Something has been bothering me about QR codes. When teachers first learn about QR codes, they immediately start thinking of all the ways they can use them to make learning more exciting. Their minds race ahead to projects with QR codes, scavenger hunts with QR codes, QR codes that introduce students to new concepts, and much more. Just let the kids use the cool tools and the cool iPods or iPads or smartphones and school will be wonderful.
Sounds good. So what’s my problem with all these ideas for using QR codes?
They are all teacher-directed. The teacher chooses the questions. The teacher finds the answers. The teacher makes the QR codes. The student receives. I don’t really see this scenario as an improvement over the lecture method.
Furthermore, if students are working with primary sources, teacher-provided QR codes do not take the place of solid historical analysis. They’re not much different from reading a textbook description of a primary source.
What if we instead encouraged students to gain understanding of a primary source by selecting resources that build context? What if the students had to debate the merits of their choices of contextual resources? How would a group set norms to justify one choice over another? Should they write a caption for a primary source photograph or a contextual paragraph for each primary source? These decisions could all precede QR code production.
Only after hashing out decisions about which sources best explain a concept or fill in the historical context around a primary source would the students…yes, the students…produce their QR codes.