QR Codes: Here Today, but Gone Tomorrow

8 11 2010

I’ve been writing about QR Codes in education for the last five years (http://mlearning.edublogs.org/?s=qr+code), on this blog, as well as in a few published and formal papers. Recently, I have been seeing some buzz around QR Codes in education, and without meaning in any way to discourage people from trying out QR Codes (or other present-day locative technologies like RFID tags), I thought it might be time to update this blog with my latest thoughts on them.

QR Code shirts I wore to the 2007 MLearn Conference

QR Code shirts I wore (+stamps and cards brought) to the 2007 MLearn Conference

While I was very interested in their potential when they were almost unheard of in the western hemisphere, I now believe they provide an interesting technology for situated mobile learning in the present day, but I increasingly think will be supplanted by visual searching (e.g. Google Goggles) and mobile text recognition (both typeface and handwritten) within about five years.

The former technology, visual searching, allows mobile devices to visually “recognise” shapes of objects, logos, etc. taken with a mobile phone camera, and use that to retrieve information.  This would ultimately free tagging from any single barcode standard, and allow physical objects to be tagged with ANY consistent visual symbol.  In a few years, this technology will become much more accurate, particularly as imaging resolutions continue to increase and mobile processing becomes faster and more powerful.

Simultaneously, improved text recognition will allow retrieval of, or access to, web-based activities or resources simply by typing or writing our a URL in human-readable form and pointing a mobile phone camera at that URL.  This would completely bypass the need to create a QR Code in the first place, as well as having the advantage of knowing where your phone browser is taking you.  A QR Code could, for example, lead to a hidden virus or phishing site, but its actual destination is obscured by its graphical, barcoded representation.

I still see QR Codes as being a useful tool for mobile and situated learning in the present day, but I have never been content to simply look at the present without looking towards the future; and in that future, I see QR Codes becoming rapidly redundant.

Just some thoughts from an ed tech who has been thinking about these issues for a long time. :)

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9 responses

8 11 2010
Jeff Utecht

I agree these might just be the start to something different and even better, but in the mean time….I’m finding them fun to play with. :)

In 2011 I think we’ll see in society more than in education, but I do think as more and more companies realize just how many of us have smart-phones that this is another way to market and get into the pockets of consumers.

18 11 2010
Lee

Don’t you think maybe they’ll last but the hype will die down? I think they’ll be as common as hyperlinks and just as uninteresting but definitely more convenient than typing into a mobile… especially if you’re on the move.

18 11 2010
Leonard Low

Hi Lee, thanks for your comment. I do think they will last for quite some time fulfilling their original purpose, which was an industrial one (as a means of identifying and labeling products or parts during manufacture and logistics). However, I think that new technologies will eventually allow visual linking – without typing – using methods that are significantly easier for producers and consumers of those links in society (or learners and teachers in education).

We are not far from all phones being able to take a photograph of a URL, and being able to recognise that text and follow the link. This eliminates the need to type in URLs just like QR Codes do, but it doesn’t require any special software to create the URLs; in fact, we may even be able to write out URLs in our own handwriting and mobile devices will be able to recognise that text too. This recognition capability may also allow us to draw/print out ANY visual icon or symbol and “link” it to a URL or resource; again, there would be no need to type anything laboriously into a keypad.

I believe QR Codes do have a place in current usage because they are, and have been, the “best” way to accomplish situated mobile learning for the last half a decade, and will continue to be useful in this context for several years to come; but as an innovator, I am always looking to the future for what may be around the corner. :) Because everyone likes ways to do things more simply and easily, I see it as inevitable that a “techie” technology like QR Codes will one day be replaced by a more “human” technology like Optical Character (or Visual) Recognition.

It is definitely still wise to keep investigating QR Codes – not for the *technology*, but for the new pedagogical affordances this *type* of technology brings: situated learning, authentic learning, experiential learning, all using mobile devices. :)

18 11 2010
lee

Super :-) because I’m on a mission. I’m in a position where I have to recommend a global strategy, including markets in India and China, which means predicting trends likely to last and span international demographics… Tricky. I think QR/AR codes will feature though.

I like your blog. I’ll be tuning in to keep abreast of m-learning trends. Thanks for sharing!

27 04 2011
Digital Blog

since long time, no post? reason?

13 09 2011
Shamblesguru (@shamblesguru)

Must admit at being a fan of QR Codes in k-12 teaching and learning … a bridge between the real and online worlds.

More info at

http://www.shambles.net/pages/learning/ict/qrcode/

p.s. I’m still hoping the 3.5″ floppy will make a come-back … just don’t have the heart to throw them away … maybe a donation to an Art Department?

27 11 2011
Ten (cool) things I learnt about in 2010 [cont.] – e-moderation station

[...] if they will ever become that widespread. And they just look so…  off-putting. Indeed, this post from the Mobile Learning blog suggests that they will inevitably be replaced by mobile applications [...]

18 01 2013
gadgets questions & answers

Why this blog stopped updating? What’s wrong author?

1 12 2013
Margie

Hi all-
Just a note from the science classroom: My eighth graders (all with iPads) LOVE QR codes…The codes (posted around the room) save time and engage the students more efficiently. They can be used for scavenger hunts, nature trails, charts such as periodic tables, classroom rules & surveys, times lines, models, food webs, etc.
All technology runs its course & becomes redundant. But, in the meantime, we are having a blast!

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