QR Code + Algebra Study Guide = Effective Review

As some 8th grade Algebra students prepare for their final exam at our school, they will be able to learn from each other while they review – whether they are at school or at home. How? Each section of the Algebra study guide will have a QR code that can be scanned to view a video made by their classmates. They can watch and listen to their peers explain a linear equation or how to solve a percent change problem. The videos were made in class two months ago using the iPod touch to record with. Details on the process for creating the videos are in my earlier blog post Student Algebra Videos made with iPods . In this posting, I want to share what we did once the students were done creating the videos.

Making the Videos Available

Once the student videos had been created, the two Algebra teachers I was working with (Andy Elder and Cheryl Hoffman) viewed the videos to check for accuracy. A few groups were asked to remake their videos because of some errors in the explanation of their concept. After the remakes were done, I took the videos and uploaded them to SchoolTube. Our students do not have access to YouTube on our network, but do have access to SchoolTube.

I created an Excel spreadsheet to organize the links. The spreadsheet had 3 columns: Video Title, URL, and QR code.

QR code spreadsheet

As each video was uploaded to SchoolTube, I copied the short link for the video and pasted it into the spreadsheet next to the appropriate title.

Creating the QR codes was the final step in the process. Originally, I thought I would have to create one code at a time, which would be very tedious. I did some research and found some blog postings on how to generate QR codes in a Google spreadsheet . However, I found that the QR codes took a while to load when I would scan them with an iPod touch. I decided to look for a different tool that would allow me to create a batch of QR codes. Thankfully, I found one. QRExplore allows you to create QR codes in bulk and download them as a zip file. I simply copied the URL column from my spreadsheet, pasted it into the creator box, and downloaded the zip file with the codes. The codes were then pasted into the spreadsheet in the appropriate places so that the spreadsheet displayed the Video Title, link, and QR code for the video. The completed spreadsheet can be accessed here.

Mrs. Hoffman and Mr. Elder then placed the QR codes and short links into the study guide with each matching section. The completed study guide can be viewed here.

Student reaction

The students enjoyed having access to the videos done by their peers. Many of the students would watch the videos even if they understood the concept it covered. We have used other videos in the past that we found online for student assistance, from sources similar to Khan Academy. Many of these videos were regarded as a “last resort” by the students and they would only view them if they absolutely had to. This was not the case with the student created videos. The students wanted to watch the videos. Even though their reason was just to see the job their classmates did, the students still benefited from viewing a refresher on the concept they would be working on.

Equation of a line video link

Several students asked Mr. Elder and Mrs. Hoffman if they could use their own iPod touch or Smartphone during the review. Our district had recently revised our policy on personal electronic devices, permitting teachers to allow students to use their devices in the classroom. Both teachers agreed and told the students to make sure they downloaded a QR scan app onto their device so that they could use it with the study guide. Out of the group of 38 students in Algebra, about 12 students used their own iPod or iPhone to use with the study guide. One student even commented that she wanted to use her own phone so that the links to the videos would be saved on her phone. It was evident that the students were excited to use their own device as a tool for learning.

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iPods over MovieMaker

We recently used our iPod lab in a Social Studies class for seniors : National and Political Systems. The students were studying political parties and were working on a project where they would create a political candidate. After writing a candidate biography and platform, the students would be required to create a 30 second political ad for their candidate. They would also be creating an ad attacking another candidate. In the past, we would use Flip cameras, digital cameras, and laptops for the students to create their ads using Windows MovieMaker. This method in the past had several drawbacks:

  1. We only had 4 Flip cameras available for students to use.
  2. We only had 2 digital cameras for students to use.
  3. Laptops were getting older, batteries wouldn’t stay charged
  4. MovieMaker would crash more and more (XP version)
  5. Flip videos had to be converted to wmv format before using in Windows XP MovieMaker

The Social Studies teacher, Mr. Baker, was interested in trying new tools to complete his project with. I had suggested we use the iPod touch lab for the project ( set of 30 iPod Touches, 4th Generation). Using the iPods gave us the following advantages:

  1. Students could record video and still images with the iPod
  2. iPods remained charged for the entire day
  3. Students could create their ads using the video editing app Splice – no laptop needed
  4. Students could record narration using the iPod’s built in microphone.

Apps Used for the Project

All of the apps used for this project are free.

Safari – save image files from the internet to use in the ad

Phonto – add text to images

Splice Splice – create and edit videos

Dropbox DropBox – for collecting completed work

Getting Started

Each student was assigned an iPod number and would use that iPod in class. We informed the students that the iPod would be used in another class period as well, and that they should not delete anything that is not theirs. The students were given an overview of the basic operation of the iPod and a tip sheet for how to perform various tasks such as saving images, adding text to images, and editing their video with Splice.

Challenges Faced

1.Collecting the completed videos

To facilitate this process, each of the iPods had the app DropBox installed on it. All of the iPods were then logged into the same DropBox account. When students were finished with a video, they would upload it to DropBox. The teacher could then log into the DropBox account on their computer to project the ads to the class and to view the ads for grading.

2. Placing a video onto the Camera Roll

The app Splice takes images or videos from the camera roll. If a student wanted to share a video clip with another student, we had to email the video to the iPod. From the email message, the video clip could then be saved to the camera roll.

3. Placing text on images

In previous classes, students would normally have several images with text on it referring to a political issue or their candidate’s name. Windows MovieMaker has a lot of features for making the text appear on an image, Splice does not. You can make title slides with text in Splice, but the background is blank. We had to use another app with Splice to create our political ads – Phonto. Phonto allows you to place text onto an image. Students would have to place the text on the image using Phonto before importing the image into their Splice project. This process would sometimes seem to take students out of the flow of their project, having to exit out of their video timeline in Splice so that they could add text to an image from their camera roll.


The student projects went very well. One of the most common problems we had was when students would forget to export their video from the Splice App. The export process sends the video to the camera roll, which is where they can then upload the finished video to DropBox. Despite having a guide sheet that displayed this step ( with pictures ), several students forgot to complete this part before trying to upload to DropBox. This was easy to fix as students only had to go back into Splice and complete the export process.

Creating the videos with the iPods went very smoothly. Students were able to take pictures, record video, and record narration easily. Most of the students found the Splice app to be simple to use. We encountered no problems with rendering the videos and all of the videos were able to be uploaded to DropBox. By utilizing the iPods for the project, we did not have to fuss with circulating Flip cameras, digital cameras, and headset microphones around to the students. If a student needed to record video they could do it. They did not have to wait until a camera became available – they each had one ! It also seemed like because students did not have to wait for certain peripherals, they were more likely to include video and voice over narration. You can see an example of one of the finished student projects here:

One of the other interesting results we had was that several students wanted to use their own devices to create their political ads. We had about 6 students in each class create their ads on their own iPhone or iPod touch. They downloaded the Splice and Phonto apps onto their device so that they could complete the project. These students were very excited to use their own device for an assignment, and were interested in learning how to create and edit a video using these apps. When they were done with their videos, we connected their iPhone/iPod via USB cable to copy and paste the files to the teacher computer.

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Student Algebra Videos made with iPods

Two of our 8th grade Algebra classes had previously used iPod Touch devices to run a QR code scavenger hunt to practice exponents and scientific notation. A few weeks later, the math teachers from these classes had an idea on how to use QR codes with their review for the final exam, which is still 2 months away. The idea is to have the students record video with the iPod explaining a concept from earlier in the course. The students would have to show a sample problem and explain the steps in solving the problem. These videos would then be made available online. A QR code and web link would be provided next to each problem set in the final exam review packet that the students would receive at the end of the year. If a student had trouble with a concept they could scan or enter in the URL to view the peer created video.

Activity Breakdown

To get started, the students were assigned a specific topic to cover in their group. Students worked in groups of 2 or 3. Each group had to create a script that showed their sample problem and the mathematical work for the solution. This script had to be presented to the teacher for approval. Once the script was set, the students had to rehearse their explanation using small whiteboards and dry erase markers. When the group was prepared, they were assigned an iPod to record with. To keep things simple, the students were told to record their explanation in one “take” so that no editing would be needed.

Total class time involved :
30 minutes at the end of a day when school assessments had been proctored
45 minutes in a following class to finish rehearsing, record, and submit video

Collecting the Videos

To turn in their finished video, students were asked to upload the video to DropBox. Each iPod had been previously logged into the same DropBox account. This would allow the teachers to access the videos without having to hook up each iPod by USB cable to their computer. There were a few cases where the videos were too large to be uploaded to DropBox. Most of the videos were between 1-2 minutes in length. Some groups went for 3 minutes, which created a file size that was too large to upload. In these cases, we had to connect the iPod to the computer with the USB cable and transfer the videos by cut and paste out of Windows Explorer ( just like a flash drive ) . This only occurred with 4 of the 20 iPods we had used for the activity.

Benefits of the Activity

The students had to really understand their concept to explain it well. After viewing some of the videos, we were impressed with the job the students did. A sample video on the equation of a line is shown below:

Equation of a line video link
We will have to wait and see how the students benefit from viewing each other’s videos when reviewing for the final exam. It should allow the students to get assistance more quickly than having to wait until they can ask their teacher in person.
The iPods were a great tool for us to use with this activity. We could easily record video and submit the videos in one collected area ( DropBox ) . The students were primarily engaged with discussing and planning the explanation of their assigned mathematical concept. The iPod was used without interrupting the learning process, similar to students reaching for a calculator to work on a problem. The iPods did not become the focus or center point of what the students were doing – the students used them as a tool only when necessary.

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QR Code Hunt for Algebra Review

QR question from reviewThe students in two algebra classrooms at our Middle School recently had the chance to review for a quiz in a different way, by having a QR code scavenger hunt. The students and teachers all enjoyed this activity, which allowed us to have the students physically active while working on some difficult content.

Scanning a QR codeTwenty-one questions were prepared for the students to solve, reviewing the concepts of exponents and scientific notation. The two teachers I was working with, Andrew Elder and Cheryl Hoffman, created the questions in Microsoft Word. One of the tools I had considered using to generate our scavenger hunt was the excellent QR Treasure Hunt Creator at classtools.net . The only problem was that it was impossible to properly display exponents and other equations in this tool, which is limited to showing simple text. A different approach had to be taken:

  1. I used the snipping tool in Windows 7 to take a screenshot of each equation and saved each as its own image file.
  2. Images were each uploaded to the public folder in my Dropbox account.
  3. The link to each image in my Dropbox account was copied to the clipboard.
  4. The link was submitted to an online QR code generator. I used the site www.qrstuff.com to generate our codes.
  5. Each code was downloaded and inserted into a Word document.
  6. Six of the questions were presented in video form. ( Some videos taken of us, others taken from YouTube ) The link to the video was used to generate the QR code.
  7. The document with all the codes was printed out. A PDF version of our document is available here .

Once we had the codes printed out, they were cut out and hidden in 2 classrooms and the hallway. A set of 30 iPod touch devices were used by the students to scan the QR codes. I installed the app Scan on the iPods, since it is free and does not have ads popping up when viewing a web link.

Running the Activity

The students were grouped in pairs, with a few groups of three. Each group was given an iPod touch to share, but every student had to record their own answers on their paper. The students were shown how to access the app on the iPod Touch. Listed on the board was a breakdown of how many codes the students needed to find divided by locations : ( 8 codes in room 100, 8 codes in room 102, 5 codes in the hallway ). After going over the breakdown, the students were sent out to different starting locations to get them spread out.

Students finding a code

Class Observations

The students were very highly engaged during the activity. The 6 video questions allowed the students to see some real world applications of using scientific notation and exponents, which is always beneficial when learning any concept. The iPods were loud enough for the students to hear the video without having to use ear buds. Students working on review problemAs the students worked, they spent the majority of the time working on the review problems. Searching for the QR code for the next problem took a brief amount of time compared to actually solving the problem. The students were not staring at the iPod the entire class – they used it when needed and set it aside while working on their calculations (unless they used the calculator app to help with some of the problems ). The students did not have any difficulty with using the iPods – all of them were able to scan codes and play the linked videos without any problem.

During our 72 minute class, the students only had enough time to solve about ½ of the problems. We had students check their own work with their group by scanning a QR code for the answer key, which we made available during the last 10 minutes of class. This allowed time for the teachers to circulate to each group and answer questions that the students had on certain problems.

The students wanted to know when they would get to do this type of activity again, demonstrating how much they had enjoyed it. Both teachers were very happy with how the lesson had gone, especially since the lesson was so student centered. Mr. Elder and Mrs. Hoffman used the iPod’s a few days later for a lesson on graphing equations, which I will give more detail on in a future post.

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iPod Lab Deployment ( Part II )

First Use of iPod Lab

Today we took the plunge and gave our sign out iPod lab a test run. We used a set of 15 iPod Touch devices in a Spanish III class at the High School.  Two separate periods used the devices. Students worked in groups of 3 or 4 and all tasks were completed in a 44 minute period.


  1. Record video of your group singing a verse of Old MacDonald’s Farm in Spanish with your group’s assigned animal. (Students had practiced the song prior to this class period)
  2. Take a still photo of your group
  3. Edit the video using the app Splice. Your finished product should have:
    1.  a title slide with your animal name
    2. the video clip of your group singing
    3. the photo of your group
  4. Email the edited video to the teacher

Group singing song in Spanish

Once class started, we briefly showed how to record video with the iPod by showing a video I had created and uploaded to YouTube.

Groups were handed out their assigned iPod number and were given 15 minutes to record their song clip. We spread the groups out into a neighboring empty room to reduce background noise. Once the 15 minutes was over, all the groups returned to the classroom. We distributed an Editing with Splice guide sheet for the students and displayed the requirements for the edited video on the board ( title, video, photo) .  The guide sheet also directed the students on how to email the video to the teacher. The teacher’s email address had been previously synced to the iPods as a contact, so the name would auto fill as they began to enter it in.

Thoughts and Comments

Students were very much on task during the class period. While several students have their own iPods or iPhones, there were still some students who needed help with the interface when using the iPod. The editing task did end up being mostly a one student job; however, the entire editing process took only about 3 minutes. Emailing the videos to the teacher went smoothly. One group did have a delay of about 8 minutes until the video appeared in the teacher’s inbox.

I have done similar activities before with Flip Cameras. The main difference is that the same activity with Flip cameras would end up taking two class periods – 1 to record and 1 to edit . Using the iPods allowed the students to record and edit on one device, without having to try and schedule computer lab time too.

Emailing the videos will only work with small file sizes. Our videos were about 1 minute long, anything longer will not be able to be sent by email. Dropbox will end up being the mode of delivery at that point, which I will be trying out with a class in a few weeks.

Our Spanish teacher, Cora Roush, has her students keep an electronic portfolio using Weebly. She will be uploading the student videos to SchoolTube, which will allow her students to embed their group’s video onto their webpage. One of the group’s videos can be seen here:  Sample Video

The lesson went very well. While there was a lot of initial set up I had to do with the iPods concerning email, future uses will require little prep. The students were able to use the technology without any delays from task to task, which allowed them to complete all the requirements in one period. This smooth transition should allow for easier integration with future lessons. The videos were nothing complex, but they are a form of authentic assessment. What better way to assess world language skills then listening to students speak ( or in this case sing ) in the language they are learning !

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Ipod Touch Lab Deployment – Part 1

Ipod Touch Lab Deployment

One of my projects this year is to prepare and deploy a lab set of iPod touch iPod at SGASD devices for use at our Middle School and High School. Many of our teachers use video and audio recording as a way to assess student learning. Using the iPod would allow students to record, edit, and send products to the teacher without having to worry about getting to a computer lab or cart. As I go through the process of preparing the labs for deployment, I plan on sharing the progress on this project here.

First things first…

So why the iPod touch instead of iPads ? A few reasons for that :

  • lower cost
  • better portability
  • easier to record video with ( I think we have all seen folks recording video with an iPad and have chuckled to ourselves )
  • chance that some students will have their own to use in the classroom

Our district is currently investigating the concept of Bring Your Own Device for students in our schools. If it would pass, we have a good number of students who have iPod touch and iPhone devices that they bring with them to school. Students keep these devices in their pocket, until they can use them before and after school. The iPod touch sign out lab would be a way to supplement a classroom so that all students have access to a device during a class activity, instead of having to be paired up with someone else who owns a device.

What will these devices be used for ?

We have had more and more teachers using technology for students to create book trailers on Animoto, audio recordings with Audacity, and videos with Flip cameras and MovieMaker. One of the drawbacks has been the availability of resources, mainly in computer labs and/or netbook carts. The other obstacle at times is setting up microphones to properly record audio, depending on the type or vintage of machine being used. When audio is being recorded, it is impossible to have students spread out in a computer lab to try and cut down on the background noise being recorded. By using the iPod touch, we will be able to use the built in camera and microphone to gather images, audio, and video. The portable nature of these devices will not only allow us to use them in various locations easily, but will also enable the teacher to use them quickly as a part of the lesson, without the hassle and disruption of moving to the lab. Students will also be able to edit their recordings on the iPod itself, which will cut down on the amount of time required for smaller activities and assessments.

The majority of apps will be for product creation. Drill and practice content apps will be limited, and will not be the primary use of these devices. I will discuss the apps installed on the devices in more detail with my next post.

How will they be deployed ?

A single lab will consist of the following:

2 – Bretford Power Sync Cases

30 – iPod touch (32 GB) 15 iPods will be in each case

Bretford Case with 15 iPods

Bretford Case with 15 iPods

This will allow greater flexibility in distributing the iPods. For example, if a teacher wants each student to record an audio response to a question, then both cases will be used to provide a set of 30 iPods. If a teacher wants to do a video project, chances are that the students will be working in pairs, so that 15 iPods would suffice, allowing the other set of 15 to be available in other classrooms.

Collecting / Sharing Student Work

One of the drawbacks to using iOS devices by several different users is getting material onto and off of the iPod. It would cause too many problems for teachers to have to synch iPods every time they wanted to collect products from students. We have three different options for collecting student work:

1. Email – each Ipod has been configured with a Google Apps email account. This email is identified as the iPod itself, which are all numbered. Many apps, including Voice Memo, Splice and Animoto, have a share by email feature .

2. Dropbox – each iPod has the DropBox app installed on it. All of the iPods in one case (set of 15) are set to the same DropBox account. Teachers will be provided the username and password to each account to download student projects to their computer.

3. Drag and Drop from Media folder – connecting the iPod with the USB and treating it as a thumb drive. This will be the option for grabbing video projects that are too large to email or upload to DropBox.

Using these methods as opposed to syncing will also allow students who use their own devices to submit work to the teacher.

Next Steps…

In my next post, I’ll go over some more detail on the preparation of the devices, including device settings, syncing, and apps that are installed on each iPod.

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Essential Apps for Teachers

A lot of my colleagues have been getting smartphones and have been asking me, “ what are some good apps to put on here? ” I figured I would go ahead and compile a list of the apps that I rely on the most as an instructor. This is not a list of classroom specific apps like vocab reviews and math drills. Instead, these apps will help a teacher in any content area stay organized and informed. These apps are all free, and 4 of the 5 are available in iTunes and Droid marketplace ( Splice is only for iOS devices ).

Dropbox1. Dropbox  – I couldn’t go without this one. Dropbox is your own thumb drive in the cloud. Upload files from your computer to your Dropbox account, then view your files on your phone. I rely on Dropbox to quickly view special schedules, meeting minutes, and even procedures for using certain programs or software. Any pictures you take with your mobile device can also be uploaded to Dropbox, and then accessed by your computer.

OneNote2. OneNote – This app allows you to take notes with your mobile device or computer and saves them online so that you can view them from either device. Many people prefer Evernote ( a similar app ) for this type of use, but I have started to appreciate OneNote more and more. Why ? The big reason is that OneNote is a product of Microsoft Office. If your school is like mine and has Microsoft Office just about everywhere, OneNote is convenient to use since most Office programs like Word, PowerPoint, and Internet Explorer will have a Send to OneNote button . This makes it easy to quickly transfer items to your OneNote notebook to be viewed and/or edited later with your mobile device.

Google App3. Google – There is only one reason I use the Google App and that is for Google Reader. Being able to check my RSS feeds on a mobile device is perfect. Whenever I have five minutes to spare waiting for something I can scan over the latest postings from the blogs I have subscribed to and check them out to see if something catches my eye.

TweetDeck4. TweetDeck – I do not check Twitter much while on my computer but I do like accessing it on a mobile device.  I prefer the interface of TweetDeck on a mobile device over HootSuite, mainly because of setting up different columns to swipe across. It’s not a perfect app, there are times where it will kick me out at random times – but it is still the one I use.

Splice5. Splice – A free video editor for Apple devices. Not many frills, but you can quickly make a short movie with videos captured with your device. You can trim clips, add titles, credits, transitions – even add music from your iTunes library. I don’t use it every day, but I have used it to make video highlights of different workshops or classes.

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