Saturday, April 16, 2011

QR Codes in the Classroom

If you haven’t noticed, there has been an influx of strange black-and-white codes showing up all over the place. Restaurants, stores, movie theaters, magazines, and even on the side of buildings! What are they? They are called QR Codes, with the QR standing for Quick Response. Basically, they are bar codes on steroids. You can download a simple free app on your smartphone to be able to scan the code, which will then take you to a website, file, phone number, or wherever else the author of the code wants you to see.

What does that mean for educators? I decided to try to come up with something that could play into students’ interest and novelty of using QR codes in learning. I created mystery picture worksheets that could be completed as an independent or center activity, where the only tools needed would include a mobile-device (such as an iTouch or a laptop with a webcam that is capable of capturing the picture of the code), the worksheet, crayons/colored pencils, and headphones (if using the audio component). An example of what I came up with:

QR Code Math Fun

To create my worksheet, I had several steps to cover. First, I decided on the Common Core Standard for which I would be covering – in this case, a third grade math standard. Next, I created a 5 x 6 grid table in a Microsoft Word document. From there, I needed to decide how I wanted my finished product to look with color. Keep in mind, that you do not want the codes to be so small that they cannot be easily scanned, so you are limited by how many squares you have in your grid. After knowing what my final product would look like, I set out to create questions and answers (correct and incorrect) to match the grid and the standard for which I was assessing. Next to the possible answer choices, I had to make sure the correct answer also had the correct color(s) mentioned, along with the incorrect color(s) for the incorrect choices.

My next two steps involved the technology: getting the codes to go somewhere and creating the codes to drop into the page. For my worksheet, I already had a website, so I created separate blog entries for each question. I also made it “invisible” so that you needed the code to find it, making it even more interesting to the students. I added one more layer to the questions: I created short podcasts of me reading the question and answers. I dropped this into the question blog entry so that auditory-driven students would benefit from this small addition. [As a side note – for some reason I can get the podcasts to work on a computer, but not on my mobile phone. Still trying to work out that kink.] Now that the “secret” pages have been published, I use the SnapMaze QR Code Generator to create my codes. They were copied, pasted, and resized to fit into the boxes on the Word document. Keep in mind that they are in color on the screen, but that when printed, they should be grayscale or black/white (kids will have to color on top of them). Step back and see your finished project - it is ready to be tested out by students!

While the actual product does take some time and effort, the result will be an activity you can use on a yearly basis. Students and parents can also complete the activities at home with their mobile device or computer (I also make sure to include the direct links to the question secret pages.) You can set students off to do their “work” and you can work with small groups or complete individual conferencing. When the children have completed the page, you will be able to check over very quickly whether the concept was mastered or whether it needs additional intervention just by looking at the completed “mystery picture.”

Now you are ready to rock and roll! Or is it scan and learn? How do you use QR Codes in you classroom?

Thanks so much to Mr. Byrne for allowing me the opportunity to guest blog! I love all the great ideas he consistently provides teachers such as myself! Free is even better!

Charity L. Preston is an author, teacher, and parent. Most importantly, she is an educator in all roles. The ability to teach someone something new is a gift that few truly appreciate. Visit her now at The Organized Classroom Blog, her facebook fan page, or follow her on Twitter. See you there!

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