QR Codes for Beginners

QR Codes are everywhere these days.  You may not know what they are, but I’d bet you’ve seen them in one form of advertising or another.  They look like this:


When scanned by a code reader app, this QR code will take you to my website.  As more and more technology becomes available to students, QR Codes can be a really handy tool for educators.  I’ve found that most teachers are aware of the existence of QR codes, however very few of them understand what they are, how they work, or how easily they can leverage their power.  In this post, I’ll show you just how easy it is to use QR codes to connect with your students.

What is a QR Code?

QR stands for “Quick Response”.  They are essentially 2D barcodes.  Originally designed to be used in the manufacturing industry, they have become popular with advertising firms to connect their potential customers to online content.  You’ll frequently see QR codes captioned with statements like “Scan to find out more…”.

For your purposes as an educator, what you need to know about them is very minimal.  When you see a QR code, essentially what has happened is that someone has used a utility to encode some (usually alphanumeric) data into an image using a common standard.  That image is a QR code.  In my example above, the text that is encoded in that image is “http://blatti.net”.

So how do you read them?

There are software applications available on smartphones and tablets, commonly known as “QR Code Readers”.  These applications essentially perform the opposite function of the encoding utility I mentioned in the previous section.  These applications can read the image using the camera on the device, decode the data using that same common standard, and return it to its original form.  There are many of these applications available for iOS and Android devices, just search the App or Play store (respectively).

As in my example above, QR codes are most commonly used to encode web addresses (URLs).  When a QR code containing a URL is scanned, QR code reading applications will direct the browser on the device they are scanned from to that URL.  Pretty simple right?

And how is that useful?

Today’s students are completely immersed in technology.  They are connected to their smartphones in a way that older generations sometimes find difficult to relate to.  By using QR codes to direct your students to websites, you are presenting them information in a way that is convenient and relevant to them.  QR codes work because they lower the barrier to entry.  They can be directed to exactly where you want them to go without typing a URL, then navigating to your “home page”, then clicking one of your links.

So how do I make one?

The beauty of this is how dead simple it is to implement. I’ve included a 1 minute video below that shows how I made the QR code above.  I use Google Chrome as my browser of choice.  One of the awesome features of Chrome is your ability to use apps form the Chrome Web Store.  I used the QR Creator application to make my code, however there are several options available for generating QR codes.  Happy coding!

2 thoughts on “QR Codes for Beginners

  1. Pingback: URL Shorteners: What, Why, and How? | blatti.net

  2. is a QR code reader for the Maemo operating system. In Apple’s iOS, a QR code reader is not natively included, but more than fifty paid and free apps are available with both the ability to scan the codes and hard-link to an external URL. Google Goggles is an example of one of many applications that can scan and hard-link URLs for iOS and Android. BlackBerry 10 devices have a native QR reader as well as several third party readers. Windows Phone 7.5 is able to scan QR codes through the Bing search app.

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