I have been investigating the use of Quick Response (QR) codes with cell phones to use in a Grade 5 Amazing PE Race at the school. Students armed with a cell phone (that will scan and reveal information hidden in codes placed around school) will race around the campus to complete a variety of checkpoints in a one hour timeslot. This planning is in the very early stages as I myself learn about this interesting technology.
A QR code is similar to a barcode in that it can be scanned – however in this case the scanning device is a cell phone simply set to camera mode. Once the phone is placed over the QR code, as if about to take a photo, – the phone will read the code to reveal data – much like barcodes on supermarket items link to a price for that item. The data in this case can be text, an image, a website – basically much more data than is typically stored in a standard barcode. This sounds like fun. Well it gets even better, as you can generate your own QR codes and link them to data of your choosing. So you personally create both the barcode and the associated data that it will reveal.
In my case I am setting up a physically active treasure hunt for elementary aged children where they will scan QR codes that reveal a set of tasks to complete including jump rope, chinese elastics, gymnastic stunts, throwing and catching tasks and even simple dances such as the Hokey Pokey etc. The code will also reveal where the next checkpoint is located.
You need two programs to do all this.
1. The cell phone must have the software that will read QR codes (many new phones already have this – check here to see the list of existing phones that already support this ) but you can download the software free to your phone if you do not have it!
2. Generate your own codes using any one of a number of programs that do this. There are several of these sites, including http://qrcode.kaywa.com/ They are very simple to use and you have the choice of generating a URL, phone number, text or image. You then save the code as JPEG image or embed it in a website etc….See the QR code in the top left of this post.
My main focus is to first practice using this technology at home with my two children who both have new cell phones and are eager to use them. I am eager to get them physically active – so I am about to combine the two! We are about to have our first ever technology enhanced Easter Egg hunt using clues hidden as QR codes I have generated, printed and pasted around the confines of the house and garden! Hard to know who is more excited – myself or the kids!
I am thinking of other uses for this innovative technology. Check out how one teacher is using this technology to make revision in a senior classroom more fun than thought possible. The same teacher used this technology to learn the bones on a human skeleton!
Another thought on this topic, and this is probably worthy of another post, is how do we overcome the risk of improper use of cell phones in schools and the resistance of schools to use cell phones in classrooms. I think the answer partly lies in educating ourselves and administrators of ways that cell phones enhance learning and engage learners. This is not unlike the use of calculators and other gadgets that have made their way into the classroom to the benefit of the different learners that exist in the classroom. This topic is discussed in more depth in Nadine Dickinson’s blog post “Cellphones in class – yea or nay?” and also another teacher in Australia who successfully sought permission to use cell phones in the classroom and shares with us how this was done in his post “Our Class set of Video Cameras for Free”. It seems to me to only be a matter of time until our cell phones are utilised in a myriad of ways both exciting and engaging for learners – like me!