George Lucas Educational Foundation
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An aerial shot of a girl in a coat holding a cell phone up to her face. She's standing on a floor that's pink, yellow, and green from the lights shining down on it.

There are tons of quick and easy ways to integrate technology into your instruction -- with powerful results. I've been a fan of Quick Response (QR) codes in education for years and even wrote a book all about how they can be used to promote deeper learning in your classroom. When speaking to teachers about these black-and-white squares, it's so much fun to see the "aha" moments as we explore different ways to use scannable technology in the classroom.

This list of five things that you may not know about QR codes contains some simple ideas that definitely pack a punch. These tips include strategies for differentiating instruction, distributing materials, and keeping families up to date on classroom activities. If you've tried one of these QR tips or have another to add to the list, the comments section of this post is the perfect place to share!

1. Add Your Voice

QR codes can talk! Many teachers have used QR code generators like to link an article or piece of informational text to a QR code. When students scan the code, they're taken to a website with something to read. Instead of linking to text, teachers can connect QR codes to audio messages. This might include an audio file saved on a cloud-based service like Dropbox, where a link connected to an audio file can be connected to a QR code.

Another quick option is using a web tool like Vocaroo, which lets users record their voice with the microphone on their device. A simple tap of the screen lets you automatically turn your voice recording into an audio recording. This tool can be used to give directions at centers or audio support for English-language learners -- great for differentiation!

2. Attach PDF Files

Since a QR code is connected to a web address, you can take a scanner to any location on the internet. This includes files hosted on cloud-based services like Dropbox. Instead of copy-and-pasting a shared link into an email, take the Dropbox link and add it to a QR code generator. When students, parents, or other teachers scan the link, they'll receive a prompt to download or view the document. Try this tip when sharing documents.

3. Collect Information

There are lots of reasons why I love Google Forms, including how easy they are for collecting information. When you make a Google Form instead of sending the link to someone via email, copy the link into a QR code generator. At an open house night, families can scan the QR code with their mobile devices to access a Google Form. This is an easy way to collect information from parents at events.

In addition to trying out Google Forms with families, you can place QR codes linked to Google Forms in different locations for a scavenger hunt. When students scan the form, they can submit information. Once their submission is received, a note will pop up on their screen. You can customize this note to give instructions for the next part of the scavenger hunt.

4. Send a Tweet

I mentioned as an option for creating free QR codes. If you take a look on the left-hand side of their screen, you’ll see an option for Twitter. By creating a Twitter update, families can scan the QR code and automatically tweet a message that you've written. For example, clicking this link (which is the same as scanning the QR code) will take you to a page from which you can tweet the message, "I'm reading an article on @Edutopia by @ClassTechTips on #QRCodes and #ScannableTech."

Creating a QR code connected to a tweet is a great way to have families connect to your school's social media platform or generate excitement about a special event at your school.

5. Change Locations

Most of the QR codes that you've probably created are called static QR codes. This means that it always takes you to one place on the internet. A few websites, such as Kaywa, let users switch from static to dynamic QR codes. This requires a login and lets users change the location of a QR code. If you have a daily Do Now activity connected to a QR code, or a code you'd like to update each week on a monthly newsletter, dynamic QR codes are worth exploring.

Let's hear about your QR code teaching adventures in the comments section below.

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Bill Gibson's picture
Bill Gibson
Web Developer | Blackboard Admin

I like to add browser plugins that make it easy to generate QR images "on the fly". These images can represent the page URL, any link on the page, or selected text from the page. When giving a presentation, I can project the browser screen & any generated QR image on the wall/screen so that the audience/students can import it to their devices. The "i-nigma" app works well to interpret QR images on my Android phone.

Generating QR codes to place in textbooks that lead to extra or updated info, or to course notes would be a good use.

You could include QR images in kiosk presentations. People passing by, if interested, could scan the image to their device. *Good for importing an calendar event or contact info.

For creating various static QR images I like:
When I first came across them, I thought QR codes were "the next big thing." But, that has been several years ago, and now I don't think they will be accepted or used by the masses. I do think that teachers can make QR images important for purposes in their classes.

Miles_Hendo's picture

1) I've used them for parents visiting my school(s). Placing QR codes attached to locally hosted videos to show daily activities that teachers are doing with their students. Allows for a window into the classroom for parents and perspectives!

2) Have you heard of @RecapThat? Check them out - could be an amazing reference and reflection tool. Have the QR printed out and be a class login - then allow students, parents, faculty... etc to leave video feedback on whatever you wanted! (First thing that comes to mind would be an art project that your students undertook... suddenly they have video feedback from friends, teachers and parents about their work).

Rabia's picture
manager in school

How can I use QR codes in an early years classroom with students?

Jody Brown's picture

I installed a QR "Museum" in my library. I selected about 150 of the web's most engaging, enriching online activities and posted them in colorful displays organized into about 26 categories. Categories include online reading, story sharing, engineering games, computers and coding, science museums and activities, virtual tours, games and activities, etc. Some of the kids' favorite activities are the virtual tour of the International Spy Museum, Scratch coding platform, and the game Geoguessr. Teachers love Google Cultural Institute and the activities that complement their curricula.

Rabia's picture
manager in school

That sounds wonderful Jody, your learners are surely engaged with some creative activities. The QR museum idea is very exploring.

JonOBrien78's picture

I have used QR codes in the English classroom through students' book reviews made through Office Mix which were then uploaded to a private YouTube account, then linked to a QR code. The QR codes were then placed in the school library on the shelves near the actual novels, so that students could access these book reviews through their mobile devices. To promote the codes a scavenger hunt was also conducted to make the school population aware of the codes and educate them as to how to use them.

FranHolzbar1's picture

Great tips for using QR codes in classroom. I would like to try using them with the Vocaroo app for my student centers when we start back next school year. Hopefully that will give me enough time to fully understand it and set it up! :-) #ed584

Peter Paccone's picture
Peter Paccone
9-12th Grade Social Studies Teacher - San Marino High School

This summer, my US History students produced a "museum exhibit" entitled The Hobby Drone.

The students work included several QR codes and can be viewed by clicking on the word present after clicking on the below:

The students' exhibit has also been printed out and now appears on the walls of my classroom. The QR codes will make it possible for students in my class next year to view the video's embedded in the exhibit and referenced on the printouts without having to access the link appearing above.

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