QR Codes in Jewish Education

By Micah Liben (originally published on the AviChai Technology Blog)

QR (short for “quick response”) Codes are those black and white squiggly squares that have been popping up in recent years on the pages of magazines, edges of brochures, sides of packaging and anywhere else marketers might choose to give consumers access to more product information.  They are similar to supermarket barcodes, but can be easily scanned without the beam of light by using a scanner on your mobile device (plus they hold more data).  As educators have sought to harness technology to enhance classroom learning, many uses and resources for utilizing QR codes in educational contexts have been disseminated (e.g. see Edutopia or Scholastic.com).  After attending the ISTE conference last summer (thanks to a grant from AviChai), I learned about some of these techniques first hand.  As I set about thinking of how QR codes could enhance my classroom, I learned that the 5th grade General Studies teacher, who had also once attended ISTE, was also working to use QR codes at school.  We shared some ideas and resources, and by the end of the year, QR codes were taking over the walls

Following are some of the ways we have made use of QR technology at KBA this past year:

·         Fun, games, and anchor activities.

o   To kick off the first day of middle school, we created a QR code scavenger hunt.  It helped acclimate students to their new iPads, gave them practice using their scanners, and included clues that were both fun and silly as well as subject-oriented.  Scanning each code took users to a website that I made (for free!) using Weebly.  For more info on how to create such a site for scavenger hunt, check outhttp://ilearntechnology.com/?p=4211.

o   I used badges on Edmodo this year to “gamify” the learning experience a bit for my 6thgraders (I learned that term at ISTE!).  For example, if they completed a Rashi assignment, they might find a “Rashi Decoder” badge the next day on their Edmodo account.  Earn 5 badges, and you move up a level…  To add to the engagement, I would place a QR code at the bottom of a worksheet, which would link to a website with the necessary information for students to complete their badge.  A bit time consuming to prepare, but worth it for the fun factor.

o   QR codes are perfect tools for giving students engaging “anchor activities” if they finish their work early during class.  This photo shows different online learning activities the 5th graders would access with via QR codes on the wall.

·         Student Presentations: Empowering students to become the teachers for a wider audience

o   After students in sixth grade learned about Mishnah and Torah Sheba’al Peh, they recorded skits introducing the history and content of those texts.  Next, we made QR codes linking to their videos, and posted the codes in the Beit Midrash where the Talmud volumes sit.  Anyone—student, faculty, parent, guest—who now enters the Beit Midrash can scan the codes to learn more about the books they see.  When they scan, the students’ skits pop up onto their device!

o   Fifth graders read a variety of books and then created iMovie reports about their favorite stories and authors.  These video reports were put online and are now accessible by simply scanning the codes on the book poster in the corridor.

o   To introduce a school-wide Author’s Night program, parents scanned QR codes when they entered the building to see unique “trailers” created by the budding authors in each grade, building excitement for students and parents alike.

·        Integrating Content

o   In our Humash class, we studied a chapter in B’midbar wherein Moshe becomes depressed as a result carrying the whole nation upon his shoulders.  His despair is so great that he asks God to take his life rather than continue the status quo.  One of the “big ideas” of our unit was that “carrying a burden in isolation can lead to desperation,” a theme that we connected to instances in our own community.  Our classroom learning led to researching a youth hotline in New Jersey for teens who need to someone to turn to.  As part of the final project, students created fliers with advice for people who were feeling depressed, and together we created our own QR codes for the fliers that link to the real youth hotline.  If anyone walking our halls is in need a place to turn, they can privately scan the QR codes for more information.  Using the QR codes helped integrate the biblical text with the students’ lives in a powerful way.

·        So how do you make a QR code?

o   There are many user-friendly QR generators online you can use, such as Kaywa.  Copy and paste the URL for the site you want to link to into the generator on Kaywa.  It does the rest for you in seconds.  You can then print the code, or save it, or paste it, and you can resize it and color it, as well.  IPads also use QR Reader apps, which can both read and make codes.  If you have a Droid, try the QR Droid reader for your phone.

Happy Scanning!

Micah Liben is Rabbi in Residence at Kellman Academy.