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7 Things You Should Know About QR Codes

Friday, February 13, 2009


QR codes are two-dimensional bar codes that can contain any alphanumeric text and that often feature URLs that direct users to sites where they can learn about an object or place (a practice known as “mobile tagging”). Decoding software on tools such as camera phones interprets the codes, which are increasingly found in places such as product labels, billboards, and buildings, inviting passers-by to pull out their mobile phones and uncover the encoded information. QR codes link the physical world with the virtual by providing on-the-spot access to descriptive language and online resources for objects and locations. In this way, the codes support experiential learning, bringing scholarship out of the classroom and into physical experience. The greatest importance of QR codes could lie not in their specific use but in the opportunities they offer for moving away from keyboards as input devices in learning environments.

The "7 Things You Should Know About..." series from the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative (ELI) provides concise information on emerging learning technologies. Each brief focuses on a single technology and describes what it is, where it is going, and why it matters to teaching and learning. Use these briefs for a no-jargon, quick overview of a topic and share them with time-pressed colleagues.

In addition to the "7 Things You Should Know About…" briefs, you may find other ELI resources useful in addressing teaching, learning, and technology issues at your institution. To learn more, please visit the ELI Resources page.

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I personally love QR codes. I find them a super-handy way to get information from a sign or even my computer screen to my phone -- to open a link, download an app, etc. However, I'm afraid that they are in fact just another manual method of entering data, albeit a simpler way than using a keyboard. But nonetheless, you have to intentionally and manually input the QR code into your device before you can do anything with it. This isn't revolutionary enough to truly take over, I don't think. Instead, things like NFC (Near-Field Communications) seems more likely to replace traditional methods, as long as the hardware gets adopted widely enough. This truly changes the way information is sent. No need to pull out a phone, press some buttons to take and translate a picture, nothing. I've seen that already start to take off at my school a bit, faster it seems than QR codes did when they were relatively new.

MPA degree student, UCSD

work at the Higher Colleges of Technology in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, where I teach IT to Diploma students.  We have just started using QR codes as a teaching and learning tool - and we have had so much fun with them!  Our college is currently hosting a conference with the theme 'Proudly Emirati' and faculty were encouraged to incorporate this theme into their curricula.  I designed a website as part of a scavenger hunt where students could only move from page to page on the site by working out location clues and then scanning the next QR code to move on to the next location.  Not only has it emphasised the idea that learning does not have to take place in a classroom, but it also got faculty and students using technology as a fun method of learning.  Below is the link to the Index page of our site - unfortunately all other linked pages cannot now be accessed without the code!