Getting QReative with World Book Day – part two


So, on Monday I posted about some book reviews I recorded at my local primary school.

I took them home, edited them where necessary (not as much as you might think) and posted them to AudioBoo – today some of those codes (the ones posted here) are in the books that they relate to.

The purpose of Curriculum for Excellence is encapsulated in the four capacities – to enable each child or young person to be a successful learner, a confident individual, a responsible citizen and an effective contributor (see the graphic below).


This project draws on at least two of these capacities (although self awareness and confidence are drawn in…) and I’ll detail them now:

1) Talking about something you are interested in is empowering – it also challenges how you articulate your interest. Audio doesn’t allow you to fall back on gestures and pictures so it’s all about the words. CfEI witnessed enthusiasm, motivation and openness (successful learners). 


2) These reviews were recorded with several (if not all) of the class mates listening in (no pressure then…). They’re listening to the review, learning from someone their own age and either wondering if their own review would have been as good or wanting them to hurry up and finish so that they can have a go. CfECommunication in different ways and different settings, working in partnerships and critical thinking (effective contributors)


3) There are other things to talk about but the one that fascinates me is this. As part of the introduction to what we’re about to do in class I play a recoding of my daughter reviewing Lemony Snicket. It was recorded 2010. Our primary school is quite small and most of the kids know each other. It was great for the P2s to listen to a ‘big’ P4 talking about their favourite book – but – it’s the P2 version of them from two years ago!  Think about it – it can mess with your head a bit, but the kids love it!


Obviously within families the benefits of sharing across siblings and, potentially, generations could have huge benefits in terms of appreciating and understanding one another as well as the experience of sharing common interest across time! It’s a bit like being Doctor Who, but instead of a Tardis we have a QR Code.

Where do you see the value (if any…) in projects like this?
Would you question my interpretation of the CfE?

Please, enjoy the AudioBoos and leave me some feedback… I’d love to hear from you!

Getting QReative with World Book Day – part one

capturing stories

Thursday 7th March is World Book Day 2013

On this day all sorts of activities are organised across the globe to celebrate ‘the book’!

One of the events a lot of schools are adopting is the ‘Book Swap’ where young people bring in a book from home, that they’ve already read (and presumably recommend…), and swap it for something new to them.

I love the idea of swapping and sharing stories and so, as my local Primary school was organising a Book Swap, I offered to help, and add a new twist, to sharing stories…

World Book Day logo 2013

Class by class I asked some of the children about their favourite books – Without spoiling the ending, what was the story, who their favourite characters, why did they love this book! I recorded our little chat, and I’m now in the process of editing and uploading to I’ll then tag the AudioBoo with a QR Code and the QR Code will go in the front of the book.

Soon, these well loved books will be carrying two stories – the one in print and the one in the QR Code. And of course, the next owner could very soon be adding their own story and QR Code… we’ll have to wait and see!

Look out for links to the AudioBoos later in the week – and enjoy World Book Day 2013!

Creative Speed Dating

I attended Fife Creativity Xchange 2012 (#CXFife12) last week where I presented my Balmullo History QR Code Safari. Held at packed Rothes Halls, Glenrothes, it was a well attended event where 10 groups presented creative educational projects in a ‘speed dating’ format. I’m fine with creativity, but ‘speed dating‘? This was a new experience!

Each project was sat at a table and, on arrival, the attendees were appointed one of the 10 tables to start at. After the opening key note (Fife Director of Education – very good!) each project had 10 mins to present (a countdown clock was projected onto the main screen), at the end of which an alarm would sound, attendees moved on to the next table and the process started again.

The cons: As a presenter, 1) I didn’t get to hear about the other projects and 2) I had to listen to myself 10 times! Nothing could be done about 1) but 2) turned into a little challenge in it’s own right and I quite enjoyed it – reiterating the presentation on the fly was really good practice – and by the time I’d got to 8) it was really flying!

The Pros: (Besides the Pros which came out of the Cons…) Having talked to a room of 60 – 100 and beyond I’ve never had so much immediate feedback from one session. I’d present for about 6-7 mins and then 2 or 3 mins would easily be filled with a combination of questions and feedback.

Standing on a stage doesn’t suit everyone or put them at their best. Likewise, not everyone is up for approaching a speaker so this process solved both of those problems.

It’s not for every event (Would TED have been as successful in this format?) but I think the ‘speed dating’ approach is a good alternative to bear in mind.

Anyone had similar experiences..?

Thanks to all who contributed to the organisation of #CXFife12 and turned up, contributed and made it a genuinely worthwhile afternoon! For more on the QR Safari go here.

Beautiful Fife

My last post had no pictures. This one has lots. Something for everyone then..?!

The Balmullo History QR Code Safari was properly completed recently. For a while a few of the temporary codes had been left in place while we arranged fixings for the permanent ones. Now all of the permanent codes are in place, the final one (see above) being at the local Spar. For more than a hundred years this same building has been the local Post Office (now a Post Office/Spar Shop). The Code is tucked away in the Community Council notice board.

I’m glad to say that whenever I see the children they are still telling me about QR Codes they’ve seen on their travels which is a real indication that at least some of what they learned several months ago has stayed with them.

I had intended on sharing these images long before now – these are sections of a poster, created by the children, to document the entire project from research, design, prototype and implementation.

But the best news I can share today is that the good folk at Fife Council who organise and run ‘Beautiful Fife‘ (best kept towns and villages awards) spotted our trail on their visit to judge the beauty of Balmullo. Apart from the labours of the Community Council they also discovered what they describe as ‘innovation’! Consequently we have been awarded a special new category of ‘Beautiful Fife – Innovation Award‘!

Here’s proof…

Such a great experience and it’s very gratifying for it to be recognised – particularly within the context of another community orientated project.

So thank you to Keith Jackson (Fife Council Parks and Community Events Officer) and everyone at Beautiful Fife and Balmullo Community Council, not to mention Mrs Else, Mrs Haldane and Class 2 at Balmullo PrimaryYou can read more about Beautiful Fife here.

On the road to AR

Great blog post here from Dan Slee thinking about AR in the world of Local Authority (LA) Communications, PR and the news room. I too have been inspired by the humble Nintendo DS in the past so it’s interesting to see what kicked off this train of though.

As an ex-local authority man myself (as well as being from the Midlands – i’ve since wandered far from home…) I find his enthusiasm for introducing this kind of tech at into the LA arena really exciting. Given issues with accessibility it makes so much sense for LAs to be leading in this stuff but so often it’s the complete opposite. So, a blog worth following.

Below I’ve reproduced my own comments that I left on his blog:

“This is great… I wish you had been the head of the PR/Design team that I used to work for – we could be doing great things..!

…but how quickly this stuff is adopted comes down to convenience – as you said, how long before you dad will find it useful.

However, right now I think there is some middle ground to be explored so that we’re ready with great ideas when the AR tech really takes off…

It would be great to think that our mobiles would ‘ping’ into life whenever we wandered near to some virtual content, and no doubt eventually it’ll come without the need for an AR app like Aurasma… However, I’ve found that for many users it’s equally as exciting to find a ‘key’ hidden in plain sight that ‘they’ can unlock, investigate and hopefully contribute to.

Below there’s a link to a project I completed earlier this years with a class of 6/7 year olds at our local primary.

Together we created a permanent QR Code trail around our village. Without any problem what-soever these kids ‘got it!’ They were thrilled by the inherent anticipation of searching out and accessing these mystery boxes (QR Codes to those challenged by imagination ;)).

But what was behind these codes that excited them so much?

Vouchers for free crisps and sweets?
The latest Merlin or Dr Who?
A school trip to Legoland?

It could have been any or al of these things (given the budget) but actually the trail was all about Local History actually… and they were lapping it up! Largely because they were the journalists, they were the content makers, they ‘owned’ the trail!

It’s simple, it’s engaging and it works. Not necessarily three words associated with tech these days.

And it’s not just for kids… i’ve done similar non-permanent games and trails with Environmental groups, education conferences, PHD summer schools and an art festival.

   St Andrews Space Hop   treehouse qr scan

These trails (I call them “QR Safaris”) are not quite AR but they are pointing in the right direction. It’s not about the tech (I could easily remove the QRs in a few years and replace with RFID or GPS – even Microsoft tags :| ) The point is that the ideas remain the same.

For more on our QR Safari leap into the future and please visit:


QR Code Scan Guide

QR permanence

No, I’m not weighing in on the “QR longevity” debate… this is about putting your money where your mouth is!

The final two permanent codes of the Balmullo History Safari were fixed in place last night and here’s a couple of pics of the Old School House – now privately owned, so thank you to the owners!

UPDATE: This is the Cynicus QR Code – Balmullo was home to a famous cartoonist called ‘Cynicus’ – this code tells you more about him and shows you some of his work…

A couple of the images attached are from my Instagram feed. Instagram is now available for iOS and Android so feel free to follow – @OnTheSuperFly

I must also add a big thank you to the Community Council who have allowed me to place the QR codes on their planters around the village.

Happy hunting y’all!



Branding Safari

Apparently, if you want to design an icon or logo you could do worse than get help from primary aged kids. Children as young as 18months old have been known to recognise the golden arches of the worlds favourite fast food outlet! It makes sense that children would be image literate long before they are word literate so no wonder advertisers make every effort to capture that particular audience with strong visuals. Therefore, by the time kids start school they are already pretty savvy regarding logos.

So, in almost no time at all having suggested we find iconic symbols from the village, main suggestions from the children were the Smithy and the burn and the Smithy very quickly became a horse shoe. I took the decision to position it like a bridge rather than the traditional ‘lucky’ horse shoe – it just made more sense with the water running underneath.

I was personally intrigued by the shape of the school as we see it in the satellite images of Google Maps. It even appeared that the four points were exactly North, South, East and West and so it made sense that our ‘Safari’ logo, in some respects, resembled a compass.

So, here it is, as featured across all of our permanent QR Codes around Balmullo and my first logo collaboration with 25 seven year olds! I may have to call them in again!

Red Tape

For the first time since I took on this project I was met by red tape… of the best kind, a big red ribbon around the information box in front of the school signifying the impending ceremony to officially open Room Two’s QR Code Safari!

It’s almost a week ago now but the Safari, to hunt and observe Balmullo History QR Codes, is now fully operational!

VIPs from Fife Education, parents of Room Two and the entire school gathered in the main hall at 2pm last Wednesday to listen to the children present their project (with their own Powerpoint presentation) and have it officially opened.

Kenneth Greer, Executive Director of Education for Fife was unable to join us due to prior engagements but was well aware of the project and sent the children of Room Two a letter letting informing them of how proud he was of their achievement.

Everyone had to endure a brief lesson in QR Codes from me but I came away more educated than anyone as a quick straw poll revealed more P6/7s had smart phones than adults in the room!

So, Balmullo may well be the most QR literate village in Fife, but we won’t be resting on our laurels. The Safari’s system is fully content managed so the Safari’s content of videos, images and words will be changing from time to time as new classes take over the project.

While installing the permanent codes I found this poor specimen in the road. It’s one of the temporary QR Codes that had blown off the planter at the bottom of Main Street. There are still a few temporary codes waiting to be upgraded while we arrange for suitable fixing places for the new permanent ones but they’ll all be in place before long.

Here’s a permanent fixture at the Balmullo Inn.

So you’ll now find the Safari starter codes on the information box outside the school, but essentially once you log in you can start the Safari from any of the codes as they all carry information to the map and additional information on this site.

Back to the launch… after the ceremony we were treated to cake, but no ordinary cake, a cake with the project logo printed on the top! (More about the logo soon!)

I was extremely fortunate to have this opportunity and to complete what I’d had in my head for more than a year. I’ve now demonstrated a generic series of projects (or products) that modularly come together to create a learning experience for any age. While in the context of technology there are many ‘seemingly peripheral’ subjects that can be covered as part of the project. These were sited by the teacher supervising the project on behalf of the school: literacy, presentations (Powerpoint), local history, community engagement, graphic design, research, development and documentation… in total I was given a list of 40 outcomes front the Curriculum for Excellence that we had covered.

Any class in the school from P1 through to P7 could have taken a section of this project and developed it within the confines of their ability and experience and taken from it new experiences, skills and understanding relevant to their age and needs.

I only hope I get to expand it through ‘funded’ projects in the future.

I am working on it… lets just hope that I’m met with ‘more’ of the best kind of red tape!


It’s a word that can carry such damning connotations…

“Don’t use that on there it’s permanent!”, or “What have you done to you hair? Don’t tell me it’s perma… “

Just me then..?

Well, today, permanent is my friend. Today I have a pile of QR Codes that will form a trail (what we like to call a Safari) around our village designed with the help of 25 munchkins from the local primary school. (see the link below)

Of course, permanent is only a screwdriver or a delinquent-teenager’s-cigarette-lighter away from temporary, but hey-ho, here we go!

Here for the first time is a peek at the logo that I designed, again under direction of the children, and it incorporates Balmullo icons such as a horse shoe (the Smithy), a burn (Burnside) and even the school (as you might see it on a map, from above). More about that another time…

For now, please stay tuned… the official opening of the Balmullo History QR Code Safari is coming soon!