Technology Mediated Learning Case StudyQR Codes in the Classroom Creator: Emily Ward Sep 11, 2012Definition and BackgroundA QR code (short for Quick Response code) is a two-dimensional bar code. Like the moretraditional UPC bar codes you see on most products, a QR code contains information that canbe read when scanned. However, unlike traditional UPC bar codes, QR codes can include muchmore information, such as images, website links, and longer messages. In fact, a QR code cancontain 7,089 numerical characters or 4,296 alphanumeric characters compared to the 12characters available in a UPC code. Whats more, QR codes can be scanned by bar code readersas well as smart phones and other smart devices, making them more accessible to the averageperson (Jones, QR Codes).The QR code developed as a result of the driving popularity of UPC codes in commercial realms.Users recognized the extreme ease of using bar codes to store information, but -- as is the casewith many developments -- the market wanted more information to be stored in a smaller area.From this desire, a subsidiary of Toyota, DENSO WAVE in Japan, developed a bar code in 1994that could be read in two directions and termed it the Quick Response Code. For several years,QR codes were most popular in the vehicle industry, eventually branching out to othercommercial and industrial enterprises. In more recent years, they have become increasinglypopular with the average smart phone owner as well. Now, with free online applications,anyone can create a QR code, and anyone with a smart device or bar code scanner can access
the information hidden within the code (LedoWorks). Because of the ease of use, educatorshave begun to pick up on this technology and have started using it with students. This wiki willexplore how educators can use QR codes with students and whether they are valuable tools toincrease student success.What Educators Need to KnowAs explained above, a QR code is a simple way to put a lot of information in a small space. QRcodes can embed website links, videos, audio, text messages, phone numbers, and more into asquare inch or two. Because the code is embedded in a matrix design, both vertically andhorizontally (as opposed to only vertically as in UPC codes), much more information can beencoded. Fortunately for educators, creating a QR code is free and easy. Middle school teacherlibrarian, Gwenyth Ann Bronwynne Jones (a.k.a. The Daring Librarian), developed this simplecomic tutorial for how to create QR codes using online resources: How to Create a QR Code in 3 Easy Steps
In this comic, Jones suggests using Bit.ly to create QR codes for embedding URLs of websites,videos, or audio content, but sites such as Goo.gl, Push QR, and SnapVu work as well. Each ofthese online QR generators can also be used to track the use of the code to see how manypeople have used it to access your content. Additionally, there are QR code generators for text,phone numbers, SMS, and more, including Kaywaand BeQRious. Once generated, QR codes canbe printed and posted anywhere, such as on posters, bulletin boards, products, devices,pamphlets, etc.To read a QR code, the user needs a QR scanner, which can easily be downloaded as a free appon any smart phone or device. While Jones suggests i-nigma, there are many others such asKaywa Reader, QuickMark, and Lynkee. This website features a tool that allows you to inputyour device and it will tell you which QR readers are compatible.For further guidance to preparing QR codes, check out blogger Vicki Davis QR Code ClassroomImplementation Guide, in which she carefully explains the process of integrating QR codetechnology into your classroom step by step.How Can QR Codes Be Used?QR codes can be incorporated into the learning environment incredibly easily.School libraries are a great place to integrate QR codes to bolster reading programs orencourage further exploration. In one middle school library in Chapel Hill, NC, teacher librarianNatalie Sapkarov is starting the school year off by incorporating QR codes into displays and intocommunications with the school community. The picture of the display below shows howSapkarov included QR codes on book covers of new books in the library. When students scanthe QR codes using their own devices, they will be linked to a YouTube video book trailer forthe book. This display, although just 2D in formation, gets students actively involved andincreases the chance they might select one of these books to read. Similarly, Sapkarov posted anote with QR codes on the library door during Open House. These codes connected friends andfamily to the library website, Facebook page, and Twitter feed (N. Sapkarov, personalcommunication, August 23, 2012).
Photo by Natalie SapkarovMcGuffey School District in Claysville, PA, has integrated the use of QR codes throughout theschool, including in the library, music classes, language classes, history classes, home economicsclasses, and more. According to Laura Jacob, McGuffeys Instructional Technology Coach, "QRcodes in our school district have extended learning opportunities, provided remediation, andconnected our community beyond the school walls." Watch this video to learn more about howMcGuffey has used QR codes in their school.Further ideas for incorporating QR codes into the classroom or school community include:As primary school work: Have students record themselves reading stories. Post QR codes linking to the audio on each page of the book. Students can listen to themselves and each other while reading along. Create a scavenger hunt, with QR codes providing the next clue for students. On a field trip to a museum, gallery, or botanical garden, post QR codes at various points around the location or on worksheets to provide students with a guided tour of the environment. In music class, post QR codes on sheet music linking to audio files of the piece.
To supplement school work: Post QR codes within classroom library books that link to a book trailer, comprehension questions, or reader responses. Include QR codes on homework sheets that give students helpful reminders of how to solve various types of problems. Record lessons using an interactive whiteboard and post QR codes to assignment sheets or study guides that link to the lesson, so students can refresh their memories of the lesson at home. Create QR codes that link to the homework page on the classroom website and have students post these in their student assignment book/planner. Post QR codes that link to supplemental resources within your teacher textbook. This way resources are not lost over the years. Have students vote on classroom decisions using a QR code as each choice.To communicate with family/community: Post a QR code at the top of all letters sent home, linking to the school or classroom website. For Open House nights, have teachers record short videos introducing themselves. Post QR codes that link to these videos outside teacher classrooms, so parents and families can have an interactive tour of the school.The above suggestions came from Andrew Miller, John Mikulski, and Jill Thompson.Before QR Codes can be used within your classroom or library effectively, students will need toknow how to access and use them. International ICT educator Clive Roberts has developed alesson plan that introduces students to QR code technology and explains how it can be usedwithin other educational activities. Although he suggests this lesson for 7th grade and above, itcould easily be adjusted to work well with younger students.Additionally, in order for students to participate in activities using QR codes, they must haveaccess to mobile technology, such as personal smart phones or iPads. More schools are gettingiPads to be used in the classroom, whether that be a few that can be checked out for use, or acomplete classroom set. If this is the case, they can serve as the technology device, and there isno need for students to use personal devices. However, if the school is without such devices,teachers may need to consider getting permission from parents for students to bring and usetheir personal devices in the classroom for educational activities. This can be in the form of aletter or email sent home at least two weeks prior to the planned activity, so as to have time tomake other arrangements if enough devices can not be allocated. Depending on the schoolscell phone policy, teachers may also need to seek permission from administration for theseactivities. Knowing that not all students will have smart phones or smart devices, educatorsshould plan activities that can be completed in groups or partners, so that no one is left withoutaccess to a device.
Should Educators Use QR Codes?Just because QR codes have a wide range of possible uses in the K-16 classroom doesntnecessarily mean they are worthwhile. In fact, many educators have valid hesitations andcriticisms of the popular technology. For example, because QR codes are reliant on mobiletechnology to be of significant use, incorporating them into the classroom assumes thatstudents have access to smart devices. While many students do have access to these devices,many also do not, and unless the teacher provides access to these students, it is unfair toheavily rely on QR codes to support curricular uses (Educause, p. 2). Others argue that while QRcodes are appealing, similar objectives can be accomplished with other applications ortechniques that do not rely on mobile devices. Although a little tongue in cheek, blogger PatrickCauley suggests index cards as a much cheaper option for a scavenger hunt activity. Similarly,he mentions using the expansive choice of free polling websites to conduct classroom surveys.Cauley also mentions that asking students to use their mobile devices in school is asking forthem to become distracted with other online networks, such as Facebook, email, and Twitter.However, others feel that using QR codes in classrooms can be an effective way to connect withand push todays modern students. In a screen-oriented culture where many of our studentsspend hours a day sitting inside in front of TV and computer screens, QR codes can "link thephysical world with the virtual by providing on-the-spot access to descriptive language andonline resources for objects and locations. In this way, the codes support experiential learning,bringing scholarship out of the classroom and into physical experience" (Educause, p.2).This idea of experiential learning is supported by various learning theorists, including JohnDewey and Noam Chomsky. Dewey professed that the greatest way of learning was by doing,and QR codes can support this idea by getting students connecting with information in a moreactive way. He argued that students "progress fastest in learning, not through beingmechanically drilled in prefabricated material, but by doing work, experimenting with things,changing them in purposive ways" (qtd. in Wenger). Similarly, Chomsky advocates that studentsneed a "stimulating environment ... to enable natural curiosity, intelligence, and creativity todevelop, and to enable our biological capacities to unfold" (Putnam). QR codes can provide thatstimulating environment to todays students, by giving them access to more information in aneasily accessible and mobile way. Students are no longer tied to stationary machines or heavytextbooks to access information. Instead, mobile devices are allowing ubiquitous learning,granting students access to helpful information anytime, anywhere.Howard Gardners theory of multiple intelligences also supports the use of QR codes in theclassroom. QR codes offer different avenues for learning that appeal to students of varyingintelligences. For students with musical intelligence, hearing audio clips of relevant musicassociated with a particular time period in history may help deepen understanding. Studentswith spatial intelligence may find it particularly engaging to have links to virtual tours of placesthey are learning about. Similar activities and resources can be applied to each of the differentintelligences using QR codes as easily accessible portals to information.
ConclusionQuick Response (QR) codes offer a fun, engaging way to connect students to informationquickly and easily. They support student-directed learning and exploration and differentiationto unique student abilities. However, for most applications described here, students needaccess to smart mobile devices to make the most of QR codes, and many families and schooldistricts do not have the means of providing these for students. Until all students have access tosmart mobile devices, teachers cannot afford to rely on QR codes as primary means ofcommunicating or distributing information. However, until that point, QR codes can still beused as an additional access point that may appeal to many students and families due to theirquick, simple, and mobile features.ReferencesCauley, P. (2011, September 3). QR codes and education [Web log post]. Retrieved fromhttp://itbabble.com/2011/09/03/qr-codes-and-education/Davis, V. (2011, May 5). QR code classroom implementation guide [Web log post]. Retrievedfrom http://coolcatteacher.blogspot.com/2011/05/qr-code-classroom-implementation-guide.htmlEducational Resources PBS. (n.d) Howard Gardners Multiple Intelligence Theory. Retrievedfrom http://www.pbs.org/wnet/gperf/education/ed_mi_overview.htmlEducause Learning Initiative. (2009). 7 things you should know about QR codes. Retrieved fromhttp://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7046.pdfJones, G. A. B. (2010). QR codes at-a-glance comic tutorial. Retrieved fromhttp://www.flickr.com/photos/info_grrl/5281436894/in/set-72157625298744518/Jones, G. A. B. (2011). How to create a QR code in 3 easy steps. Retrieved fromhttp://www.thedaringlibrarian.com/2011/10/how-to-create-qr-code-in-3-easy-steps.htmlLedoWorks, Inc. (n.d.) QR codes: History and technical background. Retrieved fromhttp://qrcodeguide.org/14/qr-codes-%E2%80%93-history-and-technical-background/Mikulski, J. (2011, June 2). 10 ways to use QR codes in the classroom.[Web log post]. Retrievedfrom http://www.classroominthecloud.net/2011/06/10-ways-to-use-qr-codes-in-classroom.htmlMiller, A. (2011, December 5). Twelve ideas for teaching with QR codes.[Web log post].Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/QR-codes-teaching-andrew-miller
Putnam, L.J. (Interviewer) & Chomsky, N. (Interviewee).(1987). Language, LanguageDevelopment, and Reading [Interview transcripts]. Retrieved from Chomsky.Info: The NoamChomsky Website: http://www.chomsky.info/interviews/1987----.htmRoberts, C. (2011). QR codes - Lessons and resources. Retrieved fromhttp://digitallearningworld.com/qr-codes-lesson-and-resourcesThompson, J. (2012, April 8). Ways to use QR codes in the elementary classroom and usingGoogle Docs to create them. [Web log post]. Retrieved fromhttp://insidetheclassroomoutsidethebox.wordpress.com/2012/04/08/ways-to-use-qr-codes-in-the-elementary-classroom-and-using-google-docs-to-create-them/Wenger, P. (2011). QR codes: Implications for education. Retrieved from http://pwenger-qrcodes.wikispaces.com/Implications+for+Education