Using QR codes for school communications

By Nora Carr, APR, Fellow PRSA
January 13th, 2012

Because creating and sharing QR codes takes little time and no money, experimenting with this technology is low-risk and sends positive messages about your ed-tech prowess.

Quick Response (QR) codes—those black-and-white squares that look like a cross between supermarket bar codes and postage stamps—have real potential for school communications.

Created by a Japanese corporation in 1994, QR codes act like print-based hyperlinks to websites and social media networks. The codes are gaining traction because they allow on-the-go consumers to access websites more quickly from their mobile phones.

Found in newspapers, magazines, local TV news broadcasts, business cards, billboards, brochures, t-shirts, consumer product packaging, and just about anything else that can be printed, QR codes work by encoding URLs, contact information, geography coordinates, photos, and other text—in any language.

Consumers access the codes via free QR reader applications available online. Cell-phone cameras serve as scanners.

Businesses are using QR codes to link consumers to store and restaurant locations, product promotions, contests, movie trailers, loyalty programs, and corporate websites.

See also:

Five tips for digital communication in the new year

Ten tips for using social media in school communications

QR codes welcoming freshmen to campus

In Japan, for example, restaurant patrons use the two-dimensional QR codes to check meal option calories, fat, salt intake, and other nutritional information.

While U.S. consumers remain wary of QR codes compared to their global counterparts, I suspect they will grow in popularity here.

In the meantime, school leaders and teachers can start experimenting with them now to connect with colleagues and parents.

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5 Responses to “Using QR codes for school communications”

Some of our school district librarians in Union, NJ, are experimenting with linking the QR codes to the card catalog and databases for students and parents. Placed on a bookmark, the QR can be scanned when the student is working on a project and wants to see if more information is available.

    January 17, 2012

    I think that could be a great use of QR codes. I really think the power of QR’s are in augmenting and adding connectivity and features to systems that are already in place. I could see the QR codes on your books linking to an online classroom/e-learning application that allows the students to add notes to their homework about the book, reminders/etc for their project their working on. What about a QR code that helps log reading through a book assignment? Students are instructed to scan the QR (or goto the e-classroom assignment) after each chapter:
    *First Scan: Answer a question about chapter #1
    *Second scan: Answer a question about chapter #2,

    You can get really creative with QR’s. Place QR’s around the school that has History Trivia about current history class assignments. You could even do it in a treasure hunt format. If those QRs are linked to an online tool, the teacher can update the trivia at the start of each chapter, and not have to reprint the codes. Have fun with it and be creative!


January 13, 2012

Coming from an education tech background myself, I think QR codes can be a really great tool for schools to communicate and digitally link printed materials to digital information. A few suggestions I would have to make are:
* Make sure the content in the QR code is mobile ready. While GCSNC is giving valuable information (in the lunch menu for instance) the information needs to be mobile-optimized. The PDF’s they use on their lunch menu could be replaces with a mobile-optimized website instead of PDF’s.
* Use a URL shortener. Using a short URL for the QR link will simplify the QR image, making it easier to scan across multiple platforms. The more data you put into a QR code, the more complex and detailed the image has to be. There are URL shortening scripts that can be installed on the schools’ web server, giving them the ability to generate their own shortURLs, and not rely on a 3rd party URL shorten-er.
* Pretty-up your QR codes. The QR codes are generally basic and boring to look at. You can colorize them, or integrate the QR image into an overall theme or design that is still asthmatically pleasing.

There are companies, such as the consulting group LocalPlugs (, that will consult with schools to help optimize their QR and mobile experience so that users get the information they need in an intuitive and easy to use way.

That’s my 2 cents :)

Shane Crockett

January 25, 2012

Educational QR codes have significantly helped raise the academic achievement level for many students.

Several teachers are putting QR codes on homework pages. If the student need help, the QR codes link them to the appropriate content.

For students who do not have a smartphone or a computer, teachers are placing phone numbers below the QR codes for students to call and listen to the additional content.

Students are mastering the material more quickly now that they have instant access to supplemental content.

Mary Johnson
Education Projects Manager
High Achievement

February 13, 2012

I think Mary has hit the nail on the head with her point about making supplemental content available. QR Codes can be linked to videos, audio and even audio feedback, elements which help make the learning experience more interactive and engaging.

In some of the lessons I have taught, I have had university students create QR codes as part of their course work, which when scanned, revealed links to intriguing videos and websites the students were interested in and found inspiring. The opportunities with QR Codes are limitless.

If anyone is interested, there’s a book I put together on QR Codes which provides a comprehensive look on how to set them up, what QR Codes can link to, how to create landing pages, etc. at: