Van Meter Elementary students use QR codes in learning During library and technology time throughout the week, students at Van Meter Elementary School in Iowa take their devices and scan QR codes to go directly to various websites. Van Meter Library Voice

At one school just 20 miles west of Des Moines, Iowa, the old book reports and printed newsletters are getting a digital makeover -- with the help of QR codes.

Instead of just having to write about a book they read, fifth-grade students in Van Meter Community School are given a choice: They can either write or talk about the book. For students who choose the latter, they record their talk with Camtasia Relay, create a URL that points to the book talk and post QR codes on bulletin boards in the hallway that link to their projects.

And this past year, fourth grade students worked on an expository writing project that involved creating an online newsletter with the Smore app about a person they studied. One student chose to write about Ernie Davis, a college football player who died of leukemia at age 23. With the URL to his newsletter, he created a QR code using Visualead, which allowed him to use a real image of Ernie Davis with the QR code.

Along with these two projects, the school library has used QR codes to introduce students to new e-books and digital resources that are housed in the platform MackinVIA. And scavenger hunts with these QR codes help students interact with different elements of the book.

"It gets them really excited about engaging, not just with what they're learning about, but with the other people in their class when they're doing maybe a scavenger hunt or when they're out at the board scanning other people's work," said Shannon McClintock Miller, district teacher librarian and technology integration specialist at Van Meter Community School.

Once students have finished reading a book, they might make a video trailer for it or do a different more creative project related to the book -- that other students can see by accessing them via a QR code.

By trying different technology tools such as QR codes, educators can help engage students, get them excited about learning and help them collaborate with others.

"We have a lot of technology at Van Meter, but it's not about per se the tools that we have," McClintock Miller said. "It's about the way that we're using them and that we're thinking differently, and that we are engaging our kids, giving them choices and letting them be heard through their creativity and their own voice."

Tanya Roscorla  |  Managing Editor, CDE

Tanya Roscorla covers education technology in the classroom, behind the scenes and on the legislative agenda. Likes: Experimenting in the kitchen, cooking up cool crafts, reading good books.