This late in the year my students and I are all tired of taking notes. While I try not to rely too heavily on traditional note taking, sometimes it's tough to avoid (and I have some students who ENJOY it). I decided it was time to find a new way to get the information to the kids.
I began by identifying 10 topics about the Cold War/Eisenhower era that I wanted kids to learn about. This included the "Kitchen Debate", Sputnik, and Kruschev, among others. I then set to work finding primary photographs, scholarly articles, museum websites, and other GOOD sources of information about each topic.
After I had identified the topics and the sites, I set to work creating a "worksheet"/outline of the notes I wanted them to have. Their job was to use the articles, letters, photographs, etc to fill in the notes. In order to get them excited about it, I decided to take it a step further. I used a free site called QR-Code Generator to assign a QR code to each site that I was using.
Finally, I made up enough clues for each QR code, put the codes up around the entire school building (principal's office, study hall room, cafeteria, and my own classroom, to name a few), and made a list of all the clues. The number of the clue corresponded with the number of the question(s) that was to be answered using that website.
At the beginning of class I asked students to pull out whatever personal device they were keeping in their pocket and raise their hand if they had the ability to download a free app for QR codes. Some had apps for this purpose already, others chose to download the one I was using (QR Droid), and another student had brought his iPad to class to use (instead of our school laptops). He found one that worked for the original iPad, which took some doing since it only has one camera. I was fortunate enough to have about half the class with capability to download/use the apps, so I paired those who didn't have a device with students who did.
I briefly explained the assignment, passed out their papers, and turned them loose. They spent the entire 45 minutes racing (some literally) around the building, answering questions, working together, and asking questions. There were several different methods on how to best complete the task, and more than one group had to start over.
Overall, the kids loved it. Their learning was active. Do I need to find a way to incorporate it into something more meaningful or higher-level than obtaining notes? Absolutely. But as a way to get kids involved, engaged, and active? It was definitely a success.