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QR Code Generators

A number of people have asked me recently about QR (Quick Response) codes. QR codes are those square, blocky looking barcodes that are seemingly everywhere these days. They can be read by mobile phones and tablets and can store website URLs, wifi network credentials, email addresses, calendar event information, preset text messages, and more.

They have many applications in education. You can have students scan a QR code using an iPad to visit a website instead of asking them to type in the URL. When giving an assignment, you can link to examples of quality student work. During Open House, you can use QR codes to identify the student creator of a “Who Am I” project? Add QR codes to book covers that link to student audio or video reviews of the book. Make scavenger hunts for your students or, even better, have them make scavenger hunts for each other or other classrooms. Create a QR code that brings up a text message for parents/students to use when subscribing to services like Remind (Thanks, David Bayne, for that idea). You are limited only by your imagination.

QR codes are easy to make. You can create them for free on many different websites. Whichever generator you choose, you will need to download and save or copy your QR code in order to use it. The QR codes below link back to this website and were generated by some of my favorite sites. I think it is interesting that they all look different, yet link to the same place.

  • Google’s short URL creator also gives you QR codes that link to websites. Simply visit, paste in the link to the webpage and click Shorten URL. The shortened URL appears on the right of your screen. Click the Details link underneath and you will see your QR code. If you use Chrome, you can install ShortenMe or another extension to generate a QR code through for any webpage without leaving that webpage.
    Pros: Google Analytics, Chrome extensions
    Cons: Can only be used with webpages

  • Via This site is very easy to use and allows you to create codes for a huge variety of uses. Just select the type of content the QR will link to, then fill in the blanks, set your color (yes, you can make colored QR codes!), and preview your code. When you are satisfied with the color, download the code by clicking the download button. The site is a little more cluttered than the others mentioned here, but it is still easy to use.
    Pros: Colored QR codes, ease of use, one click download
    Cons: Students may choose colors that do not provide enough contrast and the resulting QR code will not work

  • QR Code
    QR Code Generator

    QR Code Generator: This site provides a limited number of options for the contents of the QR code (text, URL, contact, phone number, or SMS), but it offers several choices for the resulting image. You can set the size you want, and you also have option of copying embed code or a direct link to the image instead of downloading and saving if you prefer. Students like seeing the code change as each character of the input is typed.
    Pros: Ease of use, choice of output
    Cons: Limited input sources

  • qr code This is another site that allows you to make colored QR codes and see the barcode change as you enter information. The layout of the page is very clean and straightforward, so it simple to use. It works with a wide variety of input types and the generated code can be downloaded in a number of formats, or you can copy and paste the direct link or embed code for the image.
    Pro: Colored QR codes, ease of use, adjustable size
    Con: Possibility of QR codes not working due to low contrast color choice

Thank you to Lisa Nowakowski for recommending

If you have a great way of using QR codes with students, please share in the comments.


coffee grounds with one whole bean

Managing Mobile Devices in Your Classroom

Last month, I was lucky enough to attend a seminar put on by the Bureau of Education and Research on using iPads in the classroom. The speaker, Zachary Walker, shared many valuable ideas and resources to help the attendees make the most of their classroom iPads. He also shared some easy to implement classroom management techniques to make sure that the mobile devices in your room have a positive impact on learning.

One of the reasons we like to use iPads and tablets with our students is because these devices are so engaging, but the engagement factor is a double-edged sword. When we want the kids to stay on task, it’s usually our friend, but when we are ready to have students pay attention to something else, the siren call of a colorful iPad screen can be a problem. Here are some suggestions from Zachary Walker that you can use to manage your classroom and help your students stay on task while they are using mobile devices:

  • Dock Your Device: Have students put their device face down on the far right corner of the desk. This ensures that they are not distracted by whatever is on the screen or playing with them under the desk while you would like them focused elsewhere.
  • Screens Up (or Apples Up): When you say “Screens up,” students should immediately hold up their iPads/tablets with the screen facing you. This allows you to do a quick scan of all the devices to make sure students are on an appropriate app or website.
  • Hands Up: Students should leave their devices face up on the desk and put both hands in the air when you say, “Hands up.” You can continue talking while you walk around the room and scan the devices to make sure everybody is on task.
  • Time the activity: Let the students know before they begin how much time they will have to work on the devices. Use a timer so they can keep track of how long they have. Any timer you can project for them will do. Try typing “2 minute timer” into Google or, for a more entertaining interface, install the free application Howler Timer on your computer.
  • Noise meter: Finally, if you have your own iPad, install the Too Noisy app. Put the iPad where students can see it or project using your Elmo or Apple TV. Let the students know that if the noise level gets too high, the mobile devices will have to be put away, and let peer pressure help keep the volume at the level you have set as acceptable.

Zachary Walker’s website,, is an excellent resource for mobile learning ideas and lesson plans. I highly recommend checking it out. If you are on Twitter, you can follow him @lastbackpack.

This entry was cross-posted on the LVUSD Ed Tech Blog.

CUE Rock Star Solana Beach Reflection, Day Two

Another day, another pair of fabulous CUE Rock Star sessions filled with learning. Today’s session were all about using mobile technologies. Both the sessions I chose focused on iPads.

The One Ipad Classroom

My first session, the One iPad Classroom, was led by Jen Roberts. Although we don’t have any one iPad classes at my school, we are far from 1:1. This year, each class will have from 5-8 iPads, so I was interested in learning strategies to use and share them effectively.

One of the best ways to use a single iPad is to connect it to your computer or projector via a dongle or the inexpensive Reflector application for your computer. Once students can see your screen, there are several things you can do.

  • Use the Presentation Clock app ($0.99). It displays a countdown that changes from green to yellow to red as the time winds down. The visual feedback is very helpful for students who need to meet time goals for presentations. It can also be used as a timer for any classroom activity.
  • Use ShowMe Interactive Whiteboard app (free) to record a voice-over as you write on your iPad and teach your lesson. You can add pictures from your camera or those stored on your tablet.  After you are done, you can upload your lesson to the ShowMe website, copy the embed code, and put it on your website for absent students or for those who are struggling and/or would like to review. There are also many other videos on the website that you can share with your class.
  • Walk around the classroom as students are working and use your iPad as a mobile document camera to showcase exceptional work.

There are other ways you can use your iPad without projecting it. Plickers is a free Android app that is coming soon for iOS devices. The teacher gives each student a paper barcode and students answer multiple choice questions by holding their codes up. The teacher scans them with her smartphone and gets a bar graph showing the answers. Data can be anonymous or stored by student. If your students don’t have iPads, but they have smartphones or other devices, you can use Socrative to participate in class discussions and take quick quizzes. The results are saved in a Google spreadsheet.

Because so many of the participants at this camp are rock stars, when there was a little extra time at the end of the session, they shared some other apps that they love. Most of them are free as of this writing.

  • Subtext (best with 1:1) for collaborative reading.
  • Too Noisy to monitor classroom noise. An alarm goes off when it gets too loud. You can set sensitivity levels. When kids are monitoring their noise level, they are also monitoring their on task behavior. It is worth 99 cents for the pro version. 
  • Confer is a notetaking app for teachers. You can take detailed notes as you observe students and review their work, then sort and share them in a variety of ways for many different purposes.
  • Stick pick to select a random student.
  • Pick me buzzer to use your iPad as a buzzer when playing games.
  • Puppet Pals to create puppet shows .
  • Remind 101 to text parents and students without them seeing your phone number (not an iPad app, but still very useful).
  • Haiku Deck to create beautiful presentations with Creative Commons licensed images. One way to use this app in class would be to create a group presentation, passing the iPad around, and having each student add a slide according to the theme of the presentation (adjectives, a 6 word story, etc.).
  • Common Core Standards so you have the standards in an easy to use format.
  • Snapguide to create step by step guides with pictures and text.
  • PixnTell to take pictures, put them into a slide show, and add a voice-over. 
  • Snapseed to enhance the pictures you take with your iOS device.
  • Number Pieces, an app with virtual manipulatives to help with understanding place value.
  • Cheater Pants Calculator to show you not only the answer to the problem but the steps to get there.

Content Creation

In the afternoon, I went to Will Kimbley‘s session on Students as Creators of Content, not Mere Consumers. Will showed us (and we got to play with) several apps that could be used for this purpose. Some of them have web and/or Android versions with similar functionality. When students create content, they are more engaged, learn to think critically, understand the content better, and retain the knowledge longer. Below are some of the apps we got to experiment with. Some of the apps are free; others cost a few dollars.

  • iPevo Whiteboard Somewhat more for direct instruction, although you can also have students create their own tutorials or instructional videos to demonstrate learning.
  • ThingLink to create interactive images on virtually any subject. See my earlier post on this app.
  • Venn Diagram to create Venn diagrams. Students can save the diagrams as images. They can even use them to create ThingLink images or add them to a whiteboard app, Animoto, or similar. (Has logins for multiple users.)
  • Trading Cards to create trading cards for famous people, animals, historical events, chemical elements, or anything else you can think of. (Has logins for multiple users.)
  • Animoto to create slideshows with text, images, and music. Animoto offers a free educational account.
  • SundryNotes to create and share notes with text, audio, images, maps, and more. Students can collaborate with others on the same wifi. Some ways this app can be used include creating field journals or recording scientific experiments.
  • Notability is another note taking app with similar capabilities.
  • Explain Everything is another screencasting and interactive whiteboard app that lets you annotate and animate as you record your voice-over. You can even annotate over your video.
  • Ask3 is an app that lets teachers and students collaborate on lessons inside and outside the classroom.

What I really liked about the apps that Will showed us was how flexible they all were. It didn’t matter if you taught elementary school or high school. Almost all the apps could be used for students of any age and for any content area. I look forward to introducing them to the teachers at my school and seeing what wonderful ideas we can come up with.

It was a great day. I am looking forward to another one tomorrow.

CUE Rock Star Solana Beach Reflection, Day One

Since I had such a great time and learned so much at CUE Rock Star Tahoe, I decided to sign up for another three day session of learning and networking a little closer to home at CUE Rock Star Solana Beach, and I’m so happy I did. I will take a page from Melissa Hero’s book and write my reflections day by day so I can process today’s information before it gets overwritten in my brain with new information acquired tomorrow. Yes, I am taking notes in Evernote (one of the best tools ever), but writing about what I learned helps me make better sense of it.

The structure of the conference was the same as at Tahoe; there were ten sessions to choose from, each attendee could choose two to attend, and each day follows a theme. Today’s theme was “Getting Googley,” just like in Tahoe, but the sessions offered were different. I chose Holly Clark‘s session on digital student portfolios and Who Said Google Docs is not for the Primary Grades? with Juli Kimbley. One of the goals at my school this year is to increase communication; I thought that these two sessions would help me find ways to make it easier for teachers to publish student work online for an authentic audience.

The Power of Digital Student Portfolios

In Holly’s session, what I was really looking for were things I could take back to my school and share with my teachers to explain why they needed to have their students create digital portfolios and how easy it was to do it. I was not disappointed.

One of the best reasons to have students create digital portfolios is that it provides an opportunity to discuss digital citizenship. As students are working on their portfolios, we can teach them they about their digital footprint and how nothing online is actually private. This is key because when students post something online, whether they post it on Facebook, Instagram, or somewhere else, they are actually building their own brand, but they often fail to realize this fact. We need to teach students to think about what they are putting online. It is easier and better to create a positive digital footprint than to fix a negative one, so they need to learn how online interactions now will affect them later. This is especially key in an age when college admissions officers and prospective employers search for you on Google before they make a decision about whether you are a good fit for their school or company.

Digital portfolios also offer an opportunity to teach kids to be good global communicators. They must learn to put their work online in a way that makes people want to consume it. Simplicity is key. Just because you can use red text on a green background doesn’t mean you should.

Holly also pointed out that when work is online, both students and teachers up their game. Students produce better work when they know it will be seen by an authentic audience, and teachers will reflect on their lessons to make sure they are good enough to be used in a digital portfolio.

Holly’s recommended workflow:

  • Upload all work to Google Drive
  • Provide a Google Form for students to use to write a reflection
  • Publish the work and the reflection on the digital portfolio

Suggested platforms for the portfolio were Google Sites (good, but can have a bit of a learning curve for teachers), Kidblogs (not live, you can choose to limit visibility to specific people), and Weebly (her favorite for ease of use and attractiveness of the result). If none of those are an option, at least the work will be stored in Google Drive and accessible. She recommended that whatever platform you select, make sure that the kids never have to click more than twice to get to their work.

One of the keys to her success was parent buy-in. We need parents to understand what we are doing and why we are doing it. If we can do that, they will be on board. Talk about what you are doing on Back to School night. Have as many meetings as it takes.

My favorite take-away from this session was the idea of creating QR codes that link to student work housed in the portfolio and posting those on the class walls instead of printing and then posting the work. Codes can also be sent home to parents.

Choose File > Make a Copy to save the planning sheet below to your own Google Drive.

Digital portfolio brainstorming sheet

Who Said Google Docs is not for the Primary Grades?

In this session led by Juli Kimbley, I hoped to find ways to have students in the primary grades collaborate and publish online. We are not a Google Apps for Education School, so I was hesitant about whether this session would be useful for me, but I decided to check it out.

Juli started out by immediately allaying my fears. A classroom account will work just fine for younger students to create in Google Drive. She suggested making the name and the password easy for the students to type and sharing all passwords with the parents.

When introducing Google Drive to young students, Juli pointed out that they must first be given the opportunity to play with it, just as they would if they were be given math manipulatives for the first time. Have them open a practice doc and type on it. Let them explore a bit.

Other helpful tips:

  • Have students use a consistent naming protocol for their work, such as first name and date (Ex. Nancy 7-24-13) so that you can find it easily later.
  • Have students work in pairs, especially in the beginning. This allows them to remind each other about what they need to do and how to do it.
  • Ask students to do a pre-write on paper before they open a doc. It doesn’t have to be a rough draft; it can be a brainstorm, a Venn diagram, or anything else that has meaning for the student. In this way, you can avoid students sitting at the computer complaining that they don’t know what to write.
  • Don’t worry about teaching proper keyboarding. Children at this age are too young for formal keyboarding instruction. That will come later.
  • To help students learn beginning research skills, put information they need to access in a folder in Google Drive and let them pull what they need from there. Photos to be used in the documents can also be stored in a folder in Google Drive.
  • Once a project is complete, store all the student work and any research/image folders inside a single folder. This cleans up your Drive without deleting any work and makes it easier for students to find what they need for the next project.
  • Showcase one student’s work on your website every week.

By using Google Drive in her classroom, Juli said she saw improved classroom management (nobody wanted to lose laptop time), collaboration skills, and higher quality work as the learners strived to make their work as good as it could be.


When I get back to school in a few weeks, I will be meeting with the teachers to do planning for the beginning of the year. I hope to get at least a few teachers to try out digital portfolios, perhaps posting one project per trimester. For the younger students, maybe just using Google Drive will be enough. But first, I have two more days of learning here in beautiful Solana Beach.

ThingLink Interactive Images

ThingLink image

A number of people mentioned to me during last night’s #CAedChat that they would like to see a blog post about ThingLink interactive images and their use in the classroom, so here goes.

ThingLink allows you to add tags to an image which viewers can click on to access text you have added or online material such as websites, images, sounds, videos, and more. This tool can be accessed on the web at, and there is also an iOS app. It is free to create an account and teachers can request an educator upgrade which lets you store an unlimited number of images on the ThingLink site. Your tagged images can be shared and embedded wherever you wish.

I have found ThingLink to be very versatile and easy to use. You start by uploading an image from your computer (e.g., a photo you have taken, an image created with drawing software, or a scanned file) or by linking to an image on the web. Then you add tags to the online content you want to appear on your image. When the viewer moves the cursor over the image, the links appear and are clickable.

Teachers can use it to present content in an engaging, interactive way. Students can create images that support learning at all levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy. Whether they are labeling the parts of a flower, creating a graphic comparing and contrasting two types of sculpture, adding content to a map or timeline, or creating their digital selves, students will be on task and learning (although I can’t promise they will be quiet; the enthusiasm is definitely audible).

ThingLink can also be a starting point for a discussion on digital citizenship. Many students want to dive headfirst into Google Images when they start a project like this, but we can take this opportunity to teach them about Creative Commons licensing and all the excellent resources that are available to them to use, such as Pixabay.comWikimedia Commons, and the Creative Commons section on

ThingLink supports many of the Common Core State Standards, in particular CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.6 Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others and CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.8 Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism. However, depending on what students add to their ThingLink image, it can also support several of the other standards.

Here are some images on the California missions and the 1849 Gold Rush my 4th grade students created using ThingLink. This was the first time I had used ThingLink with students, and I should have had them all send me a link to their images so I could embed them, but I didn’t realize that until too late. In order to get them on the page in a timely fashion, I touched the images (similar to “liking” on Facebook) and they appeared in my stream. One feature I would love to see in the Educator account would be the ability to manage student accounts and publish their images as a class, but I am sure they are working on that. Until then, I will use a Google form to collect the image link from each student for future projects.

ThingLink Toolkit for Educators

Richard Byrne’s 26+ Ways to Use ThingLink in the Classroom

Resources I provided for my students


If you have creative ideas on how to use ThingLink, please share them in the comments below.

Confessions of a Wannabe Rock Star

Photo: Hands in the air – in concert by Martin Fisch

Or, my experience at CUE Rock Star Teacher Camp.

I signed up for CUE’s Rock Star Lake Tahoe because I wanted to learn and have fun doing it. After attending this three day non-stop learning extravaganza, I have to say, “Be careful what you wish for.” Talk about your proverbial attempt to drink from a firehose. I (more…)

Tech Tuesday: Story Starters

The Common Core standards are coming, and with them will come new emphasis on writing, and especially on producing and publishing writing using digital tools from a very early age. In fact, English Language Arts Writing Standard 6 for kindergarten states, “With guidance and support from adults, explore a variety of digital tools to produce and publish writing, including in collaboration with peers.” The five paragraph essay is no longer the star of the student writing pantheon. Students will need to become accustomed to different types of writing produced for different, authentic audiences. Some student writing will be produced in ten minutes and some over the course of a week or more.

Here are two story starters that may help.
PictureScholastic Story Starters generates creative writing prompts that allow students to practice using different voices and formats for different audiences. Students (or teachers) can select a genre and then spin to get a prompt. You can spin all four wheels at once or do one at a time until you get something you like. Need to practice vocabulary? Have your students write a to-do list so they can focus on using higher-level words. Are letter writing skills what you are looking for? One of the prompts has students writing a letter. You can also choose a grade level to produce simpler or more complicated prompts. Here are some that I generated:

  • Grade level K/1: Describe a pet for a silly elephant who swims in the ocean.
  • Grade 2: Write a one-paragraph newspaper article about a nervous parrot who wants to be invisible.
  • Grade 4-6: Write a birthday party invitation for a stubborn dentist who only looks at things through a microscope.

If you choose to write online, you may add a drawing and publish your work in one of four formats: notebook, letter, newspaper, or postcard. You can then print it or save it to iBooks, to Edmodo, or a number of other places. See Scholastic’s Teacher Guide to using this activity.

The Story Starter and The Story Starter, Jr. work similarly, however, they provide randomly generated complete sentences which would typically be used to begin a creative writing piece. The sentences are usually funny and will appeal to students. Here are the first few prompts I got:

The Story Starter:

  • The brilliant accountant polished the table near the submarine for the hunter.
  • The tired sock inspector rode the bicycle into the backyard to wake up the President.

The Story Starter, Jr. (more basic vocabulary and simpler, shorter sentences):

  • The pilot was digging in the sand in the desert.
  • The girl was carrying an envelope in the haunted house.

Originally published on Technology at Chaparral.