Another school year is about to begin in Palm Springs Unified, and we've spent the past two days enjoying various forms of staff development. This morning at our district kick-off, it was revealed that our district has decided to implement a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) network that will be made accessible to teachers and students. Our reaction? Finally!
With the impending advent of an open network and the sudden ability to increase the amount of technology in our classrooms, one of the first practical uses of BYOD is being able to use QR codes and with greater frequency and effectiveness. So, let's talk about QR codes and I'll take this opportunity to also practice my colloquial middle schooler speech in preparation for the first day of school...
Download THIS If You're a Baller
A "baller" is defined in the urban dictionary as "a thug that has 'made it' to the big time," and around these parts you're a baller if you've got an iPad, iPod Touch, or iPhone. Any of those fantastic iOS devices can be used to scan QR codes. What is a QR code, you might ask? For those who need to know, QR is short for Quick Response and it's essentially a type of bar code that can be scanned by a tablet or smartphone. What do you get when you scan? Easy. You get whatever the person who generated the code wants you to get: a piece of text, a link to a website, a voice note, etc.
Now, what I absolutely LOVE about QR codes is the price, because it's easy to swallow: FREE. There are a ton of free QR scanners and QR generators for you to download for your iPad or other iOS device. The absolute best thing about QR codes is that they are so easy to use, even the most tech-challenged teacher can manage it. After downloading and testing out several QR scanners and generators, here are the ones I like the best:
Some Sweet Ways to Integrate QR in Your 'Hood
My first classroom consideration when the BYOD network rolls out will be the need to establish classroom norms for technology use. Historically, my school site has had a "No Cell Phones" policy that involved confiscating students' cell phones if they were seen or heard in class. I'm excited for the chance to be able to further embrace the digital nature of my students and plan to explicitly teach them about the appropriate and academic use of their own devices within my classroom walls. Since there is the potential for a lot more off-task temptation with personal devices as opposed to school devices, an effective introductory activity could be generating a series of QR codes that delineate the acceptable use of personal technology (in kid-friendly language) piece by piece in a short bit of text. For some fun and variety, a few entertaining video clips or an audio-note could be thrown into the mix, too. Students could move around the room on a QR Hunt to find and scan each code. Students who don't have smart phones could simply pair up with ones who do. (It is worth noting that most of my students do have smartphones and since QR code scanners are Android friendly - no problem.)
Here are a few other ways you and your students could rock the whole QR thing:
BYOD = No More "IDK"
Probably the most exciting aspect of having a BYOD network is being able to eliminate the oft-used and well-loved (or not) middle school excuse: "I don't know." Whether they're trying to be cool or just feeling painfully awkward, this phrase can sometimes become the typical middle schooler's default. The incredible thing about enabling personal devices in the classroom is that it gives students a chance to take their inner digital native and turn him (or her) into a Lean, Mean, Informationally Literate Machine! Purposeful, explicit instruction in how to effectively search for information, synthesize multiple sources, and evaluate credibility is necessary. Obviously, the more exposure to technology and the more we demonstrate how it can be used effectively in an academic setting, the more prepared for college and career our students will become. QR codes serve as a pretty effective vehicle for that kind of 21st century learning.
And now, since you've read this whole post and you're about to return to the "thug life" you put on hold about five minutes ago, here is a QR code I generated just for you. This is what I tell kids on the first day of school:
By Jessica Pack
Follow Me on Twitter @Packwoman208
Author: Jessica Pack
California Teacher of the Year. CUE Outstanding Educator 2015. DIGICOM Learning Teacher Consultant. 6th Grade Teacher. Passionate about gamification, Minecraft, digital story-telling, and fostering student voices.