QR codes (or Quick Response codes, to give them their full title) are two-dimensional bar codes which when scanned with the camera of a mobile device such as an iPad, Android tablet or smartphone can transfer web links, text and email addresses amongst other digital content quickly and easily to users. Popular with advertisers and marketing companies, QR codes give readers an immediate opportunity to visit a website to find out more information about a range of facts, products and services.
For schools that have invested in iPads or tablets as learning tools or allow their students to bring in their own devices (BYOD), QR codes have proven to be a great timesaver for sharing links and distributing information en masse. Projecting large QR codes on a screen so they can be scanned from around the class makes it easy for students to access the same content on their own devices and interact with it individually instead of passively looking at the interactive whiteboard. Scanning also eliminates the possibility they may type in a URL incorrectly and waste time troubleshooting. Printing out multiple QR codes, cutting them up and putting them around the room, adding them to worksheets or including them in homework tasks can lend themselves to a variety of engaging activities which cater to students’ different learning styles.
There are various ways of creating QR codes. You can use sites such as qrcode.kaywa.com or qrstuff.com or apps like QR Code Maker and QRafter for iOS and QR Droid for Android. Adding Russel Tarr’s QR Coder bookmarklet allows you to create a QR code from your browser in one tap or click. Here are instructions on how to add it to Safari on the iPad. The app I would recommend for scanning QR codes is i-nigma as it is very quick and available on different platforms. If you are sent a QR code as an email attachment, you can save it to your device and use the Scan app for iOS and Android to read it.
Here are some more tips on using QR codes in the classroom.
- Take links from individual files or folders stored in cloud services such as Dropbox, Google Drive, Box and Copy and share them using QR codes. Curate multimedia content with sites like Edcanvas and MentorMob then share them via a QR code.
- Make an audio recording using the Audioboo app or web service to promote oracy skills. Copy the URL it generates and add .mp3 on the end. Turn this into a QR code and scan it. The audio will play automatically as the URL has been turned into a direct download link. Please note there is now a QR code export option available from the original URL on the Audioboo website, but this “hack” version is slicker, because it removes the temptation for students to click on other links and check out other recordings on the site! Have a listen to this boo I recorded when I heard about this new feature. Students could use audio QR codes to support written assignments, displays, presentations and dialogues. As an alternative to a written comment, teachers could put audio QR codes in learners’ exercise books to summarize common mistakes. Watch this video to see a wonderful example of how Audioboo and QR codes are being used in a library context.
- Put QR codes on paper worksheets which link to video or audio content with accompanying questions to create an alternative type of comprehension exercise compared to a traditional reading text. If your QR code links to a Google Form, you could ask your students to watch or listen to a multimedia clip and fill in the questions in the boxes you had created. All their answers would then be collated in a spreadsheet and by installing the action script Flubaroo you could have them automatically marked too. Check out this YouTube clip to find out more and read this guide by Dr Sarah Elaine Eaton on how to build Google Forms.
- Use SnipURL to shorten the URL you want to turn into a QR code as this then lets you change the longer web link your QR code forwards to, turning it into a dynamic QR code! This means you could, for example, create one QR code per class and update it each week with a new homework link. Check out this blog post for a step-by-step guide.
- Import your QR codes into the Sign Maker app so you can give them titles and details on how they should be used. Take a screenshot of the results and crop the images by editing them in the camera roll or using an app like Skitch. This is a great way of distinguishing one QR code from another.
- For iPad owners, create a screencast using the ShowMe app to explain a concept or process. Make the URL it generates private and turn this into a QR code. To download the video, use the free iBolt app and save to the Camera Roll so you can embed it into an eBook or edit in iMovie. Have a look at this Guardian article for an example.
- Share eBooks you’ve generated using apps such as Book Creator or My Story with the class by opening them in the Droplr app which automatically uploads them to your private account and copies the URL to the clipboard. Turn this URL into a QR code so it can be scanned and downloaded on to multiple iPads at the same time.
- Generate multiple QR codes by copying the formula in this Google Doc by Tammy Worcester.
- Create your QR codes with Snap.vu and track how many times they have been scanned.
- Create a QR code treasure hunt for use in or out of your classroom with this QR Treasure Hunt Generator from Classtools.net. The advantage of text QR codes is that you don’t need to be connected to the internet to scan them, which gives you more flexibility on where the activity can take place.
With more and more schools encouraging the use of internet-enabled mobile devices in and out of the classroom, the use of QR codes makes sense as a way of speeding up the transfer of multimedia content, for facilitating personalised learning and for adding an air of mystery for students to what lies behind the black and white squares. If you have never created a QR code before, why not give it a try and think how it can enhance teaching and learning in your classroom.
Joe Dale is an independent consultant who works with a range of organisations such as Network for Languages, ALL, The British Council, the BBC, Skype, Microsoft and The Guardian. He is host of the TES MFL forum, former SSAT Languages Lead Practitioner, a regular conference speaker and recognised expert on technology and language learning. He has spoken at conferences and run training courses in Europe, North America, the Far East and Australia. He was a member of the Ministerial Steering Group on languages for the current UK government and was short-listed for a NAACE Impact Award in 2013 too. Joe was recently described in a Guardian article as an “MFL guru” and “the man behind the #mfltwitterati.” Follow @joedale on Twitter and check out his award winning blog www.joedale.typepad.com.
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