This week’s stop on the journey sees digital technology meet Outdoor Learning.
QR codes are a practical way of providing lots of information without lots of volume of resources. They can be utilised in many ways to provide access to information and instruction. They are a handy link between the traditional and the digital demonstrating how the two principles can be effectively combined. QR codes can link to information in written, audio and visual forms and can also be used as a quick way to provide links to web-based resources. The latter may be particularly effective when introducing younger children to the principle of using Digital Technologies to access the Internet. Younger children often struggle to input long lines of text and using a QR code could provide a valuable time-saving element allowing for further time to be spent on learning. While QR codes are undoubtedly useful in the classroom they also have a place in Outdoor Learning.
Cremin and Burnett (2018) propose that including the outdoor environment in learning offers an enhanced and enriched experience. Indeed, Education Scotland (2010) concurs, stating that Curriculum for Excellence strives to include Outdoor Learning for positive attributes it brings to the education of the child as a whole. Engaging with the natural and built environments around them children can experience the curriculum in a variety of new and exciting ways. Not only are the physical and mental benefits of a healthy lifestyle promoted (Thirlaway and Upton, 2009) but children also experience cognitive challenges in the form of assessing and managing risk and problem-solving. Working collaboratively to address challenges leads to the development of relationships and encourages children to test their own abilities. Using QR codes and technology in outdoor learning allows children to interact with the curriculum on a whole new level and in turn allows them to influence and shape their own learning.
I have been very lucky in my time in School to experience a good deal of Outdoor Learning. One of my happiest experiences was inventing a maths challenge for a group of Primary 3 children using old car tyres (which is probably a complete Health & Safety no-no!). The children were estimating height but were not particularly engaged with the prescribed task. Thinking on my feet I introduced a new element: “Guess how many tyres high you are.” The children were able to estimate if their height was over a metre, identify that the width of a tyre was less than a meter and subsequently estimate how many tyres would be the same height as them. The tyres were included in the playground as part of a programme to increase physical activity and learning through play, so I just decided to use them. OK, at this point I’ll admit that most teachers probably wouldn’t have put the children inside the tyres and stacked them up, but it was a HIT! I had a long line of very excited learners desperate to try out their stack and see if they were right. The learning was enhanced!
With this experience to contribute to the group discussion, we set about working out what we could do.
So, what did we come up with?
This one was hard. We hit wall after wall after wall in trying to decide how we could utilise QR codes effectively in a task which we also had time to complete. We could see clearly how the QR codes could be utilised in scenarios where links to information would be required such as Posters, Book Reviews inside book covers, Classroom displays, or where easier to access links to Internet-based information are required. Seeing a physical activity which wasn’t basically just a Treasure Hunt, really stumped us and, inevitably, we spent too much of our time debating instead of producing. Had we had longer to produce something more complex I think we would have all been happier but therein lies a lesson we all, as a group, need to learn.
We decided it was likely that lots of other groups would opt for the Treasure Hunt choice, so we took the joint decision to be a bit different. As the weather was less than Outdoor Learning friendly, we decided to construct an activity which could be done inside. However, on reflection, I think it’s clear that we pretty much ignored the “active” part of “activity” and went for a more problem-solving based exercise. We chose to target our task at First Level children with a focus on Numeracy.
We opted to reintroduce our previous character from “Week 6 – iMovie… and some sage advice on internet safety.” “Grantus Maximus” in fusion with the shopping task from “Week 2 – Bee-Bot and Beyond”. This time Grantus, very much in the spirit of Chef Bee-Bot, is hosting a party and needs to get some things from the shops. After viewing what is required for the party the participant chooses from a collection of items, scanning the QR code attached to each to see if they have associated price. At the end, the participant adds up the prices of the items they have selected and scans a QR code to see if they are correct.
We considered that this task would meet the following E&Os:
• MNU 1-20a: “I have explored a variety of ways in which data is presented and can ask and answer questions about the information it contains.”
• TCH 1-02a: “Using digital technologies responsibly I can access retrieve and use information to support, enrich or extend learning in different contexts.”
• EXA 1-04a: “I can create a range of visual information through observing and recording from my experiences across the curriculum.”
Our completed task was given to another group while we put our coats on and went off to do a treasure hunt given to us by them. Windswept and more than bit damp we returned to find out that the group we swapped with had enjoyed the presentation of our task but had managed to complete it in a matter of seconds! Here comes the lesson: Time Management.
A recurrent theme in our group-work has been that we all share a desire to produce high-quality output and lots of it. In this instance, we went all out on the content without stopping to consider the outcome. We put our own achievement before the learning and we were wrong. As Dunn (2017, pg. 19) attests: “It’s quality, not quantity that counts. It’s how you deliver your lesson… and the outcomes that are most important.” We invested a significant amount of time producing a very small end product which is not an effective strategy as we move forward to meet the Standards for Registration (GTCS, 2012) with the GTCS but is a valuable learning point to add to the other experiences we have gained throughout the Digital Technologies Module.
While we were having our discussion about how best to construct our activity I was struck by a thought: QR codes could be incorporated with the Bee-Bot activity I invented in “Week 2 – Bee-Bot and Beyond”. While the task is designed so that the pricing calculations can be altered to meet the needs of the learner, there is definitely potential to incorporate QR codes as an additional element. Modern children are used to the concept of “scanning” items when shopping and the QR codes works and looks, very similar to the barcodes children see every day. Rather than producing instructions using environmentally impactful resources such as paper, laminating pouches and printer ink, the same information could be accessed, in the same presentation format, via a mobile device such as a tablet. As tempting as it is to rush off and start production of a whole new version of that resource, I am mindful that the addition of QR codes, while fun, must provide an enhancement to the learning and that I must avoid getting carried away with the novelty factor. I think this is something I will explore further over the transition period to BA2.
And thinking forward…
Considering what I have learnt during the Digital Technologies Module, I think I have made steps towards achieving the following requirements of the GTCS Standards for Registration:
- 2.1.4 “Have knowledge and understanding of contexts for learning to fulfil their responsibilities in literacy, numeracy, health and wellbeing and interdisciplinary learning.”
Know how to promote and support the cognitive, emotional, social and physical wellbeing of all learners in their care and show commitment to raising these learners’ expectations of themselves.
Have knowledge and understanding of current guidance on the use of digital technologies in schools and know how to use digital technologies to enhance teaching and learning.
- 2.3.2 “Have knowledge and understanding of the importance of research and engagement in professional enquiry.”
Know how to access and apply relevant findings from educational research.
- 3.1.1 “Plan coherent, progressive and stimulating teaching programmes which match learners’ needs and abilities.”
Plan appropriately for effective teaching and in order to meet the needs of all learners, including learning in literacy, numeracy, health and wellbeing and skills for learning, life and work.
- 3.1.2 “Communicate effectively and interact productively with learners, individually and collectively.”
Use communication methods, including a variety of media, to promote and develop positive relationships and to motivate and sustain the interest of all learners.
Reflect on the impact of their personal method of communication on learners and others in the classroom.
- 3.1.3 “Employ a range of teaching strategies and resources to meet the needs and abilities of learners.”
Demonstrate that they can select creative and imaginative strategies for teaching and learning appropriate to learners as individuals, groups or classes.
Demonstrate that they can select and use a wide variety of resources and teaching approaches, including digital technologies and outdoor learning opportunities;
3.4.1 “Read and critically engage with professional literature, educational research and policy.”
Read and analyse a range of appropriate educational and research literature.
Use what they have learned from reading and research to challenge and inform practice.
- 3.4.2 “Engage in reflective practice to develop and advance career-long professional learning and expertise.”
Reflect and engage in self-evaluation using the relevant professional standard.
Adopt an enquiring approach to their professional practice and engage.
So that’s us, the journey is almost over. It’s annoying that the last stop wasn’t as good as some of the others, but the learning is equally as valuable. I will add this knowledge to the album with all the rest and keep it for reflection.
- Cremin, T. and Burnett, C. (eds.) (2018) Learning to Teach in the Primary School. 4th Oxon: Routledge.
- Dunn, D. (2017) How to be an Outstanding Primary School Teacher. London: Bloomsbury.
- Education Scotland. (2010) Curriculum for Excellence Through Outdoor Learning. [Online] Available: https://education.gov.scot/Documents/cfe-through-outdoor-learning.pdf [Accessed: 14 March 2019]
- The General Teaching Council for Scotland. (2012) The Standards for Registration: mandatory requirements for Registration with the General Teaching Council for Scotland. GTC Scotland: Edinburgh.
- Thirlaway, K and Upton, D. (2009) The Psychology of Lifestyle: Promoting Healthy Behaviour. Oxon: Routledge.