One of the many reasons to integrate technology into the curriculum is to create an authentic audience for students. Audience gives students purpose. Students are no longer turning in assignments to simply receive a check mark and stuff it into a folder. Technology provides an outlet for their work to be on display for their classmates, parents, school community and, at times, anyone with access to the Internet. Not only do students work harder because of the increased visibility of their work, but student engagement also tends to soar.
One of our second grade teachers, Mrs. Courtney Sears wanted to provide her students with an opportunity to use mobile devices in learning about life cycles. She decided to use QR codes as a way to motivate her students to share what they had learned about this science topic. After raising mealworms and butterflies in the classroom, the students knew the life cycles of these insects well. As a culminating project, they were asked to create a poster that described each stage of the butterfly or mealworm life cycle and use key vocabulary such as birth, metamorphosis, adult, and reproduce in their writing. Once the posters were complete the students practiced reading their work fluently, recorded it and made QR codes that linked to the audio files for the posters. This exercise created an excellent opportunity for students to practice skills such as vocabulary development and fluency in a meaningful way.
After researching the many apps that might be used for this project, a bit of trial and error led us to the following recipe:
1. We recorded the audio in Garageband and exported it as an MP3 file.
2. Opened the audio file in the Public Dropbox folder, giving it a public link. Using Dropbox allowed the audio to play directly after scanning, instead of having to press a play button.
3. Copy and pasted the URL into one of the many QR creator sites available. We chose www.qrstuff.com because it gives the option to shorten the URL and it allows you to select a color of your choice, which was a hit with the kids.
4. Downloaded the QR code to print, embed, etc.
Once the students attached their completed QR code to their project, Mrs. Sears put them on display in the hallway. She then set aside time for each student to use an iPad to scan each code and appreciate their classmates work. Parents and teachers that passed by could scan the codes with their mobile device to hear the explanation of each life cycle. In addition, we posted the qr codes on the web, in a “Life Cycle Audio Library”, for further access.
Overall the project was a success. From a technology standpoint, the key was first, finding the apps that did what we wanted them to do. Then allowing students to participate in the entire process from recording, to generating the URL and finally creating the QR code allowed them to develop a basic understanding of how the technology actually works.
“I am always amazed by what all of my students can do with technology. They are so eager to share their very best work when technology is involved,” said Ms. Sears. Ms. Sears does a superb job of integrating technology in a way that allows her students to make authentic connections between their learning and the real world.