t read.  Sometimes they don’t even read things that they would actually enjoy like The Catcher in the Rye or The Things They Carried.  And it’s infuriating.  As teachers, we often bemoan the lack of reading our students do. But what’s to be done?  Offering student choice is important but it can be daunting even for a seasoned teacher.  Finding resources that are well written and engaging can prove exhausting.  And in light of technology’s effect on publication shouldn’t students be reading a variety of online texts?

It’s no wonder we struggle.

My argument is not that we do away with Heart of Darkness or The Scarlet Letter or even the glorious Light in August.  Students need to be challenged and held accountable.  But I do want students to read texts they find enjoyable without sacrificing journalistic and literary merit.

So many educators argue the need for students to critically analyze a variety of texts.  And so many more argue the importance of using blogs in the classroom.  But frequently those two arguments don’t overlap in a way that identifies blogs as texts to supplement student reading.  In all fairness, it can be difficult to find blogs that students can read consistently for style, argument and substance.  And yet, they do exist.  It is the goal of this week’s post to identify them and discuss how to use them in classroom.  These posts will consider a variety of student interests (i.e. science, technology, cars, pop culture) without sacrificing quality in hopes that as an educator you can have students spend a “unit” or even a quarter towards studying and reading blogs.