Using QR Codes in the Classroom
How those weird square barcodes can help students access information and showcase their work
Thanks to the world’s obsession with smartphones, Quick Response—or QR—codes are becoming more and more popular. QR codes are popular because of their ability to quickly read and hold large quantities of information.
Anyone with a smartphone, iPod, or tablet device can scan the little square barcode. Afterwards, a number of things might happen: an e-mail may open, a photograph may appear, or, most commonly, a Web page will pop up. The number of things you can do with a QR code is actually quite incredible!
With the best generator applications, you can create QR codes that link to a Facebook page, send contact information and calendar events, pull up a location in Google Maps, or even start a transaction to purchase something using PayPal.
QR Codes as a Classroom Tool
QR codes can serve several purposes in the classroom. Every teacher has experienced what happens in a classroom when you ask your students to visit a particular Web site and the URL is a mile long. Students can spend a lot of time typing in the URL, only to have one letter wrong and the entire learning process stalled. QR codes eliminate that part of the process, particularly when using iPods or iPads as an instructional tool.
Print out the QR code and make copies. Teach your students how to use the scanner by modeling it with a VGA cord (from the iPad to your computer/projector). After my students practiced it a few times, they stopped needing prompting on how to use it. Some of my students even downloaded a QR scanner onto their own device!
A form of communication
QR codes can also be an amazing communication tool. If you have your own personal Wiki or classroom blog, generate a QR code for the URL using a free online app like Kaywa’s. When you send a permission slip, progress report, or letter home, include the QR code and remind parents of your classroom Web site and the information they can find there.
Similarly, you could generate a QR code that pulls up an e-mail to yourself. Post it on your classroom door and make it easy for administrators to send immediate feedback or for parents to contact you with a question.
Developing 21st century skills
As much of the work that students do is digital, it is crucial that we help them develop 21st century skills. It can be challenging to display digital work, but posting student work is a must.
If your students create an outstanding piece of digital work—whether it’s a wiki page, well-written essay, or animation—have them create a QR code that can then be posted in the room. It may not have the same effect as having something nice to decorate the walls, but at least anyone interested in viewing it can see it in its digital format.
Apps I Recommend
There are several great QR code scanners out on the app market, and a few of them also serve as generators.
Free: If you are looking for free apps, try Scan or Easy QR. Both are scan only, but you can generate a code for free using Kaywa’s generating application. They suggest making a small donation if you frequent the site, but it is not required.
All in one: If you prefer an app that does both reading and creating, Qrafter is the way to go. It is free at first, but a $2.99 upgrade is required if you are looking for both features.
Also, if you are looking for a QR generation tool that lets you create more colorful and unqiue codes, then QR Hacker is the site for you.
Try QR codes and be creative! If you are unsure of ways to use QR codes in your classroom, search the Web to read about what other teachers are doing.
Here are some of my favorite blog posts about using QR codes in class: