Elementary / Primary / Junior, High school / Secondary 2, Required, Technology - Written by on Wednesday, September 7, 2011 15:58 - 3 Comments

Will QR Codes Revolutionize Education?

photo: flickr user, marmaza


by Elbert Chu


QR (Quick Response) codes are showing up everywhere from business cards to magazines. Now, they’re showing up in textbooks and classrooms across the country.

On first glance, they’re nothing more than the lazy man’s way to access information, instead of typing URLs: Just scan. Well, according to comScore, in June, 14 million Americans used QR Codes, mostly linking from magazines or newspapers.

The case for a revolution

There is a growing movement of educators who are enamored with the noisy little black squares of machine gibberish. The blogosphere of teachers is full of ideas and discussions about how to put QR Codes to work for teachers and students.

Over at Good, Liz Dwyer provides a brief summary of the ideas in her summary of why QR codes may revolutionize education:

1. Digital portfolios for students.

2. Connecting with parents.

3. Engaging students.

4. Easing the transition to college. 

The main strength of the QR code is the ability to quickly, and almost seamlessly, connect paper, books, or class discussion/lecture with digital resources. There are some teachers who use QR codes to take students on scavenger hunts for location-based learning.

For example, imagine a field trip to an Aquarium. There’s only so much information those little plastic signs can convey. And no one envies a teacher trying to shepherd an excited herd of fifth graders through animal displays. There’s nothing like a lecture to dampen their enthusiasm.

So each student has QR codes on a worksheet, and as they stop in front of the shark tank at their own pace, they scan the QR code on their worksheet corresponding to the shark. The QR code links them to an educational National Geographic video. Then, if the teacher is really ambitious, another QR code can take students to a quiz at the end of the day. If these are really privileged kids, maybe they have Square Crumbs too.

The same could go for homework assignments: Kids might have worksheets that have QR codes linking to Khan Academy or Alison. Of course, students could look up these videos on their own, but there’s something to be said about showing kids how to tap into these resources so they can gain the framework for learning in the future. Further, there is value in helping students bridge the gap between classroom and the world, and paper and digital.

While many schools ban cell phone use during school hours, it is interesting to note that many teachers who want to use QR codes will need students equipped with smart phones. Otherwise schools will have to provide space in already thin budgets for extra hardware like laptops, tablets or webcams. That’s unless your school has $33 million for technology or already have laptops.

Dwyer writes:

Since QR codes are so new, it’s hard to imagine all the ways education institutions will be using them in the years to come. But given the possibilities these black-and-white squares of data present, they just might revolutionize the way we learn.


Don’t call it a revolution

We think revolutionize is a strong word for QR codes’ role in education. They serve as connectors and shorthand, but do not store information themselves. Essentially, the QR code, in its present state is not unlike a Dewey decimal number at the library. In the end, the revolution will come in the content on the other end of the QR code, not the little black square itself.

For teachers, or anyone interested in what some American kids are doing in class these days, here are some handy resources:

QR Codes in Education: A Burgeoning Narrative

Ways to use QR codes for Direct Curriculum Ties

40 Interesting Ways to use QR codes in the Classroom



via Four Ways QR Codes Could Revolutionize Education – Education – GOOD.




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Sep 8, 2011 18:16

I would disagree on this part – “While many schools ban cell phone use during school hours, it is interesting to note that any teachers who want to use QR codes will need students equipped with smart phones.” Tablets can also be used as well as laptops and desktops with webcams.

Good article though, and I do agree the codes themselves won’t be the revolution but rather the content itself plus educators who take the initiative to use the content.

Finally, I have a site that may be handy for those looking for resources as well – it’s called qrc101.com and the focus of it is using QR codes in education. The resources area is probably the largest collection of resources on the web related to the topic other than search engines :)


Wired Academic
Sep 9, 2011 13:13

Matt, thanks for bringing out that point. You’re right about additional hardware options, but the other options seem rather counter to the whole idea of QR: Quick Response. Would be interested to hear about if teachers are primarily having students use smart phones or some other additional hardware. What are you hearing? Also, your site looks like a good resource, I’ve added it to our list for teachers.

Sep 9, 2011 15:06

It seems like at K-8 schools I’ve seen more of them using iPods and iPads. Both which act basically like smartphones, tablets especially since it’s the same apps as on phones, and very little use of netbooks, laptops, or desktops. The main time it seems like the netbooks, laptops, and desktops are used is when a teacher wants to expose students to the codes and they could do that in a school lab with right software installed. Students just need to scan the code and see what happens. When it moves into portable lessons, like scavenger hunts, is when the ipods and tablets come out.

With 9-12 it seems like smartphones get used often if they’re allowed but usually tablets otherwise or iPods. It seems like whether schools want to allow the phones on their internet network plays a key in some places too – students could use the phone network instead but I don’t know if parents would be happy of any additional charges. It seems like some places find it easier to just ban the phones and make students use their equipment (ipods or tablets), rather than have the smartphones on the network or have students and parents sign waivers acknowledging they may have to pay data charges for school work. I’m not sure that’s not the holdup in phones being banned in some places versus what students will do with the phone – calls, texting, etc.

Thanks for adding the link to qrc101!

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