21st Century Learning: Beyond Consumerism

As a global community, we are immersed in a profound and transformative period in history. How can schools play a positive role in this significant shift?

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Although technology provides us with unprecedented connectivity and access to information, the fundamental skills required to be successful, both socially and in the workplace, are increasingly ambitious. This leaves educators in a complex quandary. While we grapple with the details about best practice and how to integrate digital literacy and technology into existing curriculum, our students continue to use technology in more and more areas of their lives. They also seem to have a minimal learning curve and quickly acquire the skills to navigate new technology. Seem is a critical word here. We must consider how our students are using technology and the impact of this use in their lives and the world around them. The digital world that we find ourselves in is fast paced and ever changing. How long can we wait to support our youth to make the adjustment positive and meaningful? I believe we cannot wait another day.

Canadian youth are highly connected to digital media. This connection is often outside of school and largely unsupervised. Media Smarts is a Canadian organization for digital and media literacy (http://mediasmarts.ca/). Their vision is “that children and youth have the critical thinking skills to engage with media as active and informed digital citizens. The results of a national study indicate that the majority of our youth have access to the Internet through personal and portable devices. Top websites include Google, Twitter and Facebook. The most frequent activities include streaming music, social media and playing online games (Media Smarts, 2014). We certainly have a generation of technology consumers.

I often encounter educators who are concerned about how they will ever catch up to the ‘digital natives’ or ‘technologically savvy’ students that they are supposed to teach. Another common reason for resisting technology in their practice is the belief that students get enough technology outside of school. As I reviewed the results of the Media Smarts survey I began to wonder, at what point did we decide mass consumerism indicates a high level of skill or thorough understanding worthy of a title such as digital native or tech savvy? The vast majority of today’s students are comfortable with technology and they are using it. This is something we know. It remains unclear how well they are using it and what potential is lost when educators fail to realize the powerful role they can play.

The Information and Communications Technology Council and MediaSmarts facilitated a one-day Symposium to discuss digital literacy and the critical issues facing Canadian Youth (2014). Participants included students, teachers, researchers, policymakers and other representatives interested in promoting a digitally literate population that can compete in a growing global economy. Although responsibility for supporting essential digital literacy and skills does not land solely on educators, participants agreed that schools play a significant role. This does not imply that teachers must become experts in using the plethora of digital devices now available. The teachers role is much more significant and varies little from the description of an exceptional educator who makes learning accessible, relevant and engaging for each individual student. Educators can support digital literacy as a facilitator, activator and motivator to move learning forward in a meaningful way. I believe that making this shift in our classrooms will help to move students from simply users of technology to producers who know how to learn and can use their understanding to create, collaborate and communicate in new and profound ways that will have a positive impact for them and their global community.

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Works Cited:

Steeves, V. (2015). Young Canadians in a Wired World, Phase III: Trends and    Recommendations. Ottawa: MediaSmarts. Retrieved from: http://mediasmarts.ca/sites/mediasmarts/files/publication-report/full/ycwwiii_trends_recommendations_fullreport.pdf

Use, understand and create: A digital literacy framework for Canadian schools (2015). Ottawa: Media Smarts. Retrieved from: http://mediasmarts.ca/teacher-resources/use-understand-%20create-digital-literacy-framework-canadian-schools

Youth and Digital Skills Symposium: Preparing young Canadians to make social, economic and cultural contributions (2014). Ottawa: Media from: Smarts. Retrieved from: http://mediasmarts.ca/sites/mediasmarts/files/pdfs/publication-report/full/Symposium%20summary%20Final%20EN_0.pdf

Images:

Globe: http://gaianeconomics.blogspot.ca/2008_02_01_archive.html

Technology: http://en.1globaltranslators.com/technology-affecting-business/

 

Using QR Codes in Grade One

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QR is short for Quick Response. A QR code is a digital image that can be scanned, much like barcodes. Once scanned with a smartphone or mobile device the code will direct your device to a website or reveal a text or voice message. I have been using QR codes in my grade one classroom for the last year and have loved the experience!

The possibilities are endless! In some situations the QR codes simply increase student engagement or just make a lesson more fun. Although I am always looking for new and meaningful ways to incorporate technology in my classroom, I am not sure when it became a negative to get kids excited about learning. While it is true that we can have our students participate in a scavenger hunt with written or picture clues or simply give them a web address to type in and get them to a specific website why not make it more fun with QR codes? They truly are simple to make and kids love scanning them. QR codes have many other uses as well, many that are really opening new doors and giving students, parents and teaching a whole new experience.

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So what tools will you need to get started using QR codes?
– to scan a QR code all you need is a free scan app from the App store
– to create a QR code on an iPad you can use QR Creator or any other QR generating app
– to create a printable QR code you can use a free site such as Kaywa

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Here are a few of the ways I am currently using QR codes in my classroom. I have many other ideas and hope to learn about even more as I know there are some fantastic ones out there!

Sharing Photos
One of my favorite uses of QR codes is to give my students access to the many photos I take with my iPhone or iPad. Once photos have been uploaded to an online site such as Dropbox you can make a QR code from the link. Students then scan the code and can save the photos to their own device. I leave QR codes from field trips and various activities up on a wall and students use them for various things such as making books or writing journal entries on an iPad.

Easy access to websites and information
Asking primary students to type in a long URL is very time consuming and can be exhausting for the teacher as we rush around trying to help those who missed a letter or added an extra space.
If you have a website such as Canadian Geographic Kids that you would like all your students to go to, simply copy the web address in a QR generator. You can do this on a computer and print a QR code for students to scan. If you have a projector you can make the QR code on an iPad and students can scan it directly from the screen.

If you have a school or class website, blogs or any site that your parents visit posting a QR code in the window or sending home a copy of a QR code makes it easy for parents to access sites.
QR codes can be scanned with any smartphone or mobile device.

A fun way to give your parents a sneak peak into your classroom is to record an activity such as shared reading or painting, upload it to an online site then create a QR code with the link.
Parents can scan the code and have a look at their child during a school activity.

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Scavenger Hunt
A QR code scavenger hunt is a great ice breaker activity with big buddies and a fun way to help younger students explore their school. I challenge students to take pictures of certain things with their iPad. I create QR codes to reveal clues such as ” this is where we go to read books” and have students take a picture of the library. These pictures can be used for various writing activities later on. All students love this activity. It is a great way for buddies to get to know each other and their school.

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Add voice to non digital work
There are a few ways to create a QR code that will reveal a recorded video or message.
If you use an app like Audioboo or a site such as Croak it you can copy the link into a QR generator.
If you record a message using your camera you need to upload it to a site such as Dropbox and get the link from that site. You can also use an app like QR voice to type a message and create a synthesized voice message.

After reading Aaron’s Hair by Robert Munsch I recorded a short video of students describing their work, uploaded it to Dropbox and created a QR code to the link. The QR codes are attached to their work in the hallway and can be scanned by parents, visitors and other students to reveal their video.

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This is just a few ways I use QR codes and this is how I make them :

Creating a code on an iPad from Dropbox
If you have something such as pictures and you want to create a QR code, open Dropbox and upload pictures. Open the file on Dropbox, copy link to clipboard and the paste in QR Creator.

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Printable QR codes

There are many QR generating sites but I prefer Kaywa. It is a free site with options to upgrade so you can save your codes.
If you want to link to an online source you need to copy the link, paste it in the space provided and click on generate. If you have trouble printing try clicking permalink and print from there.
If you want to type a message click on the text option, type your message and click generate.

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I would love to hear how you are using QR codes in your classroom. Happy scanning!