Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Beginning to use QR Codes - some quick ideas

I'll admit QR codes were a bit of a mystery to me until recently.  I've seen the funny little codes in magazines and advertisements, and I understood that if you had an app on your phone you could scan them and get...somewhere.  Beyond that I didn't give them much thought. However, it seems I've been reading about them everywhere recently and they really can have some practical uses - even in the classroom.

The first thing I did was get a free QR reader app for my iPhone - I got one called Qrafter.

This app is pretty basic - touch it, hold your phone over a code and it automatically scans and takes you to the site.  Handy. I read an article that talked about how easy it was to generate your own QR codes for a website - another free app called QR Code Maker (for iPad on iTunes).  It's a little glitchy, but when you put in a URL it will generate a nice code every single time.  You don't need an app or a mobile device to generate codes - you can make them for free online at many sites. I made a code for my class blog page, which is my central site for all of my courses.  I printed it out on a big page and hung it on my classroom door.

Then I decided that since those apps were free (and easy), I'd put them on my middle school students' iPads - also easy.  The kids had seen the codes before.  The first thing they did was use the reader on my code I'd put by the door. That was the extent of that learning curve.

A few weeks ago the kids had done some art projects - in the process they documented their work with pictures and video, and later narrated their process and edited these to make personal art documentaries.  They had posted these short films on their blogs.  The finished artwork is hanging up in my classroom.  The students went to the blog posts they'd made of their documentaries and used the URL's to make QR codes on their new iPad app, QR Code Maker.  They printed out small codes, and tacked them to the side of their artwork.  Now the students with their iPads, and visitors with phone scanners, can scan the code next to their artwork and connect immediately to a video the students created which documents the process they went through in creating that piece of art.

WHY SHOULD YOU TRY THIS? This can be a great way to "go deeper" into student work - especially when they are working on projects that may involve skills, performance and various creations.  QR codes are a simple link that can help a student put physical and virtual elements together.  They can bring the depth of a project to a virtual and a physical audience.

My middle school students are currently working on a research project in which they are using some old photos displayed in the school and creating web pages about those photos that expand the information with their research.  They will create QR's for those pages that we can attach to the photos in the hall.  Visitors to our school will then have a way of learning more about the old photographs and our local history.

In the meantime, the kids are really getting into generating codes for their blogs - maybe a little overboard...

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