QR codes in education

You see them everywhere these days: at the back of your favourite box of cereal, on giant posters at bus stops and on adverts in the window of your local estate agent. But what exactly is a QR code, and how can these little black squares be used in education?

QR, or Quick Response codes, are two-dimensional barcodes that can be read using smartphones, tablets, laptops and dedicated QR reading devices. They link directly to articles, emails, websites, phone numbers, videos, social media pages and more. All you need is a camera lens on your device and a QR code scanning programme which can be downloaded online for free as an app. QR code readers like kaywa.com, mobile-barcodes.com or beetagg.com also give you the possibility to generate your own QR codes for free. And it only takes a few clicks!

QR technology provides a wealth of benefits for the techno-friendly teacher. Besides the fact that most students own mobile phones that can read QR codes in seconds, they also often have access to laptops in school. Students will not be fazed by a technology that they have probably used outside school already. On the contrary, they are likely to get excited at the prospect of opening Ali Baba’s cave of information at the click of a button!

Not convinced yet? Listed below are the three main reasons why QR codes are brilliant in education:

  1. Inconspicuous as they may seem, QR codes can hold over 4000 characters of information. Instead of printing out a long web article to your students, QR codes could give them direct and instantaneous access to the same resource in class or at home. You save time and you save a tree simultaneously!
  2. They are very easy to generate. To create a QR code, you only need to copy and paste the address of a web page into your QR generating software. Once you have produced your code, you can then transfer it to your teaching resource, or simply leave it on the interactive whiteboard for students to scan in class.
  3. QR codes can be printed on virtually anything: paper, textile, walls, even on your skin as a tattoo for those teachers who are willing to show total commitment to their subject (!). Some schools use them in the reception area to provide extra information about school events to students, parents and visitors.

As more and more teachers explore the potential of QR codes in teaching, a wide range of classroom applications have started to appear. Here is a list of inspired ideas:

  • A maths teacher is adding QR codes to her printed worksheets to give students access to the solutions at home.
  • A modern foreign languages teacher uses QR codes to give access to GCSE listening papers. She prints them out on stickers and asks students to stick them into their planners for homework.
  • A head teacher has decided to put QR codes around the school for parents to access information about each department on information evenings.
  • A year 5 teacher encourages pupils’ enquiry skills by ‘posting’ QR clues around the classroom in the context of a research project on the daily life of British children during the Second World War.
  • A science teacher films all of her practical experiments. She uploads the videos to the school’s virtual learning environment. Each video is archived and displayed as a QR code on the wall of the science lab for reference by students and other teachers.
  • A librarian has developed an ingenious use for QR codes. He sticks a QR code on books that have been reviewed as a podcast by volunteer students. Once scanned, the code will take you directly to the podcast.

There are many other ways you can use QR codes in school. They enhance students’ learning experience and help promote the school to parents and visitors. As a classroom practitioner, they add another string to your professional bow.

Teachers are generally willing to adopt new technologies, but not at all costs! What they want, above all, is simplicity and efficiency. Frankly, they do not have time to ‘play around’ with complicated mind mapping software and other educational gizmos. This is why QR codes are becoming a popular tool in modern education.  They combine speed, ease and novelty with the capacity to hold a large amount of data. They can actually do a lot to enrich your lessons. So, let’s sing the praise of QR codes and embrace the new ‘scan-do’ attitude!