I looked at my calendar this morning, and found that it was the 23rd of July. The start of school is right around the corner. I haven't read a teacher tech blog in weeks, and those are normally among the highlights of the internet for me. So I looked at some of my RSS feeds, and a lot of really intelligent people are doing a lot of really cool things.
Via iLearnTechnology, we have Automatoon, an online animator that uses HTML5, not Flash, as its basis. This is important because Flash works badly on Macintosh computers, and not at all on iDevices. (There are also some philosophical reasons for HTML5 over Flash, but I only barely understand them, and wouldn't deign to try to explain them.) It's easy to use, and unlike other online animation features I've demonstrated here before (notably Go! Animate), with Automatoon it's relatively easy to start an animation from scratch, right down to the component pieces. It requires a little more freehand computer drawing skill than I have, but I imagine most of my students are better at it than me. This is a welcome addition to the world of visual learning tools and student-production-other-than-5-paragraph-papers tools.
Free Tech 4 Teachers points us in the direction of a QR code reader treasure hunt generator. QR codes are those square bar code things that you see everywhere from magazine ads about perfume to, er, other magazine ads about perfume. The idea behind a QR code, I guess, is that it's supposed to allow people with mobile camera devices to take a picture of the box and get a lot more information about whatever the code is attached to. I saw them the other day on the tags in house plants in Lowe's. Taking a picture of the code would take you to a website or something that gave you information on care and feeding of the plant, something that used to be printed on the tag. I guess they had to get rid of that information to make room for the QR code. I don't really get QR codes; I don't know what they're really good for. I feel like they're an answer looking for a question.
That makes them a perfect fit for the QR code treasure hunt generator: students have to go looking for the questions. *rimshot* The idea is that students take their device, equipped with an appropriate QR code reader app (and the site provides some suggestions on where to find them), and go searching the school for QR codes. They take a pic of the code with their device, the reader app reads it, and gives them a quiz-type question. Students punch in the answer, and they're off to find the next question. Setup seems easy enough: the teacher types the questions and answers (or copies and pastes them off of a text document) into the program provided, the program gives QR codes for each question, the teacher prints them off and hides them around the school. S/he gives the students X minutes; the ones who come back with the most correct answers wins.
Again, this feels like an "almost there" technology. I haven't fiddled with it yet, so maybe I'm missing something. What I'd like to be able to do with this is an Amazing Race-type event: The answer to the question is the location of the next question. Maybe it will work for that; I don't know. I intend to give it a try, but I'm not certain I get the advantage over doing exactly the same thing, but having students take pictures of themselves at the appropriate locations. If it's an excuse to turn short-answer quizzes into kinesthetic learning activities, I guess that's fine. It feels like it could be more so, though.