Home » voice » How to use Quick Response codes to bring those who fought and died in the First World War alive.

How to use Quick Response codes to bring those who fought and died in the First World War alive.

Leveraging mobile technologies to bring the First World War alive.

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                                                                             ©  J F Vernon (2014)   

Fig. 1. A ‘mash-up’ featuring a 1917 cutting from the Consett Gazette recognizing the award to John Arthur Wilson of the Military Medal, with ‘Jack’ placing a poppy at the Tyn Cot memorial to the missing 75 years later.

The problem with war memorials is that those named on them risk becoming forgotten words on a list.  By using the affordances of the ‘read, write’ and connected Web we can find out who these people were and where they lived: we can try to put a face to the name and a story to the name and then we can share what we find and let others know by creating a unique ‘quick response’ code (QR code) which links to specific content and then wear this QR Code on our commemoration poppy. I liken QR codes to using your phone as a remote control to click to a TV channel. You point a smartphone, or tablet at the QR code to read it and go instantly, pretty much, to a web page.

There are more than 54,000 war memorials in Great Britain, most of these put up after the First World War; there is barely a community without one. Significant interest already exists, especially as we approach the centenary of the First World War making this initiative a potentially easy one to add to what is already taking place.

Quick Response codes are fast, they are free and their potential in learning has yet to be realised.

Communicating the connection between a QR code, information online and a name on a roll of honour for the First World War.©  J F Vernon (2014)

Fig. 2. A ‘mash-up’ featuring a Poppy on the National Maritime Memorial, Tower Hill, a frame from the interactive webpage ‘The First Day at Gallipoli’ and a screengrab of the blog ‘That’s Nothing Compared to Passchendaele’.

Worn in this way, featured in the centre of your commemoration poppy you can share directly with others the person whose life you wish to remember. People will ask what the QR code means, so as well as directing people to the content online by using their smartphone, you can also suggest that they too ‘adopt’ a name from a war memorial and do the same thing.

Where QR codes have been successful is in targeted learning experiences in schools (Tucker, 2011; Gradel & Edson, 2012), where the affordances of the QR code have been exploited to form part of an engaging, constructive and collective learning experience.  QR codes work where participants are ‘equipped’, and where they can take an active role, such as in ‘on the spot’ surveys or quizzes, where they are prompted into cooperative learning and where timely ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ are given. (Awano, 2007: Information Standards Committee 2008; So 2008; Robinson, 2010; Hicks & Sinkinson, 2011; Ryerson Library & Archives, 2012). There are many ways to use the QR code to invite and encourage engagement, interaction, creation, collaboration and discussion.

The opportunity exists, mentored and guided by educators, with support online, for schools, colleges and associations to engage people in bringing the stories of those named on our war memorials alive. In this way a deeper and more meaningful connection is made with the past and our relationship to it.


Awano, Y (2007). Brief pictorial description of new mobile technologies used in cultural institutions in Japan. The Journal of Museum Education, 32(1), 17-25

Gradel, K., & Edson, A. J. (2012). Higher ed QR code resource guide.

Hicks, A., & Sinkinson, C. (2011). Situated questions and answers: Responding to library users with QR codes. Reference & User Services Quarterly, 51(1), 60–69.

Ryerson University Library & Archives (2012). QR codes. Retrieved 6th Feb 2014, from http://www.ryerson.ca/library/qr/.

So, S. (2008). A Study on the Acceptance of Mobile Phones for Teaching and Learning with a group of Preservice teachers in Hong Kong. Journal of Educational Technology Development and Exchange, 1(1), 81-92.

Tucker, A. (2011). What are those checkerboard things? How QR codes can enrich student projects. Tech Directions, 71(4), 14-16.


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