What's a QR Code?
It's a quick response barcode that looks like a black and white square with smaller squares inside it. You've probably seen them on ads or maybe even some movie posters. Here's an example:
So What Can You Do With QR Codes?
The code above says, "Can you read me?" but it could have contained a way to get to a web site, a podcast, blog, picture or any text you want to use. Each square can contain about 7000 numbers or 4000 characters of information.
To read QR code, all you have to do is (1) load a free QR reader app to your smart phone or iPod Touch, or QR reader software to your desktop computer; (2) make sure your reader can "see" the code by taking a photo of it; (3) and ask your reader to decipher it. Instantly a URL or text will pop up for you to use.
With so many people having smart phones (Android, Blackberry, iPhone, etc.) and iPod Touches today, think of how handy these codes could be, for instance, if they were in your textbooks. All you'd have to do is to take a picture of the code and the code reader could give you a URL for a specific video showing you how to solve a math problem or text information to help you with what you are studying.
Reading and Generating Codes
To read QR codes on desktop computers, you'll need to make sure the computers have QR Reader and Adobe Air installed. The computers will also need a webcam. Open QR Reader; the webcam will open. Hold a photo of a code up to the camera for the reader to decode it.
To read the codes on your mobile device, you'll need to install a QR reader (see Sites to Check below on selecting your reader) on your phone or iPod Touch. Open the reader, ask the reader to open your camera (it may just do this automatically) to take a photo of the code (or you can use a photo of a code you've stored on your computer), and instruct the reader to decode (it may do this automatically as well).
Generating Your Own
The great thing about these codes is not only that you can get quick information from them but also that they are easy to generate. In fact, you can make your own in a few seconds by going to a site like Kaywa.
Using QR Codes
QR codes are not really a new technology - they are basically sophisticated bar codes - BUT being able to generate them yourself is somewhat a new thing and people are still figuring out how to use them. For teachers and students, the possibilities of leaving a "bread crumb" trail of media rich clues, hints, tips, tricks and just basic information along the way when you are trying to learn something new or inform someone is an outrageously useful, but simple idea.
So how could you use these to do add to a homework project?
Let's start with something simple - a poster.
Posters are great for illustrating something about a topic you have covered, but space is limited.
So next time you do a poster on a person, place or thing, think about adding QRcodes - that take up hardly any space at all - to enhance what you are showing. To make your own codes, go to Kaywa (http://qrcode.kaywa.com/) to generate several QR codes that relate to your topic. You'll see that you can create them in several different sizes, so you'll want to decide what will work best for the poster you have in mind.
Copy the codes to your desktop if you are doing your poster on the computer or print the codes on labels if you are making your poster on poster board. For digital posters, place the codes on your poster and add any text and images you want. When using poster board, paste the codes onto your poster (address labels work well) and complete the rest of the poster.
For example, if your topic was "Endangered Gorillas", you might put up a teaser like this on your poster:
How are snails and gorillas related?*
- How about a map with QR codes that shows you exactly what that spot/place/region looks like?
- Make a source list for a project done in QR codes rather than a long list of web addresses.
- What about those vocabulary flash cards you make for a foreign language class? If you add a QR code, it can also become a quick way to get to a pronunciation for a word you are having problems with without having to search for it every time.
- QR Codes can lead to websites, podcasts, videos, music and more - but sometimes just plain old text will do. When you generate your QR code, you have the option of just creating a text of 250 characters for someone to read immediately on their reader. This does not take them out to the Web. It is just pops up after the reader decodes it. Perhaps that would be useful on a poster, a map where you have little or no room to write, or anywhere where space is a problem.
Help Us Help Others!
Got ideas for using QR codes in homework? Send them to us!
* It seems there is a program in Nigeria to help farmers harvest snails instead of being tempted to slaughter gorillas for bushmeat. If you can't decipher the code you can go to http://www.scientificamerican.com/blog/post.cfm?id=snails-and-endangered-gorillas-perf-2010-04-29 to read the article.
Sites to Check:
A Cartoon Poster Describing QR Code Use
Get a QR Reader (for smart phones and iPod Touch)
At this site you can pick out a reader that works with your mobile digital device.
Using QR Code with a Desktop Computer
Kaywa Code Generator (a way to create your own codes)
Desktop QR Reader (for use on your computer desktop)
Adobe Air (need if you are using desktop computers to decode)