What the heck is a QR code and why should I care?by Lisa Dubernard 11 Comments September 2, 2011
You may have begun to see funny-looking black and white squares (QR Codes) that look a bit like stamps stuck on advertisements in magazines. I really hadn’t paid attention (eyes rolled) because sometimes I get a bit wary when I hear about ANOTHER new techie thing. Who has time to keep up with all that? But I started to get more curious when I began seeing articles and blogs about QR codes in education.
So then of course I started noticing them even more…in magazines, in the newspapers, on business cards and I started really thinking:
- What are those postage stamp squares?
- How do you read them?
- What do they mean?
- Why should I care?
Ok, so what IS a QR Code?”
A QR Code (it stands for “Quick Response”) is a special bar code that can store website URL’s, plain text, phone numbers, email addresses or other alphanumeric data.
I hear that they can store up to 4296 characters and works internationally so a QR code is a QR code all over the world – They’ve been big in Japan for a while and are just now breaking in the USA.
You might want to think “print-based hypertext links.”
Where would one find (or put) a QR code?
More specifically, how can they be used to communicate better for educators? Let’s first look at ideas for administrative uses. You might put a QR code on the following printed documents:
- Parent newsletters
- Strategic plan overview documents
- Meeting agenda outlines
- Business cards
For example, scanning a code printed on a business card might give you the contact information which you can then easily add to the contacts on your smartphone. A QR code in a parent newsletter might take one to a specific event page on a website or even to a video of the principal giving a welcome back to school address! A code printed on your strategic plan document might link you to a website that has more details about the current status of the plan.
How can QR Codes be used in the classroom with students?
It seems that since so many students have smartphones, that they could download a free QR Reader and be able to access stuff with their OWN little gadget. (Thinking BYOT- Bring Your Own Technology now!)
“Hmm.. Access to what specifically?”
- An online video that they can watch on their own (at their own pace…)
- Today’s homework
- An article in a newspaper for current events
- An online quiz or poll
- A simulation or game
- An image or presentation
- A scavenger hunt
- A place for the students to write on a topic at hand
- A shared google doc where multiple students could contribute ideas
More specifically, what if the QR code was printed on a paper test and the code could link to a place for students to submit answers?
- Or could it link to a graphic, simulation, animation or video that is part of a PARTICULAR question where printing itself might be difficult or impossible?
- Could it link to “help” for a particular question (like a Khan Academy video or even your OWN videos)? Imagine if the student clicks on the link and their teacher appears on the phone saying “OK, I see you’re having problem with multiplying fractions, Let me review the steps and then you can try the question again.” Talk about individualized learning!
- What about posters advertising events like an upcoming school play? School yearbooks? Posters for running for class president?
What do you need to READ a QR code?
QR codes can be read with mobile devices that have a camera and a QR code reader. (Like most SmartPhones, iPads (2) and some iPod Touches.) This device also needs to have a reader or “app.” Basically you launch the little app and point your phone to the printed code and it reads it like a bar code reader. Then it shows you whatever this code links to.
This short video made at the University of Texas is a great primer on how QR Codes work. Check it out!
And how do you MAKE a QR code?
There are several websites that you can go to that you can make QR codes for free. You can even track how many times someone reads your code!
Here is an article from the New York Times about making QR Codes
So still a lot to learn and explore so I’m posting this blog to share what I’ve learned so far but even more importantly, to hear back from you on these ideas. Has your school district tried using QR codes yet? How has it worked? Please share!
Here’s a link to a companion blog about QR Codes that I wrote on the Promethean Planet website. It is more focused on classroom use!
And if you happen to be reading this because someone printed it out, here’s the QR code!
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