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6 Tips for Using QR Codes at School

Check out these innovative uses for QR codes in the classroom.

Kelsey Herron | November 10, 2013

The QR, or “Quick Response” code, is much like barcode, except that it can hold more data. With one quick scan using a QR code reader app (most of which are free) the “matrix image,” as Edutopia’s Monica Burns calls it, can lead you to a specific place on the web. And, while these codes have become a commonly used advertising tool, many educators have found innovative uses for QR codes in 21st century classrooms.

Here are a few of our favorites:

1. Create an interactive library: Have students record audio or video reviews of the books they’ve read, and create a QR code linking to their review. Attach the code directly to the book so other students can read their peers’ reviews before checking it out of the class library. LaGarde says the books in her library with QR codes get approximately 40 percent more attention than those without.

2. Differentiate instruction: QR codes present an opportunity to differentiate instruction to meet students’ individual needs, says Monica Burns writing at Edutopia. Burns says QR codes can be an easy way of creating differentiated groups, or stations within a classroom. She also describes how she makes QR codes that send each student to the same website, but with separate sets of questions or differentiated activities based on level.

3. Engage parents: Digital Learning Coordinator for the Academy for Urban School Leadership in Chicago Jenny Magiera suggests sharing students’ work by creating a bulletin board of QR codes for parents. While waiting for parent teacher conferences on back to school night, parents can “take home a copy” of students work by scanning the code and saving the URL on their phone.

4. Supplement homework assignments: Christy Crawford, who teaches technology at Bronx Community Charter in New York City, suggests creating QR codes for difficult math problems and attaching them to students’ homework. If they get stuck, they can scan the code and watch a video of you working through the problem step-by-step. You can even have other students do the problem, using a site like Educreations, and encourage peer collaboration.

5. Assign interactive and multi-dimensional research projects: Have students create QR codes to enhance their research for a paper or presentation like Tracie Weisz does with her middle school students in Tok, Alaska. Instead of simply reading from cue cards or a power point, the student can pass out a QR code linking to a relevant video or image to more deeply engage their audience. “QR codes are a simple link that can help a student put physical and virtual elements together,” said Weisz in a post at Edudemic. “They can bring the depth of a project to a virtual and a physical audience.”

6. Create a QR quiz: Using a QR quiz generator, you can input questions and answers, and create a QR code for each. Instead of looking for the answers in the back of a textbook, students can scan the code to find the solution. Librarian and ISTE board member Gwyneth Jones, who writes under the moniker “The Daring Librarian,” also recommended hiding the answers around your classroom, school, or library, and sending students on a QR code treasure hunt.

If you’re unsure how to create these codes, check out this free QR code creator. For additional resources, classroom teacher Vicki Davis created an intuitive QR implementation guide, and educator Brendan Jones uploaded a list of 40 ways to use the codes in a classroom setting. Share your ideas in comments.