QR (Quick Response) codes are similar to the barcodes we are familiar with at the supermarket. However QR codes are matrix barcodes - two dimensional codes (as pictured below). To read the code a device, such as a smart phone, iPod or webcam with a QR ‘reader’ installed, scans the code which accesses information such as a website, text, phone number or other data. The person who produces the QR code decides what information is to be accessed, links it to a code by using a QR code ‘generator’ and then places the code where it can be used by the target audience. For example, a school librarian might attach a code to a book to link the book to a website about the author, a video trailer or a set of questions for discussion about the story.
QR Codes – Facts
· Once the information that is to be linked to an item has been decided on a QR code for the information content is generated. There are a number of free websites available to do this. Some only generate codes for a URL but others allow you to embed text into the code. This means that the person ‘reading’ the code doesn’t need access to the internet but will see the text in the code directly on their scanning device.
· A QR code can store up to 4296 alphanumeric characters compared to a standard one dimensional barcode which stores 12 numeric characters.
· The QR code that has been generated can be printed out and affixed to any object that relates to the information in the code, for example, posters, equipment, books and even children’s own writing or drawing.
· The device that reads the code needs to have a QR code reader installed. These can be downloaded free from the internet.
QR Codes – Pros
· Engaging parents: The code can be used to link to content that can actively involve parents. For example, a code on a child’s illustration of a poem or story could link directly to a webpage with the poem or ebook for parents to enjoy reading with their child. Codes on library books could link to ideas for discussion questions or activities parents could do with their children to enhance the reading experience.
· Adding interest and value to library resources: Readers can link to reviews, book trailers, videos etc related to a book. Linking to resources produced by the children themselves could be a strong motivator for children and parents to read and share books together.
Codes can also link to online resources that will help children with homework projects.
· The Quick in ‘Quick Response’ means parents or children can almost instantly connect to relevant resources.
· Cost: The only financial cost is in the printing of the codes. This makes QR codes potentially a good return on a very small investment.
QR Codes – Cons
· Time: It takes time to find or create resources and to generate, print and attach codes.
· Accessibility: Not all parents will have access to a device that reads QR codes. Parents may need instruction on how to use QR readers.
· Attitudes of parents: Parents may need educating about the value of the codes to their child’s learning or they might see them as a bit of a ‘gimmick’. It’s important to link the codes to worthwhile information, yet also use resources that would be enjoyable or interesting for parents and children to explore together.