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Tuesday, 20 September 2011

QR Codes in Education

You may have set your eyes on a poster, bus stop, real estate sign or some other form of media and noticed a strange looking diagram something like this:

This is a QR-Code, or Quick Response Code. This code works much like a barcode, yet your smartphone is the scanner. With a QR-Code scanner/reader app, your phone can scan this code, recognise it instantly and direct you to the code's intended location. This could be a link to a website, a phone number, VCard or SMS. The best part is that it is fast and easy to set one up. Here's how:

1. Go to a QR-Code Generator website like Kaywa and select what you want the phone to do when it scans your code.

The next step is to either paste the URL of the website, or write the phone number or text message, select the size you want the code to be and hit "generate". Thats it! Then you can save the image of the barcode, send it electronically or print it. Anybody who downloads a QR-Code scanner is able to use the camera within the app to scan your code and access the content.

So how can this be used in education?? Anything that is web accessible can now be on the screen of a student's phone instantly. In music, i'm starting to encourage students to find useful Youtube tutorials on how to use the studio equipment and then sticking a QR-Code on the equipment itself that directs them to this video on their phone. Students may wish to create a QR-Code as an assignment that links to an online blog, journal, photography flickr page with their assignment images, a podcast they produced on Youtube. They can be printed on newsletters to parents that link to the school website, blog or Youtube channel.
QR-Code scavenger hunts are quite popular now also, where a QR would navigate your phone to a google maps location.

The only thing to consider is whether all your students have a smart phone. If they don't have access to one, you may have to ensure that those students can access the same content and not be disadvantaged.

It takes a few minutes to set up, but with a little brainstorming you can create something engaging, all the while enabling students to use their phones properly. Have fun!

Co-driving your classroom

Question... do we harness the potential of technology in the classroom??
Take for example, the smartphone.

When phones are not used correctly, yes they can be a distraction. Although, a smartphone with internet access can connect our students to resources, people outside the classroom and a lot more answers than I can give them. No i'm not cutting myself short, i'm just saying that I the teacher, no longer have all the answers. My students are no longer passive learners because they are now connected to knowledge.....and it's all in the palm of their hands, quite literally! So where does that place us?

Teachers are co-drivers now, yes just like a rally car team. The driver would not cover such large distances in the same amount of time without their co-driver there. Sure, they may reach the finish line eventually...but an intuitive, supportive and focussed co-driver can make all the difference.

What must a co-driver do?? Study the environment....know which direction to take. One of my worst mistakes, was assuming that students know how to find relevant quality information online. Ever said this before?..."Use the internet to research your topic." ...hmmm, maybe someone could suggest to you "Use the planet earth to find your car keys".....was that helpful advice?

But surely, their years of experience using facebook, hotmail and video game cheat sites would enable them to synthesize information for assignments?? They need online orienteering, support, advice....a co-driver.

Here is another blog that includes other search engines for education other than google.
Do we even use google effectively???

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

"Prezi" - Giving your presentation some wow factor

Prezi is all the rage in presentations now, leaving powerpoint looking a little sleepy and flat sometimes. Yes we've all seen those powerpoint presentations that leave you with nothing but watery eyes from trying to read endless slides.

Prezi is online, free and only about a million times better. I can see people may get a little too crazy with it, but when it's used well, it's a very engaging visual reference for presentations, almost to the extent that you forget there's a speaker there because the screen is so captivating!

Once again with that collaboration aspect...students can group themselves together and contribute to the one prezi from various computers and locations.

Sign up for an education account (it's free) and check it steps. It's not that hard, plus it gives you access to a library of free images that ...well people rip images from google all the time but it's naughty naughty and illegal. This way is perfectly legal under Prezi's license.

Prezi also has an iPad viewer app. Free also

Once again i'll stop the video.

Primary Pad - great for netbooks/laptops in class

Primary Pad is so simple and requires no sign up, registration or the need to invite students via email address.

Basically, it's a site that enables you to create an online collaborative document, similar to google docs, but it's quick and easy. with a free account, you can have up to 15 collaborators and your document will remain for 30 days then be erased, but you're able to export it as a pdf. 
It may be tricky having more than 15 people working on the same thing at once anyway.

The best part is you can create one in 5 seconds before your class starts!!
Type the name you want for your document after the web address
so for eg. I want to create a document on the history of Jazz, so i type and if nobody has made a document of that name, it will just ask if you want to create it and voila! There it is! All you do then is share the link with your students and they can jump on and contribute. Each user has a different colour behind the text so you can see who's writing what. There's a chat feature to the side of the document too which allows them to discuss ideas before editing the document, but I can see this being a little distracting for some students...Keep in mind that starting a document this way without creating an account will make the document public. 

Teachers may wish to use this for things such as meeting notes, minutes, group planning etc. 

What do we do with these netbooks now??

Ok so you have a trolley full of netbooks all blinking their standby lights at you and you're thinking..."so what can these do that paper and a pen can't?"
One thing netbooks can allow students to do is connect and collaborate. Yeah sure...but give me some butcher's paper and a set of markers and we're good to go... But, can you invite a student or professional from another country to participate? Postage and all that....sooo not worth it.

Ever done a mind-map in class? That central idea is drawn in the middle and then you hover the marker over the whiteboard, directing students to think of that next linking idea...let's face it, we've already drawn the whole thing in our heads and are just waiting for them to catch up and feel a part of the process.

Mindmeister is an online collaborative mind-mapping tool that allows multiple users to connect to the same mind-map on a seperate device (yes, netbook) and contribute to the mind-map all in real time. This is quite awesome to watch as you can see the map spreading out in different directions all at once. You can add documents to different sections of the maps, notes and all sorts of things...It has a smartphone and ipad app, although a little overpriced... heck i'll stop rambling and you can watch the video.

Education 2.0

"Timeo danaos et dona ferentes" 
"I fear the Greeks, even when they bear gifts" - Virgil

Well, as much as i'd like to say it's wonderful that the government has decided to give us a 1:1 ratio of laptops/computers to every student, but what can this actually do to change the way students learn? 

Now that we have a 1:1 ratio, it's assumed that the sheer provision of technology is all it takes to bring Education into the 21st Century, when in fact, hundreds of these wondrous devices are happily sleeping in storage cabinets and will be...for a very long time.

Now why is that....?  Well, it's not the physical resources we need to upgrade....

Yes you know what I mean and no don't take offense because we've all been there! In fact it's harder than we think to pull ourselves out of that comfort zone. Here's a personal example:

One day I booked a lesson in the computer lab where I organised for students to research information on an online article I linked them to and answer questions on a pre-made microsoft word document to save in a network folder. When I was in school, this would have been a step up from the regular comprehension as we got to surf the web !! Although nowadays, students are not so fascinated with this as it's now a part of their every day lives. 

Just as many of us would have been "wowed" by the introduction of email, I doubt many of us marvel at our inboxes these days...oh fun fun. my surprise (back then anyway) I heard this chorus of groans when I gave them the intro to the lesson and yeah, my students drearily typed the answers out (those that could be bothered attempting) that were cunningly hidden within the article in a perfect sequence that gave them little to no flexibility, ownership, collaboration...or enjoyment. 

I walked into that lesson confident and thinking to myself "yeah look at me... successfully integrating technology into the classroom..WOO!"  That "Maverick" confidence lasted all of 5 seconds into the period as my lesson was chewed up and spat out.

Many of us give up right there or at least think....i'll stick with what i'm good at, where i'm comfortable and not delve into the potential train wreck of a lesson like the one I mentioned.

DON'T GIVE UP!  When this technology is used well, which does take's quite exciting...!

Remember....The future belongs to the risk takers, not the security seekers.

Stay tuned on this blog for some posts on what's out there for teachers in the 21st Century.