ChoralTech: Never Hand Out Anything Again
Date: March 1, 2013
Handing out paper in a rehearsal is almost always a disaster: the sound of shuffling papers, the inevitable "I lost it," always having too many copies or not enough, typos that aren't discovered until it's too late… Let's take a couple of minutes and get rid of this "handing out notes" chaos forever using two easy and free tools-- Google Docs and QR Codes. It won't take long, and it'll save you bunches of time down the road. Then, let's think big and expand it to other possible areas of your program...
Step 1: Google Docs
Google Docs is a Google-powered alternative to the standard Microsoft Office products that you're familiar with-- Presentation replaces PowerPoint, Spreadsheet replaces Excel, and Documents replaces Word. There are two big bonuses from Google Docs, though-- one is that it's stored in the cloud, so you can share whatever you're working on instantly. The second is that you can have multiple editors or contributors working on the document at the same time. This is a great feature for team/classwork, but we'll ignore it for right now.
Let's pretend that I am distributing the itinerary for our upcoming choral retreat. The first thing to do is to create this in a Google Doc. You can log in to http://drive.google.com using your Gmail/Google account, or you can create one for free if you've never used a Google account before. Once into Drive, I create a document, and get a very basic word processing window, like Word, Pages or any other word processor that you've used before.
(Google Document editing online)
Once I'm done, I can choose what to do with this document by using the big blue "Share" button in the upper-right corner. Do I want to:
* Keep it private so that only I can see it?
* Share it with a few people who have editing capacity (maybe my section leaders need to add their section activities)?
* Share it with a few people to see/comment only (administrators need to approve my proposal).
* E-mail to all my choir members?
* Make it totally public for the world to see?
I want a quick and easy way to distribute this at the next rehearsal without having to print the papers and hand them out manually. I could e-mail them all directly, but that's a) a lot of work to enter all the e-mails myself and b) assuming that I have them all already. I'm going to use QR Codes to distribute this itinerary, so I'm going to choose to open this up to anyone who has the link.
(Who has access to this document? Anyone with the link.)
But how do they get the link? The answer is in the funny barcode-looking things that are appearing everywhere in ads now: the QR codes.
Step 2: QR Codes
QR codes look like barcodes, and in essence they do the same thing: let a scanner link a picture to a piece of information. In the grocery store, it's the price of that box of cereal. Here, it's the link to my document. QR codes can be recognized by any device which has two important things: a camera, and a QR app. There are many free apps for virtually all platforms that can read QR codes-- a quick Google search will get you what you need. All of your musicians will need both of these (i.e. a smartphone, tablet, netbook, etc.) for this to work. Before you throw this away for fear that your singers aren't already equipped, take a quick show of hands in your next rehearsal-- how many of you have a smartphone/tablet with camera on it? You'll probably be surprised!
(This is a QR code.)
Now that we've eased that fear, let's make a QR code. Once you opened up your Google Doc to anyone who has the link, the Doc gave you a very long link to access that page directly. It started with https://docs.google.com/document... -- if you didn't catch it, you can always find it by going back to the share screen (big blue button, top right corner). Copy the link to your clipboard (Ctrl+C).
We're going to create a code at Kaywa. Like many QR generators, it has a free version and a paid one-- the free version will suffice for our needs. Paste the link (Ctrl-V) into the Kaywa website, choose "Generate Free" and a QR code image will immediately appear. You can then copy that image directly from the website.
(Entering the code with the free Kaywa generator)
Okay… So What?
You now have a QR code that, when scanned, will automatically take a user to your document (in this case our retreat itinerary). This image can be printed and put on a music stand for people to scan as they enter/leave the rehearsal, or projected up on a wall for your singers to scan directly with no printing involved. An important distinction: remember that the QR code points to the link, not the file itself. This means that if you update the original Google Doc, you don't have to resend (or have them rescan or resave) anything-- your changes are automatically reflected in the document. Just let people know that the details have changed and ask them to look at the Google Doc again, and your changes are automatically there for them.
Let's Think Big!
QR codes can link to anything that a smartphone or tablet can do: videos, MP3s, existing webpages, etc. Do your printed programs have a section about fundraising? Make a video about your group's fundraising needs, and put a QR code in the program. As your audience is waiting for the concert to begin, they can do a quick scan and watch the video while they wait. Does the act of printing programs make you and your treasurer break out in hives? Write the program as a webpage instead and project the QR code on the wall of the stage-- invite people to download your new electronic (multimedia?) program while you save costs and paper. Is your group preparing to release a CD? Put a QR code linking to audio samples up on the wall. Do the same thing internally with listening examples for your musicians.
How About You?
Do you use QR codes in your rehearsals, performances or materials? How do you use them? Do you have any other ideas about how they could be used in your program? Comment below and let us know!