Thursday, July 14, 2011

QR Code Scavenger Hunt

Student scanning a QR Code
This time of year one of my favorite activities occurs, New Student Orientation (NSO).  Our incoming Freshman are so excited to be here; they are excited and eager - all in all the best audience you could ask for. Every summer I do a little introduction to technology at the college along with others on a panel, but this year I wanted to do something different. You see, we pride ourselves on being "Not your Momma's college of education," but how can we say that if we lecture to them for an hour or me? So went back and thought about what the goals from the session were, and really it came down to three things:
  1. Introduce them to people in the college
  2. Introduce them to the facilities available to them in the college
  3. Introduce them to the ideals and mission of the college
We started to brainstorm about the ways students could get that information, and we had an epiphany. What about a QR Code Scavenger Hunt!  I've used QR codes for about a year, and based on my last post you can probably tell that I am a fan, but how can we put these QR codes to work in a scavenger hunt context?  We came up with a list of stops in the building and what type of information we wanted/needed at each stop. We decided on having QR Codes link to videos (have to use youtube to play on iOS). Each stop had a video (30 sec or less - well we tried for 30 sec or less) by a diffirent staff/faculty member related to the topic. This way students got to see and "meet" various staff people, with the addded benefit of actually seeing the facilties, or departments they were talking about.

So where does the "scavenger hunt" part come in? Well we gave a clue at the end of each video about what their task would be.  Since they all would be using iPod Touch devices from the Media Center, we knew they would have the ability to take reqular pictures as well. So each task included them taking a picture of a particular obvject. The first group to get back to the main auditorium, with all the correct pictures would win our scavenger hunt.

I was amazed at how well it went over. Students were running around the building, getting to know their group members and seeing parts of our building (like the media center) that they may never have discovered. Now I know that some students cheated and fast forwarded to the end of the video, and were only in it to win. But I feel that we would have lost them in a long lecture anyways.

In the end it was a resounding success, and really only possible with technology. I am so thankful that the NSO group was open to try something like this and I think we might keep the QR Codes up so that our students can find out more information about the college!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Square Pegs - an outsiders conference journey

I've always been a Square Peg (see the TV show Square Pegs if you have no idea what I'm talking about, it was along time ago - so long that Sarah Jessica Parker had brown hair), and am OK with that. I don't exactly fit in a category, which I actually enjoy about myself, but can be a difficult thing when trying to go to conferences.  See I remember when I first came to college and I felt like I was surrounded by people that actually understood me. They had passions and quirks and I loved them all. I felt like this the first time I ever attended an ISTE conference (then NECC). I've been very lucky this year and have attended and presented at four conferences. But I haven't felt that "first-conference" moment in awhile. Sure it could be because the "newness" has rubbed off, or that the conferences haven't changed with the times, or it could be I'm going to wrong conferences.

You see, I don't teach in a K-12 school, and I'm not a professor in higher education, I'm an Instructional Technologist for a College of Education, there is no conference for me. I tried going to Educause in October and that was much more technical than I ever want to be. There were very few sessions on teaching with technology, but I did enjoy the ones I went to. It was relaxing to be in an environment that discussed my issues in higher education, but it didn't really fit my needs in teaching pre-service teachers. It felt more like a vendor showcase than a conference. Plus it was the most expensive conference I have ever been to.

Then I went to SITE, this I had high hopes for, and almost lived up to my expectations. SITE is for teacher educators that teach with technology - should be the perfect conference for me. But SITE focuses more on the research side of the house than the practical side of the house. Plus, since I'm not a faculty member, nor a researcher, but a staff member - I didn't meet anyone that did what I did. And maybe that is the crux at my issue - I haven't met someone that does what I do at at college of education. Don't get me wrong, I don't feel like I'm unique or special, I just haven't found a way to really connect with others in my field.

The next two conferences I attended were NCTIES and ISTE, both of them have a K-12 technology education focus and are great conferences. I am continually impressed by how NCTIES continues to grow and showcase such incredible sessions. And while NCTIES is my 10k, ISTE is my marathon of learning, where I just try to keep up with it all. I've been reading some critiques of the ISTE conference lately, from issues with the Keynote (not techie enough) and Spotlight Speakers (not fresh enough) to those that had issues with the cliques at the Blogger's Cafe to those that want to dispel the in-crowd myth of the Blogger's Cafe. To be honest I understand both sides of the coin. I don't really fit in at ISTE, and in the past I've been OK with that. I've (in the famous words of Tim Gunn) "made it work," and done my best to fit ISTE into what I do. I've made some great friends at ISTE, but I'm still an outsider to most in that world. I count on my PLN a good deal, I feel that I contribute, but I can only contribute so much from my perspective.

So next year I will have the big decision of what conferences do I go to, and what do I get out of that experience? In the end I need to balance my budget with my needs, and maybe I'll find another square-peg just like me.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Scratch Poster at ISTE 2011

It has been a long time since I have given a poster presentation, and I have never given one at ISTE before. I wasn't really sure what to expect, especially first thing  - 8 AM - on the first full day of the conference. What I really didn't expect was to be ambushed at 7:45 and not get a chance to even eat breakfast until it was over! I really enjoyed this format. I was able to give a quick 10 minute spiel, and then answer questions or discuss how they could use Scratch in their classrooms.
I had two goals when I created my poster:
  1. Use text sparingly
  2. Use QR Codes instead of handouts

I'm really proud of how my poster looks. As a former Graphic Art teacher, I love having the opportunity to play with Adobe InDesign. I tried to play off the colors in the program itself and use the same font as Scratch.

I thought QR Codes would be a great idea, and I had several on my poster. I linked to the following web pages:

This worked for about 60% of the people that stopped by. Either they didn't have a device to read QR codes, didn't know what they were or both. I had about 100 business cards that were gone in like 10 minutes. My goal at ISTE is to come home with the least amount of paper as possible - but that didn't seem to be the standard operating procedure.

All in all I had a great experience presenting a poster at ISTE, and I highly recommend presenting one!