Fun with QR Codes

We here at the LTO are big into teaching with technology! We’ve recently partnered with the Ryerson Library, the DMP, and the EdgeLab to develop a series of workshops on Web 2.0 and Social Media in the classroom. We will also be presenting a short workshop on social media in the classroom at the New Faculty Orientation this August.

As the LTO’s research associate and online resource developer, I spend each morning perusing the news in higher education, particularly for technology related materials. Today, I stumbled upon this post, in which the author reevaluates his opinion of QR codes after seeing one on a business card at a conference.

QR Codes are matrix barcodes that can contain up to 4,000 alphanumeric characters. They were developed in Japan and have been used extensively there for many years, but have been slower to catch on in Canada. I admit to doubting their usefulness as well, having seen them mostly on ads for terrible movies in data-connection-free underground subway stations, where the links they provide are useless.

However, after doing some more reading on the topic this morning, I think I am coming around as well. I have learned they can do all sorts of things I never even dreamed of, such as link directly to a Google map location, add events to your calendar, send text messages, or connect to social media sites. They can even be used to encode classic books.

Unsurprisingly, the librarians have been hopping onto the QR code bandwagon, as can be seen in the Daring Librarian‘s enthusiastic comic:


Library Girl is also enthusiastic about the use of QR Codes, and while her tips apply to a much younger audience than can usually be expected in institutions focused on higher education, it’s not hard to imagine how the technology could be adapted for use in universities.

To use a QR code, all you need is a code reader. The most common device used for this purpose is a smart phone equipped with a camera and a QR reader application. I use QR Droid on my Android phone, but there are a host of other readers available for other smart phones. Take a photo, process the code, and shazam! Try it out:

A QR Code linking to the LTO's page on teaching with technology

It’s also really easy to make your own QR codes. For the one above, I used QR Stuff.

So what can you do with QR Codes? They can now be found on business cards and in conference presentations.

The Web 2.0 Classroom links to a series of resources on integrating QR Codes into the classroom. One such resources listed a bunch of potential uses, for example:

  • Place the QR Code in a slide that links to a YouTube video you want the students to watch, but you don’t want them to take up your valuable time in your lecture by showing them there and then.
  • Generate QR Codes that refer to materials the students may want to explore, but you haven’t time to show them in the limited lecture/seminar times.
  • Place the QR Code in your slides that links to the information about the core text for the lecture, details of what it is and where in the Library it can be found (floor, section, shelf details, etc, or even link to eBook version if it’s available?).
  • Generate a QR Code that links to an online survey or question you want them to answer while they’re with you, and show them the results
  • Put the QR Code at the end or your presentation for the students to scan as they exit that links to an audio copy of the lecture, or to the activity you’ve asked them to do.

You could even put a QR code in your syllabus, linking to a more extensive set of documents.

Keep in mind that QR codes require a phone with a camera, which is something not all students have. Make sure to provide alternative ways of accessing the information.

Have you used QR codes in class? Let us know!

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