Don’t be camera shy!
Smartphone cameras are absolutely amazing learning tools as they can often double up as scanners, analysers and editors when paired with the correct app or software programme. When used properly, they can get students out of the classroom and can act as conduits for engaging the whole brain.
That being said, one does have to be quite cautious when using smartphone cameras with students. There are many documented cases of pupils filming their friends or teachers covertly in school, and then instantly sharing the footage via social media or even video-sharing sites such as YouTube™. In schools and countries where there are heavy child-protection laws and policies, this can be quite serious and can land the supervising teacher in a lot of trouble. My approach to this problem has always been to lay down the ground rules with my students first (i.e. to only use their cameras for the task at hand), and then make sure I am vigilant in supervising the activity. If you do this, then smartphone camera activities will be an enjoyable part of your teaching, and will greatly enhance the students’ learning experiences.
Smartphone Savvy: Camera Based Learning Activities
Code scanning treasure hunts: This activity involves getting the students to scan codes (e.g. QR codes) using their smartphones and then following the clues to find information. It involves some planning and preparation by the teacher beforehand, but it is well worth it! The steps to follow are:
- Step 1: Create a sequence of information sheets (e.g. 5 sheets of information about different aspects of cell division)
- Step 2: Insert a QR code (or other) into each sheet. QR codes can be created for free at qrstuff.com. Your QR codes should encode a clue to tell the students where to go (e.g. ‘Go to the library’ or ‘This is where you eat fish and chips on a Friday’)
- Step 3: Hide your clues in different places around the school (try to use rooms and places that will be unoccupied, if possible). Make sure your first information sheet (with embedded QR code clue) is in the classroom where you will start!
- Step 4: Make sure that all of the students have the ‘QR Reader’ app (or similar) installed on their smartphones. This can be set as homework before the lesson starts, to save time.
- Step 5: The students will scan the codes and follow the clues, picking up the information sheets as they race/walk around the school.
- When the students have picked up all the information sheets (the last QR code ‘clue’ should be something like ‘Go back to class’), then the students will come back to their classroom and complete an activity with the sheets. You may wish for them to organize the information in some way (e.g. into a poster or flowchart, which can be used in a fun memory game like the ‘Poster Game’ – covered in chapter ). You could also get the students to communicate the information in an unusual way (e.g. by texting a friend or by posting to the school’s blog via their smartphone)
The image below goes through an actual example of a QR code treasure hunt that I used recently with my IBDP Year 13 Biology students.