Saturday, December 6, 2014

QR Codes, Speaking & Listening in the Classroom

I recently presented a workshop about QR codes to a group of teachers who were very excited about the possibilities for using this technology.  QR codes, which allow quick access to text, websites, video, images, and more, are a great tool for both empowering and engaging individual learners. (New to QR codes?  Looking for ideas and info about them?  Check out my Diigo links embedded at the end of this post.)

The teachers were particularly interested in students creating audio clips in class which would then be connected to a QR code, thus providing easy access to their content on mobile devices. We played around with this scenario and had some successes and failures. There are many variables for planning to use and create QR codes in class, such as the availability and type of computers in your school (and whether or not they have microphones for recording), the school connectivity to WiFi, the technology skills of students, the school's technology policies (specifically in regards to privacy and mobile devices) and the types of devices that students may (or may not have) in their pockets.

My two favorite tools for QR codes are Vocaroo (for recording voice) and Kaywa (for creating codes.) Vocaroo does not require an account and even creates the QR code for you. Vocaroo recordings will play on all devices but cannot be used for creating recordings on Apple products.  Kaywa is the easiest QR code generator and does not require an account. (Video about Kaywa.)  There are also apps for creating QR codes on various devices, such as Qrafter for iPhone and iPads.

Below is a summary of our learning from the workshop and some info from my own research, organized by device type:

1. PC laptops and computers or Chromebooks.  This process is the easiest when students record their voice with Vocaroo on a PC laptop, computer, or Chromebook.  Vocaroo does not require an account and all students will need is a microphone.  Students can create QR codes on this site, then download and either embed, print or email this code for classroom use.

2.  Mac computers.  Here this process becomes more complicated because users cannot record with Vocaroo on Mac computers (although they can hear Vocaroo recordings, even in web browsers).  I recommend students use GarageBand and then export their content to a file-sharing site such as iCloud.  Please note that audio files from file-sharing sites may not play in the web browsers of mobile devices and may need special apps to play content.  (This is true of my iPhone, which could not play a Google Drive clip in Safari but I could hear it when I opened in my Google Chrome browser which then allowed me to select an app for opening the clip. Yes, that sentence made me dizzy too.)

3.  Mobile devices.   If you want students to use their mobile devices in class to both record their voice and create their QR codes:

  • Android users.  There is an unofficial Vocaroo app in the Google Play store that students can download and use in conjunction with the website. Vocaroo should also work for recording through a web browser.  Vocaroo clips will usually play easily on Android devices, including in web browsers.
  • Apple - iPhone/iPads.  Users cannot record on Vocaroo through these devices.  I recommend students use a recording app such as Voice Record Pro 7 (free) then upload the file to a cloud-based service, such as Google Drive.  From there, students can create a QR code from the document link.  I tried this out using the Garage Band app for iPhone, but did not have luck connecting  my SoundCloud account and do not yet have an iCloud Drive account set up for my phone.  

I'll be honest and say that both reading and writing this post hurts my brain.  My advice, if you are hoping to use this within the classroom:
  1. Ask a few learners to pilot the lesson at home or during a study hall for extra credit. They can help you anticipate problems and be experts when the entire class does the lesson.
  2. Give a quick synopsis of creating both sound clips and QR codes and have students figure it out (and support each other in their efforts). Embrace the organized chaos, teacher confusion, furious thumbs on keyboards, and eventual success.
  3. Do this together in a computer lab where you all use the same devices at the same time. Recruit a few tech-savvy students to be your TAs for the day.
I embrace the fact that most students know more about technology than I do, and just hope to get the gist of new technology before adding it to my toolbox.  I hope this post helped with providing background knowledge.  Good luck. I would love for you to comment and to share your own experiences and expertise with QR codes or to hear how it went in your classroom.  I still have much to learn and would love to deepen my knowledge of this useful technology.  And lastly - our goal as educators is to harness technology for effective learning and (not just for the sake of fun gadgetry.)  With that in mind, I wholeheartedly support you chucking this idea out the window and instead doing a lesson tomorrow using paper and pencil.  

Voice Record Pro 7 on the App Store on iTunes
Information about Voice Record Pro. This is a free app for iPhones and iPads, and can be synced with Google Drive, DropBox, OneDrive, and Box Cloud. From there students could generate QR codes for others to access voice recordings. There are some small issues to handle. For example, with Google Drive, the types of file uploads (MP4 or M4A) cannot be heard on Google Drive.) But there are other apps that can play the file, such as GDrive.
The magic of QR codes in the classroom - Karen Mensing - YouTube
Great video introducing QR codes and sharing a variety of ideas for all levels. Great for beginners to QR codes.
Cybraryman Internet Catalogue for QR Codes
This is an extensive resource of QR codes; contains many links with ideas.
Twelve Ideas for Teaching with QR Codes | Edutopia
Blogger and PBL specialist Andrew Miller offers an array of creative suggestions for using Quick Response codes in the classroom. (Updated 01/2014)
QR Codes in the Classroom - Kathy Schrock's Guide to Everything
http://QR Code Resource List with Generators and Lesson Ideas (Useful Resource)
40 QR Codes Ideas for the Classroom (PDF)
QR Codes In Education - LiveBinder
Resources For Getting Started With And Using QR Codes In The Classroom
What is the best QR Code Reader | Visualead
The best QR Code Reader for iPhone, Android, Windows, Blackberry. A list of most recommended Android QR Code Readers. A list of best iPhone QR Code Readers. Best Windows Scanners.


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    1. Thank you for taking the time to read the post and for your comments! I hope that these activities work out well for you. I would love an update! Have a great rest of the week.