Tuesday, September 25, 2012

QR Codes and Foreign Languge Projects

About a month ago a colleague brought to my attention Bryan Caplan's argument for the futility of foreign language instruction in this country.  I don't buy the argument, of course, but it's challenges like these that give us a chance to re-evaluate why we believe in what we do, if read constructively (cf. a similar argument against algebra).  To my mind, this article illuminated the glaring lack of publicity that our student work receives in a daily basis, especially in comparison to the emergent STEM movements, and I think that we foreign language teachers need to do a better job of making our courses relevant and personal to students.  We can do this, at least in part, by giving students more opportunities to show off their work publicly, just like we do for math, science, performing arts, etc.

With that in mind, I saw Peter Vogel's post on G+ yesterday on QR codes and began thinking about some ways we could use them.  It would be very easy to have students generate a QR code (e.g. with Google's URL shortener tool), linking to a document that could then be easily shared.  For example, I do a Greek vase project with my 8th graders, having them make a vase that depicts a myth of their own choosing (preferably myths they make up).  In the past, I've asked for a short write-up of the story, including a short "museum" discussion of the depicted image and its significance for the myth.  Now, though, I can ask them to write their discussions in a Google Doc and link it to the vase with a QR code that can be pasted directly on the vase.  No more need to give me a sheet of paper or write a name on the vase.

When we're done with that, we can show off our collective work in some of our school gallery space, I hope, as is typically done with artwork in the Visual Arts Dept.  We don't need QR codes, to be sure, but they could add a nice twist and even give our students a chance to share their work outside of the gallery space.  Anyone with a QR reader app could be taken directly to the Doc with more information about the vase.  And perhaps we could even give a prize to the best couple myths and/or vases.  An opportunity to show of their projects to all their peers may give students a chance both to take more pride in it and even to develop more of a personal investment in their foreign language study.  Right now, I'm thinking out loud, but I like the direction and am eager to give this a try.  Rome wasn't built in a day, after all.