Today we looked at QR codes, Picollage and how to use them to enhance outdoor learning. Firstly, we had a class discussion on the benefits and importance of outdoor learning in the curriculum. We all agreed that we could remember more vividly the moments in our own time at school when we were involved in outdoor learning than we do about our classroom time. Those experiences ranged from school trips to just being in the playground carrying out tasks. This is one of the things specifically noted by Learning and Teaching Scotland (2010) “Outdoor learning experiences are often remembered for a lifetime. Integrating learning and outdoor experiences, whether through play in the immediate grounds or adventures further afield, provides relevance and depth to the curriculum in ways that are difficult to achieve indoors. Learning outdoors can be enjoyable, creative, challenging and adventurous and helps children and young people learn by experience and grow as confident and responsible citizens who value and appreciate the spectacular landscapes, natural heritage and culture of Scotland.” Looking back at those times I am sure that I was more focussed on the excitement of being outdoor and the fun than I was on realising I was still learning. This is a particularly important aspect of outdoor learning, especially for children who struggle for whatever reason to engage in the classroom environment.
Another aspect of learning outdoors is it allows both the pupils and the teachers to see different sides to their peers that are not always obvious in the classroom. In this respect it allows for improved understanding of others and positive relationship building (Education Scotland 2010). This can be particularly important in relation to inclusion of pupils who may otherwise normally feel on the outside due to varying support needs.
We highlighted the fact that it can be hard for teachers to identify suitable locations for outdoor learning and we discussed Beauchamp (2012) point that “…children are citizens of their localities, making contributions to the communities whether playing sport, interacting with others or simply hanging out with friends…” (Beauchamp, 2012, p. 126) from this we concluded that this is an area where the children could be actively involved in planning their learning. Without doubt they will know the best part of the playground for a given task or in the wider local community.
We then broadened our discussion to look at the Shannari Wheel and how we could link aspects of outdoor learning to each area on the wheel. It was surprising just how many different ideas we could come up with in a very short space of time which demonstrated how beneficial outdoor learning is to wider learning.
We are fortunate that the core values of Curriculum for Excellence align with long-standing key concepts of outdoor learning. Challenge, enjoyment, relevance, depth, development of the whole person and an adventurous approach to learning are at the core of outdoor pedagogy. Learning and Teaching Scotland (2010).
Having idenitifed the massive benefits of outdoor learning we then looked at how we could link digital technology in to the outdoor environment using QR codes.
QR codes are basically a more advanced version of the barcodes you find on the back of any product you buy from the shop. These basic barcodes can store up to 30 numbers but a QR code can store 7089 which is what enables it to allow access to far more detailed information via an ‘image-based hypertext link’. It can link to a short bit of text, an audio recording, a website, a phone number, an email address, a map location, an calendar event. I have used QR codes in the past but I had never considered how they could be used educationally. Our lecturer demonstrated how we might integrate them into our learning by creating a treasure hunt style quiz. He had placed various QR codes around the campus which we had to locate, scan with the QR code reader on our iPads and answer the question the link took us to. Dependant on the answer we chose it gave us a letter that would form the jumbled up answer to the final question. There is no denying that we had great fun and got more than a bit competitive! Having been through the experience allowed me to see that the topic of the treasure hunt could have been anything at all so as a teacher I could use it as an excellent revision tool for a subject that had already been covered in class across the full curriculum. It could even be discreet assessment to identify knowledge gaps yet the outdoor fun aspects has completely drawn the children away from the fact they are being assessed.
Once back in the classroom we were asked to devise our own quiz and create a QR code treasure hunt. My classmate and I decided to use maths based questions and I was pleasantly surprised by how easy it was to create which is definitely a big bonus when we get to the stage of planning lessons. Some Curriculum for Excellence Experiences and outcomes that I have identified that link to this are:
I explore and experiment with the features and functions of computer technology and I can use what I learn to support and enhance my learning in different contexts. TCH 1-04a/TCH 2-04a
Opportunities to carry out different activities and roles in a variety of settings have enabled me to identify my achievements, skills and areas for development. This will help me to prepare for the next stage in my life and learning. HWB 2-19a
Within and beyond my place of learning I am enjoying daily opportunities to participate in physical activities and sport, making use of available indoor and outdoor space. HWB 1-25
As we went along we also took a few photos to document our outdoor experience. We then used the Picollage app to create collages with those images. It demonstrated well how an app like this could be used to log student learning in a more engaging way. It would also be an excellent way to display photos from school trips or collection of work done by the children for display on the wall or to be shared electronically with parents.
This was our last lecture in Digital Technologies today. It was definitely a fun topic to finish on. Since the start of the module I feel I have learned a great deal not only about the actual digital equipment I could take in to my future classrooms but more importantly why it is so important that I do that. I have a much deeper understanding of why technology needs to be an everyday part of school learning, because it is an everyday part of life. I have learned that without its presence in education today’s learners struggle to see the relevance and the real life context of what that are being taught. I understand that it is well documented that used effectively, learning across the curriculum is greatly enhanced when digital technology is used to support and facilitate the learning. But I have also learned to be cautious not to use technology ‘for the sake of it’ but to focus on when it is the best option. I feel that moving forward I will be much more confident when I become a teacher that I will be able to include innovative lesson plans that will engage the minds of my learners and that I will broaden my thinking to find the best resources to do it.
Beauchamp, G. (2012) ICT in the Primary School: From Pedagogy to Practice. Pearson
Education Scotland (2010) Curriculum for Excellence Through Outdoor Learning.
Learning and Teaching Scotland (2010) Curriculum for Excellence Through Outdoor Learning.
Scottish Executive (2004) Curriculum for Excellence. Edinburgh: Scottish Executive