Thursday, April 12, 2012

QR Codes Explained and Ideas for Classroom Use

When I lead workshops or give presentations I typically don't distribute handouts in paper form. Instead I just give the link to my digital resources for that day's presentation or workshop. Recently, I have started to deviate from that policy just a little bit. Now I like to place printed QR codes in a dozen or so locations in the room. Those QR codes are linked to my slides and digital handouts. I started doing this because often people would miss the links when they're just on a slide at the beginning and end of the presentation. This way people can scan the QR codes with their phones and tablets and have instant access to the resources for the day.

Distributing those QR codes before the presentation also creates a good segue into conversations about what QR codes are and how they can be used in schools. One of the resources that I occasionally use to explain QR codes is a commercially licensed copy of QR Codes Explained by Common Craft (disclosure: I have an in-kind business relationship with Common Craft).
After showing the video the next resource in my list is Russel Tarr's QR Code Treasure Hunt Generator. The QR Code Treasure Hunt Generator will walk you through each step of creating QR codes for use in your classroom. The QR Code Treasure Hunt Generator also offers some examples of using QR code treasure hunts in classroom.

The following posts have more ideas about using QR codes in schools:
Interactive Bulletin Boards
QR Codes in the Classroom
QRPedia - QR Codes for Wikipedia Entries
Assign QR Codes to Your Documents
Create a Mobile Language Lesson With QR Voice
Tom Barrett's Interesting Ways to Use QR Codes

An Online Nature Center for Kids

The Canterbury Environmental Education Centre is a nice resource for elementary school teachers and students. The main feature of the kids' pages is a series of nature exploration visuals. Nature Explorers offers simple virtual exploration activities that students can complete on their own or with some guidance from you.

In the Grassland, Woodland, Pond, and Plant Explorers students click on objects in the pictures to learn about the different parts of those habitats. The Dragonfly Challenges are a series of webquests through which students can explore the topics of biodiversity, rivers, ponds, and woodlands. The Eco Explorer section of Nature Explorers is built around the topics of recycling and eco-responsibility.

Applications for Education
The Canterbury Environmental Education Centre has a message on their site that they've stopped offering programs at the actual center. The web resources are still online and can still be used as part of classroom lessons about habitats and biodiversity. Since the materials are based on a specific location you might have students complete some of the virtual activities then take them outside of your school to see if they can find examples of the same things. If they cannot find them then you have an opportunity for discussion and lessons comparing habitats.

H/T to Fred Delventhal and his daily bookmark shares.

7 Services for Sending Group Texts to Parents and Students

People, particularly teenagers, have an almost compulsive reaction to open text messages when their phones beep or buzz. So if you want to quickly deliver an important message to student or parent today, sending a text message is the best way to do it. Managing a list of cell phone numbers can be a daunting task. Here are seven services that educators can use to easily send and manage group text messages.

Class Parrot is a service that enables teachers to send text messages to groups of students and parents. Using Class Parrot teachers send text messages from their computers. Class Parrot keeps the students' and parents' phone numbers private. Here's how Class Parrot works; teachers create a different group messaging program for each class that they teach. Each group that a teacher creates is assigned a unique opt-in code. Teachers give that code to students and parents. Then if a student or parent would like to receive messages from the teacher, they can simply opt-in by texting the opt-in code to Class Parrot. Class Parrot appears to have shut down.

Class Pager is another service that teachers can use to send group text messages to their students. Using Class Pager teachers can send text messages to their students without either party seeing each other's real cell phone number. To get started using Class Pager, register yourself on the site. Class Pager will then provide you with an enrollment code to share with your students and their parents. When a student or parent sends a text to Class Pager with that code, he/she will be added to your roster. Then when you write a text message it will be sent to everyone who has opted into the service. A couple of fine print things to consider about Class Pager. Class Pager is free for your first class. Additional classes are available for a fee. You should also bear in mind that if your students don't have unlimited incoming text message plans, they could incur charges.

gText is a new service offering free group text messaging. A neat piece of information about gText is that it was developed by a high school student. gText allows you to send text messages to groups that you have created in your gText account. Your texts can be sent from your phone or from your computer. By default gText keeps group members' phone numbers private. Group members who want other group members to see their numbers can allow that. Beyond simple text messaging gText offers options for sharing files (although that could consume a lot of space on a phone), sharing images, and sharing calendars.

Kikutext is a service for keeping parents informed about your classroom and or school through text messages. The service is an opt-in service for parents. When you create a Kikutext account you're assigned an opt-in code to distribute to parents. Parents then send that code in a text message to register to receive messages from you. Kikutext keeps the phone numbers of parents and those of teachers and principals hidden from each other.

SendHub is the latest group text messaging system that I've discovered. To use SendHub give people the opt-in code to join your contact list. Once people opt-in you can put them into a group within your account. Then when you have a message for a group you can send it out to all members of that group without sending the message to your entire contact database. Learn more about SendHub in the one minute video below.

WeTxt offers free group text messaging. WeTxt works with ten major cellular service providers to offer you the ability to send text messages to large groups at once. In addition to creating and sending initial messages, WeTxt offers an option for sending "reply all" messages. Messages can be sent from your mobile device or from your email account. A mobile calendar helps you keep track of items that you need to send out as text messages.

Remind 101 allows you to send text messages to groups of students and or parents from your computer. Like most of the other services in this list, Remind 101 uses an opt-in system. Students and parents who want to receive messages have to enter a code to sign up to receive messages. Learn more about Remind 101 in the video below.

Sound Maps from The British Library

The British Library's sound maps provides a good way to explore more than 50,000 audio recordings organized into nine categories. To hear the recordings select a category then click on the placemarks on the maps. The map categories include accents & dialogues, soundscapes, wildlife, and oral histories of holocaust survivors.

Applications for Education
The British Library's sound maps could be used in a number of content areas. In science courses the sound maps offer a nice way for students to hear the sounds of animals that they're learning about in different regions of the world. The accents & dialogues map could be useful for language arts lessons. The stories of holocaust survivors could make great supplementary material for lessons on WWII.

H/T to Google Maps Mania

Old Man River Project - A Web Series

The Old Man River Project is a new video series on Vimeo. The series chronicles the journey of Brett Rogers and his team as they attempt to row and sail the length of the Mississippi River. They're doing this to raise awareness of human impact on waterways and on drinking water supplies. The crew is making the journey in a handmade 32 foot, wood, York Boat. New episodes are released every Tuesday. You can see the whole line-up of episodes here.

Applications for Education
You'll notice in the video above that there are a couple of times when language is bleeped. That aside, this series could be a good way for middle school and high school students to see how humans have impacted the Mississippi River. In the first episode you'll hear commentary about how dams are slowing the journey, the "engineering" of the river altering currents, and the cloudiness of the water.

H/T to The Adventure Blog.