QR Codes and Augmented Reality

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Since I have learned about QR codes, I have wondered about their effectiveness as an educational tool. I downloaded a QR scanner app, and tried it out quite a few times, but I always felt a little disappointed in the amount of effort it takes to get to where I’m going. After all, couldn’t you just spell out a shortened URL and send me to the same place? I think/hope eventually our devices will integrate QR scanners into their cameras (half augmented reality??) and this will change the game a bit. For me, relying on QR codes in any way other than in the classroom assumes that A) each student has access to a device at home and B) each student has access to download apps on the device (whether or not they are free, some parents might not allow their kids to download apps on their phone/tablet). So there is a bit of a digital divide along economic and age lines here. And for me (maybe I’m lazy), there is an efficiency gap because of this divide. It feels a bit like integrated technology for the sake of integrating technology…it doesn’t feel transformative.

That being said, if we assume all students have access to devices that have a QR reader, there are a few ways I can see them being a fun and helpful tool. I once heard that you should never give your handout/copies of your slideshow out before you present, because once you do, you’ve lost your audience. I like the idea of using a QR code on a card or digitally to link to a PDF handout, ensuring that students (and parents) can access it later but it isn’t distracting them during class. Along the same lines, teachers could use QR codes as a reminder of classroom expectations, project guidelines, or even link the whole syllabus in the corner of handouts for easy access without a pile of papers to keep track out. Using QR codes on promotional materials for clubs could be an effective way to convey the information needed, while maintaining an appealing design. These QR codes could link to wikis, club pages, or even a Google Form for an application to join or survey. The QR code I generated below links to a video I made on Powtoons about digital citizenship. QR codes like these could be posted around the library as reminders that come to life when they are scanned. They are alarmingly easy to generate, and can link to just about anything. This one was made using QR Code Monkey by simply copying and pasting a URL, choosing a color, and pressing create.


Augmented reality was hard for me to wrap my head around. After reading the recommended articles, and watching the Aurasma TED talk (prepare to be dazzled), I decided to explore the web for more ideas. This video from Common Craft helped me comprehend the idea of augmented reality a little more.  I love the idea of layering information on what you already see, but I do take the same issue with augmented reality tools as I do with QR codes – there is an assumption of access which can be alienating for many. However, it is a really exciting prospect and feels very Back to the Future-y. I am a Google junkie, and this sort of feels like integrating Google with your brain.  Cool!

My initial thought was to use Aurasma as a way for visitors (students, parents, teachers, admin, etc.) to explore galleries of student work. Each piece would be inlaid with an aura that gives information about the artist/creator, the title, their grade, maybe even a short clip of the student talking about it. The possibilities here are endless, but would have to remain short and sweet to make a worthwhile tour. This way the auras would enhance the experience, rather than become the entire experience on their own. I was completely inspired by Heritage Elementary School’s use of Aurasma in their school garden. Working with naturalists, they made of 500 trigger images that help students learn about the varied ecologies found in their home state. You can watch a video explaining this project here – Texas Our Heritage Garden.

As always, I’ve enjoyed exploring the ways in which other educators are integrating these technologies into their curricula, but also thinking critically about how social structure affects accessibility. There are well-defined hurdles, but it is important to start and continue a conversation about how to use technology to best serve each population of students.


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