Using QR Codes to Differentiate Instruction | Edutopia
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An expectation of the Common Core Learning Standards is that teachers differentiate their instruction to meet the needs of all children. This includes special education and general education students, as well as English-Language Learners. One of my favorite technology tools, the QR code, can be used to meet the needs of a variety of students in one classroom. Teachers can create QR codes for differentiated instruction activities.

A QR (quick response) code is similar in principle to a barcode -- a matrix image that can be scanned using a mobile device like a smartphone or a tablet with Internet access. There are many free QR Scanner apps that are perfect for classrooms using both iOS and Android devices. When children scan the code using the camera on their tablet, they'll be taken directly to a website. In a previous blog, I shared some of the reasons why I love using QR codes in my classroom.

Two Approaches, Many Possibilities

In a differentiated classroom, children are working in groups based on level, interest or learning style. Teachers design tasks that meet the needs of their students. QR codes can be used to organize a differentiated classroom in two different ways.

One option is to make QR codes that send each student in your class to the same website and create activities that are differentiated. For example, all students will scan a code that takes them to a news article from USA Today on polar bears. You can then create three different sets of questions for students to answer about the article based on their level. Having students all scan the same QR code to visit the same website will provide the appearance that all students are doing the same work even though their activity sheets might be different from the ones their neighbors are using.

A second option for using QR codes to differentiate instruction is to create different codes for different groups. For a social studies lesson, you might want your students to scan a set of codes that takes one group to National Geographic's website, another group to an image of a world map, and a third group to an encyclopedia entry about explorers. You can create three different sets of QR codes to distribute to students or use a QR code generator like Visualead to create codes that have similar colors or background images. One group can scan the code that looks like a tree, while another can scan a code that looks like a globe -- or any picture that you choose. Not only is creating colorful QR codes an easy way to have students break up into differentiated groups, but this tool can also be used to create stations in your classroom.

So the next time you want your tech-enabled students to work on a differentiated task, try sending them to the same website with different activities to complete. Another option is to create unique QR codes for different students (maybe with colors or images) that will help separate children into leveled groups without making anyone feel singled out.

Have you used QR codes in your classroom? Share some of your favorite ways.

Comments (15)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Laura Thomas's picture
Laura Thomas
Director, Antioch University New England Center for School Renewal, Author of Facilitating Authentic Learning, Director of the Antioch Critical Skills Program

I love QR codes! I work with adults and find that they provide a great way to get teachers thinking about new ways that they can use their smartphones and iPads. I tend to put them on the slides in my power points and google presentations as a way to help my participants access the materials easily. Really, you're only bounded by your imagination!

Elana Leoni's picture
Elana Leoni
Director of Social Media Strategy and Marketing @Edutopia, edcamp organizer

Great post Monica. I'm seeing more and more QR Codes everywhere - from community flyers to cereal boxes. I'm hoping that some of this awareness will trickle down and increase adoption in k12.

If you haven't checked out this resource by Cybraryman on QR Codes, it's worth a look: It literally has EVERYTHING you'll ever want to know about them and also has some cool tips on how to do a QR Code Scan-venger Hunt :)

Lisa Dabbs's picture
Lisa Dabbs
Educational Consultant. Author. Speaker. Blogger.

Monica...I enjoyed reading how you are using QR codes in the classroom and with your students. I like that you are thinking outside the box with the ways you're implementing their use. I remember when QR codes launched on the scene and all went "gaga" for them. I've personally seen a decline in their use, but wondering if with the popularity of Aurasma growing if they will be pushed out. Which ever way it goes, good to now that many are still enjoying QR's in the meantime. Cheers!

Monica Burns's picture
Monica Burns
Educator, Consultant, ADE ,

Great link Elana! Tons of cool tips!

Lindsay Hayes's picture

Great post Monica!,

I'm constantly thinking of new ways I can differentiate my classroom. With the recent shift to Common Core my classroom has also taken a major shift towards incorporating more technology in the classroom as well. Your past post about using technology into the math classroom gave me great ideas about how I can use khan academy as a way to differentiate with students who need extra time to review material on their own.

I think using QR codes as a way to differentiate would really excite my students from the beginning of the lesson. I often struggle with finding ways to differentiate without having students feeling left out or not apart of the group. Using QR codes would allow me to give students different assignments without it being known to the entire group.

And thanks Elana for the link to the extra resources!!

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