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Tools of the Trade: Quick Response (QR) Codes

By Rita Sorrentino

Screenshot 2015-09-08 at 5.21.50 AMWe see them everywhere: magazines and newspaper advertisements, billboards and business cards, cereal boxes, web pages, and even on items of clothing. Do these popular pixilated marketing images have educational value? Certainly! 

First, what is a QR code? Quick Response (QR) codes are two-dimensional barcodes that are created with a QR Generator and then scanned with a QR Reader. QR Readers transform print and physical worlds into digital realities. By downloading a free app on a digital device, you are able to scan the matrix-designed QR code, which will then lead you to a website, video, document file, contact information, or some other data.

What do you and your students need? You and your students need a device with Wi-Fi access to scan and read the QR code. A variety of mobile devices such as Smartphones, iPads, Tablets, and Laptops can scan and interpret the code. With regular access and use, QR Readers can be implemented into many aspects of the curriculum. Without doubt, teachers and students will find creative uses for QR codes in and out of the classroom. 

Younger students can reap the benefit of QR Codes since it leads them quickly and directly to rich web resources thus allowing more time on task. At all grade levels, important content from subject areas can be easily accessed on mobile devices giving students more opportunities to read, research, and review both in and out of the classroom.

Need a few ideas to jump start using QR codes in your classes? Consider these suggestions:

  • Do Now: At the beginning of the class, students scan a code for a getting-started activity. It can include reading selected text, responding to a writing/photo prompt, or checking answers from previous assignment.
  • Book Trailers or Author Websites: QR codes can be placed inside covers of books in a class library that link to book trailers on the web as well as to an author’s website.
  • Open House Virtual Tour: Create a great way to welcome parents and other visitors to the classroom by posting QR codes that explain aspects of the year’s curriculum and activities. Include goals and expectations for specific projects, examples of students’ work, or an audio or video message from the students and/or teacher.
  • Roll the Dice: Prepare digital or printed dice on which each slide contains a QR Code related to a certain reading/writing activity. Foam dice might prove more durable than paper and can be reused easily. Tony Vincent (see below) suggests creating reflection response options on the dice.

What are the benefits? QR codes can save time and help make classrooms more interactive. They hold unlimited potential for providing immediate connectivity and communication.  When students begin creating their own codes, it will be extremely important to instruct them in the practice of good digital citizenship.


  • Steven Anderson (@web20classroom) posted a LiveBinder for QR Codes with links to tutorials, interesting educational uses, and recommended apps for specific devices.
  • Tony Vincent (@tonyvincent) writes extensively on integrating mobile technology into teaching and learning. In What’s Up with QR Codes, Tony offers best tools to use for generating and reading codes, clever ideas for classrooms, and an opinion on use, overuse, and best practices.

With thoughtful planning, QR Codes can increase interest and participation in the curriculum. Whether codes are teacher generated or student generated, using QR codes in the classroom can be very exciting and productive. They give students easy access to rich content, provide opportunities for differentiated instruction, and make teaching and learning more interactive. The coded squares take up little space and can readily be displayed in classrooms, throughout the school building, and beyond.

Screenshot 2015-09-08 at 5.22.40 AMIf you find the black and white boxes lacking in artistic appeal, you can be creative in making yours. This one was generated with QRCodify. Besides color, you include logo and customize the shape.

Oh, the places you can go with QR Codes! (Where did these QR Codes take you?)

Can you suggest a way of using them in your classroom practice? Please share in the comments below.


Rita Sorrentino profileRita Sorrentino is a recently retired teacher from Overbrook Elementary School in Philadelphia. Rita is finding new pathways for working with teachers and students to use digital tools for reading writing, speaking and listening. She presented ‘Beyond Superheroes: Using Comics Across the Curriculum” at the PETE&C Conference in Hershey in February. Rita joined the Pennsylvania Writing Project in 2004 and the Philadelphia Writing Project in 1994.

6 Comments Post a comment
  1. Trish DiFilippo #

    I can fully appreciate the idea about using QR codes for parents. I have colleagues who successfully use them for Back To School night to emphasize all the great things they do in their classrooms. I think they work really well with parents who like to keep track of all that their children do in school. Equally, they can be a huge asset for students in the classroom like Do Now tasks that can take them right into a writing activity.


    September 20, 2015
  2. Maggie martin #

    Rita – I really enjoyed this blog post because I never really thought about using QR Codes in the classroom before. I am a senior Art Education student at Arcadia University, and I am always open to new ideas that I can use in my classroom in the future. I think that students would really enjoy it because it is a fun and different way of using technology. I like your suggestion of the Do Now activity at the beginning of class. This way, students can walk into the classroom and get started on their own, while the teacher can get ready for the class. Most kids love using electronics, and this would be a way for them to use them, but also be involved in the classroom activities and learning at the same time.

    -Maggie Martin


    September 20, 2015
  3. Emily Berger #


    My name is Emily and I am a senior at Arcadia University and I am currently working towards my Art Education Certification. I found your post about QR codes and their potential uses in the classroom setting to be very beneficial! With QR codes growing in popularity and use, seen on everything from posters to the backs of t-shirts, I enjoyed the ideas for use in the classroom you provided. I agree that when there is a chance to incorporate a new form of technology, using it in the classroom with the younger generation of students could make it more exciting and interesting for the students rather than manually typing it into the computer. In particular I thought the “Open House Virtual Tour” was a great idea. Considering that I am going into art teaching, this could also be the start of an art project for students, creating the website or video the QR code is linked too and working through the creation process of the QR code from beginning to end could also be a neat idea. This is a great way for other students, parents and faculty to have an immediate snapshot into my classroom and the work of my students.

    Thank you for the post and great ideas I will definitely be using them in the future!


    September 18, 2015
  4. Joshua Rodgers #

    A long time ago I used to work technical quality assurance for a company that did webcam related games. The first game I worked with them on used a series of specific QR markers which were meant to be held in front of a web camera. If done properly while the game’s executable was running it would superimpose a 3d game world on top of the marker on the computer screen.

    There are a lot of various things that educators could use QR and eventually AR (augmented reality) markers for and I especially like the author’s ideas of using them to help students find a rich library of related examples and texts. However I also recognize that there would likely be a significant cost in terms of using those devices, both monetarily and in terms of technical support. If your district has the technology this would absolutely be an excellent tool to explore.

    I would also fear that any interest and participation they generate would be due to the novelty that the technology provides and unrelated to the content themselves. I would wonder if sustained usage of QR codes in a less affluent district would actually do more to hurt rather than harm involvement simply because accessing the technology is made troublesome.


    September 13, 2015
  5. Rita – I love the idea of placing the QR codes inside of books. I think I’ll experiment with this for our book club selections this year. I personally post one on my classroom door and on my course syllabus that leads students to the homework webpage. I’ve never considered using them as a learning tool during class. Lots of great ideas!


    September 12, 2015
  6. Erin Yentz #


    My name is Erin and I am a senior at West Chester University of Pennsylvania. I am majoring in Secondary Special Education and English Literature. For our degree we have to take a technology class that teaches us ways to incorporate modern technology in our classroom. I greatly appreciate your blog, because QR codes is a technique of implementing technology that I never thought. I agreed with your notion that it involves the students and creates communication that directly relates to the younger generation. Many students are attached to their technology and social media, and the appropriate implementation of QR codes relates to the environment they are familiar with (depending of the socioeconomic status of the students). I personally liked the suggestion to use QR codes for the inside of book covers. Having a code prior to reading will allow the student to practice pre-reading strategies before directly diving into the text. One suggestion I have is to use QR codes for student presentation purposes. With the right instruction on how to create and implement QR codes, it could become the new PowerPoint or Prezi presentation. QR codes could allow a more interactive/ participatory presentation for students.

    Thank You!


    September 10, 2015

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