Andy Ramsden: Are QR Codes the Future of Mobile Learning?

27 03 2008

I posted the following response to Andy Ramsden’s blog post on this topic:

I’ve been researching the use of 2D barcodes (and particularly QR Codes) in education for over two years now.  I’ve been very interested in their use in education as I immediately recognised their power for linking situated learning opportunities with instructional and interactive learning opportunities when I first read about them. I’ve since investigated alternatives such as RFID, and I still think that 2D barcodes have some big advantages, especially when it comes to things like cost and ease of (re)production – 2D barcodes can be printed for free, whereas RFID tags cost around $1 each in small quantities.

Where I see QR Codes becoming obsolete is through the rapidly improving processing capabilities of mobile devices, which are on the cusp of becoming capable of reading and interpreting printed text. Once phones become able to recognise a printed URL, for example, the use of a QR Code to “represent” a URL becomes superfluous… an unnecessary (and non-human-readable) duplication of information. Text-recognition will also be far more flexible than QR Codes; potentially, semantic constructs could be used to allow the recognition of an infinite variety of different types of data, the same way that OCR currently works on desktop computers.

In brief, I’m still very interested in QR Codes as being the current best and most cost effective technology for mobile data capture; but I’m already looking towards a future where QR Codes will be obsolete. 🙂 I can think of some examples where QR Codes might still be preferable to unencoded text recognition; but in most cases, I believe the impending ability of cellphones to read printed (and hand-written) text will replace QR Codes for situated mobile learning approaches, even before such use becomes popular in education!

I guess my answer to Andy’s question must be “no” – I think QR Codes are a *current* strategy for mobile learning, for those educators interested enough to use them; but I definitely can’t imagine them being the *future*. 🙂

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