The newest member of our team, Justin Bell (@jabellpepper) shares his innovative use of QR codes in the English class to improve grammar and vocabulary.
For a long time I thought QR codes would be a good addition to the classroom. The problem: I wasn’t a scavenger-hunt type of teacher. Most of the QR activities seemed to appeal to a different breed of teacher, explorers who could construct quick games in a pedagogical wild land, and every student strapped on their survival gear and followed their guides through a QRafty jungle. I envied but could not emulate that teacher.
Just like with any use of technology, QR codes need to solve a problem. Mine came in the package of something I believed was already solved: editing and revising papers.
In 2005 I went to an inservice and a teacher presented his word and punctuation rule sheets. They were massive and contained between thirty and forty commonly broken rules for each category. The session inspired me, so I whittled the sheets down to a more manageable number. In the many years that followed, I cut, added, edited the sheets based on the student work I received.
Instead of writing comma splice in the margins, I could write a rule number, which directed the students to a rule with a wrong example that was then corrected. Brilliant. Problem solved. Cue applause and hubris. After each writing assignment, I tasked them with the assignment of selecting their five most common broken rules, writing down the rule, copying an example sentence from their papers, and then fixing them. A new problem developed, though: the students did not fully follow the rule, thus a comma splice became a run-on. No matter how explicit I was, new mistakes in revising emerged.
That is when I turned to QR codes. I realized that the students needed individualized instruction in a way that I simply could not provide in a whole-class manner. Some offended the god of semicolons while some angered the titan of sentence fragments, and their papers suffered a thousand cuts and bled onto the desks.
I started with the PowerPoint and made my grammar samples for every rule. Then I converted the PowerPoint to pictures. I next opened up the app Tellagami, and after I inserted a lime green background, I narrated my way through each of the rules. I downloaded the video files on my Mac and placed them into iMovie where I combined them with the pictures of the grammar sentences.
The last step was to add the QR codes to the rule sheets so that students could scan the rule and listen to each one when they do their revision.
After that educational venture, I looked around for anything else that I could apply this strategy to. I examined my back wall where I had placed an interactive word wall. Technically, I had my proctors construct it, but—like a master artist with a room of underpaid apprentices—I got to claim the credit. I had the word and when a student pulled on the tab, he/she could read the definition. It occurred to me that while this was a great way to remember the key terms, it didn’t help the students use them. Then I thought of students adding their own originality to the project by creating their own vocabulary sheets with the word, definition, example sentence, and picture. I uploaded some examples into Pinterest—I finally found an educational use for it—and posted those as models. Then I uploaded the students examples. As we go through more units, they will have more opportunities to add. Also, to keep the words relevant, the students earn extra points for effectively using the vocabulary on writing assignments.
In all, QR codes have benefited my room, but they only did so when I asked them to solve a problem I had. Technology cannot transform me into a different type of teacher; it can, however, augment the type of teaching DNA I already possess. Everyone needs vision, and technology can be your spectacles. Just remember not to wear someone else’s pair; it will only give you a migraine.