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.
Ask in advance that students bring headphones and Smartphones
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.
Ask that students listen to or watch their choice at least twice.
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.
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.
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.
Unfortunately, I can’t. It’s just cool. Exploring History Pin requires little more than the ability to get on the website. The concept is simple really. Anyone with a Gmail account can pin photos to a specific geographic location. With each pinned photo is the opportunity to add a “story” on the photo itself. With modern Google street view as the backdrop, photos appear in the spot where they were originally taken. The effect is remarkable. It makes a much better argument than I ever could about history, the human experience and the passage of time. History Pin’s overview video is a good place to start with your students when beginning any project involving the website.
What’s particularly intriguing is the idea, in their words, of creating a digital history of the world. Easy to navigate, the website offers several different classroom uses. Because students can search their own streets and towns, it is an interesting way to teach about the art of stories via image. History Pin offers a variety of resources for getting started. Check out their resources so that you can easily familiarize yourself with the ins and outs of the website.
1. Use it as a means to explore time periods that accompany literary units. Now that the National Archives and the Smithsonian have partnered with History Pin there many options for how this can be accomplished. Listed below are some collections/tours that can be easily implemented in your classroom. Have students annotate the images and use them to create arguments about literature’s place within the society it represents as well as today.
2. Use History Pin as a means for students to begin constructing their own narratives or college essays.
Since students struggle with creating their own authorial voice, ask that they begin by creating a History Pin tour of their own focused on one particular theme (i.e. the role of family, nostalgia, education, disappointments, triumphs). Each photo should reflect the theme that they are creating.
When they create the accompanying “stories” for each photo have them treat each as if they are the opening paragraph of their college essay or personal narrative. They should not just be a basic summary of the photo itself. Use our previous post about personal narratives to offer some professional models before you begin.
Ah, spring break part deux. Since Emily lives in one state and Aubrey is in another, their dueling spring breaks are back to back. Enter week two of spring break extravaganza. And while there’s no way that we could leave you completely high and dry for two weeks, we do plan on giving ourselves some time to read books, sleep in late and watch crummy television. Just like last week, we’ll give you one tool or technology related application that peaks our interest. So check back again on Wednesday/Thursday for our post for the week. And don’t worry, we’ll be back in full force the week of April 8th.
If you just can’t wait because you’ve become so dependent on our quirky humor or, heaven forbid, our lesson ideas, let me direct you to History Pin – the website that allows anyone, but specifically your students, the ability to upload pictures and videos to tell their own story while examining those of others. Don’t worry we’ll discuss it at great length later this week. For now, just test it out. But be warned, you can lose track of time easily.
As Emily and Aubrey look back over the week they use their razor sharp wit to assess their innermost feelings about helping students writing analysis.
1. What are your thoughts about cell phones in the classroom?
Emily: As long as they aren’t taking photos of me on their cell phones and then posting them on their Facebook page I don’t really care. Cell phones are so prevalent that it is virtually impossible to stop them from using them in class. Some of them can even text without pulling their phone out of their pocket. That’s impressive. I think they should be rewarded for their dexterity.
Aubrey: I think cell phones in the classroom can be useful but it has to be for more than just looking up facts about F.Scott Fitzgerald. We have to monitor how they are used. Otherwise all that crazy texting through your pocket makes me, well, crazy. Here’s what I wonder. What can you possibly have to text to people who a). you just saw and b). you spend every waking minute with? I called my husband this morning on the phone after I just left the house and let’s just say the reminder I gave him was not well received. And remember we are MARRIED. When I imagine a world in which I text him as much as my students text each other I imagine a world in which I am no longer married to anyone. Read more
Today, I’m going to offer one approach to using QR codes in the English classroom. This is quite simply a teacher driven, small groups at stations, QR code assignment. Keep in mind this post is quite lengthy so as to give you an activity and an example of how to use this with Fast Food Nation.
The purpose: to extend student learning on topics that relate to a non-fiction book.
Things to consider: You may, depending on your means, want students to use ipods, phones and ipads. A bigger screen would be useful if you plan on having students use any of the articles below. You may also want to encourage your students to share devices. You’ll absolutely want them to bring headphones as some of the QR codes, when scanned, link to videos and podcasts.
Non-Fiction, Teacher Generated QR Codes
This activity could be used at anytime during the study of a unit of novel. The goal: create a deeper/broader understanding of the concepts studied. Choose a series of articles, podcasts, images, cartoons, etc. that could be easily used for synthesizing a larger understanding. I’ve chosen Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation as an example because non-fiction may be an easier way for you to attempt this type of activity. Resources should also be easier to find. Read more
So you’re not quite sold yet on QR codes. They seem complicated and time consuming. Let’s make this easier. Let’s start with their role in society. Today’s post will provide you some resources for analyzing the role of technology, specifically QR codes, within society. Each “piece” offers a different opportunity to have students read or view, annotate and critically think.
You’re ready to take the QR plunge you think but then you go to the App store on your phone and realize there are three thousand different QR code readers and you get stuck reading all of the reviews and then you get upset that there are so many and that people actually get to review anything online because it doesn’t help you decide. I understand this! Perhaps I even feel the same way.
QR Applications for Smart Phones
Because there are so many I’ve narrowed it down. Both are free. Read more
QR codes are everywhere but I rarely see people actually pull out their phones and scan the black and white squares. Personally, I do it all the time. I need to know. It doesn’t matter if it’s product endorsements, MTV video clips or free coupons for money off Dove Soap bars, I need to know. Yes, I was that kid who would look for their Christmas gifts and/or try to unwrap them ahead of time. I need to know.
What peaks my interest (aside from figuring out what my gifts will be in the near future), is how QR codes are used in both popular culture and the classroom. The intersection between the two is immense. See the infographic above from one of our “favorites.”
This week we’ll do things a bit differently. Tuesday we’ll offer a brief tutorial about how/where to create QR codes and which apps to use. Wednesday we’ll offer up some articles that you can use to introduce a QR project or just employ as pieces that make insightful arguments about culture and technology. Thursday we’ll offer a practical classroom use. Friday, well, Friday we’ll be our humorous and engaging selves.
This week is just a taste of how you can use QR codes. We plan on taking a run at it again in 2012!
So here you go. To those of you who are already QR savvy, see if you can resist the temptation of scanning.