Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Quick Response Codes

Quick Response Codes were invented for use in the manufacturing world in Tokyo, Japan. The inventor holds the patent, but chooses not to exercise those rights. I wonder if he or she ever dreamed how those 2-dimensional codes would infiltrate the educational world in two short years.

What are QR Codes?

You can learn more about the codes by downloading a QR Scanner on your mobile device and scanning the blue code picture above. My favorite website for creating my own QR Codes is QR Stuff because I can make codes using a wide array of colors. Scan the purple code below to visit their site. Scan the military green code to view more information about QR Utilities in the iTunes app store. This app is by far my favorite for many reasons: you can scan codes, create codes, and this app will even manage/bookmark codes you have scanned. This is a great tool for workshops and inquiry lessons where the learner needs to access multiple online resources.
QR Stuff

QR Utilities
How can QR Codes be used in education?

QR Codes can be used to provide someone quick access to a website or video you'd like them to read or view. I have seen educators create QR Code scavenger hunts. When students scan the code, they are provided a clue, requiring them to think critically in order to continue on to the next code. 

My friend, Bethany, is an instructional technologist at the university level. All the professors in her department (college of ed.) created videos introducing themselves to incoming freshmen students and printed the codes for students to scan as an introduction to the program. 

Math teachers create codes linked to multi-step problems. Students work independently or in groups to solve the one problem/code they've been given. Teachers can differentiate according to learner needs, and no one student is singled out as being different. Math teachers can hand out QR Code homework to students as they leave the classroom for the day. Students can scan the code, later at home, or even in the car with mom's phone. 

Schools can send reminders for upcoming events home with students via QR Code.

Teachers can create business cards for themselves to pass out at conferences and other educational gatherings, showcasing their websites, blogs, research, or even their students' digital portfolios.

Students create book reviews in the form of podcasts -- or movie trailers, publish them online and create  codes that are then affixed to books in the school's library. When other students visit the library, they can pick up an iPod or use their smartphones and ear buds to view and/or listen to another student's review of the book.

Students can present information by making it digital and embedding presentations each on a unique page in the class wiki.  Instead of each student presenting a Power Point to the class, taking up two days of class time, the teacher can print one or two codes for each student's online work, mix them up, and hand them out to random students for viewing, allowing peer to peer feedback in the form of comenting on the wiki -- as well as teacher feedback, teaching students critical evaluation skills and how to think like a teacher. 

QR Codes are one of the most useful and accessable technological advances in the modern American classroom. Give them a try and share your own creative ideas with colleagues!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Infographics that Speak

I love infograpics that really communicate a point without using too many words. Some infographics found me today that need to be shared. One drives home the reality of Internet activity, another introduces learning theories for the digital age, while the third addresses creative commons licensing. Enjoy.

What Happens In An Internet Minute

Learning Theories In The Digital Age

Creative Commons Photo Attribution

Monday, March 18, 2013

Thinking Through the Engineering Design Process

I recently spent time with the staff at Middle Creek High School delving into the engineering design process and looking at how technology provides opportunities for students to work in new ways impossible without the technology. We looked at how VoiceThread can be used for developing solutions to problems, getting expert and peer input about possible solutions, and communicating solutions. VoiceThread allows anyone to comment, so ideas can be presented and feedback collected all in one place. That can be very helpful in many ways: the loudest opinion is not the only one heard, everyone gets an opportunity to comment, feedback can be verbal or non-verbal, and the recipient of the feedback can access it multiple times. It allows for a cycle of continuous feedback and improvement for students and teachers. It also allows new avenues of communication between students and experts that can be asynchronous, but have the look and feel of live communication. Teachers discovered application in many curriculum areas: The Arts PLT talked about peer review and personal reflection of choreography as well as visual art (using an iPad to input video into VoiceThread); Social Studies teachers accessed primary source documents courtesy of the New York Public Library right from within the media sources in VoiceThread; World Language teachers discussed the myriad of ways students could refine listening and speaking skills creating original threads and responding to classmates in a target language.  VoiceThread is a simple, but powerful tool that provides students a different way to reach out with ideas and evaluate solutions to issues which is at the very heart of the engineering design process.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Flipping Flipped Learning

I have heard teachers using the words "flipping my classroom" to describe videos they are creating and posting, to engage, to motivate, to teach skills to learners. The phrase has morphed into a cliché for a new teaching style that is really 20th century teaching in disguise. Teacher-centered instruction, whether delivered in a classroom or at home via the Internet, does little to engage learners to think critically, to experiment and discover, to scratch the surface and provide deep learning.

As I am constantly learning how to be a better educator, myself, I am repeatedly reminded that making mistakes, learning from mistakes and reflecting on learning is the only way I will change how I teach and how others will learn from me. I am an instructional technologist whose job it is to design and deliver professional development that advances and refines educators' integration skills, not only to integrate technology use but to transform the profession so that student learning is the focus and is maximized beyond the expected, beyond a student "doing his best" (Hattie, John) but rather to exceed the status quo and help students grow into skillful learners and problem solvers regardless of their situation. So while tech integration is a focus for the work that I do, it is not the driving force behind what motivates me to want to improve the teacher effect on student learning and achievement.

While flipping the classroom sounds like a fantastic way to motivate the digital learners of today, true engagement and deep levels of learning requires so much more. For students to feel like the classroom environment is a safe place to experiment and challenge their own skills and make mistakes, the teacher needs to establish a relationship with students as individuals and foster the relationship between peers. Students need to provide and receive feedback in order to self-reflect and improve their own skills and learning. Students can not merely learn a set of strategies; they need to practice using strategies (and be able to choose the strategy most appropriate) in the authentic learning environment under the guidance of the educator and in the social arena of peers who can help improve their thinking.

Students need to view learning through the eyes of the teacher in much the same way that teachers need to view learning through the eyes of their students. This is where flipping flipped learning can play a role in transforming good teaching into mastery level teaching and surface learning into deep, mastery, conceptual learning.

Instead of teachers creating lecture-based, teacher centered instruction to be viewed by learners at home, teachers need to facilitate students as teachers. The teacher who already has deep content knowledge should facilitate challenging learning as students create teaching videos filled with new understanding based on opportunities for discovery, inquiring and deep and shared learning. Teachers learn alongside students, strengthen skills by appropriately pushing students to exceed the expected learning achievements. Provide students with feedback, expect them to ask questions and guide them as they seek answers. Model peer evaluation; require peers to provide one another feedback. Teaching students to teach, reflect and improve will help exceed teaching achievements and develop intrinsically motivated life-long learners. Flip notions of flipped learning by stepping outside the 20th century model of teacher and create students whose learning is explicit, appropriately challenging and includes opportunities for providing respectful peer and educator feedback by way of social commentary.

"...the greatest effects on student learning occur when teachers become learners of their own teaching, and when students become their own teachers" (Hattie, John).

Sunday, March 3, 2013