How can we use QR codes to promote proficiency?

My students listen to authentic audio using their cell phones.
Ever since I learned about QR codes, I've been slowly adding them to my repertoire. If I create an interpretive task based on a web resource, I make a QR code of the website using a site like this one and insert the QR code right into the worksheet, which I then distribute to my students in print form. I've also projected the QR code onto the TV or projector screen, which students scan right from their seats using a QR code scanning app on their smartphones. Lately I've been using these codes to link to audio or video resources for listening comprehension activities.

How is this better than just playing the clip myself?

For brief audiovisual resources, especially those that require close listening for comprehension, allowing students to control the playback can actually increase their understanding. Traditional practice has been for language teachers to play the resource for the whole class at once, usually two or three times, and students must demonstrate their comprehension based on just those hearings. If students can play the recording or video themselves, however, they can listen as much as they need to, or repeat certain parts many times, in order to decode the language at their own pace. Students can identify specific key words and phrases with more ease this way; they can even pick up subtleties in intonation, pronunciation and accent.

I can hear a former colleague of mine in my head saying, in an exasperated tone, "But when they're hearing language spoken by a native speaker in the real world, they won't be able to 'play back' what they hear ten times." Maybe not. But for novice learners, learning to decipher speech delivered at a natural rate by breaking down complex sentences into comprehensible words and phrases is a skill essential to developing fluency. What better way to prepare for real-world interactions than to listen to real-world speech over and over again until you understand its meaning?

Here are some examples of activities that I created for my students this year:
AudioLingua, Spanish Listening, and Zambombazo have all been helpful resources for finding authentic audiovisual resources. 

One thing I've noticed since I've started presenting authentic audiovisual resources in this way is that students ask more specific questions about vocabulary. "Are chambelanes like escorts?" one student asked after listening to the Quinceañera recording. "I don't know what articulaciones are, but I'm writing it down because I know that's what hurts. Is that ok?" another student asked after listening to one of the Medicinas audio selections. I never got questions like that before; the audio would move too quickly for many students to pick out new words, and opportunities to acquire non-essential vocabulary were missed. 

I like this way of doing listening comprehension so much that I put QR codes linked to audio files on the midterm exams, and in the second semester I'm going to have all students bring headphones to class every day so that we can integrate more listening activities.

How do you use QR codes to promote proficiency?


  1. Hi there! Thanks for the mention in your blog. This is a great post! I am inspired to use the authentic audio I find in a new way now. Thanks!

  2. Great ideas! I worry about students using their devices as an aid to look up words when, perhaps, they shouldn't be. Have you run into that problem?

    1. Hi Sarah! Thanks for reading. My general policy on looking up words is: if it's not a formal assessment, it's okay, particularly for a reading or listening comprehension task. I also guide students to use cognates or context clues so that they don't have to look up words. I am also vigilant in class, checking in with students constantly so I can intervene when necessary. So far I have not encountered any problems, I think because students understand my expectations. Hope this answers your question.


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