QR Codes in the classroom: an interview with Monica Burns

Monica Burns is a Curriculum and EdTech Consultant, Apple Distinguished Educator and Founder of ClassTechTips.com. As an educator, Monica was part of her school’s Federal Magnet Funding leadership team and was a vocal advocate for bringing 1:1 technology into her 5th grade classroom.

During her tenure as a classroom teacher, Monica used iPads to create engaging, differentiated learning experience to meet the unique needs of her students. Realizing the power of tech tools in the classroom, Monica started ClassTechTips.com to provide a resource for educators and administrators on implementing EdTech in the classroom.

Since starting ClassTechTips.com, Monica has presented to teachers, administrators and tech enthusiasts at numerous national and international conferences including SXSWedu, ISTE, and EduTECH. She is a webinar host for SimpleK12 and a regular contributor to Edutopia and Channel One News.

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Monica is the author of Deeper Learning with QR Codes and Augmented Reality: A Scannable Solution for Your Classroom (Corwin, 2016, and Sage 2016).

If you'd like to be in with a chance of winning a free copy of her book, then sign up to the Digital Education newsletter by 7th December 2016, and read the newsletter of 28th November for details of how to enter the prize draw!

Well, enough of this persiflage! On with the interview.


What is scannable technology? Is it just QR codes or is there more to it? And what are QR codes anyway? 

Scannable technology is the interaction of a mobile device with a trigger image. Includes QR codes and augmented reality. QR codes are black and white squares and a QR code reader picks up the spaces between a qR code and is able to take users to content posted online that the creator of the QR code connected to that particular QR code.

What are the main benefits of using QR codes etc? 

One of the main benefits of QR codes is that they are free to make and can connect students to content on the web.

In what circumstances might using QR codes be better than other approaches, e.g. just going to a website?

One circumstance where using QR codes might be better than simply typing in a website as when the web URL is very long. This is especially true when working with younger students who may struggle to type in a website. Students who are using mobile devices as their primary way of looking at content posted online.

This sort of thing seems like it might take a long time to set up. Is that the case, or are there quick ways of doing it? 

QR codes are very quick and easy to set up. Have to do is find the website that you want students to visit, copy that website link, and pasted into a QR code generator.

Can non-techie teachers make good use of QR codes? 

I found that teachers that consider themselves to not be particularly tech-savvy love getting started with QR codes.

What age groups can benefit from using QR codes? 

Many age groups can benefit from using QR codes. Younger students might scan a QR code and watch a video or hear an audio prompt, older students might scan a QR code to read a website or connect to more information about a topic.

Are there any subject-based websites that have free QR-related resources? 

QR codes are really not specific to one subject. They can be used anyway teachers decide to use them across subject areas.

Can you give me some examples of how QR codes have been used to really good effect? 

One way that QR codes have been used is to connect students to differentiated resources. This when they scan the QR code they go to a website that has been handpicked for them by their teachers.

One of the problems in England is that many teachers have to teach the National Curriculum. Wouldn’t using QR codes be a distraction? 

I don't think you are codes would be a distraction at all. Just like any technology it's all about the way that you use it. You would want to make sure that students are connecting two standards related content.

Tell me about your book. In particular, is it very USA-centric? Why did you write it? 

My book is called Deeper Learning with QR Codes and Augmented Reality: A Scannable Solution for Your Classroom. It covers my 'Aces' framework for scannable technology integration and gives examples of how teachers are using it in the classroom. It is not very USA-centric-- it includes stories from all over the world and it's perfect in classrooms where there are a mix of languages or student needs.

Anything you’d like to add? 

It's been really exciting to see how teachers around the world are using both QR codes and augmented reality. One of the reasons I wrote this book was to highlight the ways that this technology, the sometimes seems like a gimmick from the outside, can really be used to promote deeper learning experiences.

This interview was first published in the Digital Education newsletter. For ed tech-related news, views, reviews, resources, discussion points, hints and tips and competitions (not necessarily all in the same issue!), subscribe now!

End note

I met Monica at the EdTechX Europe conference in June 2016. If you go to conferences and don't know what to say to people, you'll find my book useful:

Education Conferences: Teachers' guide to getting the most out of education conferences contains around 350 tips. At the time of writing this, there are five 5 star reviews of it on the Amazon UK website. To find out more, see the book's page on this website.