Tuesday, December 6, 2011

QR codes revisited

I've poo-pooed QR codes as a technology whose time had not come.  I've wondered what they might be good for.  In the last few weeks, though, I'm starting to re-evaluate them.  They might be useful in a couple of different scenarios.

1.)  I think I might have the students stealthily put up signs all around the school, labeling what things are in Spanish.  (Hallway, locker, fire extinguisher, water fountain, and the like.)  A QR code could lead a student to a website with an embedded audio of the pronunciation of the word.  I would rather that it simply triggered something in the QR reader itself which caused the phone to pronounce the word, but I think I'd have to write my own program for that.  Or maybe hire one of my more knowledgeable friends to do it.  Failing that, audio website.  Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

2.)  The last 30 minutes of our school day is spent in something we call academic centers, despite the fact that it's the only period in the day with no mandatory academic content, and nobody is in the center of anything, except by accident.  It's what we used to call study halls, which also didn't make any sense, because few people studied, and they didn't meet in the halls.  The point is that many of my colleagues feel that this time could be better spent.  A few of us have talked about much more flexible AC's than we have now: students could sign up for the "I have homework to do" AC, and they would go to the cafetorium and be left alone by their babysitters...I mean, educational facilitators.  (Didn't I see this movie once?)  But they could also sign up for "Café Internacional," where they would explore the world through virtual field trips, or possibly speak Spanish to people not necessarily in their Spanish classes all hour.  They could sign up for a Socratic seminar: "This week's topic, the Occupy Wall Street movement.  Please have these 3 articles read and come prepared to participate."  They could, I don't know, sign up to conduct independent experiments in the science lab.  Work on an art project.  Interview important businesspeople by Skype.

I've been thinking about this, trying to figure out how we could flexibly take attendance at various locations at various times throughout the school.  (This is the only part of the process the state actually cares about: our legal responsibilities in a study hall extend to making sure that approximately the same number of people leave as come in.)  Then I read someplace that QR codes were invented by one of the many Denso subsidiaries as a quick easy tool for inventory management.  I thought to myself, if you think about students as widgets, then taking attendance is basically inventory.  Teachers all have computers; lots of QR code readers work on phone cameras, computer web cams, all kinds of things we already have sitting around our classes.  We already give students ID cards that they never do anything with.  They also are supposed to have their planners all the time.  It would be simplicity itself to put a QR code into each of these--for purposes of student confidentiality and the like, it could be the student's ID number rather than the name.  Then all we have to do is make our QR code readers have a settable location (which will remember the last set location and default to that every time it's fired up), read the ID on the QR, add the student's name (or ID number) and the location to a database, compare that database to a previously-generated centrally-located database of student names and expected locations, time-stamp the entry, automatically notify any number of interested parties of discrepancies in the two databases (either by push notification or by sending an e-mail, or, ideally, interfacing directly with our attendance-taking software (which is proprietary)), doing this quickly enough that one unassisted educational assistant could do 150 of them in, let's say, 10 minutes (that works out to be, what, 4 seconds a student? Lots of time.), and doing it easily enough that even the crotchetiest Luddite on the staff can do it.  Easy peasy.

Anyway, it seems like an idea worth exploring.  (And yes, I know we'll never get 100% compliance with cards and planners.  (Edit to add: They could carry their code on (or in) their phones, which many of them always have, for all the difference it makes.) Frankly, that's the least problematic part of implementing this plan.)

3.)   For a little silliness:

If I did this right, if you use a QR code reader on your smart phone to read this on your computer (or vice versa), it will take you back to this post.

Code generated using: http://createqrcode.appspot.com/


Ray said...

I love the idea and think it would really work. Of course I could pay someone five dollars to carry my phone to the "study hall" and check in for me while I go and have a smoke.
I do love the idea. Students carry their cell phones everywhere and I don't have the time, nor do I want to take the time, to enforce the electronic device policy. The idea of labeling everything with a code and have it give us the definition and saying it is a tremendous idea, which if you could perfect, may earn you a bit of money by selling the software and codes.
We currently run a 30 minute advisory for all of our students. We stole an idea from another school and use Google docs as our attendance sheet. Here is how we have it work; We have two priority subjects, which are math and ELA. Our school has two lunch periods of 30 minutes each. One lunch for seventh and eighth grade and another lunch for our 6th grade. In order to reduce the size of the 7th and 8th grade lunch we take the advanced math students and place them in the 6ht grade lunch, which requires us to create a schedule that fits for advanced math. Anyhow, while a grade is at lunch the other group has their advisory (study hall). Every Monday and Friday each student attends an advisory class, which we consider a “homeroom” and it is on these two days we reinforce or teach new character skills. On Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday we use our Google Doc spreadsheet to tell our students and teachers where students are going to be for advisory. Every Friday through Sunday our ELA and Math teachers (our priority teachers) go to Google Docs and locate by grade our shared spreadsheets that list every student in alphabetical last name order. They then put an X in the cell for the student they believe could use 30 extra minutes a day (Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday) of content area learning in math and ELA. The ELA and math teacher must select at a minimum of 15 students, which keeps the none intervention advisory at a manageable level, but they can select as many as they can successfully help. The student with an X then reports to the ELA or math teacher for the extended instruction (tier 2). The principal sorts the document on Monday morning and then posts it in three locations about the school and each teacher is given a copy in their snail mail box for attendance purposes. The students that didn’t get a check mark are placed in “study halls” with the teachers who don’t have lunch at this time. The classes can be a little larger because the students that are usually doing well in ELA and math are well behaved. We also have taught the higher level students to be mentors or peer teachers. We have explained to the office personnel that this creates more work for them but it is what is best for kids. Attendance is done the old fashion way, by writing the names on paper and turning them into the office. The office then inputs the names into the attendance program. Your QR code would be great for taking the attendance.

JohnCosby said...

It's a good point about having your friend check in for you. There are all kinds of problems with this, and that's one of the big ones. It also just wouldn't work with the time constraints. It would just take too long to have each student hold their ID under the camera, press a "take picture" button, etc. I like to think that technology is the answer to most of life's problems if it's well designed, but I think the way you guys are doing it is better. For one thing, we could start tomorrow if we wanted to.

Natalie Cleveland said...

We used a QR code to take attendance. I set it up in 6 steps. And it was totally free. This method can also export a .csv file if you have to import entries into another software.
I posted a tutorial on my blog of how we did it: