QR codes are those fancy pixelated images that let you encode text or web links. Apps on mobile devices can easily scan the QR to decipher the text or instantly load a website. There are a million apps that let you scan QR codes, but today I am going to focus on the official (free) Google Search app and the built-in Google Goggles image search feature.
We came up with a pretty novel use for QR codes recently. We wanted a way to easily send an entire classroom full of students to a specific webpage. The link was a long and complicated direct link to a shared Google Drive folder. Writing it on the board would have been a waste of time, as most students would have typed the URL incorrectly. Emailing it could work, but that would require typing in 20+ email address. Some schools don't allow students to utilize personal emails on their iPads, so no good. We could shorten it with TinyURL, but that can still lead to student typos.
The solution? Make a QR code and project it. I copied the URL for the shared folder, headed over to QRStuff.com, pasted the web address, and made a QR code in less than 10 seconds. Then, I saved the QR code to my iPad and then projected it for all the students to see.
The students then loaded the Google Search app. It looks just like Google's website. Once loaded, they click in the search box and the option to search by camera or by voice will pop up. Students need to click the camera to activate Google Goggles image search:
Google Goggles is really cool. It lets you take picture of something and search for information about it. It is a great tool in a classroom environment:
- Have students use it on a book cover in the class library to easily search for information about a book or author.
- Have students use it to identify the origin of foreign currency (I recently used it for this very feature in my Social Studies class).
- Scan logos or barcodes to begin a search involving products, groceries, or anything else.
- It even lets you take pictures of some landmarks to pull up information about them.
- And of course: QR codes.
Anyway, as I'm projecting the QR code, students load up Goggles, aim at the board, and click search:
A little pop-up will appear that lets students go directly to the link. It will load in Safari or, if it is a link to an app you want them all to download, it can load directly to the App Store:
So now, in under 20 seconds, I have made a QR code that directs to the shared folder, projected it, had students scan it, and now it is loaded on all their iPads. No typos, no emails, no wasted time. Easy and fast.
You can use this in some really clever ways. For example: you could make a quiz or survery using Google Forms and then have students scan the QR code to go straight to the quiz. Awesome!
QR codes can be used in schools and classrooms in other ways as well:
- Make a code that links directly to authors' official websites and put them on the relevant bookshelves in your classroom or school library.
- Make a code that links directly to teachers' profiles or class pages and put it below their names/room numbers outside their classrooms. This is good for school tours for parents or for students to check a class calendar as they walk by between classes.
- Make codes with text directions for a scavenger hunt. Each code must be scanned, students must follow the clues, find the next code, scan it, and continue. This is a great tech-centric activity for younger students.
- Include QR codes in advertisements or displays. We include a QR link to our school tour video on YouTube in every print advertisement or press release. We also have a very attractive “Learn About Out School” ad with the QR code included in our front office and posted on our school entrances.
Obviously, iPads are not required for this. Android and Windows tablets could do this stuff as well with their own QR scanning apps. Remember that utilizing tablets in the classroom requires you to think above and beyond a simple list of apps; you need to recognize and take advantage of all the other possibilities these devices offer.