What do do with a QR code once you’ve created one

Following on from my post on How to create a QR code here’s the logical extension of that – what to do with one. Feel free to add suggestions in the comments or ping me on Twitter (@JoBrodie).

QR codes are a square barcode-like picture which can be scanned by the camera in a smartphone to open a document or web page. A QR code is a “machine-readable optical label that contains information about the item to which it is attached”. They are also known as 2D barcodes and look like this – it’s a “link you can click on in real life“.

QR_code_for_mobile_English_Wikipedia.svg.pngQR code for the URL of the English Wikipedia Mobile main page

I’ve only ever used QR codes that point to websites, but that could include YouTube videos or links to Word or PDF documents, or surveys etc.

Table of Contents

  1. QR scanners for your phone
  2. Example of using QR codes at an event to collect survey data
  3. Classroom use
  4. Teaching staff use
  5. Research posters
  6. Marketing for events
  7. Museums
  8. Language learning / supermarkets
  9. Downsides, or things to be aware of
  10. Dynamic QR codes and short URLs

1. QR scanners for your phone

I have several QR code scanners on my phone – I think they were all free: Scan-Life (it just opens the page so watch out if you’re not sure about the page), Kaspersky’s QR Scanner and RedLaser. They all also scan supermarket barcodes, though unless the product is listed in its library the scanner doesn’t really know what to do with them.

2. Example of using QR codes at an event to collect survey data
A recent example from my work with computer science teachers: we’ve just had our annual conference for teachers supported by Computing At School (CAS) London and we wanted to find out what the delegates thought of the sessions and conference overall. At the final plenary we included massive QR codes on the slides (and a short link written in full for those sitting in the audience without QR-enabled phones) and people were able to point and click, or type the address, and complete the short survey there and then.
Pro-tip: if you want to compare use of QR codes with typing in (short) links, create two short links (one for each) that point to the same page.

3. Classroom use

Eleni Kyritsis has used QR codes cubes, each side posing a different question, to encourage her pupils to reflect on their learning (there’s a template on her page).

I also asked my primary school teacher chum Jane for her thoughts on the use of QR codes in primary classrooms and, paraphrasing, she said…

“One of the requirements in early education is to be creative with computing (not just programming) and for us to get kids using tech and building up their IT skills through fun activites (if it is not fun it does not happen – or at least not without huge disruption and pain).

QR codes are used in all sorts of ways.

We can make interactive displays (we LOVE displays of children’s work – gives the children an audience/purpose and better motivation/quality of work) – so children create little presentations as well as a piece of artwork or writing – so they are augmenting their physical artefacts with e-artefacts – they make a QR code and put it next to their work and then peers and other year groups (and visitors) use their mobile device (which many primary schools have a small batch of) and the viewer can access this other piece of work.

Interactive displays are also used by teachers to create displays that teach, so you might have a display about volcanos – that also has a link to a website or presentation etc..

QR codes are used for differentiation (this tends to be for schools where they have class sets of mobile devices) so if I have 3 core ‘sets’ High ability/ Middle/ developing plus a couple of children with special educational needs or who speak English as an additional language then I create a differentiated task for the lesson – and rather than photocopying the task – they scan the red QR code, blue QR code etc…

QR codes are used for assessment – this is getting to be a very popular idea. Kids are each given their own QR code as a little laminated square – with their photo on the back and say a colour on each edge of the QR code so red can be top, blue can be top, yellow can be top or numbers can be used 1,2,3 4 for orientation. The orientation of the QR code – gives a up to 4 different answers from a pupil. So you have 30 little mites all sitting on the carpet, or at tables if a bit bigger mites…. and you ask what is the correct spelling for the word (say a word) and show 4 spellings marked 1,2,3,4 They all show the relevant bit of their card. You use your mobile device hooked up to some app – can’t remember the name and it instantly records who got it right/wrong and what the wrong answers were. We are big into this kind of fast formative assessment. Normally we used whiteboards – but this captures the data longer term and is more accurate than scanning by eye.

Primary teachers are very creative and you never quite know what they get up to make their classroom more interesting, teach concepts in quirky fun ways or just help them work quicker and smarter.”

4. Teaching staff use 
This post highlights a kind of game which encouraged teachers to share useful resources with one another while also getting them using QR codes and getting a sense of how they might use them in their classrooms. There’s a picture of a QR code on the blog, so I scanned it and a message came up which said “10. Find and share a parent communication resource” – they used GoQR.me to do this.

5. Research posters
A QR code pointing to a web page containing your contact details, publications, PDF of the poster and whatever else might be useful would seem quite handy. Don’t forget that you can update the page during or after the conference too. Marianne’s using them on research posters to point people to a short video about cancer research.

6. Marketing for events
You can play around with different sizes – smaller QR codes on an A5 flyer work fine (you can test before printing by pointing a QR-enabled phone at your onscreen code with the document sized at 100%).

7. Museums
Museums are adding QR codes to some of their exhibits which take visitors to a page with additional information. The Broolyn Museum is doing some interesting stuff in this area. QR codes should never replace the normal text-based information of course. If you’re adding QR codes can I recommend sending someone round to check them periodically – if the link dies it’s a bit disappointing. See bit on dynamic QR codes below.

8. Language learning / supermarkets
Multi-language shopping labels: a Canadian supermarket gave customers a device which pronounced the names for various products in the indigenous language – Grocery stores bring Indigenous languages to the aisles

It would be quite handy if a supermarket used QR codes for “how do I cook and eat this obscure looking vegetable” (I’ve got no idea what celeriac is for) or gave recipe ideas.

9. Downsides, or things to be aware of
QR codes are not intuitive and people often need to be shown how to use them, and what the point of them is. If the technology (eg wifi) doesn’t work then have a back up plan. In most cases they should never replace other text-based instructions but only be used to augment.

Just like clicking on a link that ends up taking you to a dodgy site be careful what QR codes you ‘bip’. If in doubt use RedLaser or QR Scanner instead of Scan-Life because they tell you what the page is going to be.

Dynamic QR codes and short URLs
You can create a single QR code and change the link that it goes to by having an intermediary link which then redirects it. That service is available from QRstuff.com and they have a very good page explaining what it’s for and how it works. I generally create static QR codes (can’t change what it points to) as it suits my purposes.

You can create a QR code based on a full length website link, or on a shortened link that points to it (I use Bit.ly and log in with Twitter so that I can customise the links). If you want to compare visits to a page from QR codes or from some other method (eg typing the address in, or via social media) you can create multiple aliases in Bit.ly and have one link for your QR code and one written out and can compare which is used more.

See How to create a QR code as well.



Why do I block accounts on Twitter? What’s the point?

by @JoBrodie, originally posted on my main ‘Stuff that occurs to me‘ blog

I spent about 18 months periodically answering questions on Twitter from people asking if people you’d blocked can still see your tweets. The answer is always ‘yes’ and that hasn’t changed. These questions were posed around the time when Twitter made quite a few changes to the way the block appeared to work, but the actual effect was very dependent on the app that you use to view Twitter.

If you try and view the tweets of someone that’s blocked you from an official Twitter app (eg Twitter for iPhone) you won’t manage it and it looks like the block is much stronger. But if you view on a third party app (Echofon for iPhone, Fenix for Android, Dabr for desktop) then you can see and reply to their tweets. And they can do the same to yours. So the block is app-dependent and doesn’t stop anyone from being able to see anyone else’s tweets. Plus everyone can log out and view them anyway.

So why block?

Keeping your follower list tidy / minimising pointless Notifications
This is the number one reason I block people (often reporting as spam before blocking them). Since I began using Twitter in 2008 I have regularly pruned the list of people that are following me or that interact with my tweets.

Everyone experiences phases when bots or fake accounts start interacting with your account. Sometimes they’ll follow, but more commonly they’ll favourite a tweet. This gets your attention in a fairly low-key way but it’s annoying (notifications!) and I think it’s important to report as spam and block so that Twitter can remove them. I know this can work because often (not always) when I check back later the account’s been suspended.

Sometimes these accounts look extremely convincing at first glance but if you begin to see a lot of them you soon recognise their characteristics.



Incidentally I reported both those particular accounts for spam and blocked them but they’re still there so Twitter disagrees with me (they are spam accounts but easily pass under the radar. One’s not tweeted since April, the other not since July).

Once I posted something fairly innocuous about Afrezza (an inhaled insulin for people with diabetes) and began to notice unusual behaviour on the tweet and replies. They were being favourited and retweeted far more frequently than was warranted so I ended up blocking everyone involved just for some peace and quiet. It seemed to be some weird targetted thing where these accounts tried to boost anything Afrezza related.

Note ‘egg-avi’ means having an egg for the account’s avatar / picture – while it’s not a guarantee that an account is spam it’s certainly a marker for it.

I’ve blocked (often pre-emptively) all of the Right Relevance accounts (there are hundreds of them). They favourite or RT your tweets if you mention a particular word that the bot is monitoring so you can end up with lots of tedious notifications (only on Twitter, I switched off the email thing years ago!). I consider them to be spam but they do provide a service of sorts, boosting tweets about a particular topic, which you may find useful.

Some accounts retweet genuine tweets, though never post anything of their own. I have developed various

Here are accounts that I block and / or report for spam pretty much automatically

  • Egg avatar plus a name with a random string of alphanumerics
  • Accounts that only retweet tweets, never post their own content
  • Accounts that follow 100 celebrities and me, or follow hundreds of people all called Jo
  • Businesses who sell ‘widgets’ who follow me after I’ve posted an unrelated tweet mentioning widgets

Herd immunity
Although blocking someone doesn’t stop them from viewing your tweets it does make it much harder for them to see who you’re following and who’s following you, so blocking a spammer in this way stops them following others in your lists.

Blocking someone means you don’t have to see their tweets if you don’t want to
They won’t be delivered to your timeline or mentions (in some cases you might see them if someone you follow retweets them). Muting actually does the same thing (if you don’t follow them) and it has the added bonus of them not realising as they can still see your tweets. I think people use muting as a sort of fun passive-aggressive block.

Blocking someone stops them seeing your tweets
No, it doesn’t – they can log out, use a spare account or a third party app. This is a bad reason.

Can you stop someone from seeing your tweets?

No. Well, only if your account is private (ie you’ve protected your tweets so that only confirmed followers can view them). Remember that public tweets sent in reply to your private ones are visible and may give information away about what you’re doing or what you’ve said.

Blocking someone cannot stop them from viewing your tweets if your account is public, there are many workarounds for them to view your tweets.

If you’re using official Twitter apps such as Twitter for desktop or Twitter for iPhone etc then it will look like you can’t see the tweets of someone who’s blocked you (from which you might reasonably infer that a blockee can’t see your tweets either) – but you can and they can.

Workarounds including using a different app (the versions of Echofon, Janetter and Osfoora that I have on my iPhone let me see the profiles of quacks who’ve blocked me), searching for the username (eg they’d type from:yourname into the search box to see your tweets), using another account, logging out or searching for your Twitter handle on Google.

Further reading

What happens when you block someone? Can someone still see your tweets? see tweets blocked