WHAT THE QR?
by Karen Butler March 2014
This blog post is also available here
Recently I was asked to do a workshop on using QR codes for educational purposes. Too easy I thought… But then maybe not so much! When it came to it, I really had to think, “how can we use QR codes meaningfully, not just as a new shiny thing!”
I remember the first time I encountered a QR code. About 5 years ago a colleague showed me one he had on his new business card. He asked me to try it out and asked for my phone – an android at the time – and then expressed disappointed disapproval – “Oh you don’t have a reader” he said, brandishing an iPhone. As if non-verbally implying, someone who is really up with technology would so have a reader on their phone. I blushed, my embarrassment at being a techno-neophyte obvious. And to make matters worse he nodded to the young, trendy guy next to him and said “You have a reader right? Here scan my code”
A reader? I didn’t even know what a QR code was or even what QR stood for. Quite Right? Queen Royal? Quickly Retreat? Quantifiable Ridiculing? After the code was scanned there was text matching the other side of the business card. So, I thought, you have a business card on your business card? The Point???? But of course I appeared very impressed, and asked lots of questions.
How many times have I been through a similar dialogue. Being a woman interested I technology, it often goes this way for me. I am surrounded by men who have been immersed in the IT field for a long time and never, ever, let themselves be found lacking and thus are always on the hunt for the newest, shiniest thing. But I just tinker around the edges and always admit when I don’t know something because I think, that’s what is like for teachers. We are busy. We can’t always keep up with the latest and greatest – but when we find out about something new, we are learners. We want to apply practical solutions in meaningful ways that match with our pedagogy.
So when I was asked to present on QR codes I had to really think carefully. What are good uses for them? This is why, in my presentation, I put QR codes into the contexts of mobile learning and the SAMR model. So I offer you here – QR – the basics – and thoughts on how to apply them to deeper learning. Skip ahead, skim or ignore according to your level of expertise! Even better add your ideas in the comments.
An excellent article on QR codes is QR101 and an excellent website is http://www.qrcode.com/en/about/
But for now here are my reflections on using QR codes in the classroom.
What is a QR code?
A QR code is a two-dimensional scannable code, similar to a traditional bar code. While a traditional bar code can hold up to 20 digits a QR code can hold 7089 characters. The code is a square series of black and white pixels. The three squares in each corner make the code readable from any angle. QR codes can hold data such as numbers or text, links to websites and coordinates on a map. Here is one linking to my “about me” page – impressive on a resume but maybe you could have 30 of them on your door that link to text profiles on each child in your class. A get to know me QR code.
Mobile devices are a game changer. Students are no longer tied to the desktop. They can take their learning anywhere, anytime. So QR codes offer ways to get students interacting with the curriculum and each other through the use of mobile devices. For an overview on QR codes view the following useful video…
The SAMR model
The SAMR model is a useful way of thinking about technology.
If we consider them as fluid levels in which we operate when using technology, rather than a hierarchy, we can see that teachers can use technologies in a variety of ways to support learning. Often we will begin to access the technology at a substitution level, like putting a business card QR code on a business card! But it is from there that we can see future potential and begin to use them in more pedagogically sound ways. Here are some geographical learning examples.
Imagine placing an orienteering trail around the school. You could create directions using the QR codes. In this case the QR code simply acts as substitution because it replaces text that could be on paper signs. However it is more engaging for students if they can scan and see the directions on their device and keep the directions with them as they progress through the trail. QR codes are great for
• Creating trails
• Captions and signs
• Quotes or inspiration
• Links to more information
Skitch and other mark-up apps are great for augmenting the use of maps. You could have a QR code linked to a map and use the latitude and longitude in a mark-up app to get students to locate land marks, map out their journey to school, record the sites that are significant to Aboriginal Peoples or simply to investigate mapping literacies like using a key, coordinates, symbols etc. Collaborating on marking up in online spaces would augment this even further to allow for joint projects. Or, using geocaching for treasure hunts created by others or creating your own is also a worthwhile activity, especially on excursions.
As a teacher with a YouTube channel, I have uploaded unlisted videos so that students can access each other’s work online without fear of inappropriate commenting or a mass public audience. You can also make videos private. This would allow students to make content for teachers to upload. Of course the relevant permissions are required if student images are to be used. However imagine filming landmarks and asking the significance of them from an Aboriginal perspective or a gender specific perspective. Then, ask students to create a video response. This significantly modifies the task. Students can engage with research and integrate it into a multimedia response. Sharing online creates an authentic audience. Teacher controlled YouTube channels allow for safe filtering and hence collaboration within agreed respectful boundaries.
Redefining tasks requires us to take students deeper into the learning. According to TfEL research the three areas where there needs to be significant investment in change to pedagogy are
Therefore Another way to use QR codes would be use them to link to a provocation that students have created and post them in and around the school and the community and/or in online spaces.
What if students were negotiating learning involving global issues about which they were passionate? What if they could use infographic software to create their own provocations that ask their audience to think differently about a particular issue? What if they could get their audience to think differently or take social action? Asking students to synthesise information into an audience friendly infographic or video graphic requires higher order thinking but then sharing these with the community and making a call to action takes this into authentic contexts for learning.
You may have better examples, and if so I would love to hear about them!
In terms of learning, QR codes can be the latest and greatest shiny thing or they could complement your pedagogy. The difference in these two scenarios is the teacher and the ways she/he manages the learning.
Using mobile technologies to interact in online spaces offers a way into the general capabilities and in particular the ICT general capability.
WIth the new Digital Technologies section of the curriculum, you may want to use QR codes as your entry point. To find out more about the Digital Learning Curriculum you should consider registering for this free MOOC.
So how do you create a QR code?
There are lots of QR code generators and many of them are free. If you want your QR code to last beyond a thousand scans, you may want to consider buying a subscription.
The generator I often use is QR stuff which allows for basic QR codes to be created and offers a built-in URL (Universal Resource Locator or the address you put in at the top of a web page) shortener. A URL shortener makes the code less complex. The more characters you have in your URL link, the more complex the QR code will become and may be more susceptible to failing or incorrectly linking to a site that is different to the one you intended. Other URL shortening sites are bit.ly and ow.ly,which are really useful when working with students because typing out really long URLs is often a source of frustration for kids. Another generator is QR code monkey which allows for use of images inside the QR code which is always a winner with kids.
Follow these steps to create your own codes –
1. Go to QRStuff and select the type of code you would like…
2.For example you could select “plain text” from the list on the left and create a direction you would like students to take
3. Before selecting “download QRcode” select the option to use “qrs.ly” which will shorten the URL and make the code less complex. Alternatively, use a URL shortening website before you paste the URL into the web link option.
4. Select DOWNLOAD QR CODE – this will send the QRcode to your downloads folder, but make sure you rename it so you will easily identify it later – because QR codes do all look the same!
QR codes offer fun, creative and exciting mobile learning opportunities for students as well as supporting community connection and involvement through multiple ways to access online spaces and places. I cannot wait to try it out with the educators I work with. If you have time, respond to this blog post here https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1jg0s0RWHhTLkHz4nM_yFFOyvkOaeODDEsApxxXcV580/viewform or try this shorter URL http://bit.ly/BlFdbk or scan this QR code to take you to the link!
Thanks for reading.