You see them everywhere in education; these peculiar little squares have blasted onto the classroom scene to deliver content with a simple scan. They can whisk you away to a website. They can play an audio file. They can display text. Now they can even download applications, share information, and make a phone call for you!
I won’t bore you with the history of the QR code, but I will tell you that I’m sure its creators never anticipated educators to seize the opportunities that they possess. If you’re creative, they are the perfect engine to get your kids engaged.
Note that I said, you have to be creative. Because after one or two scans, it’s just another gimmick, and the kids will lose interest FAST.
So, to get started, you need to know a couple of things. First of all, there are a LOT of resources out there, and it can get overwhelming pretty quick. It’s really not difficult at all, you just need 3 things:
- A QR Code Maker
- A QR Code Reader
- Something to link to (Content!)
The content can be, literally, ANYTHING. So, starting with the lesson in mind, what do you want the kids to get out of it? Whatever your answer is, that’s your content.
Step 1 – The QR Code Maker
If you Google QR Code generator, you’ll get a ton of options. Not all QR’s are created equal; some have the ability to print large, some don’t. It really depends on what you want it to do. For now, let’s assume your QR will always be two inches wide or smaller. My favorite QR generator is QRStuff.com, because they have 26 content options. It’s easy to use, and it’s FREE. Simply pick the type of content you want, fill in the information, and download your code. You even have the option to change the code color if you like, but I’ll warn you, certain colors are more difficult to scan. Basic black and white is best for the classroom.
If it looks a little scary, check out my video to walk you through it. Really, it’s a piece of cake.
You can also use a Google Chrome Extension if you need a super-quick, down and dirty QR code maker for websites. If all you plan to do is send students to websites, I’d recommend this. The only issue is that you’re really limiting yourself, because QR codes have a LOT more potential than just sending kids to websites.
My favorite is extension is Goo.gl URL Shortener. You can find it here. It has an added bonus of a URL shortener, which makes your links way more manageable. I’d recommend this anyway; I use it EVERY SINGLE DAY with my LMS. But that’s a different post.
Step 2- QR Code Reader
Okay, so here’s where the tech comes in. If you have iPads, tablets, or iTouches, you’ll need to have a QR scanning app installed. QR Reader by Scan gets my vote here because there’s no ads and it’s really easy to use; point and scan. Honestly, it takes a kid less than a nanosecond to figure it out; they probably can figure it out before you do. Once they scan the code, it takes them to whatever you pointed the code to.
If you’re a BYOD campus, then your students will need to install the app on their device.
I have a dedicated computer lab, so I use QR codes to engage kids around the lab. You can set up desktops to scan codes, but why? The whole purpose is to deliver content somewhere else; if they have a computer in front of them, you can just post a link. There’s plenty of other cool apps out there to use if you’re lucky enough to have a 1:1 computers (Although, I have a post coming that will be dedicated ONLY to QR’s and desktops soon. Stay tuned for that.)
Step 3 – Bask in your new SuperCoolTeacher status*
*Content is KEY here. Make it interesting!
I like to “cool up” my classroom with a variety of hidden tech goodies. We have a school-wide open WiFi guest channel, so a QR code takes my kids directly to it when they need to connect. My teacher business card has a QR code that kicks off a Skype call for a virtual chat. I have a “I don’t get it” code fixed to the computers to see which students are struggling. There’s a QR code next to my binary clock to explain how to tell time on it. But it doesn’t have to just pertain to tech stuff; anywhere something can be explained, you can use a QR code. One of my coworkers labeled all of her plants and class pets with QR codes. An ELA teacher used to put random QR stickers in library books with her personal book review. When kids would find them around school, it was like finding a secret treasure. BUT IT WAS LEARNING.
We are so sneaky sometimes.
Need some more ideas?
Basic QR Magic – These are pretty easy. Just create your code and link to your content.
- Make task cards with QR Instructions (Video or Plain text)
- Make a virtual scavenger hunt, placing QR codes around the class (or school!)
- Use them as solution stations (Scan QR code for answer)
- Link QR to a picture or explanation of a vocabulary word (GREAT for ELLs!!)
- Link to an instructional video at learning stations (it’s like CLONING yourself!)
- Link to an audiobook (BONUS: have your KIDS read it and record it)
- Use QR codes for your ELLs to translate the content
- QR Spelling Tests – Listen to the word, write what you hear
Beast Mode QR Master – If you’re willing to incorporate other tech tools, QR codes can act like a shortcut to get you there. Try out some of these combos to totally blow your kid’s minds.
- QR+ Quizizz – Use as an enrichment station. Post on your wall, or use as handouts when a student has completed a task (GREAT for early finishers)
- QR + Educannon – Link to a video that strategically stops and tests for understanding and comprehension
- QR + Padlet – Have kids create their own QR Codes to online portfolios. Display prominently where admins can see how awesome your kids are.
- QR + Paper – Greeting cards that come to life! Have students design a regular project, but record a multimedia component that goes into further detail when scanned.
- QR + Spotify – Have students create a playlist that pertains to a subject. Share!
- QR + Dropbox – Create a classroom photo album, where kids can drop off photos to a shared class Dropbox
- QR + Projects – Talking museum! Have the student record a quick blurb about their project, put them on display, and share the learning with other classes!
- QR + Your School Broadcast – link to your latest school broadcast. Post near the front so visitors can see what’s going on in your school!
So that’s it. Nothing to it. If you think of QR codes as a shortcut, then they’re really not that complicated. And anytime you have to type something more than once, you could create a QR code instead to save yourself some time.
I’ll be adding to this list over time, so feel free to bookmark and check back. If you have any ideas you’d like to share, I’d love to hear them! Drop me an email or leave it in the comments below.
Special thanks to Nancy Alvarez at http://teachingwithnancy.com for jumpstarting this post with an amazing session at TCEA 2016. Check out her blog for a million helpful ideas!