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QR Code Generators

A number of people have asked me recently about QR (Quick Response) codes. QR codes are those square, blocky looking barcodes that are seemingly everywhere these days. They can be read by mobile phones and tablets and can store website URLs, wifi network credentials, email addresses, calendar event information, preset text messages, and more.

They have many applications in education. You can have students scan a QR code using an iPad to visit a website instead of asking them to type in the URL. When giving an assignment, you can link to examples of quality student work. During Open House, you can use QR codes to identify the student creator of a “Who Am I” project? Add QR codes to book covers that link to student audio or video reviews of the book. Make scavenger hunts for your students or, even better, have them make scavenger hunts for each other or other classrooms. Create a QR code that brings up a text message for parents/students to use when subscribing to services like Remind (Thanks, David Bayne, for that idea). You are limited only by your imagination.

QR codes are easy to make. You can create them for free on many different websites. Whichever generator you choose, you will need to download and save or copy your QR code in order to use it. The QR codes below link back to this website and were generated by some of my favorite sites. I think it is interesting that they all look different, yet link to the same place.

  • Google’s short URL creator also gives you QR codes that link to websites. Simply visit, paste in the link to the webpage and click Shorten URL. The shortened URL appears on the right of your screen. Click the Details link underneath and you will see your QR code. If you use Chrome, you can install ShortenMe or another extension to generate a QR code through for any webpage without leaving that webpage.
    Pros: Google Analytics, Chrome extensions
    Cons: Can only be used with webpages

  • Via This site is very easy to use and allows you to create codes for a huge variety of uses. Just select the type of content the QR will link to, then fill in the blanks, set your color (yes, you can make colored QR codes!), and preview your code. When you are satisfied with the color, download the code by clicking the download button. The site is a little more cluttered than the others mentioned here, but it is still easy to use.
    Pros: Colored QR codes, ease of use, one click download
    Cons: Students may choose colors that do not provide enough contrast and the resulting QR code will not work

  • QR Code
    QR Code Generator

    QR Code Generator: This site provides a limited number of options for the contents of the QR code (text, URL, contact, phone number, or SMS), but it offers several choices for the resulting image. You can set the size you want, and you also have option of copying embed code or a direct link to the image instead of downloading and saving if you prefer. Students like seeing the code change as each character of the input is typed.
    Pros: Ease of use, choice of output
    Cons: Limited input sources

  • qr code This is another site that allows you to make colored QR codes and see the barcode change as you enter information. The layout of the page is very clean and straightforward, so it simple to use. It works with a wide variety of input types and the generated code can be downloaded in a number of formats, or you can copy and paste the direct link or embed code for the image.
    Pro: Colored QR codes, ease of use, adjustable size
    Con: Possibility of QR codes not working due to low contrast color choice

Thank you to Lisa Nowakowski for recommending

If you have a great way of using QR codes with students, please share in the comments.


Teach Image Citation with Padlet

Our students need to be able to find, use, and cite copyright-friendly images in their projects. You can use Padlet, a free, online bulletin board, to help them learn how to do this.

Depending on the age of the students, you can modify the requirements for citing the images you find. Ideally, you should include the following (or as many of them as you can find for your image):

  • Title of the image
  • Author
  • Source
  • License (Creative Commons type, note that the image is public domain, or a statement that the image is used with permission)
The example below was created by 3rd grade students. They were only instructed to include the photographer’s name below their own. Older students would of course be asked to include more complete information and follow a stricter format.

Lesson steps:

  1. Before the lesson, create a Padlet wall where the information will be posted.
  2. Discuss the importance of citing sources for anything students have not created themselves. Explain the citation format you want students to use.
  3. Instruct students to find an image by using This will ensure that any media they find should be licensed for reuse. The students doing the project above looked for landforms and the natural environment.
  4. Students copy the image url.
  5. On the Padlet wall, students double click to add a note. They paste in the url and add the citation information.

Although it seems fairly basic, this lesson packs in many skills.

  • Digital literacy and digital citizenship
    • How to find and cite images licensed for reuse and why it it important to cite your sources; while we didn’t do a full citation, we did lay the groundwork for future lessons
    • Identifying the author, title, and license information for an online image
    • Safeguarding personal privacy by only including their first name on the image
  • Technology skills
    • Copying and pasting (new to most of the 3rd graders)
    • Control+click to find the image url
    • Sharing work using an online tool like Padlet
  • Collaboration
    • Early finishers helped peers to find and post their images on the wall

The students participating in this lesson enjoyed it so much they asked if they could do it again next time they were in the lab. If their teacher agrees, I am up for it.

For more specific information about image citation, see this page on the Creative Commons wiki.

This post originally appeared in a shorter form on the LVUSD Forward Learning Resources blog.

Do You Tackk?

Recently, I discovered Tackk, a new way to post and share content online. It allows you to create an attractive one-page design that can incorporate content from over 250 online sources, including ThingLink (as in my example below), YouTube, Vimeo, Twitter, SlideShare, Google Maps, Prezi, and more. You do not need to create an account, but if you don’t, your Tackk will be deleted after a week.

(Scroll down to see the full Tackk.)

I have found Tackk to be very easy to use with many options to customize your work so you can get your Tackk to look just the way you want it. You can also turn the ability to comment on or off. One feature I especially like is that Tackk has partnered with 500px. If you need to add a photo to your Tackk, you can search 500px and the photo credit will be automatically added to your Tackk.

Applications for education: You could use Tackk to present content, give assignments (as in my example), but even better, you could have students create their own Tackks as evidence of learning. For example, students could each create ThingLink to examine various aspects of a problem and then combine them into one Tackk to provide an overview of the issue. You can create Tackkboards (collections of Tackks) for your students to post their content.

A Picture is Worth 1,000 Words: Google Drawing

If you have already made the switch to Google Apps, you have probably been experimenting with the Big 3: Docs, Spreadsheets, and Presentations. These are all great tools that support creativity, critical thinking, communication, and collaboration, but have you ever taken a look at Google Drawing? It’s one of the best tools you probably never knew you had. Hidden away from view, it is easily accessed with one click of the Create button in your Google Drive.

Google Drive create button

Working with Google Drawing is easy. You can add shapes (hold down the shift key for perfect circles or squares), arrows, lines, text boxes, and tables. Images can be uploaded from your computer, added via snapshot, or linked from the web. If you need to search for an image, Google Drawing has you covered. Just click Insert > Image, choose Search and you can select from copyright-friendly image results from Google Search, the LIFE Photo Archive, or stock images (these have some restrictions when used outside of Google Drive, so proceed with caution).

Once you have created your drawing, there are many ways you can use it in your classroom. For example, you can make seating charts or create content to use with students, such as KWL charts, math drawings, or virtual manipulatives. Even better, have your students use it to make any number of products, such as word webs, timelines, comic strips, or graphic organizers. In fact, there are so many ways to use Google Drawing, we have added a new page to the LVUSD Teaching with Google Apps website. Want to learn more? Visit the Google Drawing page.

This entry was cross-posted on the LVUSD Ed Tech Blog.

Tagul: Amazing Word Clouds

Although it isn’t a new service, I have just discovered a tag cloud generator called Tagul, and I have to say that I love it! You may be familiar with Wordle, Tagxedo, or WordItOut, which are all very good sites (although I have been having some technical issues with Wordle lately), but if you haven’t yet come across Tagul in your internet meanderings, I encourage you to head over as soon as you finish reading this post.

Two of the things that set Tagul apart are the ease with which you can incorporate custom colors and shapes as well as the ability to link the tags in your cloud to different pages. I used the coffee cup image from the front of my website, added the text of the About Me section, and set it up so the PLAYDATE tag linked to the PLAYDATE L. A. website. It only took me a few minutes and I am very pleased by the results. Hover over the graphic to see how it works.

Tagul has several other noteworthy features. You can put words inside other words, customize your fonts (even for individual words within the cloud), export your image as a scalable vector graphic, and specify final image size, among others. Like most of my other favorite sites, it’s free, although it requires users to register with an email address.

There are many ways to use tag clouds in the classroom. Use them to highlight key words and concepts in passages from literature or famous speeches. Create two clouds using primary source document accounts of the same historic event written from different perspectives and compare them. Create custom images for report covers or website headers. (Check out this one here; it’s my first effort, but I’m pretty proud of it!) If you have another great idea, please share in the comments.

Mystery Skype (or Mystery fill-in-the-videoconferencing tool)

My 4th grade team is about to embark on their first Mystery Skype. If you are not familiar with Mystery Skype, I will tell you that it is an excellent way for students to connect with learners in other classrooms. Basically, a Mystery Skype is when you use Skype (or Google Hangouts or whatever videoconferencing tool is available to you) to contact another classroom and neither class knows where the other is located. Students take turns asking the kids in the other class yes or no questions to try and figure out where the other class is located. Mystery Skypes are great fun, involve the whole class, and get students working collaboratively and thinking critically. Although there is some prep involved, especially before the first time you do it, as you explain to the students what they will be doing, the actual call goes fairly quickly, about 20-30 minutes.

Once you have the system down, less prep is needed. Students soon learn what to ask to pinpoint the location of the other class. They will also learn how to use geographic vocabulary, how to work with students of other cultures, and their collaboration skills will improve.

Here is a very brief list of some Mystery Skype resources. There are many more out there. I also highly recommend Twitter if you are looking for a classroom to connect with.

When are we gonna do that again? by Craig Badura
4th grade Mystery Skype sign up page
So you want to do Mystery Skype? by Pernille Ripp
Skype jobs video and chart
Edudemic: 5 amazing ways to collaborate with another class
Mystery Skype page from
Mystery Skypes

One great hint I learned from Holly Clark at CUE Rockstar Solana Beach: When doing a Mystery Skype, make sure your classroom flag is not visible to the other class. It narrows down the country pretty quickly!

12 Ways to Use Twitter in the Elementary Classroom

I recently completed a short course on Twitter for Professional Development. For my final assignment, I created a plan for conducting sessions on Twitter for the teachers at my school site. As part of the assignment, I created this graphic using Google Drawings. The professor liked it so much, he asked if he could add it to the course resources. Of course, I said yes, and also decided that if he liked it enough to share it, I should too. You can do the same.

Twitter for elementary

Click to see a full-size version.

ThingLink Interactive Images

ThingLink image

A number of people mentioned to me during last night’s #CAedChat that they would like to see a blog post about ThingLink interactive images and their use in the classroom, so here goes.

ThingLink allows you to add tags to an image which viewers can click on to access text you have added or online material such as websites, images, sounds, videos, and more. This tool can be accessed on the web at, and there is also an iOS app. It is free to create an account and teachers can request an educator upgrade which lets you store an unlimited number of images on the ThingLink site. Your tagged images can be shared and embedded wherever you wish.

I have found ThingLink to be very versatile and easy to use. You start by uploading an image from your computer (e.g., a photo you have taken, an image created with drawing software, or a scanned file) or by linking to an image on the web. Then you add tags to the online content you want to appear on your image. When the viewer moves the cursor over the image, the links appear and are clickable.

Teachers can use it to present content in an engaging, interactive way. Students can create images that support learning at all levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy. Whether they are labeling the parts of a flower, creating a graphic comparing and contrasting two types of sculpture, adding content to a map or timeline, or creating their digital selves, students will be on task and learning (although I can’t promise they will be quiet; the enthusiasm is definitely audible).

ThingLink can also be a starting point for a discussion on digital citizenship. Many students want to dive headfirst into Google Images when they start a project like this, but we can take this opportunity to teach them about Creative Commons licensing and all the excellent resources that are available to them to use, such as Pixabay.comWikimedia Commons, and the Creative Commons section on

ThingLink supports many of the Common Core State Standards, in particular CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.6 Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others and CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.8 Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism. However, depending on what students add to their ThingLink image, it can also support several of the other standards.

Here are some images on the California missions and the 1849 Gold Rush my 4th grade students created using ThingLink. This was the first time I had used ThingLink with students, and I should have had them all send me a link to their images so I could embed them, but I didn’t realize that until too late. In order to get them on the page in a timely fashion, I touched the images (similar to “liking” on Facebook) and they appeared in my stream. One feature I would love to see in the Educator account would be the ability to manage student accounts and publish their images as a class, but I am sure they are working on that. Until then, I will use a Google form to collect the image link from each student for future projects.

ThingLink Toolkit for Educators

Richard Byrne’s 26+ Ways to Use ThingLink in the Classroom

Resources I provided for my students


If you have creative ideas on how to use ThingLink, please share them in the comments below.