QR, or Quick Response, codes were developed in Japan for use in the automobile industry. But, an enterprising teacher can better use them to drive students crazy. I recently organized a scavenger hunt-type activity for an intramural block and I used QR codes to give it a more 21st Century spin and make it a little more engaging for the students.
First, how do these codes work? A QR code, when read by a QR code reader (a free, downloadable app), will take the smartphone user to a website. Which website? Any one you choose. To make the link, you need to use a QR code generator. There are tons of free generators available online. And, they are SO easy to use. Just type QR Code Generator into Google. Once you have your code generator selected, just cut and paste your website URL into it. The generator will create a unique code that, when clicked on with the reader app, will take the user to the site you selected.
It sounds kind of silly. Why use a code? Why not just give the user the URL and have them enter it themselves? Good questions. But, I have always been big on surprises and QR codes hide the identity of the URL/website. Plus, the codes themselves are irresistible – they are mysterious and are like gateways to random and exiting places.
For my particular activity, I wanted to create stations with posted QR codes. Students would go from station to station, clicking on the codes and going to particular sites. They would write down what they saw on a list I provided.
Our middle school has a house system – 8 groups, named after marine creatures. So, I created 8 unique QR codes – one for each of the houses. Then, I printed off the codes onto paper and posted the papers around our school sports field. The house teams would run around the field, reading the codes and noting the associated websites on their lists.
Each website I selected for the activity was a clue. They were each related to one of the school’s 8 house mascots. So, for the Turtles house, the site I chose was a YouTube music video by the band The Turtles. For the Dolphins house, I chose the website of the Miami Dolphins NFL team. So, the sites I chose required a little mental gymnastics by the students. When a house team collected all the website clues and deciphered them, they would bring their completed lists to me. Points were awarded to the teams based upon the order of their arrival to me. The first team scored 8 points, the second team to arrive scored 7 points, and so on until the final team arrived.
The downside is all the prep that you need to do in advance – coming up with the theme, creating the codes (and then testing them to make sure they work!), printing them off, and then posting them around the school. I also printed off a duplicate set of QR codes, just in case one of the ones I posted accidentally blew away or was deliberately removed by a vandal. Also, you need to ensure that at least one member of the participating student teams had a QR code reader app on their phone. I made announcements to the students a few days prior to the event to make sure that happened.
If you plan it right and create a fun theme, the students really get a 21st Century kick out of an age-old activity.
And, now that students are familiar with the codes and have readers on their phones, I can post QR codes around the school and have lots of fun!