February 12, 2013

Using QR Codes In Physical Education

One of the first uses of technology in education that blew my mind was a math sheet that Jarrod Robinson (@mrrobbo) blogged about on his site. Below is an example of one of these math sheets that I recreated last year for a teacher at my school.

The idea was that a student could scan the QR code if they were having difficulty understanding the problem (try it!) This would bring the student to a YouTube video of the teacher explaining the problem.Like I said, my mind was blown.I soon started wondering how this could be applied to Physical Education. This pondering eventually led to me creating the QR Sport Skill Posters you can find on this site (which, to this day, I still find pretty cool).

Physical Education poster featuring a breakdown of the forearm pass skill in volleyball.

All this to say that QR codes are pretty awesome, and there are a lot of different ways of using them in #physed. For example:

1. QR Code Geocaching

Brendan Jones (@jonesytheteachr) wrote a blog post back in 2011 about how he (with the help of some students) set up a geocaching activity for the school using QR codes. Although Brendan went the high tech route by creating his own wireless network and WordPress server, this idea has been used by other teachers as well.

Students start the activity by scanning the first code which links them to a page with hints as to where to find the next cache. Once they figure out the cache’s location, they find another QR code there which they can scan to keep moving through the activity (the goal is to find all the caches). I remember Jordan McFarlen (@mcfarljo) blogging about how he included fitness tasks at each cache to increase students’ activity levels (he called this “fitness caching”).

With greater access to WiFi on school grounds, and with even more actions that you can link QR codes to, I think that QR code geocaching is definitively something you should look into trying out in you physical education program.

2. QR Code Agility Ladders

Matt Pomeroy (@PhysEd_Pomeroy) and Blue Jay Bridge (@MrBridge204) got together last year to create a QR code-based agility ladder resource. The resource provided over 50 agility ladder drills, along with QR codes that linked to YouTube video demonstrations for each drill.

This was a great way of adding choice to your PE lesson without losing out on too much activity time (since you don’t have to explain each drill yourself).

3. QR Code Fitness Equipment

Krista Smeltzer (@kristasmeltzer), decided to make it easier for her students to understand how to properly use the fitness equipment by adding a QR code to each machine. Each machine’s code linked to explanations on how to use that machine and how many set/reps you should be doing based on your training goals.

Pretty cool idea on how to help the teacher be “everywhere” during class.

4. QR Code Skeleton Challenge

The last example I want to share with you here is one that Jarrod Robinson (@mrrobbo) created a while back and just shared recently with a teacher looking to make the skeletons in his anatomy class a little more interactive.

Jarrod created a set of QR codes that each simply linked to a bone name. The idea is that you could place the QR codes on the skeleton, have students try to name each bone, and then allow students to scan the codes to check their answers.

These are just a few examples of how #physed teachers are using QR codes in their classes, and there are many other great ideas out there.

Create Your Own QR Code Project

So where to get started with a QR code project for your physical education program? Here are some tips:

1. Define your project

Before you get started with your QR code project, ask yourself why you’re doing this in the first place. It’s really easy to get caught up in cool ideas and forget about why we want in the first place: to increase student learning/engagement in PE. Make sure that whatever you’re planning on getting done with QR codes will help increase student learning, not get in the way of it.

2. Get to know your WiFi

There is nothing worse than putting in the time and effort to get a QR code project up and running only to have it crash and burn due to WiFi issues. Take the time to get to know your WiFi. Where is it strongest in your gym? Where is it weakest? When is it strongest in your gym? When is it weakest (e.g. the network at my school usually slows down around lunch since so many students from neighbouring high school connect to it as soon as they get out of class)?

3. Set up your devices

Make sure that the devices you plan on using to scan the QR codes are actually equipped with a) a working camera and b) a QR code scanner app (I recommend Scan). Side note: if you don’t have a budget for mobile devices for your PE program, think outside the box. See if you can get a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) program going at your school. If that doesn’t work, why not reach out to your school’s community and see if they have any old mobile devices they would be willing to donate? Even though that old, retired Blackberry might not have access to 3G anymore, it can still connect to WiFi.

4. Host your content online

So to have your QR codes actually work, they need to link to something online. This is easy if the content you’re linking to is already online (e.g. a YouTube video), but what about everything else? My “go to” solution is to use Dropbox. Simply drop whatever file it is you want your QR code to eventually link to into a Dropbox folder and grab the public Dropbox link to that file (to do this, in Dropbox, click “Share Link” and then “Get Link”). You’ll be using that link soon, so don’t lose it!

5. Create your QR code

Although QR codes look complicated, they’re actually really easy to make. First, you need to find a good QR code generator. I use The QR Code Generator to create all of my QR codes. Creating a QR Code with QR Code Generator is simple:

Step One: Go to

Step Two: Select “URL” from the options provided.

Step Three: Paste the URL of the content you want to link to (this could be the Dropbox link you grabbed earlier

Step Four: Select “Shorten URL” (this will help make your code easier to scan)

Step Five:. Name your code and click “Save”

Step Six: Using your code

Now that you’ve downloaded your code, you can use it however you like! Print it out, paste it into a document, the options are endless!

Step Seven:. Always, always, have a backup plan

As exciting as it is that you’re ready to start your QR code project in your PE classes, remember that there is nothing worse than having it all crash and burn on you for whatever reason. Networks slow down, some content is not available on mobile (watch out for YouTube videos! I got caught this way), things happen. A good way to prevent this happening to you is to have an offline workaround ready to go in case your QR codes suddenly don’t work. I usually have the content on my school’s iPad’s Google Drive and have starred the content in advance so that it’s available for offline viewing. It might be annoying to have to tell your students “Ok, everyone. Open Google Drive and then click here, here, here, here, not there, and here”, but it sure is a lot better than having to drop a lesson because of technical issues.

Hopefully this post will help you get a QR code project going at your school. With a little out-of-the-box thinking, there’s lots of projects that can be done with these little scannable square.

How do you use (or would use) QR codes in your #physed program? I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments below.

Thanks for reading!

Joey Feith
Joey Feith is a physical education teacher based out of Nova Scotia and the founder of
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