Thursday, February 09, 2012

Enter QR Codes

These have been around for a while, but have also found their way into education over the last year as a way to communicate content or links with mobile users. Easy to make: just paste a url into a generator like this one -  Then grab the QR code and put onto a handout, in an email, on a website, whatever.  To access it, the smartphone or ipod needs a "QR reader" (just search for the app wherever you get your apps). The smartphone or ipod then reads it and connects to whatever you have linked. I asked a group of 26 students if they had heard of this.  2 had, but did not have an app to read QR codes.  23 of 26 had smartphones, and within 10 minutes I happened to ask again and 9 of them had already installed the app. 

Try it - the one above links to my class updates, something I'm trying out to keep parents and students informed -  Hopefully less homework requests or "I didn't know" from students.  This isn't exactly a "flipped" classroom, although with my essential content (like handouts) and my daybook online, I can focus on classroom teaching/learning/interaction part which is embodied, visceral, and not available via Google!  Students without tech gadgets can still grab handouts from the back of class or find them on my website. 

Tip: if you are linking websites for students to check, try to find the mobile version so they can read it on their phones.

Or how about this? As students walk in they scan a QR by the door and an learning object pops up that you intend to discuss as you being your lesson. For me, that might be an image, primary source, map, or news event. They all have their phones out on the way in anyways, so this provides an anticipatory set (nice if you are distracted with getting other aspects of your class underway, talking with students).  Students without gadgets can look over at their neighbour or wait for the image on the big screen (if you even need it).  It even gives you a natural segue to ask them all to put the gadgets away once you've discussed the item, if that's part of your plan.  Your "source of the day" can be given the same name as yesterday's (e.g. BlockA.jpg) and dumped in a share folder, that way the QR code can stay the same for each class.

For perspective, I tend to see more drawbacks than benefits to students being wired 24/7, but I am trying to reclaim some territory for intelligent, creative use of technology. There was a burst of excitement about 9 years ago as students learned how to mess with graphics, build sites, edit video, then blog and youtube, etc. Now I'm finding kids have a hard time with email and basic file management, because the technology has become so easy that many don't bother to do anything but consume. Interesting that this is the opposite of what the BC Edplan experts say is happening.  I'm watching a generation of kids with hunched backs, face down, hands fretting over their phones. They can access more of the world but they are blind to the important parts that are full of life and all around them. The distant and virtual are not yet tangible and connected, and we're losing many kids to a neurosis that has eroded their coping skills for reality. Take a look at the mental illness diagnoses in your school or district if you don't believe me. No doubt the BC Edplan of 2027 is going to align its goals around sorting out this mess.

Anyways, I'll do my part to try and make it better... "QR codes for learning" ...welcome!  I dunno, is it a fad or the start of something important?  I'll let you know a few months from now how this goes, maybe it will be a terrible mistake!  Feedback on the tumblr class updates is also welcome... does it look sustainable to you?

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