Tuesday, July 31, 2012

QR Codes . . Take 2

I was having lunch with a friend of mine today and asked her had she read my recent post on using QR Codes in school.  She said "I read that thing, but it was too complicated!"   When I asked her what she meant by that, she told me when she "clicked" on the QR code at the top of my last post, nothing happened. "The thing just got bigger". (Insert chuckle) :-) You see I had made an assumption about the prior knowledge of people who may have read my post.  Kind of like when teaching children and we sometimes make assumptions about their prior knowledge by assuming they know or have had similar  experiences with something that is crucial to their comprehension.  That's when I realized I had not done my job correctly and  some reteaching was needed.

So let's back up a bit.  Where do the codes come from?   A Teacher's Guide on the use of QR Codes in the Classroom has a list of code generators. I have used Kaywa Code and it was pretty easy.  You can  use Google to generate a code.  This video shows how to create a code from a url address in the address bar.  You can also create a code for text, or a phone number.

Now what?  Once you have the code, just copy and paste it into your document.  I save my codes in a folder on my desk top. 

In order to read a QR code, you  need to have a QR code reader, you can't just click on it.  Well you can, but nothing happens.   The reader on my cell phone is called a "Barcode Scanner".  Most android or Iphones have them.  I found out the other day that these code readers are already on  IPads.  ooh, how I need an IPad!  Anyhow, I found you can also download QR code readers.   Once you have one, you don't click  . . . you hoover over the code with the reader or hold the code up to the reader (watch below). 




Once the reader reads the code, it will give you the information you are searching for.   It could direct you to another web page, take you to a video, reveal a secret message, direct someone to your class website, read a book review, send a student to a game to review a skill, take you on a scavenger hunt around your school, and get this you can even generate a code for a synthesized  voice  message. Thats' right, QR Codes that talk! I know I couldn't believe that one myself, but it works.   Imagine what you could do with that feature alone!

If you are lucky enough to be in a BYOD (bring your own devices) school, students literally have the world at their fingertips. Please give this a try.  There is so much you can do with these codes! Try it!  I dare you! 

Saturday, July 28, 2012

QR Codes

I am so excited!  I have just stumbled upon a ton of new ways to use QR Codes (quick response codes) with my students this year.  I know, I know, I'm kind of slow.  Just last year I discovered I could add the code to newsletters and handouts for parents and they would quickly be directed to my website or a video. 

 But now I find these codes can be beneficial for my students as well.  Imagine that by just adding this code to a handout you can literally send students to videos and other resources to help them review concepts or expand their knowledge.  See for yourself . . . Mrs. White adds QR Codes directly to her review sheets.  Click here to see students using the codes when responding to literature.  Not convinced yet?  There are several videos on YouTube showing other ways to use these codes in elementary classes.  Who knew? If you are already using QR Codes, please share how you are using them in your class.

Education is changing and we're in for a fun ride!!  Are you ready to get on board? 

Friday, July 13, 2012

Flip Sneak-A-Peek!

I had a light bulb moment early this morning!  Our school has Sneak-A-Peek before the school year begins.  Parents and students are given an opportunity to meet their new teachers and see their classrooms for the first time. It is very informal. What a wonderful opportunity for me to introduce flipping to my parents!

I am going to record a video for Sneak-A-Peek, have laptops set up, so parents can view the short video as part of their visit.  Then I will only have to  say those things I usually have to repeat over and over 1 time!  That will free me up to actually meet and greet the parents and students while they meander through the class. I won't have that nagging feeling that I forgot to tell a parent something.  I will make sure I include instructions on how to join our Edmodo group on the video.  I think this will be a great opportunity for parents to experience the flip for themselves!  What do you think?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Can You Hear Me Now?

I still get a chuckle, when I think about the response I got from my co-worker after asking for her opinion on an external microphone I was going to order.  Megan is my "next door teacher", who is also our resident computer expert.  Whenever I experience a technology problem in class, whether it be with the Smartboard, document camera, or even my laptop, I head next door.  Without giving it a second thought, she walks in my class and with a click here and a click there, magically fixes the problem. It had gotten to the point that whenever something went wrong, as it often does with technology, the students would say, "Do you want me to go next door and get Mrs. Huss?" 

So, originally I was thinking that I needed to order an external microphone to record the videos.   I would like to start flipping right off the bat with a video on class routines and procedures.  Of course, we will discuss what they learned together in class.  Then the videos can be used whenever new students join our class.    I would also need access to a camera.

I think I need to check with our Media Specialists before spending money.  I know it is possible to record lesson directly from the Smartboard.  That would be perfect for students who are absent or students who need to review concepts.  Now, if I only knew how. . . I think I'll call Megan.

P.S.  I just found the video link I was looking for earlier that shows you how to record videos using lecture boards, a flip camera, and a tripod.  That's the method used to record videos for the Friday Institute for Educational Innovation.  You can check that out here.  Another option is to use something like Screencast-o-matic or Jing to record directly from your laptop.  I was really surprised at how easy it was to record using Screencast-o-matic.  I didn't even have to download anything.  There is also a good video on YouTube showing how to create a screencast using Screencast-o-matic.  Since I don't have administrative rights on my school laptop, I wasn't able to try Jing yet.  That will have to wait until I return to school. . . . guess I won't need that mic after all.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Common Core, Flipping the Class . . .Help!!

In a little more than 4 weeks I will be officially returning to the classroom facing new changes and challenges.  I love a challenge!  As if implementing the new Common Core Standards were not enough, I have made a decision to flip my classroom this year. Why you might ask? 

Flipping my class will free up more time to work with my students both individually and in small groups throughout the day. Students will view and review material at home or at computer stations in class if needed.  Instead of spending precious class time spoon-feeding my students content information, they will spend more in-class time applying what they have leaned while engaged in activities designed to enhance rigor and relevance.  In a nutshell, flipping my class will free up time so I can meet the needs of all of my students.  Will these changes mean I have to completely change everything I currently do?  Absolutely not!

One practice I will continue is reading picture books to my fifth grade students.  Yes!  I said picture books.  They are a great vehicle to integrate content lessons into an already jammed packed instructional day.  They can be easily read in 1 or 2 sittings and are an excellent way to teach the ELA College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards.

The Easy reader section in our library (which has been more appropriately renamed the “Everyone” Section by our librarian, Mrs. Buro) contains some of my favorite read aloud books.  Here are a few of my favorites that I will use at the beginning of the school year to enhance my study of the Civil War.
· Pink and Say, written by Patricia Polacco, has proven to be the perfect book to introduce the Civil War to my students.  Through this biography I can easily introduce many historical concepts about the war such as: the Civil War was fought between the confederate and union states, Lincoln was president during this time in history, and during this war (commonly referred to as “The War Between the States”) many young boys and men suffered and died. 
· Nettie's Trip South, by Ann Turner, is a story of a young girl’s first glimpse into the world of slavery.  Through deeper reading one can discover the analogy between the physical sickness Nettie experiences to how slavery was a vile sickness in our country.   
·  The soul stirring Moses: When Harriet Tubman led Her People to Freedom, written by Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrated by Kadir Nelson.  This biography not only provides an opportunity to teach about the Underground Railroad and Harriet Tubman’s role in freeing over 300 slaves, but also lends itself to explore the author’s craft of using different fonts to add meaning to a story.   
These books provide the perfect vehicle to explore Common Core themes such as how two or more texts address similar themes to build content knowledge and how characters and ideas change and develop over texts. Will it be necessary to make changes as I begin to implement the new Common Core and flipping? Of Course!  Will these changes mean I have to change everything I am currently doing?  Absolutely not!

If you are not already using picture books in your intermediate class, I challenge you to visit “The Everyone” section in your school media center.  Please let me know how your students respond.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Where Do I Start?

Since I returned from the 2012 Model Schools Conference in Orlando, I have been reading everything I can find about flipping my class. For those of you that don't know what I mean when I say "flip my class" it involves students completing activities they typically do for homework (that often requires teacher assistance) during the school day.

"What will they do for homework?", you might ask.  Simply put, students will watch videos I have selected or created to teach or review content area lessons.  By doing this at home (or in small groups throughout the day) time is available for students to be engaged in activities to practice and apply what they have learned.   In Flipping the Elementary Classroom, Jon Bergmann's advice for teachers who want to begin this is "Don't flip a class...flip a lesson". 

I know I will need to take baby steps towards this goal.  The first thing I need to do is identify the software I am going to use.  It will be important to have a rotation during the day so students who don't have access to the Internet at night can view the videos at school.  I have joined Edmodo.  I plan on using that site to communicate with my students and to post videos and assignments.  Click here for a  video showing  20 different ideas for using Edmodo with students. Note to self: I think I will start with videos that explain our class procedures and routines.  Then when new students join our class, I can direct them to those videos.   That seems like a good place to start. Even though I have taught for 30+ years, there is still sooo much I need to learn. 


"Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase".   Martin Luther King, Jr.
Happy Fourth of July!