Using QR codes in the languages classroom

A guest blog post by Joe Dale

QR codes, or Quick Response codes to give them their full title, are black and white codes similar to barcodes. When scanned on a mobile device, they perform such actions as take the user to a website, display some text on screen or play back some multimedia. Marketers have been incorporating QR codes in their advertising campaigns for many years as a shortcut for the general public to find out more information from film posters, billboards, glossy magazines or television ads.

If you have access to iPads, or your students are allowed to use their smartphones in your classroom, QR codes can be a great time saver for transferring web links and short texts quickly and easily from your teacher tablet or class PC to your students’ devices.

You can turn any URL into a QR code using the iOS share extension QuiQR, a site like QRstuff or install The QR Code Extension by Manuel Braun from the Chrome Web Store. Simply project a QR code as large as possible from your screen. Then, tell your students to scan it using their device instead of asking them to type in an address. If they are too far from the board, they may have to move forwards to be able to scan effectively. However, this process should still save a lot of time when you want your class to access a web link.

So how can we use QR codes in the languages classroom?

Well, here are some of my suggestions:

  • Promote speaking skills by recording a video or grammar screencast in Seesaw and place the QR code it automatically generates in exercise books as evidence of student work or display it as part of a ‘talking wall’.
  • Ask students to use Vocaroo for speaking HW, choose the QR code option when exporting and send you the code. Please note the QR code will only working for a couple of months before the link expires. For audio recordings which don’t expire unless you choose to archive them or delete them, try Seesaw or the forthcoming app ClassQR.
  • Draw a sketch with the web tool and turn the URL into a QR code. When you scan the QR code, the sketch will play back as an animation. This may describe a grammar point, reinforce vocabulary or show understanding of a speaking activity.
  • Create an animated short phrase using and share the link via a QR code as above. The links could also be posted to a Padlet wall and commented on individually.
  • Build an e-portfolio in Padlet over a school year and stick its QR code in an exercise book. This will serve as evidence of an individual student’s multimedia learning outcomes.
  • Start a TodaysMeet session to promote class collaboration and share via the inbuilt QR code. TodaysMeet can serve as a backchannel which runs alongside your lesson. It gives students the opportunity to ask questions and share reflections all in the same place. The free web tool can also be used for quick translation activities, Q&A instead of mini-whiteboards and building a dialogue as a model.
  • Print out an A5 sheet with a grid of QR codes pointing to revision sites such as Kahoot! for HW and ask students to glue them into their books
  • Make a text-based QR code of a short reading comprehension. Provide accompanying questions in plain text on a worksheet, or instructions to draw.
  • Build a Google Form for a vocabulary test then share it via a QR code and mark it automatically with the Google Sheets add–on Flubaroo.
  • Use Russel Tarr’s QR Treasure Hunt Generator to make a text based QR code treasure hunt in the target language

Choosing a QR reader

To make life easier, in iOS11, there is now an inbuilt QR code reader which you can activate via Settings/Camera. You can also install the Chrome app and add the Chrome Quick Actions widget which includes a QR code scanner accessible via the Today View. I’d also recommend i-nigma which is the fastest QR code reader I know and which works on iOS and Android. For more ideas on using QR codes, check out this article I wrote a few years ago by way of introduction.

How do you use QR codes in the languages classroom? Leave a comment to share your ideas. 

Joe Dale is an independent languages consultant from the UK. He works with a range of organisations such as Network for Languages, ALL, The British Council, the BBC, Skype, Microsoft and The Guardian. Joe was host of the TES MFL forum for six years, former SSAT Languages Lead Practitioner, and a regular conference speaker. He is also a recognised expert on technology and language learning.