Watch Dogs is a video game that reminds me of some of the early 90s movies I grew up with, like The Net and Hackers. Cinema of this kind played on fears of the unknown, underground, darker side of technology that often involved making use of back doors hidden in systems, uncovering some vast illegal plot that a group of seemingly ne’er do well-type individuals were the only chance of thwarting. Watch Dogs takes that idea on a sandbox-style ride, sadly rife with stereotypes and predictable tropes in the form of the main playable character being an angsty white male.
Character qualms aside, this video game has a really interesting feature that serves as a side activity that can fill in some pieces of the storyline. You are charged with tracking down QR codes, scanning them and then listening to the audio files as pieces to a puzzle in the storyline. It’s not as simple as hunting down the QR codes and taking a snapshot with your cell phone. In Watch Dogs, you have to be standing in a very specific place to image the QR code, otherwise part of it is obstructed.
The hunt begins!
This is one of the QR codes that can clearly only be scanned from the right position on a nearby rooftop.
Once in the right position, you can look at the QR code straight on and take a snapshot of it with the camera on your cell phone.
QR codes, if you aren’t familiar, are a fantastic way to condense a whole lot of information into a tiny pixelated label. You will see these on product packing, shipments, price labels; they are incredibly helpful for a variety of industries. Naturally, these codes have some excellent applications for education. If space is limited with whatever students are producing or you need a link to provide more information, it’s QR codes to the rescue.
Here’s a short list of ideas I find to be very effective at harnessing the power of QR codes:
- Put in the library, when scanned they open a student-made audio or video review of the book in hand.
- Attached to dioramas, art projects, or any other physical creations, they link to an online report, a journal, or some additional information generated by the student to describe the item in more detail.
- Added to a poster board with limited space, they can easily double the content of a presentation by linking to a Prezi, PowerPoint or some other digital tool.
The list above is mainly for students to make use of, but what if teachers want to find a place for QR codes in their own assignments?
It’s completely doable and the main reason I connect it to a video game such as Watch Dogs. In the game you are required to hunt around for the perfect location to capture all of the pixels in the QR code, otherwise the link to the audio file will not activate. It sounds like a perfect treasure-hunting type activity for some kinesthetic learning in the classroom. Print oversized versions of the codes so that they can be broken into pieces that either have to be assembled or can only be scanned from certain positions in the room. In this way, half the fun is figuring out the correct positioning before you can even get to the reward of what’s behind the QR code itself.