Written by CUE Member and Guest Blogger Michael Tillyer @mtillyer
For the past twenty years as a public school teacher (18 of that in Kindergarten), I have constantly been searching for ways to utilize technology to transform the educational process for my young students. I used and created videos with my students, made the most of bulky desktop computers, and even enjoyed access to a SmartBoard. But it wasn’t until I started putting mobile devices into the hands of my kiddos that I truly started realizing this transformative goal.
Being a constant learner myself and intrigued by learning potential of mobile devices, I decided to learn more about developing apps for iOS. Though completely as a hobby, I learned the basics of programming and soon began developing my own iOS apps to use in my classroom.
What Are QR Codes and What Can You Do in a Classroom?
Sitting in on numerous CUE and ISTE sessions about using QR codes in education, I immediately spotted the potential use in a primary classroom. If you don’t know, QR codes are those little black and white squares you see on advertisements and product boxes. They are easy to spot by children and scan with a mobile device and immediately take them to a website. They are easy and free to create so I implemented them in my Kindergarten classroom with varying amounts of success. I created QR scavenger hunts and added QR codes to students artwork so they could learn further information about a subject.
One idea I had was to use QR codes to play an audio of picture books while students listened much like the traditional listening station. Each book has a QR code attached to the cover and is linked to an audio file on the internet. The child selects his own book and scans the QR code with and iPod Touch or iPad and can then listen to the book while following along in a real book. This gives the child a choice of book and the ability to “read” it over and over if he/she chooses. I tried implementing these stations, however, we had problems with slow audio downloads and the children occasionally clicking on an advertisement in the scanning app and going to inappropriate sites.
This problem gave rise to the creation of QR Jump. It is an app I created, available in the Apple App Store at www.appstore.com/qrjump. This app is similar to other QR scanners, however, it has no advertisements and is very simple. The beauty of QR Jump is that along with playing audio files from the Internet, it can also play files directly from the device’s music library. This eliminates download time and other problems with downloading.
I have used QR Jump in my 1-to-1 iPad Kindergarten classroom with great success during independent station or choice time. A 1-to-1 iPad solution is definitely not needed for QR listening stations to be successful. For my youngest students, iPad devices were almost too big. iPod touch devices would work wonderfully. Many students wanted to change books quite often and even make sure they read every book. While other students wanted to listen to the same book over and over. Either way, the children become autonomous with their learning, which has been proven to be a critical aspect of the learning process.
QR jump is free in Apple’s App store and I used Garageband on my Mac to create my own recordings. I then use iTunes to sync the recordings to the devices. I created the QR codes with a free QR code generator available on the internet. The whole process is actually quite simple and best of all it is totally free. Using the books for which I previously had audio readings and by recording about 10 books a week I have developed quite a library from which my students can choose. Follow this link for a complete walkthrough of the process.
QR Jump is not limited to listening stations and Kindergarten. For example, QR codes could be added to chapter books. Each chapter would have a code so older students who need it can listen as they read. Aside from playing audio, QR Jump can play videos and display pictures stored on the Internet. It also has the ability to display text which is an engaging way for students to check answers. I am constantly discovering innovative ways to incorporate QR codes in the classroom.
If you have any questions about QR Jump or using QR codes in the classroom, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Michael Tillyer is currently a Technology and Innovation Coach (TOSA) in the Escondido Union School District. As a 20 year teaching veteran, he holds a Masters of Science in Educational and Instructional Technology from National University. As a veteran educator and hobbyist programmer, Michael has developed several innovative educational apps for Apple’s App Store. These include Pupil Picker, Fluency, and QR Jump. To learn more about Michael Tillyer visit his website.