5 off-beat ways to use QR codes in the classroom

By now, almost everyone’s familiar with QR codes, the distinctive-looking black-and-white graphics which, when scanned, take the scanner to a url. No? Not sounding familiar? Then how about:

5 off-beat ways to use QR codes in the classroom

If you have a phone, iPad or tablet with a QR-scanning app installed (we like Barcode Generator/Reader for Android, and Scan for iOS) open it up and center your cross-hairs on the image above.

QR codes can link to websites, event notices, coupons, blog-posts, podcasts — if it’s online, you can embed it. The QR code above links to a particularly compelling documentary video made by Montpelier’s U32 students, about school consolidation in Vermont, but that’s a story for another time.

But with QR codes becoming near-ubiquitous in our everyday environment, how can you make them new again?

Here are 5 off-beat ways to use QR codes in your classroom.

1. Build yummy, yummy QR codes

5 off-beat ways to use QR codes in the classroom
As we entered into the entropy portion of the QR code lesson.

QR codes don’t have to be just ink on a page. The technology behind them is simple: the computer is looking for areas that it can identify as “dark” and ones it can identify as “light”. At the Middle Grades Institute this summer we made QR codes with M&Ms on giant sheets of white paper, but other people have made them with hard candy, cookies, pumpkins and pizza.

Sure the results may disappear in a flurry of snarfing, but what better way to encode a nutrition lesson in the final product?

2. Make soft and squishy QR codes

  • 5 off-beat ways to use QR codes in the classroomThe knitting webzine Knitty published a pattern for knitting a QR code that could be incorporated into a class on local wool production — imagine scanning a QR code on a scarf and watching a video about where the wool was farmed!
  • Instructables has a step-by-step guide to cross-stitching a QR code patch. How about ones that linked to eportfolios that could be sewn on school uniforms? Or add an additional dimension to your reading/studying area by making cross-stitch QR codes to sew on pillows or couches with inspiring thoughts, searching research questions or examples of past student work for future classes to enjoy?
  • 5 off-beat ways to use QR codes in your classroomImagine making a giant QR code quilt for your school. Everyone could sew one f”oursie” (quilting technical term — roll with it) and then join them together. How about having everyone choose their own dark or light fabric to quilt with? And nothing speaks of the intangibles of collaboration like physically sewing together artifacts created by separate teams or classes or grade levels into one piece of art for the whole school community to enjoy.

3. Take QR science to heart

5 off-beat ways to use QR codes in the classroomIdea! Have students interact with anatomy models by scanning QR codes taped to them and watching videos showing the organs in action.

 4. Make QR codes that don’t look like QR codes at all

5 off-beat ways to use QR codes in your classroomQR codes no longer have to look like black and white squares. There are a number of tools out there that take an ordinary picture and map a QR code over the top of it. Scan the image at the left, or click through to see what the image looked like before we ran it through a custom image QR coder.

Imagine making a scavenger hunt where each clue could be found by scanning a student’s QR code image, revealing something about the student, along with the original photo.

5. Program your own QR code with LEDs

5 off-beat ways to use QR codes in the classroomVia Instructibles again (love that site!), here’s instructions for programming micro-processors called arduinos to light up certain LEDs in a matrix. Probably more of a project for your after-school club or makerspace, it’s still undeniably cool. How about a group of students tackling a way to build this as an installation for a family night or community event? How amazing would it be if visitors could enter a URL at one end and watch the LEDs change in response at the other?

I know we’ve got students out there who could make this work. And arduinos respond to code in a simplified version of the C language, so it’s a great beginning mashup between electronics, making and code.

What can your students do with QR codes?

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