Squares of Learning: Using QR Codes in the Classroom

QR codes are barcode-esque squares (like this one) that are intended to be scanned with a mobile device camera. Back before they developed the popularity they now currently enjoy, there was something mysterious and intriguing about them. If you saw one a bulletin board at Starbucks, something about it just compelled you to take out your smartphone and scan it to learn more.

Nowadays of course, QR codes can be found everywhere (including some very unusual places like on top of cupcakes). The classroom can be the next environment to feature the little data squares, as some educators understand that a student’s curiosity may be piqued by including a QR code on various classroom media.

Chicago teacher and blogger Scott Hagedorn posted a brief article about using QR codes on posters around his room. Posters of inspirational figures and instructional tables have always adorned public school classrooms, but as Hagedorn points out, “Most teachers will agree that for as much time as it takes teachers to put posters up in their rooms every year, these posters seem to go unnoticed. By adding QR codes to posters and bulletin boards, students will become more interactive with and learn more and more about the visuals that surround them all year.”

Hagedorn explained that his classroom has a few iPads floating around that students share to scan the codes. But are his students also using their own personal devices for this activity? The question brings to mind the hypothetical classroom of tomorrow featured in Intel’s “Bridging Our Future” video featured on Technapex last month. In a tech-heavy classroom such as that—or, in a perfect world where money was no object—a teacher wouldn’t have to worry about sharing a small number of devices.

Last school year Hagedorn chose to use QR codes on his “Vocabulary Word of the Day Wall,” linking definitions with code squares he cut and pasted by hand:

Those are great words!

As tablet technology continues to challenge the prevalence of print media, students may come to rely on mobile technology for basic things like looking up the definitions of words or performing basic research instead of lugging a big dictionary or textbook around the class.

QR code readers are typically free in any app store, and creating QR codes is as simple as inserting a hyperlink into an email. Hagedorn recommends QRStuff.com for classroom needs.

As the idea of Bring Your Own Device continues to gain ground in public schools, using QR codes in the classroom can be a modern way to reach the modern student.

Are you an educator who encourages mobile devices in your classroom? Have your students ever learned with QR codes? Tell us your tricks in the comments below.