QR codes peaked my interest at the beginning of my public school teaching career three years ago when an experienced English teacher showed me how he utilizes the technology in his classroom. On test days, he encouraged all students to BYOD — an acronym in the Anchorage School District commonly known as “Bring Your Own Device.” Rather than printing out tests, the teacher would type out the test on Google Forms. Rather than giving students an annoyingly long URL to input, the teacher used a QR code so students could instantly access the test.
Just think how much paper this particular QR code saved. Let’s say this teacher had 100 students and the test required four sheets of paper, that’s 400 sheets this teacher saved with a few simple technology tools: QR codes and Google Forms. Imagine this teacher gave eight tests per year. That would be 3,200 sheets on tests. At $8.00 per ream of 500 sheets, that’s about $50 a year on tests for one teacher. Imagine 3,500 (roughly the number of teachers in the Anchorage School District) teachers doing the same. That’s a whole lot of money.
The Lifeblood of Schools
I have always wanted to keep track of what my yearly paper consumption costs my school. If I sat down and did the math, I could probably figure it out. But I went the lazy round and asked Google what other teachers have found. According to Ben Johnson, an educator and writer for Edutopia, did the research himself. He found that if a school of 100 teachers allows each teacher to receive 50 reams of paper per year, and the teacher averages 30 students per class, that school is likely going to pay $30,000 to $50,000 per year just to print. “Paper is the lifeblood of schools,” Johnson wrote. “Students and teachers swim in a sea of paper … Frankly, I’m sick of paper. Is paper the best that we can come up with to help our students learn?”
Thankfully, QR codes are here to help teachers employ what Johnson calls “paperless learning.” Of course, there are many more technology tools out there to help teachers use less paper (all Google Apps!), but for the sake of this assignment, I wanted to experiment how QR codes could help decrease the amount of paper consumption in my language arts classroom — and see if it engaged my students.
At the beginning of every unit, students receive a unit sheet. I thought this would be a great place to start using QR codes. On this particular unit sheet, I included a QR code that takes students directly to my language arts website, where they find direct access to my Google Drive, Google Calendar, Google Classroom and other helpful links. I admit it’s not the most exciting way to use a QR code, but I believe it’s a good start to help students bridge the gap between a piece of paper to a digital world.
In a perfect world, each of my students would have personal Chromebooks, smartphones or tablets at their desks. In this scenario, I would have to print out less paper. QR codes could be the norm and labeled on the back of the unit sheet, taking students directly to a Google Doc, video, slideshow, PDF, quiz, test, survey, etc.
But currently, this is not my reality. Not every student has a device, so paper tasks are a critical part of my classroom. For this experiment, I put QR codes on each writing task in the unit, linking it to online resources. So far it’s working quite well. Many students seem to enjoy using phones and tablets to access class work.
A complete fail, however, happened when I put a QR code for a quiz on my smart board. For some reason, it didn’t work. Perhaps the projector bulb wasn’t bright enough for the phone to pick up the code? I’m not quite sure. I’ll have to tinker around with this again. Thankfully, I had a customized URL to the quiz. I like to use bit.ly.com as a way to shorten URLs. For example, instead of using a link to a Google Form like https://goo.gl/forms/F8Oio56YIPcGPAax1, I customize it to bit.ly/klottquiz.
Augmented Reality Not a Reality — Yet
In the future, I would like to use this technology in my classroom. It’s been extremely interesting to explore, but I’m not sure how to make it fit for my classroom. My first idea was to turn my business card into a trigger, a get-to-know-Mr. Klott’s-classroom tutorial for incoming 7th graders. Then I brainstormed a little further and thought the most practical way to use this technology is to turn either book covers, or alternative book covers created by students, into triggers and turn videos of students giving book reviews into auras.
For the sake of this assignment, I turned this personal narrative unit sheet (↑) into a trigger. Perhaps this idea — and the technology — will evolve into something bigger and better. Any ideas are welcome!