Ways to use QR Codes in the Elementary Classroom and Using Google Docs to Create Them

“Traditional thinking is all about ‘what is’. Future thinking will also need to be about what ‘can be'” By Edward de Bono

Quick Response codes also known as QR codes are similar to barcodes. When you scan QR codes using apps such as i-nigma or scan with your smartphone, ipad and computer (if you have a web camera) it links information to you. The information can be text, videos or websites etc. I believe with bring your own technology coming to many schools, I see QR codes becoming more popular in the classroom because they can be read on many devices and it is a real world application now. Here are some ways you can use QR codes in the classroom…

1. Put QR codes on classroom library books using labels/stickers so it stays nicely on the book. You can start by you creating some of the QR codes for books and then eventually letting the students make their own telling about why other students should read this book. You can also have students create ‘book trailers’ and turn them into QR codes using iMovie! You can also place QR codes inside books where you want the student to stop and do a comprehension check or a reading response without sending home a worksheet.

2. You can create scavenger hunts and/or webquests for your students that get them moving around the room. Scanning a QR code makes is easier for the younger students so they don’t have to type the long urls. You can also place QR codes around the school informing parents and/or students about different places around the school.

3. Add QR codes to homework sheets that are helpful hints. For example, if the student forgets how to solve a math problem or gets stuck, they can scan the QR code for help. You can put them at the bottom of the page or right next to the problem. The QR codes can be linked to a ‘how to video’ such as a Khan Academy  video or a ShowMe video you created yourself. You could also link the code to text such as the math notes that were given that day.

4. You can have the students become self-directed learners by creating QR stations. The students scan the QR code to reveal the task and the students must work together to get the task complete. This builds on the 21st century skills of communication, collaboration and critical thinking. In a science classroom, the QR stations could have codes stating how to do an experiment or it could explain a task that the students had to complete. For example, using the materials in front of you, you must design an experiment in thirty minutes that demonstrates all three of Newton’s Laws and must use at least one simple machine. QR stations can work in Physical Activity (GYM), Art, Music or any classroom!

5. A fellow teacher and virtual friend, @MrLemere, had his kids use QR codes to create work cited pages for their research. What a great idea! He was able to check for copyright/paraphrasing issues on the spot and show the kids who copied word for word, and why it was wrong!

To start putting some of these great ideas into practice in your classroom, you can use QR creators such as Kaywa, QRStuff if you just want to create one QR code but I like using Google docs when creating multiple QR codes quickly. I adapted the below directions from Tammy Worcester’s tech tip.

1. Log into Google and go to Google documents.

2. Click on the create button to the left hand side and click on spreadsheet.

3. Label column ‘A’ Information. This is where you will put the information you want the QR code to have, for example your text, video, url etc.

4. Label column ‘B’ QR Code. (Eventually your QR code will appear here)

5. Resize the columns and rows so they are approximately 2 inches by 2 inches. You want them big enough to be able to scan easily.

6. Copy and paste this formula in cell B2, then click enter.

=image(ʺhttps://chart.googleapis.com/chart?chs=150×150&cht=qr&chl=ʺ &A2)

7. A QR code will appear!
*If doesn’t work on the first try, it could be because you had a space after the A2) so delete the space and try again. The row will change to green and that is how you know it will work. Ex. A2.

8. Click the tiny blue square in the bottom-right corner of the cell and drag down to fill the formula in that column. QR codes should appear for all the information you filled in each row. If you didn’t fill in each row and you see QR codes then you can go back and put in information and those QR codes will change to add the new information.

9. Print them out, cut them up and place where you want them in your classroom.

I would love to here how you have used QR codes in the classroom! Tell me about them in the comment section!

84 thoughts on “Ways to use QR Codes in the Elementary Classroom and Using Google Docs to Create Them”

  1. I am using Safari and I am following all of the steps above and I am getting an #ERROR code in the cell in the spreadsheet. It is not working I’m not sure what I am doing wrong.

  2. What a great way to get us outside of traditional classrooms and make the whole school a learning environment!

  3. Thanks for the tip on using a Google Doc to create a QR code!

    I have been using QR codes in a few ways. First, I had a QR code art show by inviting parents to bring their smart phone or iPad with them on art show night. The parents and students were able to scan the QR codes that linked to the concepts taught in the display. I also placed the QR codes online for anyone who missed a code to scan from home. http://bit.ly/Hqzqc6

    Recently our school got a class set of iPads so I was able to use them to easily help my student link to a website to write an artist statement. I took some video of it here: http://youtu.be/UeEmK1z4vac

    I can’t wait to start using them more – thanks for the post!

    1. Make sure you do not have a space after the row such as A2). If that doesn’t work try typing it, verse copying and pasting.

      1. I had the same problem and I found, that the problem is in two things. Try to change the quotation marks and try to replace the × symbol with the letter “x”. Works for me.

    2. I found typing in the formula by hand worked–cutting and pasting didn’t seem to work for whatever reason. Great post and what a nice way to keep track of your QR Codes!

  4. Jill,
    Thanks for your post. I haven’t been so excited about something as this in a while! Since using phones in the classroom and school for that matter is still taboo in many places, I’m thinking that thoughtful use of QR codes may a great way to break that barrier down! I’ll be sure to let you know how it’s going, thanks again for the inspiring post!

    1. If you look at a few of the other comments you can see another link. I am not sure why it is not working for you. I had some teachers at school try it and it worked today. I hope it works out for you.

    2. Hi Peter,

      Here is the formula. I think it would be nice to figure out how you can have the information from additional columns put in…Something I need to play with. =image(“https://chart.googleapis.com/chart?chs=150×150&cht=qr&chl=” &A2)

  5. The formula in the original post and the 2nd formula shared never worked for me either. After doing some studying at the developer link shared above and toying around with the formula I finally got it to work. Here’s the formula that works for me.

    =image(“https://chart.googleapis.com/chart?cht=qr&chs=150×150&chl=” &A2)


  6. I was never able to get the original formula or the one mentioned in the comments to work for me either. I did some studying at the developer link listed above as well as lots of toying with the formula and I finally got it to work. What I did that finally made it work for me was to delete and retype the first set of quotation marks.

    Here’s my formula that’s working:

    =image(“https://chart.googleapis.com/chart?cht=qr&chs=150×150&chl=” &A2)



    1. I am sorry you couldn’t get the original formula too work but I am glad that you have it working now. Thank you for sharing and let me know how you use it.

    2. GOT IT!
      =image(“https://chart.googleapis.com/chart?cht=qr&chs=150×150&chl=” &A2)

  7. I use them for multiple purposes, including to help my students access and organize class info on their phones, such as tutorials, homework, class Web site and Facebook group pages. But I’m starting to design “treasure hunts” using QR codes and I use them to lead students to formative assessments I’ve designed using Google forms or Socrative. The ideas here are awesome!

  8. I finally made my first QR code thanks to your directions. Now what do I need to use to record students book talks and have the QR code read a booktalk whenever the code is scanned? Thanks for your help!

  9. I developed the idea of QR drinks mats/coasters with for my niece for her internship with a drink’s company. http://goo.gl/DDs09 takes you to one I created for this site.
    Essentially, you create a 4 inch square cardboard mat by printing the picture onto card.
    We felt the mat looked better (and scanned easier) if you shortened the URL using Goo.gl (or similar)
    You create the QR code by using a QR creator, such as http://qrcode.kaywa.com/, and then copy the XL image into Paint or similar.
    To ‘dress up’ the QR mat, we thought it looked better with some branding (I stole Jill’s picture from the website)
    And to complete the accessiblity component, I added the Goo.gl address on it, for peeps without a QR code scanner on their phone.
    QR codes only need to be 80% accurate so the picture can tolerate some monkeying around.
    Here’s the link again – http://goo.gl/DDs09

  10. I did what Frenezulo suggested and it worked. Re-type the quotation marks (I also removed the space between the last quotes and the ampersand although it worked either way). Also, re-type the x in between 150×150.

  11. Fantastic! Thanks (although I too had the problem with the quotes, delete them and put then back in sorted the parse error)

  12. It works for me using: =image(ʺhttps://chart.googleapis.com/chart?chs=150×150&cht=qr&chl=ʺ &A2) I changed the quotes and the x, delete them and put them back.
    Thank you for this great idea, I will put it to the test.

  13. This is the one that worked for me, modified and all
    =image(“https://chart.googleapis.com/chart?cht=qr&chs=150×150&chl=” &A2)

    1. retyped the ” before the http: and before the &A2. retype the x also with a lower case of the letter “X”.
      should work, worked for me

  14. I have used QR codes at Meet the Teacher for parents to access my teacher website. I have also attached 180 or so science vocabulary cards to a QR code so students have immediate access to studying for the 5th Grade Science STAAR test. They love it!

  15. Loved this idea, but wasn’t able to get this to work for more than one cell (with all of the noted changes suggested). Only the code created in the A2 cell could be read. The other cells had codes, but the reader didn’t recognize them. Any thoughts?

    1. I think you have it working but the reason the other cells couldn’t be read is because you need to put content (video/text/etc) in the first column or else they just make ‘blank’ QR codes. Hope that helps.

  16. I am very late to this thread, but am hoping you will see this and might be able to answer a question. Everything worked great, but it does not allow me to copy and paste the code. I am on a mac, not sure if this matters. Right now the only way I can get the code from the spreadsheet is to print. Is there a way to electronically get the code to another document? Much Thanks for any help you can offer!!

    1. Yes, what I do is right click on the image (I have a Mac too) and then save image as ______. Then I keep all the images in a folder or paste them onto the worksheet, site etc that I want it on.

  17. WOW! Thank you! Doesn’t work if you copy and paste but IT DOES IF YOU HAND TYPE IT!
    I am going to do this with our Year 5 (9/10 year old children) this morning to create Victorian Time lines in QR.

    Can’t wait!!!!

  18. I am a T.I.S. and one way I show teachers to use QR’s in the classroom is to make multiple choice QR sheets. One sheet of paper, with a question on it, and four possible answers. Kids scan the correct one, the QR navigates them to a google form. They type in their name, and the teacher now has a self correcting data collector. It shows the teacher in a matter of minutes who got it right, and who needs more instruction.

  19. Hello Everyone, I am using all the tricks that everyone suggested but I am not getting the image. Is anyone else having this problem and if so is there a solution? My thinking is that it has to do something with the “new” docs, but I’m not sure. Thanks!

    1. You need to publish the iMovie and put it on a public server such as YouTube. You can make the link only visible for those that have it for privacy if that is a concern.

  20. I had to type in the code for it to work, cutting and pasting didn’t. Thanks, I’m excited to use this.

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