QR Codes at mLearn 2007

24 10 2007

I attended mLearn last week to present a long paper on some of the outcomes of the Australian Standards for Mobile Learning, but I also had a range of other m-learning issues I was keen on sharing and discussing.

One of these topics was the use of 2D barcodes (or ‘mobile codes‘ as they are sometimes referred to) – specifically, Quick Response or QR Codes. Since I initially proposed the use of QR Codes as a way to link physical objects or locations with electronic and online learning materials, several excellent educators and educational developers have picked up on the potential of this technology – which is free to use and develop, and well-supported by free software, to both create QR Codes and decode them using ordinary camera phones.

I had the opportunity to mention QR Codes in my mLearn presentation, and provided a bit more information during question time; but I also did many demonstrations at other times during the conference, using QR Codes I screen printed onto all of my shirts for the conference, or QR Code stamps I had made to print codes directly onto my business cards. The QR Codes I used provided a link to a mobile-enabled Winksite page with all of my contact details for the conference.

Screen printing QR Codes successfully onto both light and dark t-shirts required both positive and negative versions of the screen print image (to print in either white or black ink). Printing both white and black ink onto the red shirt was a matter of combining both the positive and negative screen prints – the image itself provided its own very accurate registration marks, thanks to the three corner “squares” on each QR code, which made overprinting easy and very precise indeed. [Disclaimer: while I’m familiar with creating complex screen prints, this probably isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. However, I can create custom QR Code t-shirts for other educators for about A$20 (or even less for multiple items); the other alternative is to send your design to CafePress who will professionally print any design you like onto a t-shirt (or other item) for you].

I also ordered two stamps from Canberra Rubber Stamps and Signs, and they obligingly made self-inking and standard versions of my QR Code on a 28mm blank, within 3 working hours of me placing my order. I was very impressed (and grateful!). 🙂 The standard stamp cost under A$20; the self-inking version was a little more expensive, but under A$45.

Using these stamps I was able to print QR Codes on all my business cards and
do over 20 live demonstrations of the creating and decoding QR Codes to other conference attendees. I had a green stamp pad to show how different colours could be used to create QR Codes (a bit more interesting than black-and-white), and I also brought self-laminating plastic pouches to demonstrate how to waterproof the cards.

Anyway, all this was a lot of fun, and apart from allowing me to share one of my particular interests in mobile learning, it was another conduit enabling me to meet many other terrific conference attendees. No doubt I’ll do something similar for future conference attendances!

If you’re attending an m-learning conference in the future, consider having a QR Code for your own contact information added to your business card; getting a QR Code stamp made; adding a QR Code for your contact details or website to your presentation; or even having it printed on a t-shirt so other attendees can “snap” your details in seconds! 🙂

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5 responses

24 10 2007
Simon Brown

Leonard, what a great concept. It’s fun too.

I used http://qrcode.kaywa.com/ to generate my mobile phone number.

I thought it was such a quirky look, now it adorns my avatar at http://twitter.com/skytrystsjoy

Now all I need is the right phone to read it…

24 10 2007
Nicola Avery

What a great idea and link, I’ve added one which links to my contactus page (which is not completely mobile friendly at this time but hopefully soon)
Maybe I’ll get a tattoo done – do they read skin 🙂

27 10 2007
All about Mobile Life - Some recent QR code links (II)

[…] links (II) Category: QR Code, Data Matrix…    By editor at 10:47QR Codes and Learning QR Codes at mLearn 2007 by Leonard Low If you’re attending an m-learning conference in the future, consider having a […]

28 10 2007
Paul Doherty

Hi Leonard
Since attending the mLearn conference and attending your session I have been itching to try 2D Bar Codes. Today I did with some success.
A couple of questions though. I have found that my phone returns a “no barcode found ” message more often than not. It picks up very simple codes ie ones containing very little text data. It also seems to read more accurately off the original on screen than off a printed version. Could this be more to do with my phones camera lens than the actual barcode?
I can’t wait to show this at work tomorrow.

29 10 2007
Leonard Low

Hi Paul,

I’m glad you’ve had a go with 2D barcodes! Ironing out some of the wrinkles is part of any “new technology” adoption, so hang in there. 🙂

The reason you’re getting mixed success rates is probably a combination of factors. For a start, most phone cameras have fixed-focus lenses, and may not focus too well when *really* close to a barcode. This is easily fixed – making the barcodes a little bigger will mean that you can “snap” the image from further away.

This would also explain why you might be getting better results with simpler codes – the smaller codes render as bolder barcodes, making it easier for your phone to pick them up despite some blurriness. Mind you – there’s an approximately 30% error-correction buffer built into QR Codes, which means they can resolve even if almost a third of the code is obscured, blurred, or damaged.

The other thing to try is using different readers. The Quickmark reader I use on my phone incorporates a built-in digital zoom, which allows me to “zoom in” in a code with my phone held farther away – making it easier for my phone to focus properly. Just as you might try various image editing programs before you settle on one you really like using, it’s worth trying out various readers and picking the one that gives you the best results on your phone.

Good luck trying out 2D barcodes, and let me know if I can provide any support or assistance!

Len 🙂

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