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...
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:
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:
- Post your classroom website and contact information using QR codes. A colleague of mine even suggested printing one QR code for each student, then having them glue the codes in the front of their notebooks on the first day of school so that they will always be able to share the contact information with their family members - especially helpful when students spend substantial time in more than one place under the supervision of more than one set of guardians.
- At our school, our students have Gaggle.net accounts which include personal, protected blogs for each of them. Let students generate some sort of artistic project, then write an accompanying blog post. Ask them to generate a QR code for their post, then display their art/project/etc. and post the QR code next to it. If you do this in your classroom, kids will get a lot out of investigating one another's work. If you do this in a more public area of your campus, then the potential for school-wide and community interaction increases exponentially! Think about the quality of work your kids will produce when they know there is an authentic audience attached.
- Speaking of audiences, if your students have a digital storytelling project or a website they built as part of a project-based learning unit, then have them develop a visually interesting advertising campaign that incorporates a QR code linking directly to their movie or website.
- If you teach math, try posting a variety of problems via text QR codes. Allow students kinesthetic freedom to move around your room, choose a QR code to scan, then work with a small group to solve the problem that's presented.
- Need something to do for students who finish work early? Generate QR codes that focus on enrichment and give students the opportunity to choose a code at random and complete the task, explore the site, or watch the video clip to which the code directs them.
- I'm a big fan of using learning centers in Language Arts (and yes, I do teach middle school), so my big plan this year is to generate one QR code for each center. Each code will explain the task students have to accomplish during their rotation, which will save me a lot of time in the long run since I usually make a rather large poster to display at each station.
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: