In our last session of digital technologies, we focused on outdoor learning in a digital context, by using QR codes. Previous to the session I was curious as to how digital technologies can be incorporated into an outdoor context. Outdoor learning is an initiative which many schools promote; it is where the outdoor environment is used to enhance learning. With the advancements of technology in 2019, it is likely that children will spend a lot of their time indoors, connecting with friends through online gaming or social media, although being outdoors is fundamental to growth and learning about the world around us. I previously thought that the digital technologies module would solely focus on using devices in the classroom, however I am now aware of the potential technology can have outside the classroom too, especially in relation to outdoor learning. Education Scotland accounts for the skills developed in this; “the outdoor environment encourages staff and students to see each other in a different light, building positive relationships and improving self-awareness and understanding of others.” (Education Scotland, 2010). Learning and Teaching Scotland also highlights the key benefits of outdoor learning; “the outdoor environment offers motivating, exciting, different, relevant and easily accessible activities from pre-school years through to college” (Learning and Teaching Scotland, 2010).
Other clear advantages to outdoor learning include developing critical thinking skills between a variety of curricular areas, personal development such as communication skills or problem solving and promoting a healthy lifestyle. Outdoor learning also helps children develop personal safety and provides opportunities for children to use a range of skills they wouldn’t always use in the classroom.
As well as these advantages, outdoor learning can relate to many other subjects in the classroom. For example, health and wellbeing, where children can experience and learn from challenges in the outdoor environment, science, as children can use outdoors to study the local, natural and built environment as well as habitats, and social studies, where children could take part in school trips to explore different places. This way of learning engages children as there is “challenge, enjoyment and depth” and “an adventurous approach to learning” (Education Scotland, 2010).
For our outdoor learning task, we were challenged to create a ‘treasure-hunt’ style activity using QR codes. A QR, or Quick Response code is a 2D bar code which can be scanned by smartphones or barcode readers, that contain images, website links or text. Today we discussed the potential use of QR codes in the classroom, which I previously had no knowledge of. They can be used to post book reviews in a library, treasure hunts or text clues, or to ask trivia questions, all of which could be potential future classroom resources.
The instructions regarding the task were fairly vague, which allowed us freedom for our ideas. We worked in a group of 6, and began by experimenting with different QR generators. My group found that ‘QRstuff.com’ worked best. The website was very easy to navigate therefore could be used by pupils too. Before generating the codes, we discussed a number of things to plan our activity, such as what stage we would focus our outcomes on, what curricular area, how children would record data and how they would be lead to the next QR code.
The curricular area we chose was maths, as we decided to focus on money. Our activity begins with providing pupils with a checklist of shopping items. Children would be given a sum using pennies, and the answer to this sum is the room number they will have to go to for the next QR code. For example, 22 pence take away 4 pence is 18 pence, therefore children go to room 18. They will then scan this QR code to find out the item, for example bananas are 18 pence, which they will then record on their shopping list. Again, this QR code will provide them with the next sum to find the next room number. At the last code, children should finish with a completed shopping list with corresponding costs for each item in pennies, they will then add all costs together to calculate the total cost of the shopping list.
This activity took a lot of planning as a group, I think we worked effectively and listened to all ideas. I do not feel that I would have worked better independently as I usually like to. I am realising the importance of collaboration throughout this module.
My group decided that this activity would work best for first level, relating to the Curriculum for Excellence outcome for money; “I can use money to pay for items and can work out how much change I should receive” MNU 1-09a (Education Scotland, 2019).
This is effective as it is a real-life context, however if I was to do this with a second level group I would change the number of items to that children would need to calculate the cost of more than one. For example, using multiplication and division; the cost of one apple is 18 pence, what is the cost of three apples? I could also have children working with pounds instead of pence, making numbers larger and incorporating a decimal point for a more advanced level.
Personally, I liked the ‘treasure-hunt’ style activity, and think that children would find it very engaging, however my group did have some issues regarding the type of activity. As room numbers around the university were varied, it was difficult to make the task realistic, for example a pear cost 3 pence and an apple cost 34 pence. I also found the activity extremely confusing and couldn’t understand it at first, due to my little experience with QR codes. I am unsure if this activity would work for children as they may not understand the activity.
In terms of the QR creator itself, it was an easy website to navigate and there were several options for editing the QR code; colour can be added and text can be altered to different fonts and sizes. However, pictures cannot be added to the QR code, which would have worked well with our shopping list activity. Therefore, if we had more time I would have printed out photographs of the food item and taped it to the door with the QR code, this would make our activity visually appealing and more engaging for children. If this was to be used with primary school children there could be many potential distractions when allowing children to leave the classroom on their own, resulting in incomplete tasks. The task itself may be too confusing and would require several classroom assistants. If I was using this in the classroom I would also print out instructions so that each group had a copy of the task, and I would use image for the shopping items to make connections between colour, shape and item name. It is also a worry when using this as a classroom activity that children may take the codes down from the doors which would result in the whole activity losing its flow, therefore the codes would need to be monitored regularly.
To relate our activity to outdoor learning in the natural environment, we would direct children to certain objects, like trees or benches, where they would find their next QR code. However, we chose for this activity to be completed indoors as we had a large space to work in and the weather conditions were not great. My previous experience with outdoor learning in the natural environment was during a mathematics module when studying fractions. I found it fairly time consuming, however beneficial to develop my understanding of the topic, and I felt it would be a valuable activity for children to see concepts visually, using concrete materials.
When completing other groups’ outdoor learning activities, I noticed that they were all very similar; most were mathematics based and resulted in a total cost calculation. A key factor which many groups would have to consider is time. As some activities only lasted five minutes, pupils would have to be provided with an extension task. My group’s activity lasted around twenty minutes and the feedback we received was all positive. It was easy to follow and engaging as you were exploring different areas of the university. The task also required a lot of thinking and following directions, as well as incorporating a good mix of addition and subtraction. I think it would be appropriate to use with primary school pupils in the first level.
Overall, everyone had very different approaches to similar concepts, and it was beneficial to view the different interpretations of the task. I feel that I have gained significantly more experience using QR codes, but understand that classroom activities based on them require a lot of planning, constant adult supervision and a good understanding of digital technologies from the teacher and pupils. QR codes could therefore be used not as an activity, but displayed around the classroom for pupils to access information.
Outdoor learning is also a valuable lesson to plan, and although it can be very time consuming, it enhances teaching and learning in a highly engaging way. Outdoor learning experiences are “remembered for a lifetime” and “provide relevance and depth to the curriculum in ways that are difficult to achieve indoors” (Learning and Teaching Scotland, 2010).
Education Scotland (2010) Curriculum for Excellence Through Outdoor Learning.
Learning and Teaching Scotland (2010) Curriculum for Excellence Through Outdoor Learning.
Education Scotland (2019) Experiences and Outcomes. [Online] Available at: https://education.gov.scot/scottish-education-system/policy-for-scottish-education/policy-drivers/cfe-(building-from-the-statement-appendix-incl-btc1-5)/Experiences%20and%20outcomes [Accessed on: 12th March 2019]