Sunday, September 16, 2012

Creating a Community QR Poster

One of the first community publishing projects we undertook in my 'learning strategies' class, was to produce a large QR code that will eventually hyperlink to our class website.  Our poster will be 29 pixels square to match our master QR image. If your students use one inch pixels, the group will produce an image almost two and a half feet wide. (Our final poster will be a bit larger than that.)

Step 1: Create a QR code that links to a classroom web page.  I used MobileFish QR Code Creator because it allows the user to specify the size of the first printed image.

Step 2: Decide on a way to cut the code into pieces so that each student can take on a part of the project.  With 16 high needs students in my class, I began our project by breaking our code into 16 equally sized unique squares.

Step 3: Enlarge each student's piece of the puzzle so that the individual pixels can easily be seen and organized.  I enlarged each of the pieces to fit on full sheet of letter-sized paper.

Step 4 (Option 1): Provide each student with a piece of the puzzle. You might elect to print a puzzle grid template on which each student might recreate his/her pixels.  Just make sure the grid is filled with enough fairly precise squares.


Step 4 (Option 2): As an alternative, you can simply have each student produce a set number of dark squares that can be added to a master grid by a select team of students.  So long as the black pixels are composed of images that appear dark when viewed from a distance, the code should work.

Step 4 (Option 3): Instead of puzzle pieces, cut your QR code into strips, providing each student with a binary strip composed of black and white squares.  This solution would work wonderfully for a class composed of 29 students!

Step 5: I asked each student to complete images that represented their favourite things, their talents, and their goals for this school year.  For some, it took a long time to develop a list of words or icons that could most apty represent each individual's uniqueness. (It took even longer for students to produce clean dark images with black Sharpie pens.)

Step 6: Put it all together.  With our QR puzzle being completed on a part time basis, we hope to have a final poster ready in a week or so.

Community projects like this one call for each student to demonstrate some commitment to the collective.  The resulting symbol demonstrates to others that the unified group is made up of many uniquely talented individuals.  While we used hand-drawn sketches, I'm confident that a similar project that uses coloured squares of paper, photographs or images cut from magazines, can yield a similarly effective symbol of class unity.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

UnPlugd 2012: Assessing the Unmeasurable

This summer, 39 intrepid educators embarked on a journey that brought them from the skyscrapers of downtown Toronto, to the shores of Kawawaymog Lake in the region of Algonquin Park. With the promise of a wide range of engaging experiences, UnPlug’d 2012 brought together co-learners from Australia, USA, and Canada to share stories about what matters most in education and to collaboratively author a collection of letters that will be published later this fall.

When it comes to digesting a good meal, a sense of satiation triggers positive feelings. In a similar way, participants engaged in our unique unplugged learning adventure, left UnPlug’d with a feeling of fullness, refueled by deep conversation, nourished by rich natural meals, and refreshed through recreation amid the splendor of Ontario’s near north. While we can measure the success of our event by pointing to the product that we produced, many of the hidden benefits our event, are intangible and immeasurable.
How can you summarize the effectiveness of a collaborative writing venture that brings to life the narrative experiences of a diverse group of co-authors? How can one measure the value of a journey in a private rail car filled with kindred spirits? How do you put a value on the achievement of emboldened colleagues who succeeded in their cross-lake swim to an iconic tree on a nearby island? How might you assess the experience of once distant friends sharing their passion for running by connecting for a morning run amidst the wonder of Algonquin region? How can anyone measure the magic of an evening paddle to a sauna, swim and campfire, when capped by the shooting stars of the Perseid meteor showers? Is it even worth considering what it means to hold in your hands a guitar that is made up of historic artifacts from across Canada or what it feels like to hear that same guitar played at a campfire or at a private indoor gathering?
While educators had to take up the invitation to participate in UnPlug’d 2012, it was through generous sponsorships and donations from a number of Canadian and US EdTech companies, that we were able to set the conditions for a rich and memorable event. We are indebted to many partners who supported our mission to dig into our collective memory, to share experiences with distant colleagues, and to edit and publish our most impassioned ideals.
UnPlugd’d participants continue to talk, share, and collaborate by leveraging social media tools, and by gathering for face-to-face meetings and professional development events. Through open conversations on Twitter, and through deeper reflection on personal blogs, participants continue to reflect on their experiences, to consider adaptations to their professional practice, and to lead by learning in public. As our multimedia publications near completion, the dividends from UnPlug’d 2012 are sure to impact connected teacher-learners from Canada and beyond. We invite you to consider coming along for the ride at

Image credits: Rodd LucierLisa NealeTodd Lucier
Many more images are available in the UnPlugd12 Photo Pool
This article was originally written to appear in the MindShare Learning Report.