Using QR Codes to Reach and Engage

The strange-looking, futuristic square bar codes commonly known as Quick Response, or QR codes are seemingly sprouting up everywhere – classrooms, inside catalogs and even at conferences.

But before getting into the specifics, here’s a little history about them and how they operate. Invented in Japan in 1994, the technology didn’t receive significant attention in North America until the past several years, but has been rapidly escalating. Its recent growth coincides with the use of mobile devices by consumers, educators and students as an increasing variety of educational applications are created. Unlike a one-dimensional UPC, a QR code is a two-dimensional image (containing vastly more information) that once scanned with the appropriate software (application or app), prompts the device to open a web page, watch a video or even to make a phone call. Their use is even extending to business cards and even coins.

While there are three or four other QR formats to choose from, two of the most widely used  codes are by Kaywa ( and Microsoft (, with a growing number of widely available apps to open either at no charge.

So what do you need to do when you encounter one? First off, you need to have a mobile device such as a smartphone or tablet with a built-in camera. The next step is to download and install onto the device one of the many free code-reading apps (from the Apple App Store and other online app stores.) Open up the app and center the image within your screen, keeping a steady hand so the code can be read. It may help to have the code in evenly distributed light, or if it’s printed, make sure the image is lying flat and isn’t folded or excessively creased. While earlier software versions required a picture be taken within the app, current versions of QR codes automatically read the code and then link you to its designated web page.

Producing a QR code is practically as easy as consuming or using one since the same websites offer free “generators”. Once a code has been created, it can be used on almost any substrate or surface. QR codes have been printed into catalogs or even knit onto sweaters. There’s no restriction on how big or small they can be as long as the camera can read the code. Most codes need to be at least ½” to ¾” square and should be against a solid, light-colored background in order to be read.

To marketers of events, contests or any producer of content or thought, the appeal of QR codes is their ability to offer an additional level of engagement with a reader beyond the printed word. The opportunity to share additional stories about how Califone equipment helps teachers led us to include 35 uses of QR codes in our printed 2011 catalog. Each use of a QR code links to a unique item which enables readers to instantly learn more about a full-length case study, watch a video, read a blog or be linked to a product’s page.

The annual TCEA (Texas Computer Education Association) conference marked the first time Califone used QR codes on its exhibit walls.  for booth visitors to similarly show image of educator. QR codes have been used in NYC (and elsewhere) by printing a code and slapping it onto streetlamps or posting them onto bulletin boards to promote contests (such as this one at the 2011 Infocomm show in Orlando) or to provide more information about a subject or event.

Within classrooms, use of QR codes is growing as fast as your imagination. Some applications include interactive back-to-school night, resource links on class handouts, mobile assignment reminders, self-assessment, instant surveys and lots more.

For more information about the use of QR codes within education:

  • QR Codes gaining Critical Mass and
  • Journal of Educational Technology Development and Exchange

Or for use by businesses:



Helping teachers and students with educationally appropriate classroom AV equipment since 1947.