QR Codes in School... Really?

QR Codes in School

Scan with a QR app on your mobile device.

QR Codes are Everywhere

QR codes are appearing everywhere it seems; in magazines, newspapers and fliers, posters, billboards, and public benches, product packaging, store displays, letterhead. Makes sense... rather than writing down or typing in a web address, a user scan the code and link directly to the target page. No typing, no mistakes, no 404 page not found errors. Quick. Easy. But intuitive? Not yet.

I'm not one to adopt new technology for the sake of its' newness. For sure, I'm curious and investigate, think and analyse, but I keep relatively few tools in my technology toolbox - ones that work for me, that add value to the classroom experience, that are easy to maintain. So, I've been trying to wrap my head around how QR codes could be used meaningfully in my practice. Over the past year I've developed a greater understanding of what the QR code can do, when and where to use them to best effect.

How I have used QR Codes in School

Paper blog with QR code in SchoolOn my class bulletin board, I've experimented with these applications:

  • Reveal text:
    • bulletin board riddles or questions - scan for answers
    • Transfers text on poster to device for use elsewhere.
  • Link to web content:
    • more in-depth information
    • online simulations
    • video supplements
    • audio explanations
    • Class website
    • Edmodo

When my students started blogging, they first created a paper blog to learn vocabulary and visualize the different elements of a blog. The paper blogs are now on the hallway bulletin board and each has a QR code linking to the student's own online blog.

Other QR Code Uses

On school letterhead, add a QR code to the school website.

On field trip notices, add a QR link to the destination website

Link to a GoogleDoc, calendar, or hangout.

QR code link to media you can't put on paper - music, vids, animations.

Have fun and stimulate curiosity as stand alone item (hide a RickRoll, or Easter eggs among other codes)

Use QR codes to hide results until scanned - keeping secrets (triia, games, scavenger hunts, answer keys)

QR Code use isn't exactly intuitive

For me, QR Codes weren't that intuitive - still aren't, really. Why wouldn't you just write the link, show the picture, or print the text? But I'm beginning to see some relevant and authentic applications. With the click of a button, QR codes make content portable. Give your reader a quick jump to a relevant content without having to tap out a long URL, or navigate through a series of links to the final destination.

I'll admit that our QR codes are rarely scanned in my middle school setting. Understanding how these strange codes work, and what they can do for us takes some thought, and access to technology. Eventually, the more ubiquitous they are, the more people will use QR codes to engage with content.

Or not. Time will tell. Until then, they can be useful and fun.


  1. Miss L says:

    I use QR codes regularly with my Grade 11 World Issues and Canadian History Classes. After finding out what resources my students had available to them (access to a smart phone, data plans, etc) I began ONLY printing off enough assignments for those students who needed them in hard copy. In my classes this is only about 6 students. All of my other assignments that I traditionally would have handed out in hard copy form are now put into a QR code that is just scanned.
    Students always have access to their assignments. No more excuses of forgotten or lost assignments!
    I haven't used them for more than this as I know not all students have access to the tech, but for right now it is working well to save paper 🙂

    Miss L
    Miss L’s Whole Brain Teaching

  2. [...] billboards, and public benches, product packaging, store displays, letterhead. Make…See on milestomes.com Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like [...]

  3. Mim says:

    Not sure how to apply them yet!!

    • milesmac says:

      What grade and subjects are you teaching Mim? Maybe can brainstorm some possibilities. For me it sure wasn't an intuitive technology... To start, Think about anywhere you'd print a website where kids would have to write it down or tap it into their device. Scanning eliminated transcription errors, makes the end content more accessible.

  4. prmrytchr says:

    Here's a post I wrote about an activity I did using QR codes with my class. I suppose this fits into the 'scavenger hunt' category you mentioned. http://prmrytchr.wordpress.com/2012/11/25/kensukes-island-survival/

  5. TS Bray says:

    When our art department has a student art show we only have enough space for each student to include one or two pieces of art, so at their installation the students include a QR code to an online gallery of the other pieces they want to display. The audiences of love it!

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