I took a PD Course at Framingham State on QR Codes. I was a bit leery of it going in; can we really get a whole course out of QR Codes (even a 1 credit course)? On some level, the answer was no; the readings were fine but nothing too revolutionary, and there wasn’t too much work to be done if you had a basic familiarity with QR Codes. But what made the course worthwhile was being with the other students and teacher, all of whom had different ideas and thoughts on how to use QR Codes. That long-term brainstorming, in effect, was what made the course worthwhile.

Each of us had to do a final project for the course, and this posed a bit of a problem for me. QR Codes are a paper-based medium; anything on a screen could be more easily replicated with a link. But I’m paper free, so I had to come up with a plan that utilized paper but not in a backwards way (i.e. I didn’t want to regress to the photocopier). Not to mention the fact that I figured my Latin class would both benefit from the activity more than my English classes and that Latin would be a more straightforward discipline with which to use them.

A few people in the group had mentioned bulletin boards whereby some reference image was posted (say, the periodic tables or a map of the United States), and this seemed to me a good place to start. I toyed with sentences with QR Codes somehow linked to each workd with grammatical information. But that seemed a bit cumbersome on both the creation and the consumption side. I then moved to a more mobile scavenger hunt, whereby I would post clues around campus that were revealed with the scanning of the code. Each clue would then send the students to another location and so on. A bit of a Wayland High School Amazing Race, if you will. Each group would get points for completion, but the faster each group completed, the more points they would get (no one would be penalized by losing points; they would just gain fewer points, so that first place ‘won’ 10/10, second 5/5, third 3/3, etc.; nominal but something).

The prep work that went into it, beyond the generating of the codes (which you can see in the picture below), included making sure each group had someone with a smart phone with a QR Code reader on it, and the testing of that reader to make sure students knew how it worked. I also included a code that linked to a vocab list for some of words in the clues (I used a code rather than a list because I didn’t want them over-relying on the vocab; scanning for the vocab adds an extra step that hopefully will deter them from using it too much).

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Some problems with the plan, some going in, some realized after the fact / in the midst.

  1. I didn’t want my class of 14, certainly small to begin with, going in around in one large-ish pack. That would seem disruptive both internally and externally (i.e. to the group itself in terms of being able to participate and to the school in terms of so much noise / activity so concentrated).
  2. I didn’t want the group taking the same route, i.e. the same route, even in groups, would result in a different form of #1.
  3. I wanted to ensure that there were no shortcuts taken, i.e. seeing a code out of order and scanning it then for later or happening across all the codes out of order and finding the final place that way. (The idea of the race, I hoped, would prevent or at least hinder the sharing of locations among groups.)
  4. I wanted them to go to different places but not have to make different routes for each, so I would need to randomize the locations for each group.
  5. I wanted them to end at the same spot (the race part; I wanted to confirm).

So here are some solutions (couldn’t solve all of the problems).

  1. (Obvious) I broke the kids into groups of three or four, but of course the breaking kids into groups created #s 2, 3, and 4.
  2. I made the codes using QR Hacker, which lets you change the color of the codes as well as some other customization features. If you use QR Codes, it’s a pretty cool site. So I generated each code and then generated it in three other colors (each group had a color to follow), and made a PowerPoint, each slide of which had four (different) codes (the randomization) in their own quadrant. (I’ve included an example below, albeit from the master / key slideshow, with each location included.)
  3. Each group had to take a picture of themselves at each location and then show me those pictures in the correct order for credit. (And I had a sheet with the correct order for each group.)
  4. (And this is combined with 5.) Apparently I realized too late (and the math department confirmed this) that I can’t randomize a group in four different ways but have them be unrandomized at the end (i.e. have the route go four different ways but end up at the same spot). This unfortunately was the fatal flaw of the hunt; it produced a number of errors in the routes that ultimately I wasn’t able to fix.

Latin Scav Hunt Master copySo here’s the summary. This was a great activity. The kids enjoyed it and had a lot of fun with it (it was perfect for last block the Monday we got back from February break). The problems, though, were that it took a ton of work; the tally, including walking around campus to post all of the codes, was easily three or four hours (not something to be done every day…) and, ultimately, the randomization vs. finishing at a common point was a problem I didn’t (and not sure I can) solve, which would either mean a reconceptualization of the route (probably the easier route) or more routes. So a successful experiment, but not one that I’ll repeat too often.