Going Crazy Over QR Codes

Today, I noticed a sign with a QR code hanging up in my school, The Frisch School. It advertised our next Chessed Trip to purchase school supplies for needy homeless children as a part of Operation Backpack. The QR code opened up to a YouTube video showcasing the importance of this worthy cause.
Sign for Operation Backpack Chessed Trip with QR Code leading to YouTube video about the organization.
This is one of the now dozens of signs with QR codes hanging throughout the school building promoting various opportunities and events. A student turned to me while I was admiring this sign and asked, "Rabbi, are you shepping nachas from this?" When I thought about it, the answer was definitely in the affirmative.

I first showed a number of the young, talented Rebbeim at Frisch the QR code a month or so ago when they were trying to find ways to advertise the new FrischChessed Twitter and Instagram. I suggested that they hang up signs with QR codes. You can see an example below.

Others created signs with QR codes linking to an online Google Form to sign up for all of the various clubs at our Club Fair. Once again, students enthusiastically adapted to this medium with hundreds using it to sign up for school clubs.

Soon more signs sprang up throughout the school building. Examples appear below.

A mishmar signup sheet which hundreds of students used to choose which Mishmar they wished to attend.
A QR code linking to a form to share your Hebrew name used to give out aliyot for our morning minyan.
My favorite, this sign contains one QR code to volunteer to give to share your knowledge with others by becoming a peer tutor, and another QR code to sign up if you need a peer tutor in a specific subject.
What makes QR codes so popular with teens?

  1. Firstly, it is quick. The very word QR code according to Wikipedia stands for quick response. Kids like to do things fast.
  2. QR codes also utilize something that for students is often considered to contraband in school, their cell phones. Kids LOVE using their smartphones for educationally worthwhile endeavors. What about students who have a "dumb phone"? At my school, since now the entire 9th and 10th grades have iPads with the Scan app almost every student has easy access to a device that can scan. Those few who don't borrow from a friend or, in some cases, use a shortened website address to access the site instead, something very easy to do with tinyurl.com or tiny.cc or bit.ly and the list goes on and on.
  3. QR codes also can enhance student voice and choice, giving students the opportunity to use a website to sign up or follow for something they are interested in.
  4. Finally, QR codes have a WOW factor. There is something magical about scanning a sign to open up a virtual space to expand the boundaries of the physical world. It almost feels like the newspapers in Harry Potter, complete with the moving pictures that wink and smile at you, coming to life. QR codes are just a lot of fun adding a virtual reality experience to physical spaces.
  • As an example of this, I am in the beginning stages of a timeline project with my Navi class in which students will use QR codes to showcase their artwork, videos, and research papers about Jewish kings they are researching. They will hang each of these QR codes on a timeline of the 5 kings immediately before and during the time of Jeremiah the prophet that that they are researching. This way, students can walk through the timeline with their smartphone or iPad and by scanning get an immersive experience of many different perspectives on these kings. You can read more about this project on my class blog here
    Below is a short video on QR codes that I created with Tikvah Wiener using Google's Hangout on Air feature coupled with a smartphone (a great subject for a different blog post). It is very rough and unscripted since we were just playing around, having hard fun as Tikvah would say, but I think it illustrates the excitement of QR codes and includes a student as well.

    So how can you start with QR codes in your classroom? The answer is quite simple. Find a website, YouTube video, or Google Form you have created and copy the link into one of many sites that create QR codes like Scan.me, Tiny.cc, or qrcode.kaywa.com. Then copy and paste these codes onto signs, hang them up throughout your school, and let the magic begin.