All About QR Codes

QR Code Parents

This QR code leads to a digital parenting wiki site that my colleagues and I created.

QR Codes. You’ve probably seen them around — on everything from cereal boxes to magazines to advertising banners on the bus or in the subway.

QR is short for quick resource code (QR code), the scannable geometric-looking design that connects a person via smartphone to digital information such as an e-mail site, a video, a website, or even a telephone number. QR codes are similar to bar codes, but the QR image contains far more encoded information — thousands of times more, in fact. Learn more about QR codes at the Common Craft video tutorial site.

A QR code is essentially a shortcut that leads to digitized information. It might be, for instance, at the end of a book chapter, linking the reader to more content on a topic, or on a billboard. It could link conference attendees to a workshop handout or schedule.     

The screen of a QR reader.

The screen of a QR reader.

To read a QR code, a person opens a scanning app, or QR reader, on a smartphone and aims the scanner at the QR code. The app functions as a combination camera and scanner. It scans the image and quickly links the user’s smartphone user to the site.

Many free QR code reading apps are available for downloading on iPhone and Android smartphones as well as BlackBerry phones. On my phone I have installed QR Reader for iPhone. The app is also available for Android.

When I see a code that I want to “read,” I open the app on my phone, point my phone at the image, and then adjust the camera’s position until the QR code is within the bracketed corners. Once QR Reader frames the image inside the brackets, the app automatically scans it and connects my phone to the information. Check out the screen image of my QR reader app (above right).

FAQPqrcode.12562026

Read this to visit a QR code FAQ.

Anyone can make a QR code and use it to direct others to digital information. Simply copy the URL (the web address where the information lives) and paste it into a QR code generator. A generator that I’ve used is QRStuff.com, but there are plenty of others.

To make a brand new code I used the website address for an FAQ on QR codes. I put the address into QRSstuff.com and generated the QR image on the left — a shortcut that leads to the FAQ. QRStuff also lets a user pick a color for the coded image.

Quick resource codes are everywhere, and they are becoming more common. In Boston this week I counted the QR images that I could see from my subway car seat during one ride — seven. More interestingly in the short train ride between North Station and Copley Square, five stops if I recall correctly, I observed three people aiming their smartphones at the QR images.

This post generated some questions so I’ve written a short FAQ addendum.

2 thoughts on “All About QR Codes

  1. This overview is very helpful — with lots of practical how-to (and I for one had no idea how to access the information). What you don’t say is how useful or appropriate these links tend to be for kids. Assuming the technology works as intended and the device is quickly linked to the right page, there are lots of questions that I have as a parent trying to help my kids be good digital citizens, including:
    * are these sites loaded with ads (of course, most are ads themselves)?
    * can scams or “mature audience” sites reach out to users through QR codes?
    * are there any parental controls or is this an app we want children up to age X to avoid?
    Thanks for any additional guidance.

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