In a world where technology advances by the day, educators must seek new resources to engage students in a 21st century learning environment. At Hamlet Middle School, one teacher is embracing the mobile app phenomenon to supplement lessons in marketing and technology — and with it, expanding the barriers of classroom education to others around the world.
According to teacher Julia Roscoe, it all began with an idea.
“I’m always looking to include engaging new web tools or other technologies into my lessons plans,” Roscoe said of her sixth, seventh and eighth grade Computer Apps classes. The classes are part of a Career and Technical Education curriculum with an emphasis on the business field.
Roscoe explained that she discovered a new web tool that she felt would keep her students interested and engaged. The QR code — or Quick Response code — was first invented in 1994, when it was used mainly to track parts in vehicle manufacturing. However, as of 2012, these codes have taken over many parts of the marketing world as well.
“A QR code,” said seventh grader Brock Bartlett, “is a series of squares that an app or a computer can recognize and read and pull something of its own. It can perform functions like opening a web page.”
After a brief introduction to the QR code, Roscoe discovered a website known as Visualead, which allows students to create their own codes in interesting shapes, patterns and colors.
“Their smartphones were no longer music players but tools for learning, at last,” Roscoe wrote in an explanatory blog post.
Students began to create their own QR codes in the classroom and around the school.
“I thought it was cool because we were able to use our phones for schoolwork,” said eighth grader Rania Alfaqui.
“It was a good way to incorporate business into the classroom,” added Kelsye Butler, another eighth grade student in Roscoe’s class.
Many teachers praised the breakthrough on social networking websites such as Twitter, and the recognition soon gained attention from Ari Fuld, Visualead’s social media and content manager — who also happened to be a former educator.
According to Roscoe, she and Fuld first spoke via Skype; an online video chat service that allows phone calls to be made both nationally and internationally.
“I was honored to hold the Skype meeting with him personally but when two educators talk, great things happen, so we also held a Skype session with my students,” Roscoe wrote in the blog post. “They were amazed when they found out we were talking to someone across the globe!”
Students commented on how interesting it was to sit in a Hamlet classroom and see the Israel skyline just outside Fuld’s window.
Fellow teacher Teri Jo Watkins also participated in the Skype session, and said she was amazed at what she saw.
“On our teacher evaluations, global learning has a big push and I felt like that was a really good way to bring globalization to our students,” Watkins said. “I think that’s the way society is heading. Everyone is going toward social media, and it’s so powerful — why not use it for education?”
As of now, the class has held five different Skype sessions with Fuld. Initially, many of those employed with Fuld were skeptical of the educational collaboration, Roscoe explained. However, both educators agree that students are an important investment in any business.
“These are your future customers, even though they’re only students right now,” Roscoe said. “That was the greatest part of all of this — actually changing the beliefs on both sides.”
From the Skype sessions, Roscoe blogged that students found other ways to incorporate the QR codes, such as scavenger hunts, vocabulary activities and student-created videos.
“Our girls’ basketball team created a farewell Visual QR Code and made cards to give to their coaches,” Roscoe wrote. “My sixth graders created QR ‘theme’ codes to support literary elements. The possibilities are endless.”
Many students are continuing to discover ways to incorporate this type of learning into their everyday lessons.
Eighth grader Marquis Ratliff said he will often find different web tools the classes can use to gain further understanding.
“I’ll email Ms. Roscoe about them and tell the other kids how to use them,” Ratliff said. “Right now I’m using the QR codes for this year’s yearbook.”
As for the tools of 21st century learning, Roscoe said she is constantly looking for more ways to keep students actively engaged.
“I’m learning through them how to tie it all in,” she said. “They’re so eager; they’re always looking for different ways to use technology in our lessons.”
For more information about how Roscoe and her students are using Visualead, visit their blog at http://www.visualead.com/blog/2013/03/when-skype-twitter-and-qr-codes-are-introduced-to-students-in-north-carolina/.