I took these two components and created what I call the The Poetry Project. This project incorporates writing, technology, problem solving, new common core standards and community outreach. The idea of community outreach is especially appealing to me, and I feel is an important aspect that should be a consistent theme that is integrated with projects and curriculum, in general.
First, what is a QR code? A QR code is essentially a type of bar code, like you would find on food products or on items you purchase at a store. Bar codes have been around for decades, but stores have mainly been the ones who have had the devices to scan them.
QR codes have been around since the 1990′s, but didn't become popular until the last five years, primarily due to mobile technology, which is accessible to the average consumer. This, coupled with free online scanning software that a person can download onto a mobile device, has made QR codes quite popular. QR codes work in the same fashion as bar codes, but tend to be used for directing someone to a site, an advertisement, information, etc.
I decided that I would incorporate the free app Haiku Deck with a poetry lesson on, you guessed it, haikus. The students were then introduced to the app. I am a proponent that less instruction is actually more, so I encouraged the students to play with the app and discover for themselves the various functions. (NOTE: always give explicit instruction on general rules,handling, care of technology tools before anything else. I tell my students, this is a tool, not a toy that you do do not own!). Then we came together and shared out what we had learned about using the app and the iPad as a whole class. Students then took their haikus they wrote from notebook into Haiku Deck. I loved seeing children engaged and the sense of accomplishment they felt when finishing their poem on the iPad. A pro of Haiku Deck is that it saves online within their site vs a download.
The second part was generating QR codes for each digital poem. I knew this would be a more challenging feat with 8-year olds. I already pictured the minute steps that would be needed to be taught, such as what a “link” is, how to highlight, copy and paste a link, etc. and probably groaned softly under my breath.
We had used iPads for the first part, but I decided that it would be easier to have the kids use laptops for this activity. A quick survey showed most kids had never used a laptop before, so I made time to give a quick and dirty overview on laptops, as well as how they should be handled, etc. Here’s the general breakdown. These steps were modeled by me to the class. I had my kids work in pairs, as I find for their age group, partners are way better, so they can help one another.
- Basics on how computers work (I will post a separate blog on this topic sometime)
- What a link is
- Different ways to highlight information- (I used Word to practice this first)
- What a QR Code is (I created a very basic digital presentation that I showed students, so they actually understood the concept!)
- Where you can create a QR code (online or with a smartphone- some kids knew this, as their parents had a scanner on their smartphone)
- Copying their link and then going to the QR generator page to paste it
- Printing out the QR code
- Verifying their QR code worked by using a downloaded scanner on the iPads
Challenges/What I Learned
Did this project happen in a week span? No! I had no idea how long this process would take. If you constantly worry about timelines, you are apt to turn down opportunities for growth or a potentially awesome project. I simply integrated time for mini-lessons and work within other aspects of our day.
If I had to give a general time (excluding our time learning poetry and writing them first), I would say 6-8 sessions between 1/2 hour and 1 hour slots. Really, it depends on how you choose to approach and break down the above steps. Another a minor organizational challenge is knowing which QR code belonged to who, as they all just come out as big squares, with no availability to type in info that humans can read. I would have preferred this then having to take time to scan 22 QR codes with kids.
The main takeaway that one should always keep in mind is don’t give up! Technology can be overwhelming when you have 30 bodies in the class, technical issues, etc. Remember, it is ok not to be an expert and to learn with your students. It’s ok if that one lesson fizzled and not much got done. If you don’t practice, you will never improve on your own skills. We tell our students this all the time. This applies to adults as well!
What Did The Students Learn?
- What a haiku is and its structure
- Practice of basic grammar skills and spelling
- How to use an iPad
- How to use Haiku Deck
- How to highlight, copy and paste information
- What a QR code is and how people use it
- How to generate a QR code
- Why community outreach is important
- Making school/learning connections to the real world
- That kids can teach adults (there were a number of adults who did not know what those square, squiggly boxes they see around were!)