Friday, June 29, 2012

Structuring Creativity: Managing the Mash

There are more half written novels in the world than there are novels.
Scott Belsky

Belsky makes a great point about the 99% Thomas Edison quipped about a century ago.  Creation is hard work, very hard work.  I have a feeling that is why education paradigms are so slow to change.  The current factory based model of education is just so much easier to implement.  Unfortunately the ease of implementation is disenfranchising a large population of students.

I used to struggle with managing projects in the classroom.  In fact you could take the above quote, replace novel with research project, and you would have a true description of the finished products in my room.

Being able to work with creative problem solving teams in Destination Imagination and Future Problem Solving helped me breakdown the project management process so that I could help the teams I coach not only develop creative solutions but also implement those solutions at a high level.


Coming up with a cool idea has got to be one of the greatest highs; that moment when you see the solution so clearly in your head that it feels like you have glimpsed the eternal.  
From Scott Belsky:  How to Avoid the Idea Generation Trap

I have seen this in my students when they come up with a really cool plan or idea for a project they want to start:  making a short video, writing a story, making a cool graphic for some research, starting a research project, creating a new prop or costume, designing an intricate device to complete a job.

Their eyes widen, smiles stretch across their faces, they are out of their seats moving around.  This idea is going to be the greatest thing ever seen in the existence of humanity.  They fail to realize they have only finished 1% of their work.  

The Doldrums

What happens next is the 99%; the work.  The joy of inspiration gives way to the enormity of what they have imagined.  It is the realization that this new idea is going to be a lot of work.  They enter the doldrums of project management; where good ideas go to die.

From Scott Belsky:  How to Avoid the Idea Generation Trap
Belsky calls this stage the project plateau.  I have seen many hours wasted by inactivity during this time because it is a lot easier to do nothing than to work on what seems to be a never ending project.  

Break It Down:  Tangible and Beautiful

So how do we minimize the amount of time our students spend trapped in the project plateau?  The answer is to think big, act small.  

The increments of a project are about time.  Students need to look at their project and decide how much time to spend on an idea.  Then break those time increments into milestones and then finally break those milestones into tasks.

You will want to make these tasks tangible and beautiful.  Something that your students will not mind looking at on a day to day basis.  My board was not exactly beautiful but it did allow for my team to set milestones and then breakdown the milestones into specific tasks.  They posted the tasks on a chart so they could see what needed to be done next.
Project Board for Destination Imagination Team preparing solution for Regional Competition.  Green stickies are tasks for completion of scenery; orange stickie are tasks for completion of an intricate mosaic to be included on the scenery.  Each column represents dates for completion.

I know your students have never over-estimated how much time a task is going to take, but mine often do.  The bonus of using stickies is that incomplete tasks can easily be pushed to another date.  The project deadline for this solution was February 23rd.

Short Circuiting the Reward Systems

In education we do a good job of hardwiring our students to strive for the highest grade on a test or in a class.  This all gets stripped away when students begin working on long term problem solving or projects that will not see the light of day for a few weeks or months.  The feedback they have been trained to receive is gone.  They ring the bell but there are no treats.

One way to short circuit this reward system is to develop mini-celebrations.  My students loved to remove finished stickies.  When a task was completed the sticky would come off the board with great fanfare and celebration.  If an individual or team finished the task they would take the sticky down, crumple it in a hyperactive show of satisfaction and then the team would create a cheer for those who finished. The cheers were cheesy and silly but they helped to fill the need for recognition.   

Build Your Teams Immunity System

During the brainstorming portion of idea generation we often ask students to delay evaluating ideas.   A team needs a variety of divergent ideas on the table before they begin the convergent process of evaluating.

This can be a hard time for any "Debbie Downers" or "Sad Sallys" in the group. Those members of the group who see the proverbial glass broken on the floor.  We need to empower these folks during the creation phase because they can keep the team on track when the tedious work of production wants to give way to the temporary high of new idea generation.  These naysayers can focus the team on the task at hand and discourage new brainstorming that will lead away from reaching the next milestone.

Seeking Competition

One of the things I love about creative problem solving competitions is the competition.  I know, I know its all about the process but when students know they are competing against others it takes their drive and desire to do well to another level.

They realize that if they do not do their best then another group is going to take the prize, move on to the next level of competition.  A gentle reminder that there are other groups out there, working just as hard, can spur a team on when the excitement of completing a task is lacking.


It is very important that the team shares their ideas as often as possible.  As a teacher, coach and team manager one of my most important jobs is to get the students to explain their solution to me as many times as possible.  I am not trying to interfere or change their ideas, what I am doing is holding them accountable.  If they can verbalize their ideas, it helps them to remember and understand what they are working on and I can ask clarifying questions.

What Does It Mean?

Scott Belsky says that the creative process is having an idea and surviving the project plateau.  One percent of the creative process is truly natural.  The other ninety-nine percent is an acquired discipline that requires organization, community and leadership.  This is where teachers need to spend most of their time, helping students overcome the project plateau:  thinking about organization, leveraging the community, and leading teams to push projects forward.

Mashing and Mixing in the Classroom: Make Your Own Story

A Brazilian advertising firm did a brilliant job remixing Star Wars Legos.  It would be a great day in the classroom to have students take a scene from a favorite book or movie and rebuild that scene using toys from home.
Using these scenes as a template, the students could take a photo of their remixed scene.  All the pictures in the class could be combined into a digital photo book using Animoto, Flipsnack, Simple Booklet or Booktype.

To take the idea to another level outside of the ELA classroom have students bring in toys or Lego's to represent different processes in your class.

How do a Rubik's Cube, GI Joe, My Little Pony and Lego Star Wars represent the different features of the lobes of the brain?

Students could make a visual, take a picture and then use a tool like VoiceThread to record their explanation.  If you are using iPads in the classroom you could use the app Explain Everything.

By changing the frame of the original intent of the toy you have students creating and thinking on a different level.  The first key to creativity is to see concepts from a different perspective and those perspectives are what we need in the world today.

LEGO Star Wars “Make your own story”, a clever ad campaign by the Brazilian advertising school Escola Cuca.
All images via Ads of the World

Mashing and Mixing in the Classroom: Toy Story vs. The Office

via Cannot Unsee

" can look at every situation in the world from different angles, from close up, from far away, from upside down, and from behind. We are creating frames for what we see, hear, and experience all day long, and those frames both inform and limit the way we think." 
inGenius, Tina Seelig

When I saw this poster I immediately imagined students mashing and mixing in the classroom.  Even though this looks like an English or Literature recombination it would be possible to modify it for any content area.  

Students choose a favorite book or movie and then find the parallels between characters in that story and a concept you are studying.  

This past week I recently worked with a couple of seventh grade teachers to do the same thing with the classic Sophocles play Antigone and the key players in the Texas Revolution. If we had created a visual like this Creon = Santa Anna.

Here are a couple of questions from different content areas you might use to frame the assignment: 

What parallels can you find in the character traits of Toy Story and The Office?   Construct a visual that justifies your reasoning.

How do the functions of the parts of a cell parallel with the functions of the stages of a plot in a story?  Develop a visual that compares cell parts with parts of a plot.

How does the functions of an equation parallel the functions of plot development? Combine the two concepts and support your reasoning with a visual product.

Giving the students a chance to remix like this stretches their imaginations, allows them to think at the higher end of Bloom's Taxonomy and let's them manipulate some Web 2.0 tools to create cool visuals.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Combining and Remixing to Create

"Being able to connect and combine non-obvious ideas and objects is essential for innovation and a key part of the creative thinking process."
inGenius, Tina Seelig
The basic act of creation is one often one of remixing or recombining ideas.  

You can push students past the obvious responses to literature by having them combine unrelated genres or styles of writing.

Here we see an example of a sci-fi movie, Star Wars, with a classic children's fantasy author, Dr. Seuss.

The constraint of retelling a story using the genre characteristics of another forces students to stretch their minds and imaginations, to be thoughtful, to prioritize, and to be as innovative as possible.

Besides mixing genres you can mix:

  • characters
  • settings (time and/or place)
  • conflicts
  • plot structure
  • style
Give students a choice about how they can represent their remixes.  My students have enjoyed:
  • making videos
  • using digital photographs
  • creating posters
  • creating a graphic novel type response

If you or your students are interested in other examples of remixing they can study examples from music (Led Zeppelin), movies (Star Wars) or literature. 

To spin the idea to a different level you can use the picture or the links provided above and ask:

"What are the ethical issues surrounding the consequences of remixing someone else's idea?"

As it gets easier and easier to borrow and sample from others on the internet at what point does remixing became stealing?  It is a great conversation to have with students before they cut and paste their next research paper.
To further discuss the ethical ramifications of what is innovative and what is stealing you can share the following examples:

Napster - share the history of the start-up and then let students decide if it was innovative or stealing.
Xerox, Apple and Microsoft - share the story of the remixing of ideas from one company to the next.  
Led ZeppelinStar Wars and literature - was it okay what these artists did in modifying other ideas for their own "original" stories.
Add in examples that you have seen in your building of making copies or showing videos or borrowing lesson ideas from other teachers.

Students evaluate the traits of the work and determine where that work would score on a scale that moves from innovative to stealing.  Before you share how the story ended in a court of law students discuss why they feel an idea is innovative or stealing.  This should lead to some interesting conversations. 

Sunday, June 24, 2012

What Year Are You Teaching For?

Dr. Joyce Juntune, professor at Texas A&M University, shared a wonderful story during her TEDxWoodlands presentation last year.  The message of her story was simple and to the point:  What year are you teaching for?

As teachers we often get trapped in the endless cycle of "making it through the day." We have to get to duty, we have to get to the parent conference, we have to get to the next endless staff meeting.  Around and around we go, the students get lost in the never ending show.

Dr. Juntune reminds us that we do not teach for today, we do not teach for next year, we teach for the future.  What we have to ask ourselves, like Dr. Juntune's principal asked her so many years ago, is what are you teaching today that will matter in 30 years?

To illustrate this point Dr. Juntune's principal, clearly entrenched in the habit of Keeping the End in Mind, would have his staff write the number 30 on a sheet of paper. Then each teacher would subtract the average of their students from 30.  For me it would 30 - 11 = 19.

Then the teachers would add that number to the current year:  2014 +19 = 2033.  

Before the meeting was over, each teacher would write on a sheet of paper:

What will I do today that will matter in the year 2033?

Each teacher would post those papers in their room as a daily reminder to make sure they taught something that day that would matter to their students when those students turned 30.

That does not mean we stop teaching with the short term in mind but it helps us remember what Dr. Calvin Taylor at the University of Utah said:  

"Grades alone have zero correlation to future success in life.  It's not what you know that counts, it's what you do with what you know that makes the difference."

And this where creativity comes in to play.  Once the students have the information, let them go and use it, release them to use their creativity to create meaning.  And that is a skill all students are going to need when they are 30.  Information is free; how they use it is the million dollar question.

For more in depth lesson ideas and full unit descriptions pick up a copy of Stand Up! Speak Out! The Social Action Curriculum for Building 21st-Century Skills available from Prufrock Press and Amazon and Barnes & Noble

Structuring Creativity: The Literature Lens

Legendary graphic design artist Milton Glaser is quoted in Jonah Lehrer's new book, Imagine:  How Creativity Works, "...creativity is a verb, a very time-consuming verb."

Sign above the front door of Milton Glaser's studio on East Thirty-second Street in Manhattan
Creativity is hard work.  Many imaginative children do not realize how hard they have to work to be creative.  The work of creating is even harder if we do not help our students structure their creative process; giving them a map that shows the route from imagination to creation.

The classic model that I have used with many creative problem solving teams and class assignments is the Creative Problem Solving process created by Alex Osborn in 1953 and then further refined by  Sid Parnes (1992) and Scott Isaksen and Donald Trefflinger (1985).  The structure of the model allows for divergent and convergent thinking throughout the creative process; a balance of imagination and analysis.

Creative Model Solving Process
Students I taught were very productive using the Osborn Model.  But you can structure your students creativity in other ways.  By changing your academic lens or perspective you can take your content area objectives and revise student output using the structures of literature.

My sixth graders work on a lengthy creative writing project.  Before we start I give them a map to help them find their way; avoiding the pitfall of "I don't know what to write next."  The structure of the Hero's Journey allows students to remain productive while creating.

I am lucky to work with eighth grade teacher Troy Drayton.  He structures his students writing by having them create flash fiction.  Tell a story in 600 words or less.  Students have to analyze genre and content in order to meet the word count.

Next year we will push our students even further.  North Carolina Sixth Grade teacher Bill Ferriter has his students create 25 word stories.  Students have to be very mindful of word choice!

Ernest Hemingway has been quoted as saying the best story he ever wrote was in response to a bet that he could not write a complete story in six words.  He won the challenge.

“For sale: baby shoes, never used.”

This structure forces students to cut to the essence of their idea or story.  The nice thing about the 25 word story or six word story is the ease of sharing.  Both can be texted or shared on Twitter quickly.

Another great tool that helps to structure students ideas and thoughts is the Google Search Story.  Students synthesize what they know about a topic using search terms related to the topic they are studying in class.
Structure is vital to creativity.  Without structure students can get lost in their imaginations or overwhelmed; never actually creating anything.  

In her book, inGenius, Tina Seelig writes, "These constraints sharpen your imagination and enhance innovation...Constraints are a tool that can and should be modulated up and down to catalyze and compound creative energy." (p.76)

Literature offers many structures that can be incorporated into any content area.  Use the structures of literature to give your students a chance to create something new and innovative that captures the essence of your class.

Summarize the Theory of Relativity in a haiku poem
Write a love sonnet about Western Expansion
In six words tell the story of mitosis
Describe an equilateral triangle in a cinquain poem
Using the archetypes of The Hero's Journey describe the water cycle using water as your hero

Isaksen, SG and Trefflinger, DJ (1985) Creative Problem Solving: The Basic Course. Buffalo, NY: Bearly Publishing.

Osborn, A (1953) Applied Imagination. New York: Charles Scribner.

Parnes, SJ (1992) Sourcebook for Creative Problem Solving. Buffalo, NY: Creative Education Foundation Press.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Weight Loss QR Code Professional Development Transformation

Teachers can be overwhelmed by the sheer number of Web 2.0 tools on the net these days.  I know I have been at times. 

Thinking about this upcoming year I began to wonder how I would help a teacher who wanted to integrate more Web 2.0 tools into their classroom.  I know that coaching or mentoring teachers is always easier when they want the help and are not being coerced by their administrator. 

It's a lot like trying to make healthier choices with your diet.  I call it the weight loss theory of professional development.  

It works like this:  What do you say when a colleague comes back from summer break 20 pounds lighter, looking younger and healthier?  

"Wow, you look great, what have you been doing?" 

If you are like me, you ask the question because you want to drop 20 pounds and would like to know what worked for them.

Same thing for PD.  When teachers see your students using technology or some other tool they want to know what you are doing.  Usually they say something like, "Can I have a copy of that worksheet?" or "Where did you find that lesson?" or "Can we combine classes and you can do that with my students?"

Teachers who ask you what you are doing are going to be more engaged and willing to learn than those who are forced to come to your PD session or worse you are forced to go to their room by your administrator to "help them."

The first teacher wants to lose weight, the second is being forced to consider weight loss by a doctor who has suggested mixing in a few more salads and some quality time walking around the block.

In this example the tools, the weight loss strategy, I chose were screencasting or flipping a lesson and QR Codes.  I will be working with a fictional teacher named Greg.

Before we get started I must travel to the altar of technology and make sure to pay special homage to the pillar of multiplying of the self.  This year technology helped me teach in 147 different homes at 147 different times.  I was rewound, paused, fast-forwarded and re-watched.  The power of these screencasting and QR Codes will allow any teacher to do more in less time.  Which means the students are going to have more time to collaborate and create.

So lets begin, first, with a basic premise that worksheets for homework, like Big Mac's and milkshakes, are not the best educational diet for students:

Anti-Worksheet Manifesto
Worksheets are not engaging
Math worksheets don't promote critical thinking
Math worksheets don't promote communication or collaboration
Math worksheets are not accessible
Math worksheets don't provide immediate feedback

The Worksheet Level:

Worksheets by themselves are not good teaching.  So our teacher, Greg, is using worksheets on fractions for homework.  This is like the first level of weight loss.  Greg is weak and needs to power up.  As Greg's coach, mentor, I need to give him a tool to help him move forward to level two...

The Worksheet with QR Code to Khan Academy:

Better because now the students are not trapped in their own development.  Also there is a bit of novelty built into this worksheet because the students can scan the QR Code and watch the video.

But I have to ask Greg:  If we have Khan Academy why do we need you?  That is a little harsh but so far what has Greg really brought to the table?  The sheet is easily found online, QR Codes are simple to create and Khan Academy is pervasive.  I will give points for remixing some ideas but it still is not getting the students working with real world scenarios.

Also, Greg should add the URL so that students without QR Readers can type in the website at home or in the library if they do not have web access.

The Worksheet with QR Code to You Teaching:

Now we are getting somewhere.  Greg has recorded a tutorial, maybe on Jing or Screencast-O-Matic, and converted the hyperlink to a QR code.  Excellent. The students now hear him reteaching the concept and are reminded about the lesson they had earlier in class that day.  They work through the worksheet, feel more confident and parents are sending Greg e-mails about how thankful they are that he went the extra mile.

Look how much stronger Greg's tech accumen has become!  He can digitally record a lesson, convert the lesson to a QR Code and combine it with a worksheet.  Unfortunately it is still a worksheet, more growth is needed to advance to the next level.

The Worksheet with QR Code to Student Teaching:

Now Greg has gone to a different level.  The students are making videos of concepts they have mastered, uploading them to a class website like that of The students internalized the concepts and created videos to help their peers learn.  This has a little more of a collaborative feel.  Students see that they can help others and there is a true audience for their work.

Greg is transforming from a giver of information to a facilitator, helping students construct their understanding, guiding them when they are stuck, celebrating when they surprise themselves.  Look at how much he has changed from just handing out a worksheet for homework.  The students are working at another level now, the classroom is a different place but there is still one more level to go, one last test before the transformation is complete.

Mathtrain.Tv The power of kids teaching kids
Assignment with QR Codes reviewing concepts as students need them

Students are given the following scenario that integrates their knowledge of animals and their habitats.

Last week a hurricane came through the Gulf Coast and destroyed many animal habitats.  As you were cleaning up debris you found one of the following animals without a home.  (Students choose from a list of native Texas Gulf Coast animals)  With a partner design a temporary habitat that will keep the animal alive until Texas Wildlife officials can return the animal to its proper habitat.

You will need to calculate the amount and type of food the animal will eat.  The size of the habitat that will need to be built and then construct a prototype environment.  You will use fractions in your calculations of food consumed over time and measurements for the habitat.  You will use decimals in calculating the cost of materials and food for your animal.

Students will work in groups (no larger than four) to complete the project.

Embedded within the assignment are QR Codes linking to tutorial videos reminding the students of how to measure, or convert fractions, or add fractions or make fractions of fractions.  So as students need help with a concept Greg is there for a quick tutorial or students can access him as needed when he is with a different group.

Greg transformed from a teacher giving worksheets for homework to a teacher building collaborative experiences that stretch students knowledge and use of concepts to real world application.

I think any coach or mentor could help a teacher move along this continuum of utilizing technology to build a more dynamic and interesting math class.  The teacher has effectively turned Bloom's Taxonomy upside down and awakened their students.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Deductive Thinking in the Middle School Classroom

I have noticed that the direct teaching of deductive thinking or reasoning diminishes the farther students advance in their public education.  This is unfortunate for the math student who has little deductive training and is thrown into the world of geometric proofs or the literature student trying to work  through Sherlock Holmes.

An easy way to integrate deductive thinking into your class is to use a word puzzle or rebus as a warm-up.  Bamboozables is a great source for word puzzles.  I copy the puzzle from the site and display it on the board as students are coming into class.  Students often don't make it to their seats before the bell rings when these puzzles are on the whiteboard.

If students are going to read an article or story in class, have them solve a couple of these puzzles first.  Then tell them, "You had to deduce the author's meaning by using the clues of the puzzle.  Today while you are reading, use the text to help you deduce the author's purpose/theme/main idea.  Use the clues in the text to determine what the author is trying to tell you."

This past year I wanted my seventh graders to have some experience with deductive thinking before we began reading Sherlock Holmes and other mystery's.  Weeks before we started talking about Sherlock Holmes, I would use these puzzles as warm-ups a couple of times a week.  It helped to build schema for deductive reasoning and gave the students context for how Sir Arthur Conan Doyle constructed the Holmes mysteries.

After students have some experience with solving these puzzles, flip Bloom's on its head and have them create the word puzzles.

Students begin by looking up popular phrases from around the country and then create their own word puzzles to display in class or post on the class website.  A great list of common phrases students can use to build their own word puzzles can be found at

Later in the year, once students understand the design of logical deductions, we introduce them to the idea of the logical fallacy.

Cutting people is a crime. Surgeons cut people, therefore, surgeons are criminals.

While creating propaganda for our dystopian literature, we discuss the logical fallacy and how it can be a dangerous tool in the art of persuasion.  Students try to integrate the technique in their propaganda campaigns for or against the dystopian society they are reading about.

If you have used deductive reasoning in your classroom, please let me know how it has been working for you.

For more in depth lesson ideas and full unit descriptions pick up a copy of Stand Up! Speak Out! The Social Action Curriculum for Building 21st-Century Skills available from Prufrock Press and Amazon and Barnes & Noble

Thursday, June 14, 2012

7 Online Polling Tools to Help You Collect Student Feedback

Collecting student feedback has never been easier.  With the advancement of Web 2.0 polling tools, collecting organized data is a few mouse clicks away.  Here are 7 tools you can add to your digital toolbox:

Socrative advertises itself as a smart student response system.  Besides polling your students on content you can create games and exercises to assess understanding.  Once you set up an account it is easy to access your virtual testing room.  The program works on smart devices, laptops and desktop computers.  I liked that the assessment data was e-mailed to me at the conclusion of the quiz/survey.  The spreadsheet was easy to analyze and I found it invaluable prepping for data teams and planning for future instruction.  I did notice a couple of drawbacks with Socrative: students cannot go back to change answers and the program can slowdown or quit in the middle of quizzes if more than 20 or students are on at one time.  But overall, I enjoyed using this program in my class this year.

Poll Everywhere can also be used in the classroom, on computers and with smart devices.  It's primary purpose is for participants in classes or presentations to text in their answers.  This tool is free for up to 40 participants.  I have used Poll Everywhere in staff development and it is effective.  It can be a confusing tool for participants to use because each answer choice is given a six digit code to be texted in.  The participants complained because they could not figure out which number to text and where to send the text.

Polldaddy offers free online quiz creation for teachers.  The tool also features an app for the iPod and iPad.  The free version allows you to have 200 survey responses per month and 10 questions per survey.  That may limit your use of this program in the classroom especially with other Web 2.0 tools that offer more unlimited feedback options.  Polldaddy also sends a detailed spreadsheet to the teacher once the poll is finished.

Quibblo is a user based site that allows anyone who is registered to create a quiz that goes out into the public domain.  It is a popular tool on social media sites and easily embeddable in a class or school website.  Students can use Quibblo to create their own quizzes and surveys for research in the classroom and there are thousands of other polls/surveys online from other users.  Many of the other student generated quizzes on the Quibblo site focus on celebrity and music, but do not let that noise distract from the fact that this is a tool students can use for serious research in your classroom.  Sometimes embedding the code into your website can be tedious, stay patient and keep trying.

KwikSurveys promotes itself as the only free and unlimited online polling tool, which makes it perfect for classroom use. KwikSurveys has a number of the same features as the other sites listed here and gives you the feedback in xls and csv format. A big plus for KwikSurveys is the site seems not to have a ceiling with the number of participants using your survey/poll at any one time. While other sites charge to survey large groups, KwikSurveys remains free.

Micropoll allows you to make some good looking surveys that are embeddable in websites.  The free version allows unlimited polls and up to 200 respondents per day.  That should be enough for a middle school or high school teacher teaching six classes of 30 students per day.

SurveyMonkey is popular on my campus.  My administrators like using SurveyMonkey because it is easy to set up, customizable with about 50 different templates and collecting the data is simple.  You can set up skip/conditional logic for questions that do not fit respondent criteria and you can filter the data to find common results or patterns.  The free version allows 100 responses per survey and each survey allows a maximum of 10 questions.

And these are just a few of the options out there.  Below are logos of many other choices.  But before we get lost in the logos and the sheer number of data collection tools we have to remember that data gathering is just the first step in a very important process.  Our professional judgment comes into play as we analyze the information and then, most importantly, act on the information.  Students in higher education often complain that no action arises from the feedback they provide.  If you take the time to collect an exit ticket or use the survey for pre-assessment, be transparent, let your students know how the data you collected will help them learn.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

QR Code Resources

A QR (Quick Response) Code is a barcode arranged in a two dimensional matrix.  First designed for the automotive industry, QR Codes quickly found applications as UPC barcodes.  In June 2011 over 14 million QR Codes were scanned in the United States.

QR Codes are a quick and easy way for you to introduce Web 2.0 tools into your classroom.  If you are not familiar with QR Codes here is a primer for learning everything you need to know to get started with QR Codes or just enough to make you dangerous.

The How To:

QR Code Implementation Guide - This is a great guide for preparing yourself to use QR Codes, generating QR Codes and trouble-shooting problems before they arise.

QR Codes in the Classroom - A listing of QR Code Generators and QR Code Readers for desktops and mobile learning devices.

Lesson Ideas:

Tales of Things - Wouldn't it be great to link any object directly to a 'video memory' or an article of text describing its history or background? Tales of Things allows just that with a quick and easy way to link any media to any object via small printable tags known as QR codes. How about tagging a building, your old antique clock or perhaps that object you're about to put on eBay?

Using QR Codes to Create Educational Posters - Update old textbooks to make them more relevant and reflect the new learning in a domain or field.

QR Code Treasure Hunt - A great jumping off point if you are allowing students to BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) to class.  This lesson will get the students moving, using technology and learning.

How to Set-up QR Code Treasure Hunt - A QR-Code Treasure Hunt is a fun, simple way to get students using their mobile devices to continue learning outside of lesson time. Here's how we set one up at the International School of Toulouse with some guidance on how to do the same with your own students using the QR Treasure Hunt Generator at

Twitter QR Code Bingo - This will create random bingo boards that will tweet out the question when scanned with a QR code reader. Have students then append something to the tweet.

5 Real Ways to Use QR Codes in Education - QR codes… Disposable fad? Or useful technology? Opinions on whether QR codes are of real value is a hotly debated topic. But regardless of polarized views on the technology, there are some teachers using QR codes in education in some very inventive and exciting ways. 

QR Voice Example
QR Voice - This is an easy to use resource that allows you to type in a quick message and then create a QR Code to access the digital voice recording.  Great for recording quick (100 characters or less) reminders or tips for lessons.  This is a nice tool if you are interested in flipping the classroom.

12 Ideas for Teaching with QR Codes - 12 ideas for safely integrating mobile technology into your classroom and leveraging mobile technology to your advantage.

QR CODE GAME OR SCAVENGER HUNT  QR Codes — those little squares that, when viewed through smartphones lead to videos, sounds, or websites — can be used to create multiple-choice questions and answers. Here’s how: a QR is “broken” into pieces that are linked to questions and answers. Students can drag the piece next to the answer they think is correct into a grid, and the pieces form a QR code. If the answers are all correct, the QR code reveals a video. If not, nothing happens. But students can adjust answers until they get it right. To make it easier (for the teacher) and more visual, each QR code piece is colored. The grid, coloring, and QR code construction can all be all done in PowerPoint, but any software with graphic capabilities, such as HyperStudio, works well too. The low-tech alternative is to simply cutting up a QR Code and stash it along the path of a scavenger hunt. The teams can bring back the pieces and reassemble them to uncover the video, still, or sound that the QR code that appears on their smartphone. 

Additional Resources:

QR Code Resources and Links - More resources and links for lesson ideas

UQR.ME - Create dynamic QR Codes