QR Codes (or should that be Q Art?)

In school we have been playing around with QR codes with some of the KS1 pupils. They have become fascinated with them and one of the classrooms has been steadily amassing an album of these black and white wonders.

For those who are wondering QR stands for Quick Response and was developed to aid the Japanese motor industry around 20 years ago. They allow for much more information to be stored in them than your traditional bar-codes like the ones you get on your chocolate biscuits.

They have since been used to provide information for a variety of uses such as advertising, parcel tracking at transport hubs and even tombstones. You will most likely come across them in the advertising sense as they provide a handy way for brands to provide you with a link to their online content without the need for you to input the address into your browser.

So how can we use them in school?

There are any number of applications for QR codes in school and as with most things are limited by your own imagination. So far I have used QR codes with pupils for most subjects. 

My maths group loved the QR treasure hunt around school. They scanned their initial barcode which sent them off to find the answers to various maths questions posted around the school. When they arrived back at the class they scanned a final code and it told them how many questions they got right based on the final answer they came back with. This took a lot of planning but the children were desperate to try the hunt again to improve their score.

My original route plan (scribbled on the back of an envelope)

I decided four questions were enough to start with as that meant having 16 potential destinations for my pupils to end up. I am hoping to create a more ambitious trail but this initial run seemed to work quite well. Just remember to keep all your printed QR codes labelled right up until the last minute. The last thing you want is to have to follow your own trail 16 times to find out where the codes all lead.  I kept track of mine by inserting the QR image into a word document and labelling its purpose and content to keep everything together .


To make the codes I worked out all my answers and associated questions and then went about creating the codes. There are many QR generators on the internet but my personal favourite is qrstuff.com. They have a really simple interface and you can download or print your QR codes easily. Your QR can easily be copied and pasted into a word document to enable to keep track of things. Just remember to set your QR codes as plain text on the left hand side menu to enable apps to read the code correctly.

Once printed it was a case of putting the trail up around school and showing the pupils how to use the software to read them. We used the built in QR scanner on our Learn Pads to scan the codes, however there are lots of QR readers on the app stores with varying degrees of accuracy, Barcode Scanner on android seems to work well and is free if your device does not have a reader built in.

We have also used QR codes to enable displays to become more interactive. We are currently adding codes to pieces of work that link to files in Google Drive (everything in Google Drive has its own URL). So as long as your permissions are set to “anyone with the link” parents and visitors could hear an mp3 of pupils reciting a poem they have written, just by scanning the code with their phone.

Finally, for this blog at least, we have been creating Q Art codes. Taking regular QR codes and using them as a basis for patterns in maths. The pupils have extended the black and white patterns, using the squares in their maths books, and due to the error correction built into the codes the central QR code is still readable and links to a digital workbooks for the pupils to be used at parents’ evenings and book scrutinies. 

If you have any questions or more ideas on the use of QR codes feel free to leave a comment or tweet me @trysomeicytea

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