Friday, March 18, 2011

Skyping with an Egyptologist

The sixth grade social studies curriculum is awesome. We get to study ancient history. It is my favorite subject to teach. The people, places, ideas, and cultures we get to learn about are fascinating. The highlight of the year, in my opinion, is our study of ancient Egypt. Who isn’t intrigued by Egypt? Pyramids, pharaohs, hieroglyphics, the Nile, and mummies. It is the perfect recipe for making history exciting for a sixth grade student.

This year in class we were able to add another layer of learning to our study of Egypt. Last week my students had the immense honor of being able to have a Skype conversation with Egyptologist Dr. Kara Cooney. Dr. Cooney is an Assistant Professor of Egyptian Art and Architecture at UCLA.

She was absolutely wonderful with my class. They had a ball asking her all kinds of questions about ancient and modern Egypt. The questions ranged from inquiring of her opinion on the mystery of King Tut’s death to the controversy surrounding former President Mubarak. Her insights were invaluable and she did a remarkable job of breaking down her answers so my students could understand.

As I stood in the back of the class soaking it all in I was amazed by the potential Skype brings to the classroom. With a simple webcam, a free program, and a willingness to ask I was able to connect my students to an expert from across the country. Using Skype my students were able to talk with a real-life Egyptologist! I am blown away by how cool that is.

My mind has been churning ever since about other ideas for using Skype in the classroom. I hope to continue to use this tool to connect my students with people far smarter than myself. We currently have plans to interview experts from the other civilizations we study. I would also like to find more classrooms for my students to connect with and share what we are learning. If you have ideas for how you use or would like to use Skype in the classroom let us know in the comments or on Twitter @jonathanferrell.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

MACE 2011 Manhattan Kansas

We are presenting and learning at the MACE 2011 conference today. We will be posting our reflections soon.

Follow the conference at #mace11 and our presentation's live doc

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

QR Codes in 6th Grade

QR Code - Scan it with your phone!
What is a QR code?
A QR code is a barcode that can be scanned by a cell phone camera (CSI Explains QR Codes). Once scanned this barcode acts as a link to a website, image, or audio file. QR codes  are easy for users to create, print, and share with other people. Once a code is made, anyone with a capable device can scan it and instantly be connected to a particular website. These codes are becoming increasingly more popular as advertisements and ways for businesses to connect with their audience.

Introduction to Students
After learning about QR codes I was intrigued by the potential for use in the classroom. The technology is nothing revolutionary but seemed like a method for connecting the analog world to the digital world.

I introduced QR codes to my students, let them create their own codes, and practice scanning them with their phones. They were also intrigued by the new technology.

PT Conferences
My first foray into actually using QR codes came at our recent parent teacher conferences. Each semester I create a basic one page document about each of my students. This document lists the student’s strengths, areas in need of improvement, and general classroom news. This time around I inserted a QR code into each document. This code linked the parent to their student’s blog. I encouraged them to use the code to visit the blog and leave a comment on the most recent post.

Vocabulary Posters
Last week during class we were creating vocabulary posters for the words we were learning. I thought it would be fun to link these paper posters to the digital world through QR codes. My students created the posters and then attached printed QR codes to add an interactive element. These QR codes linked to various websites that helped the audience gain a better understanding of how to use the word.

Making a QR Code
Using a URL shortener service such as or making a code is simple. Just enter the web address for the site you want to link to and click the shorten button. Once the shortened URL is created simply add “.qr” to the address to see the QR code.

Once you have the image of the QR code, the possibilities are endless.

Visit Tom Barrett’s 40 Interesting Ways to Use QR Codes in the Classroom for additional ideas.

I don’t think QR codes will change the world or really even revolutionize learning. But, they are a neat tool for making paper more interactive.

Plus - they are pretty cool.

What kind of ideas do you have for using QR codes in the classroom?