QR Code Classroom Implementation Guide

Licensed for use from iStockPhoto

QR Codes (Quick Response Codes) are just barcodes. There is nothing fancy about them.

Just like the grocery store clerk uses barcodes to look up the product and scan the price into the computer, your mobile device or computer can look up QR codes to:

  • take you to a website, 
  • read some text, 
  • give you a phone number, or 
  • generate a text message.

QR Codes are barcodes of information that hardlink the physical world with the online world. They are considered a form of simple augmented reality.

QR Codes in the Classroom
For the classroom teacher, they are valuable for three reasons:

  1. They can save us time.
  2. They can save paper.
  3. They provide a link to mobile devices that help students do their homework and follow along.

Back in March, we discussed QR codes in our Lesson in Simple Augmented Reality. We used them extensively in our eighth grade portfolios this year and it has cut assessment time in half. Many of you have asked that this post be written to help you on your journey.

This Post.
This blog post is divided into three parts. First, you have to be ready to use QR Codes, then you have to teach the students. Finally, we learn seven ways QR codes are being used in the classroom RIGHT NOW.

Barcode is read and converted to URL

Preparing the Teacher to Use QR Codes

The first step of a teaching journey is to embark on learning it yourself.


Step 1 Get Your Mobile Device Ready: Download a Free QR Code Reader

On my ipod Touch, the fast, free i-Nigma 4 QR code reader is the most robust of the five or six tested. It is useful on the iPad – just enlarge the screen (the low rez actually speeds browsing.)

Step 2: Get Your Computer Ready.

If you have a computer with Adobe Air, and a webcam get the  Adobe air QR Code reader by following these set up instructions.

Step 3: Learn to Generate QR Codes
Using Kaywa’s Free QR Code generator or the Firefox plug in Mobile Barcoder (which lets you right click on a link) type in a website name and generate the code. Start with your school or class website. If you have your reader on a mobile device, you can take a picture of the code on your screen and test it there.

First select the type of information you want to encode. Then, type that information in the box. You can right click on the barcode and copy it onto your computer as I did in my lesson, or you can embed the QR code using the HTML code.

Step 4: Copy the QR Code onto your computer
If you want to use the code in a document, download your QR code by using the right click in your PC browser. In Firefox it is “Save Image As.” Once on your computer, it is a picture that can be put into presentations, graphics, and blog posts.

You are ready. Be prepared for typical problems as you prepare your assignments.

Common QR Code Problems

Readers

  •  Lighting

    Problem: Glare from light on a shiny page protector or front of notebook, particularly on webcam-based qr codes is a problem.

    Solution: Sometimes you have to take the qr code out of a shiny sleeve.

  • Shadows

    Problem:
    While grading in the den with a spotlight while the family was watching a movie, I had a problem with shadows.

    Solution: Adjust lighting or move your head out of the way so the barcode can be evenly lit.

  • Slow Reading.

    Problem:
    PC Readers are not as fast as readers or loaders of content as mobile readers.

    Solution: Use the PC when you need to go to full websites that will take a while to load anyway. If you’re just checking links use the mobile version.

  • Mobile Websites Don’t Show All Features.
    Problem: When used on a mobile device, many websites (like Ning) will take you to their mobile-enabled website which may leave out the item (like a blog) that you need to assess.

    Solution: Look at the bottom of the page for the “view the regular version of this website” link. I recommend this if you’re on an ipad, in particular.

Code

A crumpled code is hard to read.
  • Folded or crumpled code.

    Problem: At first, I had students print, cut, and staple their codes in the corner of a page. If the QR code is not flat, there can be issues.

    Solution: Flatten it with your finger but consider teaching students how to have them be part of the printed document.

  • Unreadable Code.

    Problem: When screenshots are used, or when a code is placed too close to the edge of a paper and the printer will not print it – the readers will not scan the code. The whole code must be there.

    Solution: Students should test their codes. This is part of doing a good job. If it is unreadable it is unusable.

How to Teach QR Codes

Step 1: Homework Assignment
I ask students to download a FREE QR Code reader onto their device as homework at least 3-4 days ahead of time and pair students who don’t have an ipod, ipad, or smart phone with those who do. Let them find and pick the code.  (You could ask them to go through their magazines and find a qr code to test.)

Step 2: Lesson Preparation
Go to Kaywa’s Free QR Code generator (above) and encode the four types of things into at least 4 QR Codes. For a larger classroom, you’ll need more. Print them and tape them on the wall.

Include some funny videos, the phone number for the school, a text message that says something like “You Rock Because You Can Read This” and an SMS pretending to be from someone like Justin Beiber.

Step 3: The Lesson
Start the lesson with a simple statement.

“QR Codes are barcodes for information. Using your free QR code reader I want you to figure out what kind. You have 7 minutes to figure out what is encoded in these secret messages taped up on the wall. Go!”

Step 4: Learning to Use QR Codes
I then have the students go back to their computers and pull up their last blog post. I teach them to take a screenshot of the post and paste it into Microsoft Word. (We include their four best blog posts in their printed portfolio.)

Then, we use Kaywa’s Free Free QR Code generator to create the code and insert it in their document. We test it. Because it links to our private Ning, it will take them to a username and password screen which they enter. Then, they can see their post.

7 Uses of QR Codes in the Classroom

1 – CoverPage for Portfolios

I have my students write one summary blog post including hyperlinks to everything they have done for that period of time. For the eighth grade portfolio, we do have printed copies of many items that they save to use as reference during high school. (A sample MLA paper, instructions on creating MLA papers, proofreaders marks, etc. as well as their best of work.)

Their cover page has a QR Code on it. I can snap a picture on whatever device I need and have their summary post up on my screen in less than a second. The summary post includes hyperlinks to everything they have done online.

2 – Anything I have to assess online.
If I have 3-4 online items in a week, I have the students generate QR Codes and put them on ONE piece of paper and turn that in on Friday. Assessment is a snap and I can take pictures and use them.

3- When I want them to use an app
I would like to be 1:1 ipod touch or iPad at some point. But, for now, I share free apps with the students and try to find the Android, Blackberry, and iPod/iPhone equivalent. Put a picture of the QR Code for each of those on the Powerpoint Slide and show it on the board. The students can take a picture of the Code for their device and be taken to the app download screen immediately.

4- Take them to a website from a PowerPoint slide
If I’m using a PowerPoint and want them to go to any website, I always put the QR code on the slide.
(This needs to be standard practice at all conferences.)

5- Take them to a website as we are surfing.
Add Mobile Barcoder to your Firefox web browser. When you go to a website and want your students to follow you there on their mobile devices, you can use this handy add on to generate and show the mobile barcode on the screen. Just make sure that the link you are encoding is near the top of the screen, sometimes if you generate it low on the screen, students cannot get a good photo on their camera.

6 – Encode Homework.
This is a new one I’m testing. I don’t give a lot of homework, however, if I have some things I need them to do, I can encode the text and tape it up onto my assignment grid. They can snap a picture and put it into a text program of their choice. I’m not sure whether I’m going to end up keeping it as an SMS message or text file, but for now, I do it as a text file.

If I’ve written a blog post assignment, this is simple as I just encode the URL, they snap the picture and can mark it on their mobile device.

7 – To Hardlink and Remember
Our trophy case is FULL of trophies and state championships this year. We’ve just won state boys and girls track, team tennis for girls, state runner up tennis for boys and are hopeful about baseball. We’ve got movies of the assemblies and things. I’m encoding these and putting QR codes on the bottom of the trophies linking to the YouTube videos — for posterity. Eventually, we might put them in small plastic picture frames in front of the trophies, but most of the adults aren’t quite ready for that yet. (See more on hardlinking.)

In Summary
It is a fact that students ARE using cell phones to cheat. However, they used paper and pen before cell phones.

I think we should just take cell phones out and have them on our desk at all times. When it is time for the test, they put their cell phones in a box on the teacher’s desk and get them back afterwards. Let’s harness the elephant in the room instead of pretending he isn’t there. Cell phones and mp3 players provide us valuable links to the pockets and minds of the students we teach and qr codes are a great tool to leverage that connection.

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Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

39 thoughts on “QR Code Classroom Implementation Guide

  1. After speaking with you at FlatClassroom Beijing about QR codes I came back to my Grade 6 class all fired up. I started by putting QR codes around and challenging my students to figure out what they were. Once they figured them out we started labeling things around campus with them, writing poetry and putting on bulletin boards, and now our class t-shirt has QR codes front and back with one linking to our class blog. Your ideas shared here will help us take this amazing technology even further. Thanks!

  2. Thanks so much for this. I’m assembling information for teachers at my school on cell phones and learning so that we can take advantage of our opened-up AUP. I have one teacher using QR codes and one who’s used a back channel, so we have a long way to go. This will be a great resource for me to learn myself and then explore with teachers.

  3. An excellent post. I have been using QR codes for a couple months now in my classroom and school and I love them. Your post has given me some things to include in my classroom. Another use I incorporate is linking to youtube videos on a topic as “extra” information. I’ll put it on their homework assignment or as part of a bulletin board. My students have some long bus rides and so they like to download the vid (before loosing the wifi) and watch it on the bus.

    I have given a short PD for my colleagues at school, but so far no one else has started using it.

  4. did a great project with QR codes: a tour of the school.. 🙂 Thanks for sharing this! It will help me get other teachers on board.. 🙂

  5. Oh I love that, John! QR Coded T-shirts!! that is GREAT – how powerful! I love it. Glad to see you took it back and ran with it. It really is a lot of fun when they are able to use their cell phones AND now that we have readers on PC’s no one has to be left out.

  6. Thanks Vicki, appreciate the tips and ideas. Will try the desktop reader you mention as we have not had great luck with the few others that we have tried.
    We are adding QR codes to books in our elementary schools library. The code links to student book review videos. Besides the books themselves we will be adding the QR codes to the summer reading lists so parents and students can get a quick student review which will help in deciding if the book is something they would be interested in.
    Here is a link to one of the QR codes students generated http://bit.ly/k7UFL4

  7. Your post turned on the light bulbs in my head — I finally “get it”! I get how they can be used in the classroom to save time. You made it so clear, breaking it down step by step, so those of us who only got as far as “they are a barcode” can now apply that beyond just the knowledge.

    Thanks so much!

    Kind regards,

    Tracy Watanabe

  8. Wow, Tracy! This is why I write. Thank you so much for taking the time to give back to me with your words. It is silly but most bloggers I know would flip for a comment. The stats are fine but they are nameless and faceless. It is the stories of how we may have helped in some small way that make a difference. Thanks!

  9. I Love that! So, I guess you put a different code for every video or you tag the videos by ISBN? I will look at what you’re doing. This is fascinating.

  10. Now that I think about it – QR Codes are the perfect use for summer reading. I think I need to go back and re-edit the post and add some of these. Putting it on my list now — AFTER field day today. I came in early so my students could work on their netgened videos – not a one came! 😉

  11. It is there – Mr. Robbo the PE Geek has been putting them on skeletons in Australia for some time. They are very exciting. The problem is that most schools don’t allow cell phones and mobile devices. We need to move forward and realize that these devices can be our friend.

  12. Great!!. Make sure you create dynamic qr codes that allow you to update information/link in the code without changing the code itself. Check out
    http://www.bwscan.com
    for free dynamic qr code generator with free scan analytics – including geolocation tracking.

  13. I love this post! I am just starting at a new school, and we are introducing and reformulating the technology department, and trying to include new technology in our classrooms, not just in tech classes, but in all subjects. This is definitely an interesting idea to test out!!

  14. I need to look at that. Sounds good. I am tremendously cautious about geolocation with students that might pose a security risk, but can see some uses that wouldn’t cause problems. Do you have any examples of schools using your system already so I can learn more?

    Vicki Davis
    http://www.coolcatteacher.com
    Sent from my iPad

  15. I did not know a thing about QR codes, including their existence, until a few weeks ago. The way you have broken down how to use them and how they can be used in the classroom is fantastic. My brain started zipping along with all sorts of ideas, and then I realized I need to find out how many of my students have devices that can read a QR code. Can the camera on a computer read the QR code or must it be a mobile device? Each student in my middle school has a MacBook, but not all of them have mobile phones. Some have iTouches, but I think we all have the older version minus the camera.

    P.S. I really enjoy your blog!

  16. ipod touches and smarphones allow the download of QR code readers. But remember, if you as the teacher have one, your students can still learn how they are used and create them. I just keep my ipod touch on my desk to let them test their qr codes. It is an important concept to understand and we can’t be limited by whether they have them or not.

    P.S. Thank you for the kind, thorough note and questions. I appreciate it very much.

  17. Nice post. I’ve seen our teachers do many of these with good success and positive feedback from students. However, what excites me about QR codes is what students can do when they create them.

    For example, here is a photo from one of our display cases:
    http://tinyurl.com/qrdisplay.

    The QR code in there links to a Youtube video the student created of her work where she narrates her role as an artist and photographer through the story of her photos. This also links to her professional portfolio of work. This blended world that she has created links shares her voice and passion with the world and the local.

    Too often we focus just on what teachers can do with these tools; the real power is when students are empowered as you know so well.

  18. Great posting! I would like to suggest an added but important extra step – use a URL shortener like bit.ly to get an easier to read, less complicated code, with added INFO tracking features! I blogged about it recently w/before and after example + feel free to use my QR Code Comic Infographic!

    Cheers!

    ~Gwyneth Jones

    The Daring Librarian

  19. As an alternative to dansl.net’s AIR QR Code reader you mention here, I’ve just released Zapp! into the wild http://j.mp/zzapp – a free, entirely web-based QR Code reader widget which doesn’t require the installation of any software on the user’s computer. You just put the launcher button on any webpage, or create a shortcut to it on your desktop to launch the web app. This is a massive advantage when using computers in schools which are locked down with no admin priveleges and makes the adoption of QR Codes for web browsing in the classroom much smoother. I’m keen for people to start using it and give me some feedback either through twitter @grokbox or by commenting on my blog (when I get round to blogging about it!) at http://blog.grokbox.co.uk so that I can make it into a really useful and easy to use tool for educators. I look forward to hearing from some of you!

    Drew

  20. Love it! Yes, the power is when it is in the hands of the students! I wish more of my students had devices that can use QR codes in their hands. Right now it is about half, so it takes me a bit longer, but it is still there. Hardlinking is definitely one of the best uses of this! Thanks for sharing.

  21. Can you use QR codes on a Blackberry curve phone or only on an Iphone or Ipad? If you can use the code on a Blackberry, what mobile devise is the best to load?

  22. I have students who use a QR code reader on a blackberry curve. I don’t know what app they use but you can look in their store. There is a free one. I’ve already had them today or I’d ask.

  23. I believe QR codes are only scratching the surface.  With new companies like Daqri who uses augmented reality by scanning QR codes, and QRlicious who makes custom artistic QR codes, the possibilities of QR codes grows.  http://qrlicious.com 

  24.  Vicki,I would be interested in visiting your classroom – is this a possibility?

  25. Of course! You would want to do it in the fall. Only 4 days left of actual time in the classroom. Let me email you separately. Vicki at coolcatteacher dot com

  26. http://goo.gl is a neat way to generate QR codes too.  Just go to that address, type in your log web address, get a short web address and a page generated with a QR code and all the stats on how many times and when the short url you created has been used. Example: http://goo.gl/info/DIqFe#week
    Great article. Thanks Teacher!

  27. Thanks for this Vicki. I have been using QR codes at school. Your blog is exactly what I did so I was amazed to read it and felt very reassured. We have begun to create videos that we are posting to our shared dropbox folder and then we’ll create QR codes. The videos are about our scarab beetles we made in art, for our work we are doing about Egypt. The QR codes will be on display next to the scarab beetles. Then we can view the artwork and see the artist speak about it.
    QR code creating is very motivating for my students. The learning is in the creating.

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