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QR Codes to the Rescue: Transforming Print from Out of Date, To Out of This World!

I've written about QR Codes before, but I'm on the heels of a new project that has my students using them in new ways.  And I just couldn't wait to share!

 First a little background.

Over the summer, I decided that this would be the year that I finally took the plunge and genrefied my non-fiction.  That is to say, I'm gonna ditch dewey.*** There are many reasons for this, and soon enough I'll write at length about this decision.  For now, however, I'm in the midst of a deep and thorough weeding, in the hopes that cutting the fat NOW will help make the next steps a little easier.

That said, despite the fact that I'm a fairly brutal weeder, I'm still coming across some truly scary sections of my collection:  spots where I have multiple titles, but most (if not all) are shamefully out of date.  This is especially true in my geography and history sections.  Take this gem, for example:  A Family in India circa 1982.   Now, I'm no expert, but I'm pretty sure some things have changed in India over the last 29 years.

This is discouraging for several reasons, not the least of which being that I have absolutely no money to replace these titles.  And yes, I know there's a zillion places online where students can look for more current information on India, but... we are not a 1:1 school where every student has a laptop and our 3 computer labs are always booked weeks in advance, which makes our print resources an important part of the research process for my students. So... for weeks now, I've been generating a pile of non-fiction books that really, really need to go, but that I simply can't replace.

Enter  QR Codes.

Since last year, I've been using QR codes as a pre-reading activity: a way for students to learn more about a title before reading it, (by affixing QR codes to books that link to trailers, author interviews or other related information) or as a culminating activity (by affixing QR codes to books that link to student book reviews, glogs or other projects).   With this project, however, I'm matching out of date titles from my collection with Social Studies classes that are studying the corresponding topics.  As part of their coursework, students find or generate resources that provide more current details about the information in the book.  QR codes linking to the new, better info are then peppered throughout the print title - strategically placed near and around suspect/out of date information.  And viola!  Just like that, my out of date dinosaur of a print resource is magically transformed into an up to date, interactive book!!

I love this project for so many reasons:  First of all, I love what it requires students to do.  In order to make this happen, kids have to think critically about the text - identifying bits of information that might be outdated or incorrect.  Then they have to locate new and better sources for that same info, think about the similarities/differences in the two sources and match the information together. To me, this is resource evaluation at its very best.

 Secondly, I love this project because it provides students with a relevant reason for their research. Now, when my young researchers ask "why do we have to do this," I have a GREAT answer!  Not only will their work save the library money (which we don't have!) but it will also ensure that future researches have access to better information when they search our stacks.  In short, their research will leave a lasting legacy at our school.

And finally, I just love the fact that this project is going to give these old books a new life.  As much as I love new toys, new tech and new print, I always feel terribly guilty having to toss (or even recycle) old titles that don't get swiped from the discard bin.  (And yes, I know I can transform them into beautiful art, but I'm just not that creative).  (An aside, I call my discard bin "The Island of Misfit Books" in the hopes that students will feel sorry for, and therefore take home, discarded titles like The Secret Art of Pantomime and 101 Uses For Your Overhead Projector).  In the end, I believe this product (because of the process that goes into creating it) will be greater than the sum of its two parts.  Plus, there's something about this marriage of old technology and new technology that feels a little bit like steampunk research: and what's not to like about that?



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