Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Weight Loss QR Code Professional Development Transformation

Teachers can be overwhelmed by the sheer number of Web 2.0 tools on the net these days.  I know I have been at times. 

Thinking about this upcoming year I began to wonder how I would help a teacher who wanted to integrate more Web 2.0 tools into their classroom.  I know that coaching or mentoring teachers is always easier when they want the help and are not being coerced by their administrator. 

It's a lot like trying to make healthier choices with your diet.  I call it the weight loss theory of professional development.  

It works like this:  What do you say when a colleague comes back from summer break 20 pounds lighter, looking younger and healthier?  

"Wow, you look great, what have you been doing?" 

If you are like me, you ask the question because you want to drop 20 pounds and would like to know what worked for them.

Same thing for PD.  When teachers see your students using technology or some other tool they want to know what you are doing.  Usually they say something like, "Can I have a copy of that worksheet?" or "Where did you find that lesson?" or "Can we combine classes and you can do that with my students?"

Teachers who ask you what you are doing are going to be more engaged and willing to learn than those who are forced to come to your PD session or worse you are forced to go to their room by your administrator to "help them."

The first teacher wants to lose weight, the second is being forced to consider weight loss by a doctor who has suggested mixing in a few more salads and some quality time walking around the block.

In this example the tools, the weight loss strategy, I chose were screencasting or flipping a lesson and QR Codes.  I will be working with a fictional teacher named Greg.

Before we get started I must travel to the altar of technology and make sure to pay special homage to the pillar of multiplying of the self.  This year technology helped me teach in 147 different homes at 147 different times.  I was rewound, paused, fast-forwarded and re-watched.  The power of these screencasting and QR Codes will allow any teacher to do more in less time.  Which means the students are going to have more time to collaborate and create.

So lets begin, first, with a basic premise that worksheets for homework, like Big Mac's and milkshakes, are not the best educational diet for students:

Anti-Worksheet Manifesto
Worksheets are not engaging
Math worksheets don't promote critical thinking
Math worksheets don't promote communication or collaboration
Math worksheets are not accessible
Math worksheets don't provide immediate feedback

The Worksheet Level:

Worksheets by themselves are not good teaching.  So our teacher, Greg, is using worksheets on fractions for homework.  This is like the first level of weight loss.  Greg is weak and needs to power up.  As Greg's coach, mentor, I need to give him a tool to help him move forward to level two...

The Worksheet with QR Code to Khan Academy:

Better because now the students are not trapped in their own development.  Also there is a bit of novelty built into this worksheet because the students can scan the QR Code and watch the video.

But I have to ask Greg:  If we have Khan Academy why do we need you?  That is a little harsh but so far what has Greg really brought to the table?  The sheet is easily found online, QR Codes are simple to create and Khan Academy is pervasive.  I will give points for remixing some ideas but it still is not getting the students working with real world scenarios.

Also, Greg should add the URL so that students without QR Readers can type in the website at home or in the library if they do not have web access.

The Worksheet with QR Code to You Teaching:

Now we are getting somewhere.  Greg has recorded a tutorial, maybe on Jing or Screencast-O-Matic, and converted the hyperlink to a QR code.  Excellent. The students now hear him reteaching the concept and are reminded about the lesson they had earlier in class that day.  They work through the worksheet, feel more confident and parents are sending Greg e-mails about how thankful they are that he went the extra mile.

Look how much stronger Greg's tech accumen has become!  He can digitally record a lesson, convert the lesson to a QR Code and combine it with a worksheet.  Unfortunately it is still a worksheet, more growth is needed to advance to the next level.

The Worksheet with QR Code to Student Teaching:

Now Greg has gone to a different level.  The students are making videos of concepts they have mastered, uploading them to a class website like that of The students internalized the concepts and created videos to help their peers learn.  This has a little more of a collaborative feel.  Students see that they can help others and there is a true audience for their work.

Greg is transforming from a giver of information to a facilitator, helping students construct their understanding, guiding them when they are stuck, celebrating when they surprise themselves.  Look at how much he has changed from just handing out a worksheet for homework.  The students are working at another level now, the classroom is a different place but there is still one more level to go, one last test before the transformation is complete.

Mathtrain.Tv The power of kids teaching kids
Assignment with QR Codes reviewing concepts as students need them

Students are given the following scenario that integrates their knowledge of animals and their habitats.

Last week a hurricane came through the Gulf Coast and destroyed many animal habitats.  As you were cleaning up debris you found one of the following animals without a home.  (Students choose from a list of native Texas Gulf Coast animals)  With a partner design a temporary habitat that will keep the animal alive until Texas Wildlife officials can return the animal to its proper habitat.

You will need to calculate the amount and type of food the animal will eat.  The size of the habitat that will need to be built and then construct a prototype environment.  You will use fractions in your calculations of food consumed over time and measurements for the habitat.  You will use decimals in calculating the cost of materials and food for your animal.

Students will work in groups (no larger than four) to complete the project.

Embedded within the assignment are QR Codes linking to tutorial videos reminding the students of how to measure, or convert fractions, or add fractions or make fractions of fractions.  So as students need help with a concept Greg is there for a quick tutorial or students can access him as needed when he is with a different group.

Greg transformed from a teacher giving worksheets for homework to a teacher building collaborative experiences that stretch students knowledge and use of concepts to real world application.

I think any coach or mentor could help a teacher move along this continuum of utilizing technology to build a more dynamic and interesting math class.  The teacher has effectively turned Bloom's Taxonomy upside down and awakened their students.


  1. This one sure does help. Its like spreading how important to keep on track what we eat etc. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Students are given the following scenario that integrates their knowledge of animals and their habitats.

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