Random Thoughts

Good Use of QR Codes

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Just about a year ago I predicted that 2011 would be the year of the QR Code. That we would see these little squares popping up everywhere especially in America as smartphone sells continue to climb. 

Looking back over the past year I’ve given quiet a few talks on QR Codes their power and scenarios for best us. When used propertly QR Codes can add value. When not used propertly they’re just wasting space. 

QR Codes should be used to connect

something in the physical world

to something in the virtual world.


This is the phrase and idea I focus on when talking about QR Codes and where I believe their true power in connecting information lies. 



A great example and my most common use of QR Codes in society is when I am shopping. Last summer while helping my sister-in-law pick out a new refridgerator I was able to scan the QR Codes on each refridgerator at Best Buy get more detailed information about that product and customer reviews. The amount of information that I was given would never have fit on the refridgerator. It would have been covered in details. I was able to scan the 5 refrigerators she liked compare them side by side and help her make a choice. Linking something in the physical world (refridgerator) with something in the digital world (more information) in this case allowed me to be a better more informed buyer. 

QR Codes on a webpage is a no-no You don’t see this as much as you did even 6 months ago. But QR Codes on webpages really just don’t make sense. Linking something digital to something else digital is much easier with a hyperlink then it is with a QR Code. Plus many QR Readers have a hard time reading QR Codes that are on a computer screen. 

QR Codes on posters/billboards QR Codes on posters and billboards isn’t a bad idea as long as you understand that you can’t read a QR Code when you’re moving in a vehicle. Which means they really only work on billboards that are focused on predestrian traffic. Also the farther away you are from the reader the bigger the QR Code needs to be, taking up valualbe space on a billboard.

Posters or advertisements can have QR Codes but it’s important that the link takes the scanner to more information. Nothing drives me more nuts then scanning a QR Code to read more about a product while I’m walking through an airport to only be taken to a Facebook Page that I’m suppose to Like. 

When using QR Codes on posters or ads it’s a good idea to keep two things in mind.

1. The QR Code is going to be read by a mobile device. Make sure the website/content you are taking the scanner to looks good on a mobile browser and different mobile devices.

2. Tell people where the QR Code is going to take them. A simple “Scan here for more detailed information about this product” or “Scan here to watch a video demonstartion” gives people a heads up about what they will be seeing after they scan the QR Code. 

QR Code Desktop Reader One major piece of the whole QR Code system that is still missing is a really good QR Code reader for laptops. Every laptop has a built in camera and there are free ones out there, but none that do a really good job that I have found. If you have one please let me know about it. 

Use in Education I still believe that QR Codes have some great uses in education. QR Codes on books in the library that link to book trailers, author websites, etc. are a fantastic idea. This very much fits the idea mentioned above about buying products. In this case the product is the book and the information will help inform the “buyer” about the book.

There are a lot of ways to use QR Codes in the classroom as long as students are allowed their mobile devices in the classroom as well. 

Remember that students will be reading QR Codes on mobile devices so view the material via a mobile device to see how it will look to students. Nothing worse then trying to read a full webpage on a Smartphone……really just painful.

The Future of QR Codes Keep in mind we’re still in the very early stages of this technology and many people still don’t understand how to even read them…..then again it took years before Twitter took off as a mainstream technology. They’ll be around in the future and we’ll continue to refine their use and find what their best use is for. Personally I’ll keep playing with them and scanning them as I see them…as I find where they take me intersting…unless it’s to your Facebook Page…then that’s just frustrating.

See how they are starting to be used in Asia. 

I started blogging in 2005 and found it such a powerful way to reflect and share my thinking about technology, this generation, and how we prepare students for their future not our past.


  1. Hi Jeff,
    I agree with you about all of us not even realizing the potential for QR codes yet. I think there will be much, much more yet to be seen. I posted about this recently and shared a classroom project by Melanie Wiscount. She used QR codes with her students where they created research projects and then videos about local areas, services, landmarks and businesses then created and posted QR codes. They posted these at the places themselves so visitors could learn more about the site. Melanie was a winner at the U.S. Microsoft Partners in Learning Forum in July and is a very giving educator. You can read more about Melanie’s project and see more of her project at my post http://www.leekolbert.com/2011/09/qr-codes-in-education.html

  2. Great blog. I always mentally take note of brands using QR codes well also.

    Here’s a couple more resources on QR Codes, as it relates to education:

    Using QR Codes in the Classroom: http://www.edutopia.org/blog/qr-codes-education-mary-beth-hertz

    Twelve Ideas for Teaching with QR Codes http://www.edutopia.org/blog/QR-codes-teaching-andrew-miller

    I’ve also used QR codes to do fun scavenger hunts before. Here’s a great article on how to do this: http://ilearntechnology.com/?p=4211.

    Also, Educator Steven Anderson has a very useful livebinder of QR Code resources: http://www.livebinders.com/play/play/51894.

    Hope these help,
    Social Media Marketing Manager | Edutopia.org

    • Jeff Utecht Reply

      Tried it and it doesn’t work all the time for us. Not sure if it’s the program or our Mac computers. We had it installed on computers in our library to read QR Codes on library books but it’s not doing the job….looking for another app.

  3. Doug Joubert Reply

    Good ideas, but I disagree about them being used on websites. Putting a QR code with a Google map on how to get to your location (your school, your store, etc.) is a logical way to have someone put that in their Smartphone and get to you.


  4. Pingback: Jessica Taliaferro » Week 10: Teacher blogs

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