Exploring QR codes

3 Sep 2010

I don’t even remember where I saw it now, but I ran across a QR Code on a website a couple nights ago and got curious about it.

QR code link to Wikipedia article about QR codes

QR codes are 2-dimensional bar bodes and can be used to encode a variety of data. The barcode above represents the URL of the Wikipedia article about QR codes. If you had a QR code reader on your cell phone, you could use it to scan the barcode and load the Wikipedia article in your mobile browser. QR codes were invented in Japan, and they’re used commonly there for everything from posters to produce packaging.

QR code scanners are available for most major mobile phone platforms. It looks like most recent Android phones have the capability built in. I tried a few different apps before settling on Optiscan (iTunes App Store link) on my iPhone. It works by turning the phone’s camera into a barcode scanner that understands the QR format. The scanned code can be used to direct a browser to a specific URL, make a phone call, send a text message, send an email, load a Google map, or even load someone’s contact information into your address book.

I also found an Adobe AIR application called QRreader that runs on my Mac and turns the iSight camera into a QR scanner.

Generating the codes is easy too. There are dozens of sites on the Internet that will create the codes and make them downloadable as images. The best one I’ve found is by Kerem Erkan, though this one is good too.

So how could we use these things in school? Since we’re involved in a pilot project exploring the use of student-owned technology in a number of our schools (cell phones included), we’ve got many students who could take advantage of these QR codes. Here’s a short list of ideas some of my colleagues and I generated yesterday:

  • Mount a QR code on the outside of the school that directs a browser to a web page with contact information, hours of operation, and other details about the school.
  • Put a code near the door of each classroom and have students use their phones to log their attendance.
  • Teachers could include QR codes on worksheets and other printed assignments that link students to extra tutorials or other helpful documentation.
  • Put QR codes on all computer gear that links to a web page with the specifications for the hardware and a complete service history.
  • Use a QR code in each classroom that could be scanned to send an email to the IT help desk asking for tech support.
  • Put QR codes on all the posters around school that link to more information on the web or create new events on the phone’s calendar app.
  • Print Google Map QR codes on tickets to provide directions to events that aren’t held at school.

There are a ton more, and I’m eager to figure out some real uses for our students that are bringing their phones to school. Here’s one more example, a link to my LinkedIn Pingtag:

Pingtag for Tim Wilson

If you’ve got other ideas about how to integrate QR codes, let me know in the comments.

5 responses to Exploring QR codes

  1. Does your school use those “Read” posters where staff pose with their favorite book? I’m thinking it would be cool to include a QR code on that poster with a link to more info about the book or maybe even a link to the library system to reserve a copy.

  2. How about having students create a geology walk or a city-wide solar system scale model?

  3. I think it would be interesting to put QR codes on our district vehicles with links back to interesting pages on our web site.

    Here’s an example:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/timwilson/4957887843/

  4. Tim,
    Shortly after the QR code came out on the Esquire Magazine Augmented Reality issue, I ran across a Web 2.0 site called Zooburst, which allows you to create your own Augmented Reality story books with photos and text. A nice little digital storytelling tool with a twist. I blogged about it here.
    Though if we can put QR codes on posters around school, I suppose some enterprising kids can find away to add a few with test answers outside of classroom doors!

  5. If you register as the business owner of your school in Google Places, you can add all of the contact information there, and use the QR code that it generates. I work at the district level and maintain Google Places pages for all the schools, but most districts don’t…yet.