There is something very fascinating about encoded messages and hidden content. Our minds immediately begin to try to solve the mystery and figure out what information is being protected by the scrambled imagery. I imagine this is one of the reasons QR codes (short for Quick Response Codes) are so popular. So what exactly are they and why should I care about them?

Simply put, a QR code is a fancy looking barcode that encodes a message. The message can be text, a picture, or an entire website. The possibilities are endless; I am sure you have seen them creatively placed around town. QR codes can be scanned by most mobile devices like phones, iPads, and even laptop computers. If the device has a camera and can install Apps, then you’re set. Technically a traditional scanner or desktop computer could also read QR codes, but most people use mobile devices to get the job done. Plus you can get great QR Code Reader Apps for free. i-nigma makes a popular free QR app for iPhones and iPads, and for Droid phones Zxing is a popular free reader.

OK, I can scan QR codes, but how is this of any use for schools or in the classroom? The practical reasons why schools should use QR codes are that they save time and paper, but they also utilize students natural curiosity to gain attention and engage students using their beloved mobile devices. Let’s face it, most kids have cell phones or mobile devices like mp3 players; instead of pretending that they don’t exist you can harness their power for good. Here are some fun ideas for QR codes for schools and around the classroom:

  1. QR codes to promote special events or school news. Create a web page on your school’s site to promote an event and then make flyers with the QR codes and a message like, “Scan this code with your mobile device to find out what’s happening at school this week!” Trust me, it will be hard for students to resist scanning the QR code and don’t worry most kids already know how to.
  2. Use a QR code in a textbook or printed material. Place a QR code sticker next to a relevant point in your printed reading material. The students can scan the QR code to access additional information on the topic like a video, web page, a definition, or other additional resources. This works great for textbooks, handouts, and even classroom posters and charts.
  3. Homework reminders: Create a list of homework assignments with QR codes leading to the detailed assignment directions. This gives students a mobile reminder about homework assignments that they can save in their phone or mobile device.
  4. Instant access to online quizzes or survey: Create a quiz or survey using ‘Google Docs Form’ and then link to that form using a QR code. Students and parents can easily access the quiz or survey.
  5. Create QR treasure hunts and quest games. (There may be one inside this blog) Create a series of QR codes that link to questions. Place the codes around your classroom or school. When the students finds the QR code they scan it to access the next question or set of directions. The QR Treasure Hunt Generator makes this process extremely easy and requires no programming knowledge. ClassTools also has detailed examples of QR treasure hunts and games.
  6. Have Students create their own QR codes. Challenge your students to come up with creative ways to share their ideas using QR codes.

For additional ideas, check out the video, “Black & White and Scanned All Over” by McGuffey School District in Claysville, PA illustrating how they are using QR Codes at their school.

Inspired Yet, creating a QR is really, really easy. Follow these simple steps and you will be creating QR codes in minutes:

  1. Collect or create the content you want to link to.
  • If you are linking to an existing website all you will need to do is copy and paste the URL into the QR code generator.
  • Plain text – Write the message and get ready to copy and paste it into a QR generator.
  • Create a your own webpage using your schools website CMS, Google docs, or a blog site and save the URL.
  1. Go to a free QR code generator site. KAYWA is a simple and easy to use QR code generator site that allows you to enter in text, a url or even an SMS (mobile text message). After you click the generate button the site automatically creates a QR codegenerator.
  2. Next save the generated QR code by right clicking on the barcode. Now you can copy and paste it into a word document or flyer. KAYWA and other QR code generators also provide embed code if you want to place the QR code on a blog or your schools website.

Now that you are ready to create QR codes, how will you use them in your  classroom, or how are you already using them?