Friday, September 19, 2014

URL Shorteners, QR Codes and Bookmarklets, Oh My

When choosing technology to use in the class I am quick to try what will help me and the students right now. This makes URL shorteners an easy choice, QR codes interesting and trendy and bookmarklets a personal thing.

URL shorteners are wonderful ways to get student to a website with a long URL quickly without the difficulty of misspellings. For the last few years, I have used and allows you to customize the shortened name which makes the URL meaningful and easier for the student. is easy, but you have to remember the shortened URL you create. To help my overloaded mind, I have used for the convenience of saving the shortened URL to my Google account. I have not found how to customize it, so the shortened URLs can be confusing if not shared with students in certain fonts. Either is better than asking a student to type in some of the very long URLS needed to access online simulations, labs and other resources.

QR codes are interesting items that have been talked about in professional development for a few years now. Students simply point their phones at the QR code, scan, and they are at the website referenced by the code.  I have use to create QR codes and shortened URLs. This week I tried It offers the ability to save the QR code. I have not had much opportunity to implement QR codes in the classroom for activities. I have used them for quick access to extra information. They require students to have the ability to use a QR scanner. Since most of the content is delivered in video lessons and applied in class, it is easier to provide a link for students to click on from the laptop they are using. Not all of my students have smart phones and it is unreasonable to ask them to download apps without parent consent. I did put a QR code on the parent night flier to provide parents a way to see my website. Since I share a classroom with another teacher, it was impossible to put both of our information pages on the screen in front of the room. The QR code was a fun way to give access to that information. Students were far more familiar with how to use QR scanners than their parents.

Bookmarklets are new to me. I like the idea of a quick click to access a website without the drain of running in the background. This can make laptop tools accessible like the apps I love on my iPhone. However, downloading and adding something to the toolbar on my personal computer makes me cringe. The computers at school are locked down making it impossible to add anything to the toolbar without the technology team installing the bookmarklet. I added the bookmarklet for keepvid, which is actually now, to my tool bar. I thought that the ability to download videos would be helpful. The install was simple. After installing it I had trouble thinking of a YouTube video that I wanted and could not download. Once I remembered one that did not offer a download, I realized that this was stealing. Now I might add bookmarklets in the future, but only for personal use.

So much of what is useful to teachers depends on the technology and set up of the tools available. Ease of use and immediate applicability make a difference to teachers who are short on time and searching for better ways to reach students. When trying new web tools, I always look for what is easy for me and the students to learn, easy to integrate with the content and will make the biggest change in student learning.

1 comment:

  1. Great use of QR codes with your parents - and if they are considered "trendy" then you must of set a good example :) I am glad i was able to introduce you to bookmarklets -- they are easy to use and printliminator is a daily use for me. I am glad you found a few that will work for you!