You’re probably used to seeing one-dimensional, traditional bar codes printed on clothes or groceries. Today, Quick Response (or QR) codes are coming into fashion. These 2-dimensional codes consist of a collection of small blocks, similar to dots, instead of the iconic bars.
Traditional bar code (1-D)
QR codes were first created in 1994, to track vehicles during the manufacturing process at high speed. In 2002, when Japanese handset makers and others wanted to turn everyone’s phone camera into a barcode scanner for marketing purposes, QR codes made perfect sense. With two dimensions to work within, QR codes can store several hundred times the amount of information carried by ordinary bar codes. They can contain anything that can fit into a maximum of around 4k (roughly one page of text).
Nowadays QR codes are everywhere. Trucks, posters, menus, buildings, business cards, t-shirts, stores, and even food items sport the box of blocks. ScanLife’s mobile bar-code trend report 2011 says: “in the time you read this blog post, 60 unique scans were processed through the ScanLife system … we are now processing more than one scan per second and a year ago it was 10 per minute.” The report also cites that there are 45 million people in the US using QR codes today, a 300% increase in QR code generation compared to last year.
Looking at the increasing scope of QR codes, and the amount of information they can store, we’ve come up with a few observations on how they can be used in online classes. The efficacy of QR codes in learning can also be seen in Bath University’s Head of E-Learning, Andy Ramsden’s, working paper: The use of QR codes in Education: A getting started guide for academics.
The only hitch in the QR codes use is that they can also be used to distribute malware. Teachers who share QR codes from foreign sources (codes they didn’t create) should:
- Check the embedded link before displaying the code to students, to make sure the link points where it should
- Include a warning that this code was not generated by the instructor.
Here are five ways that teachers can use QR codes in the classroom: