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Phoenixville, PA – Students at the Center for the Arts & Technology (CAT) Pickering Campus have seen the future of yearbooks and it is small black-and-white squares.

Reminiscent of a Rorschach inkblot or a supermarket barcode, QR (Quick Response) codes have popped up everywhere, on a Calvin Klein billboard in Times Square, on packages of Sun-Maid Raisins and now within the pages of The Shield. Opening the door toward endless multimedia possibilities, CAT Pickering has become one of the first, if not the first, high schools in the nation to harness the interactive technology of QR codes in their yearbook.

The phrase “timeless memories” takes on a whole new meaning in this tech-savvy yearbook. Senior Joseph Hudson, with the guidance of yearbook moderator Al Tucker, created an interactive media page that spotlights four events taking place after the yearbook’s March 30 publication deadline, including: the 2011 junior/senior prom, the senior awards banquet, the yearbook dedication ceremony and the Class of 2011 graduation ceremony.

“In the past, students created DVDs sold as an addendum to the yearbook that contained media from these events,” explained Al Tucker, the school’s graphics arts and printing instructor. “But just like VHS tapes and 8-track cassettes, those technologies will eventually be outdated and the memories would be lost. On the other hand, the Internet is not going anywhere.”

In the simplest terms, QR codes are hyperlinks that have moved from cyberspace out into the world. Aim a smartphone at the square black-and-white code and it launches a website, video or multi-media presentation hosted on the web.

Hudson uploaded content to the Internet, created a QR code using the free generator Snap Vu and printed the code on the Interactive Media page. With just the click of a smartphone, users can easily access the pomp and circumstance of graduation or the glitz and glamour of prom without the hassle of a mile-long URL or technology that might not be around by the 10-year reunion.

The result is a richer and more interactive yearbook, enhanced by multimedia capabilities.

“There are lots of different ways we can apply QR codes in the yearbook next year without overdoing it,” said Tucker. But in visually comparing the codes to a “bad jigsaw puzzle,” he also cautioned against overuse.

“A few pages in the yearbook absolutely should have QR codes that take you to extra photos or video,” Hudson added. “But not every page.” In addition to intramural sports and shop features, he suggested the school talent show as an ideal option for QR capabilities.

The second initiative involving the square codes at CAT Pickering is a tour of the career and technical programs in the school. Two senior students created multimedia presentations that feature current students describing their career choices, future plans and the shop programs, digitizing the traditional tour experience.

“As a teacher, if you want to keep the students’ attention, you better learn to speak their language and use their devices, or else you too will become irrelevant,” said Tucker, who is enthusiastic about the other possibilities for QR codes in the classroom.

With the rise of the smartphone, experts predict QR codes will explode in popularity. As the technology sweeps the nation, CAT Pickering is set to remain on the cutting edge.

Captions:

QR Code Image: A page from CAT Pickering’s Yearbook complete with QR codes.

QR Joey Hudson: Interactive page content designer Joey Hudson, and Senior Section editor Heather Knapp look over the QR Code section of this year’s Shield.

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