Will the cloud prevent late homework?

NPR takes a look at the rise of ‘the cloud’ in 2011.

This year, the cloud brought us something we didn’t even know we were craving: a digital storage locker.

Think back to high school, when you stuffed that metal locker with books, homework projects, photos of friends, and maybe records or CDs.

But that music and everything else existed in only one physical place — you couldn’t really drag that locker around. If you forgot to get something and went home for the day — well, you were out of luck.

But now, the old “I left it in my locker” excuse just won’t work anymore.

“If I store my information online in one of these clouds,” says Forrester Research senior analyst Frank Gillett, “it’s as if I have a magic courier that will run and retrieve stuff from my locker and retrieve it for me, instantly.”

This makes me wonder if students who grow up with the cloud will forget more and more of their physical work at home or in their locker. Will they expect seamless access to their content from our classrooms? One things for sure, it’s still going to be a while before students will be able to upload their coat and boots to the cloud.

When using QR codes, make sure your punch line is worth it

What is this?QR codes have been turning up everywhere from the billboard at the bus stop to the back of the ketchup bottle at your favorite restaurant. These blocky little squares are beefed up barcodes that anyone with a smartphone can scan.

We’re starting to see them pop up in classrooms too. We now have QR code scavenger hunts, periodic tables, and worksheets.

QR codes are great for passing long URLs to your students’ devices. I think they work best when you want to conceal information for a period of time while the students try to solve a problem you have given them. For example, let students scan the QR code for a hint on a difficult problem or create a guess and check bulletin board to review a recent lesson.

Scan and find your science teacher
Scan and find your science teacher

However, are they always worth the time? QR codes are not as quick as they’re name (quick response) makes them sound. They are not worth the time for short messages that your students could probably type in faster than scanning. They are especially slow if your students do not already have the app required to read the codes installed on their device. You risk losing your lesson tinkering with technology for technology sake.

McKee Floyd, director of brand development for Sweetgreen, said it best when he spoke with NPR:

The issue I have with QR codes is that marketing is a little bit like telling a joke, and the longer the joke, the better the punch line has to be — and [using] QR code is a really long joke

I think the same is true in the classroom. If you’re going to use QR codes with students, make sure your punch line is worth it.

‘This I Believe’ -an assignment catalyst

This I BelieveOver winter break I had a chance to read a few books. My favorite was “This I Believe: The Personal Philosophies of Remarkable Men and Women” from NPR. The book presents a collection of essays from NPR’s radio program of the same name.

The collection showcases the personal beliefs of citizens. Some essays are from the 1950’s and the others began in 2005 when the show was resurrected.

I highly recommend the book in audio format since you can hear the essays read by their authors. Most of the recent essays can also be heard (and read) at the NPR website.

NPR also describes how people can submit their own essays. They discuss how this idea has been used in classrooms across the world. The obvious assignment is to have your students write their own creed. Here are some additional ideas that I think might work too:

  1. Don’t write it- say it! Have students create an audio version of their essay. Students can record their work with Audacity. The essays could be shared as podcasts allowing students to receive feedback from their peers via comments.
  2. Students could pick a character from a novel and write the character’s ‘I believe’ statement.
  3. Write an essay for a prominent person in history. For example, what do you think Lincoln would have written?
  4. Come up with a class creed- a “This We Believe” essay. If students used a wiki, they could compose this essay collaboratively throughout the semester.