Guest post: QR codes in music
This is the first guest post on Teacher and Musician. I was having a good email discussion with Adam Hall about his use of QR codes in the classroom and it occurred to me that there was a good blog post to be written on the topic. Adam kindly agreed to write the post that follows.
Adam is currently the Assistant Director of Music in an Independent School in the North West with responsibly for leading all academic teaching of music and overseeing the development of choral music. You can find Adam on Twitter and the Peer to Peer Network.
One day in my third year of teaching I sat with my head of department, also a young teacher in his fourth year, and we dreamt of the perfect music department. We had been fully inspired by the Musical Futures model and already had some forward-thinking ideas but we wanted to do something crazy. The tables and books had long been removed from all classrooms and following our most recent clear out, we both agreed that we wanted a completely paperless department. This sparked the beginning of my love affair with the QR codes (for those of you unfamiliar with a QR code, it is simply a variation on the idea of barcodes. It can store small amounts of data which are ofsted, but not exclusively, website URLs).
After several hours of experimenting, I finally managed to upload one of our department’s simple worksheets to a dark corner of the internet. I then created a QR code to this rather obscure address and printed it out. Within seconds of scanning the new QR code on my smart device, the worksheet appeared on the screen. Needless to say, I was excited.The only downside to the experiment was that the worksheet was no longer on A4 but had been restricted to the size of my screen! Equally, I appreciated that not all the students in my classes would have access to a smartphone and, if everyone tried to use the QR codes at the beginning of a lesson, it could well crash the school’s Wi-Fi network. As a result, I didn’t include paperless worksheets in my teaching but my excitement for QR coding did not stop.QR codes on doors
Both my head of department and I were frustrated by the lack of orchestral knowledge demonstrated by pupils in Key Stage 4. To combat this, I made QR codes that linked to relevant YouTube videos and made them readily available to all students. I put the codes on our office door, corridors and classroom walls and it wasn’t long before students were scanning the codes during break times and learning what that elusive oboe actually sounded like.Interactive displaysFollowing the success of my QR fly-posting, I started to create some interactive displays. I knew I could print off some student’s work and display it but music is also about listening! I uploaded (anonymously might I add) students’ work to YouTube and created QR codes that linked to them. We soon had an examples of A*, B and C grade performances and compositions that students could listen to on their smart devices both in and out of lessons.Feedback with QR codes
As the academic year came to a close, I moved to a new school and took my QR coding passion with me. As I didn’t know these students, I got my KS4-5 students to sit a short test in one of their first lessons. When I gave back the tests in the following lesson, I also included QR codes that linked to helpful websites or simple pictures or my handwritten notes on a piece of manuscript paper. Since then, I have also used QR codes to recommended further listening and provide model essay answers. I appreciate that most of these resources could simply be photocopied or printed out but I wanted to offer them a wider range of interactive resources to encourage more independent learning. Not to mention that it also cuts down on the reprographics bill!
QR codes on handouts
When I started at my new school, one thing that excited me the most was the Year 7 Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) project, where all Year 7s would come to school armed with tablets and smart phones to enhance their learning. This negated the issue of whether or not mobile devices were permitted in the school and I saw this a great opportunity. My Musical Futures inspired handouts were soon peppered with QR codes featuring links to the song, the lyrics and even extension tasks.With QR codes, I could fit a lot more useful information onto one side of A4. Students could now listen to the songs as well as play and sing along within their group work with much more ease and efficiency. My extension tasks were mainly links to videos helping students learn the melodies and counter melodies in songs, which really helped to engage them.
Like every school, we have publications that go out to parents and carers. I have now managed to include some QR codes of students’ KS5 compositions into the next school magazine. I think it’s the best way to allow parents to hear the quality of work the students have achieved and promote music throughout the school.QR codes on homework – wider listening and hintsMy most recent venture with QR codes has been with homework. In my current school, I don’t believe the music department is implementing homework opportunities to their full potential and I want this to change for the following year. With that in mind, I have created a few example homework sheets that include QR codes. The codes link to YouTube videos for listening, images and plain text.
Instead of taking students to a website, the plain text option means that a small text box will appear on students’ smart devices. So far, I’ve used this to encode little hints, tips and key vocabulary. I’m sure the possibilities are endless.
I’m currently creating listening homework sheets for KS4 where students will scan the codes and answer exam type questions to aid them in preparation for the listening and appraising examination.
I’m keen to start using Bitly links in my QR codes so that I can track how frequently the codes are being used. I think this could lead to some interesting data on the students’ use of mobile technology. I have also considered encoding an email address as a QR code, which would allow KS4-5 students to email me questions about tasks undertaken in class or their homework queries. This can be very useful as sometimes students can’t always fit their questions into a tweet!