I’m so confident in my pick for what 2011 will be about that I’m publishing it before Thanksgiving Holiday in the States.

Before we begin let’s take a look at the history of my predictions.

2007: The Year of the Network (Can we say Twitter and Facebook)

2008: The Year of the “Live Web” (Ustream.tv and other services take off)

2009: Bringing Social Learning to the Masses (Education goes deeper in understanding social connections)

2010: The Year of the Mobile Web (iPad, Android, iPhone do I need to say more?)

I’ve never been as confident as I am this year about what we’ll see explode onto the scene in 2011. These little black and white 2 dimensional bar codes are going to start showing up everywhere.

QR Code

QR Codes or Quick Response Codes have been around for a couple of years now (1997 according to Wikipedia), and like most technologies we’ve seen them the past couple of years start to creep more and more into our lives. The power of QR Codes and why I think this is the year for their explosion has to do with my 2010 prediction being the year of the mobile web. Now that SmartPhones (still don’t like that name) are becoming more and more the norm and will continue to gain in popularity in 2011, we have a reason to use these perfect little squares of information.

The second reason is because the level of skill needed to use the QR Codes has dropped significantly in recent years. 

You basically need two things. 1) A QR Code and 2) A QR Code Reader

DSC07282 by pt
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The QR Code:

Take a moment to make one yourself. Head over to my new favorite website http://qrcode.kaywa.com/ where you can enter a link, text, a phone number, or text message and click generate. In an instant you’ll have yourself a fantastic looking square. 

Now what do you do with it? That’s up to you. I like to right-click on the picture and choose “Save Image As” and download the .png file. Now that it’s an image you can: put it in a document, print it off, or put it on a website. Anything you can do with an image you can now do with this information.

The QR Code Reader:

Next you need something to read the QR Code with:

For your Desktop download this one (Windows, Linux, Mac): http://bit.ly/bRLO3C

For iPhone, iPod (need a camera) users: i-nigma is my favorite at the moment and they have readers for basically all devices that have a camera now.

For Android users: QuickMark is a good choice

There are hunders of them out there now….search and find one for your phone/platform that you can live with and you’re ready to go.

Now What?

Well let’s have at think about this. One thing the book industry has been having a hard time with is creating a social feeling around the old medium. How do I find other people who have read the same book that I’ve read and discuss the topics with them? 

I’m just finishing reading I Live in the Future and Here’s How It Works by Nick Bilton (more on that later) where Nick buts a QR Code at the beginning of every chapter. As you read a chapter you can scan the barcode with your phone or computer and be taken to a website where you can get up to date information, research that didn’t make the book, and comments from other readers who read the same section as you did. 

David Warlick in his new book A Gardner’s Approach to Learning takes full advantage of QR Codes as well. I only wish I would have been more forward thinking in my own book…but hey I completed it and that was enough for book number one!

The airline industry is taking full advantage of these little devices and I’m loving it. I haven’t owned a printer in…gee….10 years plus at this point. So checking in early online for flights still means I have to stand in line at the airport because I can’t actually print my boarding pass. Not anymore! More and more airlines and airports are moving to QR Codes as boarding passes. American Airlines, Delta, Malaysian Airways, ThaiAirways are ones that I have first hand knowledge with and I’m sure there are more out there and more coming. I now check in online and the airline sends me a link that I click on that loads the QR Code. I swipe it at the gate and off I go!

What about Education?

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I don’t have all the answers but I do see this as a way to engage students online and offline in and out of the classroom. Try these ideas on for size:

French Class:

A teacher puts a QR Code on everything in the classroom that gives its name in French and students can read the codes with their phones to study the names of items. A fun and engaging way to learn?

Science Class:

Put a QR Code on all the bones on the skeleton in the corner. Kids scan the code it gives them the name of the bone and then links to the wikipedia article that talks about that bone specifically.

Water Unit Fourth Grade:

Students scan a code and the class iPod. It gives them a message and they are thrown into a inquiry based investigation about water. The code tells them to start at the water fountain. When they arrive they find another QR Code that gives them a link to a website that has directions and information to complete a task using the water from the water fountain. Once that task is complete they scan another code that opens up the Maps App on their iPod and puts a dot on where they need to walk next. Using their map skills they learned in 3rd grade they navigate to the next spot which happens to be a tree on the playground. There they find a QR code taped to the tree. They scan it and their next mission is given to them…..etc.

School Library:

OK Librarians you’ve gotta love this one. Create a QR code that connects to Amazon reviews of the book. So kids can find a book, scan the code and it takes them to the reviews of that book so they can see what others have said about it. Or here’s even a way cooler option. What if you have students create reviews for books they read, you upload them to the school library site and then create a QR code that links to that student review from in your school. How cool would that be that kids would be actually writing reviews for other kids in your school about books!

What’s your Idea?

Please leave your ideas on how you could use these amazing little codes in the comments or links to other examples of how they are already being used in schools.


My Experiment

QR Code ISBOn my recent consulting tour I’ve been preaching about QR Codes and the possibilites that I think they hold both for learning and for just plan fun engagement. I asked principals to do a little experiement. I asked them to print off a QR Code with a message that says something like:

“Congratulations! You figured out how to read a QR Code. Stop by my office and you’ve won a school T-shirt”

Then print off the QR Code and just put it on a bulletin board somewhere in the school. No explanation, no directions, just put it there and see what happens. So…I’ve done the same. To the left is a picture of a bulletin board in the high school that gets a lot of traffic (every student takes English) so I’ve put it on the board and we’ll see what happens. I printed it off on Thursday and so far no takers. Do one yourself and let me know what happens and how long it takes.

I’ve also printed one off for the middle school and will get the 5th graders their own on Monday. I’m really interested in seeing what grade not just figures it out, but actually is curious enough to try and figure it out. I’ve watched no less than 15 high school students look at the code and even say, “It’s one of those thingies.” My fear is we’ve schooled the curiosity out of them to the point where they can’t be bothered to figure out what it says….and I’m buying their lunch if they do. 

Once I get the student body use to seeing them around school, then I have all kinds of ideas of how I can engage them in learning activities outside of class time while they’re at school. Learning outside the classroom…..who would have thunk it?


So there you have it…..remember that you heard it here first. In 2011 your gonna see these things everywhere in your community. I’m not sure trying to scan one off a billboard as you’re driving is the safest way to use them, but they’re gonna start popping up everywhere so be ready for them and for once let’s embrace a technology as it emerges and not squash it because we don’t understand how it applies to education. Be creative, have some fun, and let’s see where this takes us!

Oh…and here’s a little something for reading:


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