David Read looks at some recent chemical education research

A smartphone reading a QR code

Teenagers in the UK are heavy users of mobile phones, with increasing numbers owning smartphones which are frequently used to access the internet. This presents educators with exciting opportunities to enhance the learning experience of students, even though Ofsted might prefer to ban phones from UK classrooms. Benedict and Pence report the outcomes of a project carried out in the US where smartphones were used in combination with QR codes to support the sharing of student-created content.

The introduction cites prior research indicating that most internet-using teens can be considered to be ‘content creators’, which is a key feature of the project. In an approach that could be replicated in any classroom, students created three types of media: instructional videos for practical procedures, videos emphasising concepts and outreach videos showing demonstrations. These were posted on YouTube and the URLs converted into QR codes which were embedded in worksheets or attached to practical equipment, and allowed quick and easy access to the videos.

In the case of videos outlining practical procedures, students worked in groups over a period of a week. Students and staff voted for their favourite video, with the most popular (and accurate) example being linked to a QR code inserted into the documentation. A similar approach was used with the creation of content to support other classroom activities and outreach work with local schools. There was excellent student engagement in the activities and evaluation showed that the overall response was positive.

In their conclusions, the authors refer to the advantages of students being able to easily and rapidly access information in a variety of ways, as well as the benefits of harnessing students’ creative skills. As smartphones become ubiquitous in the future, it is suggested that new developments such as augmented reality will take things to another level, provided that teachers keep abreast of the latest advances in technology.