Mobile Monday: What are QR codes?

6 Feb

Quick overview: Ever notice those strange patterned boxes (see first image below) that are popping up on printed advertisements and everywhere you look nowadays? They’re called QR codes. The neat thing is that they can be used in your classroom too.

What are QR codes? QR codes are computer generated patterns that are meant to be deciphered by mobile devices with a camera. Think of a QR code as a secret code that can’t be read by humans. To read a QR code, you’ll need to hold your mobile device’s camera up the QR code and you’ll instantly get linked to a website or shown a large body of text. A QR code looks something like this:

How can they be used in the classroom? Second language teachers could record audio clips which are linked to QR codes to model pronunciation or provide a definition. During class, the student points the camera at the QR code (let’s say on an object in the classroom or on a field trip) and hears an audio clip of the teacher speaking. Another popular use for a QR code is to setup a virtual “treasure hunt” for second language students. The idea is to place QR codes around the school or classroom which give students clues they need to solve in order to know where to look next. Here’s a site that tells you how to setup your own treasure hunt and what you need to get started. Students or teachers can print QR codes next to projects for additional information on-line that could bring up a helpful video, image, sound, or text:

Above: 9 Mobile Learning Devices workshop, Dr. Kipp Rogers, ISTE 2011

What happens if I don’t have a cell phone or mobile device? If you are a Quebec FGA teacher and are interested in trying an activity like this, then please contact me. We have access to a mobile lab that we can bring into your classroom and accompany you during an activity. If not, just keep in mind that most smartphones can read QR codes. Ask your class of students who has a smartphone (likely a few of them will..) and make them the “QR decoder” of each respective group.

How can we make our own codes? You or your students can use a site like this to generate the QR code and then print it or leave it up on a computer screen for your students to scan.

What mobile apps do you recommend to read QR codes? On Apple iOS devices (iPad, iPhone, iPod touch) I would recommend Scan, a free app that works great and keeps a running history of all the QR codes you’ve deciphered with it. Android users tell me that they like the Barcode Scanner app. Can you read the one I included in this blog post?