I’ll confess that my first impressions of QR codes have not been particularly positive. Until I began this week’s exploration of QR codes in education, they seemed to be a gimmick borrowed from the world of marketing… something to catch the eye, but without a great deal of substance. It was because of this initial reaction, and because I didn’t see myself using QR codes as a school librarian, that I decided to push myself to investigate further.
This week, my first impression has been challenged both by our readings about QR codes (Tania Coutts makes a particularly strong argument about the motivational benefits of using QR codes with children) but especially by the ideas presented by my classmates. There are many ideas for using QR codes that I would borrow from these creative educators. I especially like the notion of using QR codes to stimulate student curiosity… whether it’s through a scavenger hunt, student book reviews scattered through the library, or sharing exemplars of student work.
However, I still have some concerns and questions, the greatest of these being QR codes and equity. To anyone without a smart phone, a QR code is sending one message only: “Not for you.” Until schools work out the equity issues involved in BYOD policies, the use of QR codes seems problematic. It’s essentially creating a club of those “in the know” and leaving others out. Although QR codes present many opportunities for independent exploration by older students, these equity issues would need to thoughtfully addressed.
QR codes in elementary schools present a different range of challenges. To state the obvious, very few elementary age students carry smart phones or tablets of their own. (This may be changing, but that’s another blog post…) Therefore, the use of QR codes in elementary school would automatically involve the use of school devices. (Tania Coutts, mentioned above, used a set of i-pads in her QR code activity.) To me, this removes some of the benefit of QR codes. I think QR codes work best in a spot where there is no easy computer access (a nature trail, for example), where passersby are likely to have a smart phone in their pockets. In a case like that, A QR code linked to enriching information adds measurable benefits. But in a school library, with easy access to internet links without QR codes, and in which a student would need to borrow a device to read the QR code anyway, it’s adding a layer of complexity but the benefits are less clear. Which leads me back to my initial impression. Are QR codes in some cases just a gimmick?
For me, the jury is still out on this one. Will I use QR codes in my library someday? The answer is yes, I’ll give them a try. But am I convinced of their educational value across age levels and locations? Not yet.
In any case, just for practice, here is a QR code I created. It will take you to a presentation I prepared for IST 633. You don’t have to watch it. I just want to see if it works.