You may have heard people talking about using QR Codes in class, you may have even seen codes such as the one above across the internet as well as in the ‘real world’, but what exactly are QR Codes and how can you use them?
QR (or Quick Response) Codes originated in Japan as a way to provide a wealth of information in a very simple way. Essentially, a QR Code is a barcode which holds information – usually text-based or a URL to a website – that you can scan with your mobile phone and be instantly presented with the embedded information, whether its text, a website, a video or anything else. Examples of this may be a QR Code in a magazine which will take you to a downloadable money-off voucher, or a restaurant menu with QR Codes which link to videos of dishes being made.
Before we look at the possibilities of using this technology in the classroom, let’s discuss how to get QR ready. Firstly, you will need to download an application to your mobile phone that can scan and recognise QR Codes. There are plenty of QR readers to choose from, but here’s a starting point... if you are using an Android phone, try Barcode Scanner, if you are a Blackberry or iPhone user, try Neo Reader and if you have a Windows phone, try Microsoft Tag. (Neo Reader will work with a host of other phones in addition to the ones mentioned, see here for more information)
If you open up the application you have just downloaded, you will see your phone switches to camera mode. Focus your phone on the code below and take a picture. You should now be directed to the bee-it website.
We’ll look at how to create your own codes shortly, but first, let’s consider how teachers are using QR Codes today...
Ollie Bray, National Adviser for Learning and Technology Futures, suggests:
‘At the end of the lesson the teacher wants students to record their homework. They want to save money on expensive worksheets and we know that children do not like writing things into their homework planners. The teacher hides the homework instructions or URL inside a bit of QR code – then shows the code on the interactive whiteboard or wall. The children take a photo of it with their phones, their homework gets decoded and they have an instant record of what the teacher wants them to do.’
I think of the times as a pupil that my two-word homework reminder seemed perfectly adequate whilst in the lesson, but utterly foreign once at home!
Deputy Headteacher David Mitchell has been asking his pupils to create their own QR Codes that link work in their textbooks to their blogs, thus merging lesson notes with continually evolving web-based work.
‘Just imagine… a non-chronological report in their books which they had typed up onto their blog received 20-plus comments from around the world. This QR Code links to the comments online – a literacy book suddenly becomes an interactive book of weaved magic!’
Other uses in the classroom could be to provide a link to a website with further information about the topic in question, a link to a marking scheme or exemplary work for student reference, exam details, a project outline, a video to study, the list really is endless!
Kerry Turner, Director of ICT at Nottingham High School, says:
‘I like the idea that I don’t necessarily have to take my class off to a computer suite in order for them to ‘quickly’ access the information in a QR code. I like the way that a choice is given. If a student wants to expand on something they’re learning, reviewing, or investigating, this can be done as an individual response on a handheld device. It doesn’t have to be a teacher led process which the whole class has to follow.
Cynics may wonder why one cannot simply paste various details into a student diary/planner or exercise book. Well, the big plus about QR Codes is that the handheld device is usually always carried around by a student (and not necessarily the book) and any content is always available in an instant in the ‘history’ of the QR Code Reader.’
Creating your own QR Codes really could not be simpler. Again, there are numerous websites and software applications that enable you to do this, but we like Ollie Bray’s recommendation of http://qrcode.kaywa.com/
Simply visit the website, type in the text or URL that you want your QR Code to point to and hit ‘generate’. Ta-da! Your very own QR Code to print off, save or add to your blog!
The information above really is just a starting point for teachers who are looking into using QR Codes in the classroom. Undoubtedly, there are teachers out there who are using the technology in amazing ways and we have really just scratched the surface. If you have any other ideas on how teachers can use QR Codes, or would like to share your own experiences, please feel free to post your comments below or get in touch with the bee-it team to write your own blog.
Many thanks to all of the contributors to this article.