I remember a number of years ago when QR codes first became a thing anyone could use. I went to several conferences where teachers were extolling the use of them in the classroom, as a way to enhance and extend learning. I was a little skeptical, but I decided to try them out. I had my Grade 7s do an assignment called “Artifact or Artifiction?” Each student got a picture of a legitimate ancient artifact. They had to write two paragraphs about it – one telling what it was really used for and one telling what it was “fictionally” used for. They created a display that showed an image of the artifact, the two paragraphs and a QR code chosen to take the reader to a website that revealed the truth. I thought it was a pretty cool use of QR codes. And maybe it was….but none of the parents or other students who stopped to look at the display had QR reader apps on their phones so the assignment kind of fell flat. I haven’t used QR codes again. Until I got a request from the staff at Lions Bay Elementary earlier this year.
Lions Bay had applied for a district Innovation Grant and asked me to help out. Their idea was to have the students learn about the plants and animals that live in the Lions Bay area. The kids would then put their learning on a website we would build together. Then the school would create QR codes that could be placed throughout the school forest and when scanned, would take the scanner to the relevant page on the website. Here, finally, was a real, meaningful way to use QR codes in an educational setting!
The project was involved, with lots of steps and lots of challenges. I remember meeting with the Grade 3 students back in the fall, to discuss what websites looked like, what parts they had and what they wanted their website to look like.
After that, teachers and students worked hard to research and learn about the plants and animals that live in and around Lions Bay. Older students drew pictures about their chosen animal and created Book Creator books that included the drawings as well as research they had done. Younger students learned about plants, drew pictures and had their words scribed onto documents.
All of this work had to be loaded onto the website that the students helped me design. This sounds easier than it was; with older iPads, a new laptop and a lot of fiddling with file types. But we got there!
In the meantime, Lions Bay students met with their older buddies from Gleneagles, who helped them build little birdhouse-like structures to be hung in the forest and to protect the drawings and QR codes from the weather.
Once the website was finalized, the teachers at Lions Bay created a QR code for each animal and plant, directing the viewer to the appropriate page on the students’ website!
Last Friday afternoon, after some frantic last-minute scrambling to have it all ready, the school held a learning celebration. Parents came ready with QR readers installed on their phones and students excitedly showed off their work. The QR codes will remain in the forest, to be enjoyed by the school and the greater Lions Bay community for years to come. I call that a GREAT use of QR codes! Congratulations to Natalie, Sonia and the rest of the Lions Bay staff and students! Job well done!