George Lucas Educational Foundation
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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.

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Comments (15) Sign in or register to comment Follow Subscribe to comments via RSS

Mrs. M's picture
Mrs. M
Second Grade Teacher, South Jersey

I have absolutely no experience with QR codes other than seeing them on television or online. I teach in an urban district with very few resources other than laptops and a promethean board. I am considering writing a grant or submitting a donors choice project to hopefully gain technology which would help facilitate the use of QR codes in my classroom. They appear to be very motivating for students and I would love to have them as an additional resource. Thank you for your informational post!

Kasey Gillikin's picture
Kasey Gillikin
Fifth grade teacher from Accomack, Virginia

I am very excited to work with QR codes in my classroom and love the idea of adding them onto books I am reading in the classroom especially for my groups who need more scaffolding and support. I was wondering if anyone new how to create a matching game with QR codes? Is it possible for the QR codes to recognize a question and an answer that go together. This would allow for students to work completely independently without having to record their answers or the QR code that they find their answer on. Look forward to hearing your responses.

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; Elementary Library Media Specialist

Hi Kasey-
I found a couple of resources that might help you with that:

This is a treasure hunt generator that has kids use their devices to find the clues:

There are a lot of good ideas here:

This one from Teachers Pay Teachers seems closest to what you're looking for- and it gets good reviews as well!

Hope this helps!

Whitney Hoffman's picture
Whitney Hoffman
Producer LD Podcast, Digital Media Consultant, Author

I hav a love/hate relationship with QR codes personally. Not every phone has a good QR scanning app, and the apps vary in their user friendliness in general. Plus, QR codes are only as effective as the "prize" or URL on the other side. (I could bore you at length about the disappointing QR code experience I had with a package of grapes in the grocery store, but I digress).
If you are going to bother to use QR codes, you just need to make sure they ultimate payoff, such as the treasure hunt idea, is worth it.
I think it would be less effective if you tried to use them for other purposes- the high school PTO locally tried to use a QR code to make it easier for kids to sign up for the After Prom event, and almost none of the students used it, making it a lot of effort for little return. that said, maybe it will work better in subsequent years when more people expect it to be there. For me, it's one of the few areas where i feel the tech sometimes complicates rather than simplifies the process.

vanenka mosqueira's picture
vanenka mosqueira
Spanish teacher/ Spanish Language Coordinator

Works for students of other languages also!!
I did my first assignment today! No only this I did it for my students who are learning Spanish as a Second Language. I thought language other than English wont have access. Thanks to all!!
Great resource QR Code Scan-venger Hunt.

carriecamila's picture

Hi! It is wonderful way to differentiate the information and different topics for students. I Know couple of resources that might help you to make QR codes. It's very easy to use and make QR codes of different sites and obviously make others easy to get those information.

Gwyneth Jones - The Daring Librarian's picture

I never mind when people use my Flickr CC photos, REALLY! I'm quite honored! That's why I make them CC!

But it would be super nice if they also mentioned my resources, lessons, infographics, & cool stuff related to that subject, too! I've been writing, blogging, and speaking about QR codes since 2009!

I have an infographic How to Make a QR Code in 3 Easy Steps!

Several blog posts about QR Code Scavenger hunts with lesson plans!

Leveraging QR codes to connect with parents & community!

I sorta feel left out! LOL
~Gwyneth Jones
The Daring Librarian

Samer Rabadi's picture
Samer Rabadi
Online Community Engagement Manager

Gwyneth, I hope you know you're always welcome to stop by and share. :-)

The links point to some great resources, and I encourage everyone to check them out

thermance's picture

Visualead creates different codes than I have seen before. How fun! Usually they are just the black boxes. For the 10th Anniversary of our school, our tech teacher had kids take pictures of different areas of the school, post "then" (as the school was being build) and "now" pictures on our school website. Visitors, parents and students could walk around the school, scan a QR code and then see a current picture of that area of the school and a picture as it was being built.

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