10 ways to use QR Codes in a History classroom

Photo by DavidPitkin

This post comes with a  huge acknowledgement to several people in my PLN – who, through constant tweeting about QR Codes, have forced me to take a look at their worth. I also have to acknowledge Kevin Fear our Head, who is just as enthusiastic about exploring the uses of QR Codes in school and who is very keen to chat about ideas for their potential use. With these people behind me, I’ve set off to see if and how QR codes could have an impact in our school and more particularly, in my History lessons.

I’ve only just put the first QR Code up around our school this afternoon and although it’s really a hook and not very useful information, already several staff have asked, “What is it?” and have responded in awe and very positively to what a QR code is and what it can potentially be used for. 

 So that’s the start. I’m waiting for a student to claim his chocolate. I’ll report back as soon as one does.

Like many teachers, I’ve thought about how I could use QR codes in my teaching – specifically in History classes. The real beauty of QR codes is that they do what they say on the tin – give a “Quick Response”. I like the idea that I don’t necessarily have to take my class off to a computer suite in order for them to “quickly” access the information in a QR code. I like the way that a choice is given. If a student wants to expand on something they’re learning, reviewing, or investigating, this can be done as an individual response on a hand held device. It doesn’t have to be a teacher led process which the whole class has to follow.

There are so many different potential uses for QR codes, but I’ll list a few which have come to mind for teaching History.

1. Link to a class blog: I always keep a blog of the work we’re doing in each of my classes. This is so that once students are at home they can use the blog to check up on what we’ve done in class, to find instructions for their homework, sets of notes, worksheets or mark schemes for the same. I usually write the URL on the board and they copy this into their exercise books. More than once the URL has been copied down incorrectly, resulting in much online searching to find the correct blog. In future, I plan to give my classes a QR code of the blog URL to paste into the inside front cover of their exercise books.

2. Homework: Many teachers have referenced the potential of QR codes in place of students writing up the day’s homework. There is certainly more than one way to achieve this; project the QR code onto the IWB and students could scan it as they leave the classroom at the end of the lesson, place the printed version of the QR Code near the door and on exiting, students can scan the code in a similar fashion – or, one could print off the QR Code and hand these out for students to paste into their homework planners, or exercise books.

3. Videos:

 I will be experimenting even further with QR codes in the run up to the Christmas break. As I collect many of the videos I use in teaching History on Vodpod, I have added QR codes which contain a link to the video, which in turn relates specifically to the section of class notes I hand out.

4. Voicethread (or any other Web 2.0 tool):

When the students complete a Voicethread exercise I create an A5 sheet for students to paste into their exercise books. This shows the image used in the exercise, the questions asked and enough space for an assessment mark and/or my comment.  It would be even more useful if they could see the assessment alongside their contribution to the Voicethread and not have to go off to a computer to match the two up.

5. Homework Review: I’ve also chosen to place a QR code with an embedded URL into students exercise books. This links to a mark scheme as a homework review for completed homework. These have been added next to the work in the students’ books. For this I chose an Avery label template in Microsoft Word and copied the QR code, together with a short reference heading, onto the A4 Avery label page. (Very quick and easy to do.) I printed these off and pasted them into the students’ books. Added to this could be a QR Code which links to several good pieces of work for students to reference. (We’ve been using my ebook lately to show off a few excellent pieces of work.)

The following are further ideas for ways in which a QR code can be used in a History classroom:

6. School trip detail reminder.
7. Mini project outline.
8.School trip on Flickr.
9.End of year exam details.
10. Scheme of Work

Cynics may wonder why one cannot simply paste various details into a student diary/planner or exercise book. Well, the big plus about QR Codes is that the hand held device is usually always carried around by a student (and not necessarily the book) and any content is always available in an instant in the “history” of the QR Code Reader.

 I think I should end by saying that I’m not too sure what parents might make of all of this. I’m hoping that the response will be positive and that students won’t tell parents that I’m suggesting that they should get a smart phone for Christmas in order to access their work! As it stands, currently everything which is in a QR code can be accessed either online on the History blog in Word or PDF format, and can be printed out for students’ use. However, I am aware that a number of our students have iPod touches and it will be interesting to see how they make use of QR codes.

Further reading:

Greg Kulowiec: QR Codes X iPod Touch

Ollie Bray: iPhone in Education: Using QR code in the classroom.

Heidi Beezley: QR codes in the classroom: how could we use them?

David Hopkins: QR Codes: In the Classroom

QR Code Generator.

James Michie: QR Codes in education: a burgeoning narrative.

David Mitchell: QR Codes in my class.

@Dughall: Code and Chips please.

Google Goggles.