Monday, December 20, 2010

QR Huh? What The Heck Is A QR Code?

Have you seen these around town where you are lately?


I was a little surprised when I saw them all over the Black Friday ads back in November. This is a QR or Quick Response Code. Simply, put it is a 3D barcode. It's a much more sophisticated version of the barcode on your bag of Lays Potato Chips. QR Codes are popping up everywhere and are gaining in popularity in education. So, I have been taking some time and doing a little digging about QR codes and trying to find some resources so you can get started using them.

First a video.

In a nutshell, you need a device that has a camera so you can scan or take a picture of the code, a program to do the decoding and web access to see where the code takes you. This limits you to cell phones and the new iPod Touch. (You could use a computer and a scanner but we are going for mobility here.)

You will need a reader installed on your phone. There are lots to choose from and most are free. For the iPhone NeoReader seems to be the most popular. On Android the Barcode Scanner from Zxing is very popular (it's the one I use). But NeoReader works on most Android phones as well. There are other apps too for non-smartphones. Just do a Google search for your phone and "qr code reader" and you should come up with something.

Why A QR Code:
Because QR Codes can contain up to 4000 characters of information you can put a ton of information in just one code. For example, it could be something as simple as a web address. So if you scan the code at the top of this post you will get the address for my blog. QR codes are also beginning to appear on business cards because, again, they can contain lots more information. But by far their most popular use is for web addresses. The ads I mentioned earlier all contained codes to sales information that didn't appear in the ad or on the regular website. Another place I have seen them is at our local zoo. You can walk up to the exhibit, scan the code and get more information about the animals and even video and audio. (Great for those times when the animals aren't active.)

One idea for use in the classroom (I will have more below) that comes to mind is books. When I was in the classroom kids would go to the library and literally judge a book by its cover. But think about if you threw in a QR code on the front cover. The students can scan and read a book review written by a student from last year or even watch a video trailer of the book that a student created as part of a project. All of that information  contained in a small black and white square on the cover of the book.

Pretty cool huh?

Creating QR Codes:
Easy as (insert something you think is easy here). There are lots of different websites that will allow you to make QR codes. One of my favorite is from Kaywa. Simply drop in the website you want the user to be directed to (or other information like general text, phone number, or SMS message) click Generate and BANG! A QR Code you can embed or print anywhere.

More Ideas For Education:
I have been saving several websites as they come across on Twitter. There is tons of great information out there on QR codes in Education. Here is just a sampling.

Interesting Ways To Use QR Codes In The Classroom-This presentation, started by the amazing Tom Barrett, has over 28 ways to use QR Codes in the classroom. Best thing here? If you come up with a different way in the presentation, you can add your idea.

Using QR Codes To Tell A Story- This post I saw just the other day has several ideas on how students can create and use QR Codes to tell stories. Lots of lesson ideas and more QR Code resources here.

Using QR Codes In Student Projects-The ladies over at Simple K12 recently wrote about post about using QR Codes in the classroom and give some quick examples. There are also some great ideas in the comments so be sure not to miss those.

Take some time and read up on some of this stuff. Even if you don't have the devices for students use it is still worth knowing about.

Or maybe your students have cell phones you could sneak and use for a lesson.

I promise, I won't tell anyone.

(Have more ideas or information on QR Codes. Leave it in the comments below. )

Update: Be sure to read some of the comments below. There are some really good links in there! One I wanted to point out in particular was this video from David Hopkins on how one school is experimenting with QR Codes. Some really cool examples! (It also shows how you can use QR codes without a phone or mobile device.) Thanks David!

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