Saturday, October 12, 2013

Co-Creating with a Class in Iowa

A couple of weeks ago, just before the start of the Global Read Aloud, I was approached by my #1stchat twitter friend Leka DeGroot, from Iowa, to work with her class on a collaborative project for the book The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle.  We wanted to co create books as part of the Global Read Aloud.

Leka and I met over a google hang out and worked through all the details. We decided to modify Eric Carle's book from the Very Hungry Caterpillar, to the Very Hungry Student.  Our goal was to have each student in our classes illustrate, add text, and voice record a page for one of six books. Leka and I  put the pages together and create books.  Here's how we made it happen.

Mrs. DeGroot's Class - Saige, Merek, Faith, Jarred
Ms. Lirenman's Class - Carlos, Mya, Yvonne, Brayden

On the first day of the Global Read Aloud our two grade one classes met through a Skype call.  We had some curiousity questions for them and they had some for us. We also had some technical difficulties but we didn't let that stop us.  We also read the original Eric Carle story together over Skype.

Mrs. DeGroot's Class - Isabella, Keegan, Keagan, Merek
Ms. Lirenman's Class - Keegan, Brenda, Jaslehna, Diego

Once the call was over I talked a little more with my class about this collaborative project that we were going to do with Mrs. DeGroot's class.  Each child choose a day of the week and  created a picture of some food that a student might eat.  Eg. On Wednesday a very hungry student ate three apples.  I introduced my students to a new drawing tool - Drawing Pad but also encouraged them to draw in Draw and Tell too. The children could also draw and add their text with non digital tools.  We talked about adding text as well using Explain Everything and then recording their voices in either Draw and Tell or Explain Everything on the iPads.  My students then saved their mini page movies to the iPad camera roll.  I must admit five weeks into grade one there were times when we were in over our heads.

Mrs. DeGroot's Class - Ryker, Benson, Preston, Sam
Ms. Lirenman's Class - Camron, Natasha, Jessica, Amaan

With all the images created, text and voice added, it was time to save the images to dropbox.  At the start of the project Leka and I shared dropbox folders with one another. Since we assigned students from both of our classes to each book we needed to share our images with one another. Uploading images from the iPad Dropbox app is easy to do.  In fact dropbox is excellent for this. With a shared folder I could easily access her students images and she could access mine.

Mrs. DeGroot's Class -  Sicily, Torry, Addison, Blake
Ms. Lirenman's Class - Daniel, Karman, Arun, Karanvir

The books, made in iMovie on the laptop using the page curl transition to make it look like the turning of a page, were then created.  I had to be careful that the entire images were shown (I'm not a fan on the  ken burns affect when creating books in iMovie). A few items that we shared with one another had issues too so it was a bit of time before all the pages were ready to create the books.  Once everything was in order both Leka and I shared our books on YouTube.

Mrs. DeGroot's Class - Kloi, Karter, Abi, Alex
Ms. Lirenman's Class - Jadyn, Simar, Seth, Diego

If you've never co-created with another class it's pretty great to see the smiles on your students faces when they see that their work is part of a bigger book that is shared with the world.  There are so many other ways that books can be co-created and I'm hoping as the school year progresses I'll be able to share more ways with you too. And the best part co-creation can be done with one, or ten classes over a variety of content areas.  I'd love to see what you co-create.

Mrs. DeGroot's Class - JD, Mason, Kaina, Nicky
Ms. Lirenman's Class - Grayson, Joban, Marcus, Adien

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Using QR Codes in Grade One

About a year ago, after attending a session put on by Karen Mensing featured by Classroom 2.0 Live I finally saw a meaningful use of QR codes in a primary classroom besides scanning into a math problem, or running around on a scavenger hunt.  I had seen both of those ideas many times but neither added much value to the learning besides a "fun factor".  And no I'm not a "no fun" teacher but if I'm going to use technology with my students I do want it to help us learn in new or better ways.  Anyhow Karen talked about how she used the website (or IOs App) to record voice, gain a link, and create  a QR code  to add voice to other wise non digital work. She talked about how her students wrote book reports and created voice recordings of their reports and added those to either the book covers, or the reports themselves.  It added a whole new dimension to the traditional book report. That was something I could see value in doing.

The days following Karen's session my students returned to school with images they had taken as part of our global read aloud project of their "Flat Wilbur" which we were sending off to a school in NYC. Instead of adding written text to the images my students made voice recordings and attached QR codes to the images so the students in NYC could hear my students talk about the images they were sharing.  It was a very successful project and I think well received in New York. You can read more about that project here.

But once I started with QR codes I continued to use them throughout the year.

One of the first ways I used them was to provide my students to a link of shared photos.  When ever we went on a field trip, or documented learning with images (eg places we learn in our school with images taken by the students), I would collect all the images  and put them into a dropbox folder.  I'd then get the link to the folder (done while in dropbox) and create a QR code from that link.  I would then print a few copies and post the around the classroom so my students  had easy access to all the images taken.  My students used those images  on their blogs or in their projects.  Once my kidlets knew how to use a QR code reader on their iPads it was pretty simple for them to access these photos.  But I must confess, like so much of what I do in my classroom this idea was not mine and I give full credit to Karen Fadum a fellow Surrey Teacher for showing me about this use of QR codes.

(Anyone else notice that besides me, I have mentioned two other Karen's in this post already? :-)  But once again I digress. )

I also had the obvious QR code that linked directly to our class blog posted outside our classroom window of course.

We also used QR codes to get to any Padlets (an on line cork board that's great for collecting ideas while brainstorming) we used.  A QR code was created to help the kids to get to these padlets.   It was way easier to create a QR code to a long Padlet address then have my students type in a long string of letters and numbers with a huge likelihood of error and frustration.  QR codes became my best friend when I wanted my students to get to a website fast. The QR code was a miracle direct link.

When we used Today's Meet to discuss items with other classes we again entered our "room" via QR code.  Sometimes I would set up the QR code in advance and have a few copies around the classroom but other times I'd just create it on the fly and project it onto our screen for students to scan from there. My students would literally bring their iPad to the screen and scan the code and away we'd go. My students enjoyed using them too.

I thought about creating QR codes in my classroom library to send my students to the authors' blogs to have them hear the stories be read by the original authors. Unfortunately that fell through as so few authors actually do that on their blog.  I also wanted my students to add more "voice" to their non digital work but I must confess my students tended just to take pictures of their non digital work and then add voice through the iPad before sharing it on their blogs.  But it would have been great to have QR codes attached to their work that was on our walls and bulletin boards.  I never got there though but you can see the idea behind QR codes is endless if you think about them long enough.  They really do bring anything online into your classroom with just a quick scan.

And of course I recently used them to create an interactive "Meet the Teacher" which I wrote about in the previous post. In a nut shell my students created mini videos or voice recordings about different parts of our classroom, we created QR codes to link back to those videos or voice recordings, and during "Meet the Teacher" my students taught their parents how to scan the codes and together they watched the videos.  You can read more about that use of QR codes here.

But how do I create them?

For most things we share/save/create on line there is a link that identifies that work/project/webpage etc.  For example this specific blogpost has a web address at the top of the screen which can easily be shared via QR code.  When you record voice with a website like or Audio boo, or Vocaroo you are provided you a link.  Anything you store in Dropbox or Google Drive has a link associated with it. The possibilities  are endless.

With the link and while on my computer, I head over to Kaywa.  Kaywa is my preferred QR code creator web site but I'm always up to hear of others.  I also must confess when I want my QR codes printed I make them on my laptop vs an iPad because my iPads don't print.  When I create a QR code on my iPad to share on the screen I've been using the free QR Code Maker App.

Anyhow back to how I make them. With the link copied and I'm in Kaywa, I select URL, paste the link, switch the little switch to static, push the "generate button" and voila I have a QR code that when scanned sends me back to my original website. I didn't have to sign up to create an account or give any personal information. That's my kind of service.

If I need to print the QR code I right click (control,c, click) the image, save it to my desktop or add it into a printable document in Pages or Word and presto I have a QR code.  I often play with the size of the code too making the square bigger or smaller as required for the purpose.

The biggest tip I can give you is that when you create and print a QR code try to remember what is the top side of the code so you can put it up in the proper direction.

On our iPads we use the app Qrafter to scan our QR codes but I have seen more child friendly ones. If you know the name of some please add the name in the comment section of this blog post.  While Qrafter is great and we've had no problems with it, I do know there are better (hopefully free) early years learner QR code scanners out there.

I hope this helps you think about ways you could use QR codes in your classroom.  I have barely scratched the surface so I'd be curious to know how you use them.  Please share.

As a side, a fellow ADE Mauri Dufour uses QR codes to flip her K classroom. She makes little videos for each student that provides them with specific, direct 1:1 instructions and feedback.  I also know some teachers who created QR codes to explain learning centres. I have this vision to have my students make little videos explaining how we use the different learning tool bins in our classroom.  For example I'd love for my students to create a little video on how we use our magnetic letters, or our letter beads. Tips and tricks for things like the "messy" letter stamps etc. It's a vision, one of many I have for my room. We'll see if we get there this year. So please, share you ideas in the comments. I'd love to know what other things I could be doing with QR codes. :-)

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Meet the Teacher - Interactive Style

A couple of weeks ago we had "Meet the Teacher Night" where students and their parents are invited back into the classroom in the early evening. The students are able to show off their teacher and their classroom.  For me it's an informal meeting of parents, particularly those I don't have the luxury of seeing  face to face at the door. It's also a great way to see how my students interact with their families.  I love seeing this.

This year, in a new school, I decided to try something a little bit different. In my previous school, and perhaps around my district, I'm know as a bit of a techie at the early primary level. :-)  But in this new school I wasn't sure if the parents of the students in my class knew anything about me or my teaching past.  As far as they know I'm the new English grade one teacher (it's a dual track French/English school) and while I don't look young enough to be fresh out of teacher training, you never know what people know or think about you. So I decided to spruce up our open house a little bit.

With the help of my students who were brave enough to be filmed or have their voice recorded, I took  little videos of them talking about different aspects of our classroom that were important to them. I then created mini QR codes and posted them in the spots where the videos were taken.  For my two students who at the time  did  not have permission to have their images on line, they created voice messages using and we created QR codes with those.  My students then spent the last part of the afternoon learning how to use a QR code reader. They  were ready to show off to their parents when they returned later in the evening.

Now I know there is a huge Augmented Reality (AR) craze right now, and it would have been pretty cool to have my students use an AR app such as Aurasma to have their videos appear when the app is  lined up to a classroom trigger point, but I don't think that is the best use of that technology. Yes, it's very cool, but how practical is it for those that aren't able to come into the room? In fact as you'll see below you didn't even have to visit me room to enjoy the benefits of the QR codes I created with my students.  But I digress.

Photo Credit: horizontal.integration via Compfight cc
The parents arrived and their children sprung into action.  I wish I was able to take pictures of the smiles on their faces as they showed their parents the important aspects of our classroom. The parents had smiles too as they saw their child, and their child's classmates talk about the different aspects of the room.  It freed me up to have short conversations with all those who were visiting.

The other thing that I did, which took very little effort on my part, and had another big impact on our visitors is that I hooked up my iPad to Apple TV, created a folder with all the photos I had taken since we formed as a class, and created a simple slide show which played the entire time.  While many of the photos are already on our class blog it was great to see so many people interested in watching the slideshow.  Now I have to thank Ms. Walia for the idea and what a great one it was. So simple.

Curious to see some of the videos and voice recordings my students created?  Here are a few. Just scan the QR codes.

How are you getting your students more involved with "Meet the Teacher Night".