What’s up with QR codes?

What are QR codes? According to that all knowing source, Wikipedia, QR codes are defined as “a type of matrix barcode first designed in 1994 for the automotive industry in Japan. A barcode is a machine-readable optical label that contains information about the item to which it is attached.” Usually, it looks like a box (although it could be a different shape) with black/white dots, lines and squares in it.

Aren’t they old school? Just a fad? Several years ago, I (Deb) was teaching a technology and counseling course, and showed my students how to create a QR code as the new, cool thing. I was seeing them around town as a fast way to get to information instead of typing in a long url – but you had to download a QR scanner app to your phone, and there were very few tools out there to create them. And then, they started to disappear.

Enter the pandemic-and the re-emergence. As everything went virtual, I started noticing those funky little QR codes popping up everywhere – advertisements, in church (“scan to find out more”), and eventually, in my students’ class presentations. When they wanted the class to play a game, use a collaborative tool such as slido or drive, or look at an article or website, they included a QR Code. They didn’t even bother with tiny url. Realizing that this was a way they preferred to get their information, at least in presentations, I started incorporating them as well.

How to create and access QR codes. Creating a QR code has become much more simple. There are many different tools available, but I use QR code Generator. You can make anything a QR code, such as text, a website, a picture, a link to a video, music. For this software, you put the website url, or whatever it is you want to create a QR code for into the box on the left, and before you know it, the program will generate a QR code on the right. At that point, I typically screenshot the box/code and then put it into my slide.

Accessing the QR code. Students with a smartphone can use the camera function and hold it up to the QR code, and the url will be suggested for them to click on and follow. Because not everyone has a smartphone, I also always include a tiny url, especially for a long website address. In the case below, I include the QR code, the original website (mostly to show it is a reputable source), and the tiny.url code.

Only time will tell if QR codes are here to stay, or just a passing fad. With creating and accessing them becoming such a hassle-free process, my bet is that they will be here for the long haul. Now, if we could just get some artists involved to make them prettier to look at, that would be awesome!

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