QR Codes – What are they and how can I use them in my classroom?

A QR Code is a type of barcode that is readable by dedicated QR barcode readers and camera telephones. The code consists of black modules arranged in a square pattern on a white background. The information encoded may be text, URL, or other data*.

Like me, you may have seen these codes in newspapers and magazines, on promotional material, in the corner of posters and wondered what they were all about. A square that consists of black and white squares that looks like an out of focus pixilated image? What’s all that about? Well, while it may not have been the initial intent of this technology, QR Codes have unlimited potential in the classroom of the 21st century learner.

First, watch this short, fun video from a primary class in Queensland to get an idea of how QR Codes are being used in the classroom, and then keep reading.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hSA3YsBy_pU

QR Codes can provide an alternative access format for students who need additional support in reading and writing. Using handheld devices e.g. iPad, Smartphone, or a computer students are able to quickly gain access to information while also incorporating the use of their own literacy support apps or software. For example, having trouble typing in a long, complicated URL – use a QR Code to navigate to the website instantly without typing. Or, need a read the instructions for a task set by the teacher – scan the QR Code created for these instructions using your iPad and use your text-to-speech app.

The way QR Codes can be used in the classroom is only limited by our own and our students’ imagination. A couple of ways to use QR Codes include:

  • Take students to websites without the need to type in an URL.
  • Provide information ‘hot spots’ throughout the classroom to access online videos, websites, text that is related to curriculum and instructional material.
  • Adapt text/books by including QR Codes – providing additional information via text, video and audio
  • Adapt text/books by including QR Codes – providing text or audio in an alternative language
  • Attach QR Codes to the classroom calendar / timetable to point to information about upcoming class events, assessment reminders, etc.
  • Take students to a website you are browsing on an interactive whiteboard. Using the Mobile Barcoder add-on for the Firefox web browser, quickly generate a QR Code and have students scan with their own hand held device.
  • QR Code scavenger hunt eg http://ilearntechnology.com/?p=4211

More ideas? Here are a few links that explore the use of QR Codes in the classroom:

QR Codes in the Classroom
http://www.coetail.asia/geoffodell/2011/04/01/qr-codes-in-the-classroom/

QR Codes Improve Web Access
http://edte.ch/blog/2010/11/25/qr-codes-improve-web-access/

QR Codes in Education
http://www.iste.org/connect/iste-connects/blog-detail/11-01-12/Using_QR_Codes_in_Education.aspx

QR Codes in the Classroom from Kathy Schrock
http://www.schrockguide.net/qr-codes-in-the-classroom.html

QR Codes as Assistive Technology
http://otswithapps.wordpress.com/2012/01/01/qr-codes-as-assistive-technology/

Teaching with QR Codes
http://www.scoop.it/t/teaching-with-qr-codes

QR Codes: Learning technology
http://www.dontwasteyourtime.co.uk/presentations/qr-codes-learning-technology-qrcode/

What do you need to get up and going with QR Codes?

First, a QR Code Generator.

A number of free and relatively inexpensive QR generators are available. Codes can be created to be either printed out or displayed on screen.

MacBook

QR-Generator

QRGen

Mobile Barcoder
https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/mobile-barcoder/

iPad

QR Code Reader and Creator

Qrafter – QR Code Reader and Generator

Generating a QR Code in a browser
QR Voice
http://qrvoice.net/

QR Code Generator from the ZXing Project
http://zxing.appspot.com/generator

Mobile Barcoder
http://qrcode.kaywa.com/

OK, so you have created QR Codes and now your students need access to them. A QR Code Reader is required if not already included with your QR Code generator. Students can access QR codes using a computer or a mobile device, as long as either has a camera available to scan the code.

MacBook
QuickMark
http://www.quickmark.com.tw/En/basic/index.asp

QRreader
http://www.dansl.net/blog/?p=256

iPad
QR Reader for iPhone

QR Code Reader and Scanner

QR Code City

Start using QR Codes in your classroom and explore the possibilities. If you are already using this technology to support the diverse learners in your classroom, I would love to hear your success stories.

*Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/QR_code

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About Greg O'Connor

Greg has been actively involved in supporting the learning of people with diverse learning needs for over 30 years. During this time he has worked as a classroom teacher, school executive, district consultant and regional manager with the New South Wales Department of Education and Training, Australia. Greg’s areas of interest and expertise include supporting people with complex needs, challenging behaviours and autism, and literacy support technologies for people with diverse learning needs. He is passionately committed to the use of inclusive and instructional technologies to support the learning of ALL students in school and post school settings. Greg presents at national and international conferences, provides training and consultancy across Australia, New Zealand and South East Asia, is currently a committee member of NSW Australian Association of Special Education, and is the Professional and Consultancy Services Manager at Spectronics.

40 Responses to QR Codes – What are they and how can I use them in my classroom?

  1. Jeanette Davies says:

    Hi Greg

    I agree with everything you’ve said. I’ve been targeting our school libraries to get them interested in using QR Codes. eg You have a new book just arrived in your library? Find some book reviews, create the QR Code and place on the shelf with the book. Even better are movie trailers eg Tomorrow when the war began is a popular book and since it has been made into a movie, you can now provide a QR Code to the movie trailer.

  2. Great ideas Jeanette. I am adding them to my list. Here is another, additional support for a task by providing a QR Code to a video demonstration via YouTube.

  3. Jean says:

    We had lots of fun introducing QR codes at the School Library Conference (Western Australia). This image of an can even be scanned from the computer image.

  4. Hi Jean. Thanks for your comment. I tried accessing the image of the edible QR Code on a cake but Flickr is saying it is private.

    • Jean says:

      Sorry Greg. I’m still getting to know my new phone. I have changed the permissions; the photo should be public now:)QR codes offer many opportunites to link the curiosity learners have about their physical surroundings to the wealth of multimodal information availalble online. Great assistive technology tools and really useful in early childhood classrooms where students may not read or type fluently. makes me wish I was still in a classroom

      Jean

  5. Dan Herlihy says:

    I’ve started working with QR codes and they are super easy to work with for adapting books. It is so amazing to think we can take any book and add sound, video, signed video, a website for more info….and so much more to a piece of paper. Hmmm – is this what it’s like in Harry Potters workd?

    :-)

    Dan

    • Hey Dan, you’re right. Replace Harry’s wand with a portable device with a QR Code Reader installed and you have access to another world of information apart from what is locked on the printed page. Alohomora!

  6. Dan Herlihy says:

    ooops – World!

  7. Paul Mehta says:

    Hi Greg,
    This sounds interesting. I share similar passion to help children with special needs. Where you can be reached by phone?
    Paul Mehta
    New York

    • Hi Paul. Thanks for the comment. I see that you are in New York, while here at Spectronics we are located in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. So maybe my email may be a better way to make contact in the first instance – grego@spectronics.com.au .As well my Twitter tag is twitter.com/gregoconnor if you would like to make contact via Twitter.
      Cheers
      Greg.

  8. Julie Stott says:

    G’day Greg,
    I love the idea of QR Codes and want to use them in my classroom. But I have an iPad 1 and a laptop. Can you please help me find the right generator for my laptop? There’s lots out there and I’m starting to get confused! Ha! Thanks.
    Julie

  9. Margo Pickworth says:

    Hi Greg,
    I have had great success using QR codes in the school library – so quick and easy to create. We have used them for accessing book trailers of adaptions of books to movies, Olympic You tube clips, a True/False Quiz following the Transit of Venus, accessing author’s websites and more! I am writing an article for our library journal – any recommended readings? Margo

  10. Emily says:

    HI Greg,

    I met you last week in Perth and was talking to you about QR Codes. I have been looking through your blog at different QR Readers for a MacBook. I have tried dansl but it is not working and am unable to find any other free qr readers online.

    Are you aware of any?

    Thanks Emily

  11. Craig says:

    Sorry my last email had the wrong email address for me.
    The link below does not seem to be working anymore, you also have included this link in two spots on this page aswell.

    10 Ways to Use QR Codes in the Classroom
    http://www.classroominthecloud.net/2011/06/10-ways-to-use-qr-codes-in-classroom.html

    cheers
    craig

  12. Hi Greg.

    Thanks for this, an excellent list that mirrors my own experience and ideas for QR Codes and how they can be used in and around classrooms. I have just recently released this ebook on QR Codes in Education, which your readership may find interesting:

    http://www.dontwasteyourtime.co.uk/books/qr-codes-in-education/

    All the best, David

  13. Donna says:

    Hi Greg,

    I am just beginning to investigate QR codes and how I can use them in my classroom. One thing I would like to do is add an informative powerpoint to a QR code for parents whose child is beginning the first year at school, so that they can further reference the information at their leisure. Is there a way to do that?

    :-) Donna

    • Charlene Cullen says:

      Hi Donna,
      I am replying on Greg’s behalf whilst he is still on holidays. He may have something further to add when he returns. You could upload a Powerpoint to a website like Slideshare http://www.slideshare.net/about which allows you to then have a web URL you can create a QR code for. If you have more queries about how to do this then please feel free to email me charlenec@spectronics.com.au
      All the best,
      Charlene
      Spectronics Consultancy Team

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