*megaphone voice* Welcome to QR Code Extravaganza 2017! Get ready for a day full of fun and prizes and QR codes! Let’s get scanning those crazy squares!
Ok, maybe it’s not quite an extravaganza and maybe the only prize is a passing grade, but it is a darn cool assignment.
QR codes are those silly little black and white pixelated squares that you see on advertisements every now and then. An app using the camera on your phone or computer can scan it, and it will either show you a picture, some text, or send you to a website. I’ve seen professional development workshops use them as an easier way to send participants to websites with long URLs. Of course, in that case, all you get is a bunch of grown adults trying to aim their cell phone cameras at a code that’s too far away to scan. (Use tinyurl, people.) QR codes are designed to be scanned up close. They’re most commonly used on posters or print ads as a way to send a consumer to get more information about a product.
To wrap up a week of discussing, reading, and analyzing persuasion, I decided to have a fun Friday in the library chasing QR codes. I’ve been working hard this year to make my classroom more student-centered and less the-teacher-does-everything-and-you-follow-along. Sending the students off to scan codes and answer questions while I watch them on the all-seeing LanSchool app seems pretty darn student-centered.
So here’s what I did:
The first thing was to figure out exactly what I want students to learn from the activity. We have a common assessment coming up at the beginning of next week over persuasion, so my goal for this activity is to help them be better prepared for that assessment. This translates to multiple choice questions over persuasion.
The next thing was to figure out exactly how this would look.
If I want students to scan QR codes with their tablets, they would need some kind of app to do it, and of course, that means getting all students to install the same app on their tablet, which takes time. Solution? I found a website scanner! No app installation required, simply go to webqr.com and allow access to the tablet’s camera. Problem solved.
Now that they can scan, what will they see when they scan? This was the tricky part for me. I spent most of the week exploring different options. I could link them to quizlet, but that’s not really designed for the type of questions I want to ask. Whatever they link to, I needed some way of tracking their answers, so they would need to log in or create an account or do something to put their names on their answers.
Ultimately, I settled on using Google forms. I feared it would be tedious to create 15-20 Google forms, but in the end it really didn’t take me very long. Each form had a place for students to write their name, choose their class period, and then one question. Some questions came from the persuasive article we read Thursday, some were images of old advertisements with accompanying questions about their methods of persuasion and the audience, and others were questions about evidence supporting claims. I ended up with 15 total questions, each in its own Google form. Each question was worth 10 points, and students needed to collect 100 total points.
Webqr.com also has convenient QR code creator. I copied the links over and created a separate code for each question. I printed them out, cut them apart, and taped them to the walls and bookshelves of our school library. Ready to go.
Before the actual implementation, I still have one more problem to solve: the tablets. Yes, the school is 1-to-1, yes, probably 90% or so of them have been issued tablets, yes, the expectation is that they bring them to school every day… but, let’s be honest. They don’t. Many are not working, some are actually broken, and most of them are left at home. I spent the entire week telling the students every single day that they needed their tablet Friday. If it’s not working, take it to the tech room and get it fixed by Friday. If you usually leave it at home, make sure you bring it Friday. No cell phones. No groups. If you don’t have it, you’re doing a boring, long paper alternative.
And so the day arrives. Hello, Friday. Hello tablet-less students. I printed 50 copies of the alternative assignment, and by the end of 2nd period, I thought I would need to print more.
I’m not going to lie, this felt like a total and complete flop of a lesson by the time I got to third period. I felt dejected. All this hard work and anticipation of an activity the students would love, and all I got was excuses, non-functioning tablets, and students refusing to do the alternative.
But all was not lost.
Things got better throughout the day. As more and more students had functioning tablets and were able to participate in the activity, I realized that those with the technology were doing it, were successful, and were even having just a tiny bit of fun. The students doing the paper assignment started to work together and discuss the assignment.
*deep breaths* It will all work out.
Risky activities are always a little bit wobbly the first time. I know that. Every teacher knows that. It doesn’t mean that when they start fail, it’s always easy to recover. This is even more true of lessons involving technology. When it comes to tech, the solutions aren’t always easy or obvious. I sent at least one student each class period to the tech room, and of course, they all had to leave their tablets to be fixed. However, as each class progressed, I was able to see problems arise and figure out the solutions.
For example, during second period the website suddenly stopped connecting to some student’s cameras. As a big fan of “The It Crowd,” I tried the solution “Have you tried turning it off and back on again?” It worked! I still don’t know why or what the problem actually was, but it worked, and I was able to tell the rest of the students all day to restart their computers when the problem happened again. And again. And again.
The truly beautiful part of the activity was watching students collaborate and help each other fix their tech problems. Way too often, the students have a problem and go immediately to “Miss, fix this for me.” It was great to see them problem-solving without me.
All in all, the jury’s still out on this assignment. In spite of the rough start, I did like it. I would definitely like to try it again, and maybe even use it as part of my T-TESS observation lesson (student-centered, ftw). I will definitely need to make some adjustments the next time. Maybe I’ll even allow cell phones in order to get 100% participation. I definitely need to come up with a better way to grade it – I’m about to sit down and go through each of the 15 Google forms to collect the grades. Wish me luck. Send coffee.