-Make sure you have enough devices for each group: I had 5 groups and thought I would have 2 devices per group. I underestimated smart phone penetration among my kids and we only had one device per group. This led to a few obstacles because more kids were standing around while one person reads the question and then the website material to find the answer. You also have to flip back and forth between apps and browsers while scanning. More devices could mean a dedicated app for each task.
-Smaller groups work better: I had roughly 4-6 students per group and with so few devices some of the students were observers instead of participants. I wasn’t sure if the learning objectives for these kids without access to the device was met because they didn’t have anything to look at or do while on the hunt. Small groups might mean more questions, codes, stations so there is a trade off to the complexity of what you are trying to do. The smaller the group the better the ratio of the devices will be. Be open to letting the students use your devices if their aren’t enough to go around. It builds trust. You are looking for a ration of 1-3:1 device.
-Short and sweet is key: While the learning objectives have to be met and the thinking process kick started the students were going to have a rough time answering the questions reading a dissertation or long essay on a tiny device. We know they spend alot time on their devices but that is texting, twitter, facebook not reading detailed and technical information. That would be a strain on anyones eyes. I know kids who would give up if they had to read something that small and that will happen no matter how much fun they think they are having when they get discouraged. I even had to keep their answers that the codes sent to them to fairly short and sweet. This means I had to use some short and less than credible sources of yahoo.answers and wiki.answers to give them their data to infer the answers from. Even though I previewed the answers ahead of time and knew they would hold up i was concerned about the examples I was setting by using these sites as a resource. I could have gone a number of different ways but this fit the time frame and screen size i was using.
-Download the apps ahead of time: Even after I prepped and told the students our plans for the next day many showed up with no QR scanners on their phone. We used, QR Droid (android) and Qrafter (iOS) for scanning purposes. Since most schools are concrete downloading the apps takes a long time. Using them was no problem. I am in a windlowless dungeon of the room and the downloading of the apps took a while. 🙂
-Ipad/Tablets work the best: If you have these resources they are the way to go. You will have the easiest time reading, scanning, and answering the questions. They are portable lightweight and tactile. One of the obstacles you might run into here is wifi/internet access. My students were using my Ipad which is connected to the network here at school and this helped immensely. Without the access unless their tablet has a data plan you might be in a tough spot.
I want to go ahead and thank my administrators for letting me try these new fangled ideas during the school day. Allowing kids to roam the hallways with their devices out is a risk for them but they give me the freedom and trust to explore what works for the kids. I want to thank the kids for their excitement and patience. They were very patient as I helped them download apps, learn how to use a new device, and while giving directions while they were itching to go. Their excitement was palpable once they got their phones out and were ready to scan and go and this makes the learning environment feel less like work and more fun. I hope these tips and obstacles you might run into are something that can help you on your journey in the future. If you have any tips or hints that I missed please let me know in the comments.
ps. I feel like I am leaving something out. I finished this post in wordpress and ran into an SSL error and almost lost it. Do we all have a love/hate relationship with technology. All future posts will be composed into a gdoc and copy and pasted into the wordpress dashboard.