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How To Use QR Codes

This spring on the NDSU campus passersby may have spotted an unusual posting on the hallway bulletin boards. These little posters, like the one pictured below, featuring a single word or phrase and a cryptic, alien-looking image likely confused the majority of the campus population, especially if they saw someone in the know carefully aiming their smartphone at the weird, square image at the center of the poster.

Poster for Tale of the Lost Formicans with qr code. 

The poster above was not created by Cylons, but by the PR team for NDSU's Little Country Theater. When someone used a smartphone app to scan the image at the center of the poster, they were shown the website featuring more information about the LCT's production of "Tales of the Lost Formicans."

The image on the poster is a qr code. A qr (quick response) code is a square barcode that can contain information like a URL, text, phone number or a text message. Using a barcode scanner app on their smartphone, people can scan the qr code to access the information behind the code.

These codes can be a great way to make a connection between a print publication or a physical location  and related online information.Retailers are using qr codes in their weekly flyers to lead customers to more deals online. Qr codes have been used instead of larger, more expensive signs in public gardens and museums to lead people to detailed information about individual plants or works of art. They have even been used on grave markers in Japanese cemeteries to share additional information about the life of the deceased.

There are several sites where you can make your own qr codes for free. The QR Code Generator from the ZXing Project allows you to embed your contact information, a calendar event, an email address, a URL and other information into qr codes. Just choose the type of information you want to embed, enter your information and click "Generate." It creates a qr code that you can download as an image file (.png) and use in a printed document, attach to an email or include on a website or blog post. Here's a qr code that leads to my Twitter profile page.


If you already use the URL shortening service, you can get the qr code for any URL by adding ".qr" to the end of the shortened URL. For example, here is the URL to one of my recent blog posts, I shortened the URL to,, using To get the qr code for that URL, I just go to, right-click the qr code image displayed there and save it to my computer for use in a print document, web page or whatever.

If you want to scan qr codes with your smartphone, there are a number of apps available. I use the QuickMark QR Reader app on my Android phone (also available for iPhone). Search "qr code scanner" in your app store/market to find one that works for you.

What potential uses do you see for qr codes in cooperative extension and education?


Exciting technology! And people love their smart phones. I can see my Master Gardener group generating a QR code that will take you to our website. We'd include this on our information and plant sale flyers.

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