May 29, 2014

Out with Answer Keys - In with QR Codes!

Try QR Codes with this Task Card Freebie!

You know what QR codes are ... those black and white patterned squares you scan with your smartphone to be taken to a webpage with more information about, well, anything! They've been popping up everywhere, from restaurant menus to PTA flyers. QR stands for "Quick Response" because scanning the code takes you to a new location instantly.

But did you know that QR codes are super useful in the classroom, too? QR codes can send the student to a webpage, a Dropbox file, a Google Maps location, or even a word or number in plain text format. This opens up all kinds of possibilities, but the one I want to address  is how QR codes can solve the answer key problem.

What's the answer key problem? Imagine this scenario. Your students are playing a math game in centers or cooperative learning teams, and they have to consult an answer key on every move to see if they solved the problem correctly. While looking at a whole page of answers to find the one they need, they end up seeing answers to other problems, too. Even if you put the answers on the backs of the task cards, it's easy for kids to peek at the answer (accidentally or on purpose) when they select a game card.

What if you were able to put the answers on the backs of the task cards using a secret code, a code that could only be deciphered AFTER the problem was solved? Guess what? QR codes can do just that!

How To Scan a QR Code
You can make your own codes, but before I walk you through that process, let me show you how they work. Students solve the problem on the front of each task card, and then scan the QR code on the back of the card with a device like an iPad, tablet, or phone. When they do, they will automatically be taken to the written answer that YOU programmed in when you created the code!

Susanna from Whimsy Workshop Teaching used my free Telling Time Task cards (shown above) with her second graders, and she asked one of her students to demonstrate how to scan the QR code on the back of the task card. Just watch as Ashley explains in less than 30 seconds what to do! It's adorable, and informative, too!

Ashley doesn't tell you which app she used, but there are many free QR Code Reader apps for every device. Here's a link to a free QR Code Reader for an iPhone. Just download the app on your mobile device and touch it to open it. Hold the camera lens over the QR code, scan it, and the answer pops up! How cool is that?

You can create your own codes using a free QR code generator like QRStuff.com, print out the codes, and glue them to the backs of your cards.

Don't let this talk of "coding"scare you. I'm not talking about computer coding or anything technical. Just go to QRStuff.com and select the "Plain Text" option in the sidebar on the right. Type the answer into the box at the top and choose a color if you want something other than black. Your new QR code will be generated automatically, and you can copy and paste it to another document.

Test Out QR Codes with this Freebie!

If you don't want to create your own QR codes for task cards, many task card products and games now include QR codes. I created this set of Telling Time Task Cards and QR Code Answers that I'm offering for free because I want you to be able to try out QR codes without spending a cent! You can download both of them from my TpT store.

Where to Find More Task Cards with QR Codes
If you would like to find more task cards with QR codes, you can visit the Task Card section of my TpT store. I also created a Pinterest board just for Task Cards. Just click the image below to find it on Pinterest, and follow it to be sure you see new resources as they are added.

QR codes not only solve the answer key problem, but they add a little fun and excitement to your task card lessons. Whether students use them alone, in partner activities, or in cooperative learning groups, QR codes will motivate your students to do their best work. Everyone wants the answer that pops up on their device to be THEIR solution to the problem!

1. I love this idea ^^. Thanks for it ;)

2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

3. Wow Laura! I've seen this all over the place and wondered how it was done…my next set of task cards will have this for sure. Thanks so very much!!!

4. Ok, this will reveal my ignorance, but..I know what QR Codes are, how to generate them, how to scan them, and I have used them for kids to go to websites safely, etc. But how/where do you put the answers, self-check sheets - where do you set those up online? Are they on a website page or what?

1. No, you have to do this manually. You have to create QR codes and print them out and then glue them onto the cards, or you can copy and paste them into a Word document if you created the center cards yourself. The other option is to buy resources that already have the QR codes created so you can print them on the backs of the cards.

2. Sorry, but I guess I'm not being clear. I know how to print the QR codes and scan/use them. I've only had them connected to online research sites, game sites, etc. How do you connect them to a check sheet/answer sheet that you have created? Do you put the check sheets on your website, in google docs, or is there another way? Thanks!

5. I'm actually not a big fan of QR codes. They are just another way to a link, and I prefer to have my students access links through a links page on my website. I have found that sometimes they don't photo copy well, and using bitly or some other url shortener or link collector works just as well to get students to sites. As far as using them for an answer key, I just think it's more time efficient to have the students look up the answer on a key, flip to the back of a task card, etc. Sometimes technology is cool, but it actually slows down the learning process. For me, using technology has to do something better than not using technology, and has to be more time efficient. I include the time to get out devices, get them powered up, etc, when I decide if tech will help or hinder, but that's just my opinion!

1. Thanks for your feedback. I wrote this a year ago, and I'm wondering if QR codes are a bit hyped up. I don't want to make more of them if teachers aren't using them any more.

6. I teach special students. I tell them straight lines then when the line has begun to degenerate we stop and talk about the differences between a line and a wiggle. I take pictures during the day then at the end of the day we watch the pictures on the smart board. Then we use the pictures to find good behaviors and bad behaviors. They all love seeing themselves in pictures.