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. 🙂

Create free quizzes for cellphones/ Facebook/ Moodle

24 05 2008

Here’s today’s awesome m-learning find: a website where anyone can create a multiple choice quiz which is compatible with the vast majority of current mobile phones (it runs as a Java application, which most of today’s cellphones support).

The site is called Mobile Study, and the finished multiple choice quizzes can be downloaded to a mobile phone from a computer, by visiting a URL with a mobile phone browser, via an SMS message (a small allocation of free messages is provided for each account), or even by using a QR Code (which you should be able to do if you’ve been following my thread on 2D Barcodes!).  If you or your students prefer Social Web applications to mobile ones, it’s also worth noting that quizzes can be made for Facebook, and if a walled garden is your course approach of choice, yes, quizzes can even be imported into Moodle.

Given that there are a large number of ACT Innovative E-Learning Projects that have, as a component, various formative assessment needs, this site should prove to be extremely useful!

You can try out some of the sample quizzes here – they can be done online to give you an idea of how the quizzes provide feedback, or you can install the sample quizzes to your mobile phone for the full m-learning experience.

Happy quizzing!

(via Ignatia Webs)

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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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ZXing Open Source Barcode Library

18 01 2008

Most regular readers of this blog will be familiar with my interest in the use of 2D barcodes as a means of providing a link from a physical object or location to an online resource using an ordinary camera phone.

I’ve just found an open-source Google Code project called ZXing, which is an open-source project to build a cross-platform barcode reader library.  If it succeeds in its aims, it looks like it could become one of the best, most flexible readers available, and because it’s open source, it should be possible to incorporate it into related educational projects such as integration with augmented reality learning resources.

ZXing’s successful implementation to power the Facebook QR Codes application demonstrates its early potential. 

This is one project I’ll be following closely!

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QR Codes in the Aussie Media

26 11 2007

The mainstream media is just starting to get hold of Telstra Australia’s plans for the use of QR Codes to provide links to mobile web content from printed and screen-based media.

According to this article from The Age, the primary driver behind this particular trial is Australian marketing company QMCODES, who hold the exclusive Australian license to the I-nigma reader – the most widely used QR Code reader application used In Japan, where QR Codes are already almost universally used already.


While the write-up focusses on the commercial marketing and advertising potential of QR Codes, it also hints at the social applications of QR Codes to “link” with users’ MySpace or Facebook pages. However, unfortunately, it looks like neither QMCODES nor Telstra have yet realised the enormous potential of QR Codes in education – to link students with mobile-web resources and activities that relate to their physical location or current physical context.

Hmm. I think I’ll try to get in touch with both organisations to see if they’d like to work in partnership with educational technologists to develop solutions for education and training…

UPDATE (14 Dec 2007): I’ve been contacted by Telstra, who’ve clarified that they are aware of the educational potential of QR Codes, but they do not have a partnership with QMCODES. It’s gratifying to know that there are a number of organisations in Australia working on innovating with 2D barcode technology!

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Using Mobile Phones for 3D Interactivity

23 11 2007

This video demonstrates what can be achieved by the convergence of mobile and virtual technologies. Created as a promotion for Wellington Zoo (New Zealand), it allows printed codes to “come to life” using a mobile phone. As you move your mobile phone camera around the code, a virtual 3D model rotates, pans and zooms as if it were an invisible spectre standing on the surface, viewable only through the camera lens:

Download (FLV)

While this demonstration uses a proprietary format for the printed tags, it’s quite possible for other optical symbologies (such as QR Code tags) to be used for exactly the same purpose, since they incorporate orientation information in the tags themselves (the three large squares in the corners of each code), as well as data-link information.

This use of mobile devices also points to the use of mobile devices as future platforms for virtual worlds and educational simulations using tools such as SecondLife and the (open-source) Croquet (and its educational variant, EduSim). In my opinion, we should see touchscreen-interactive virtual worlds appearing on mainstream mobile devices within the next two years – with the corresponding ability for all of us to merge a mobile, virtual existence with our mobile, real one.

The potential applications of such a technology in education could be enormous!

(via Mobhappy)

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QR Code Readers For Almost 1000 Phones

2 11 2007

I’ve just done the briefest of brief surveys of the web, and documented the mobile phone models supported by the major QR Code reader developers. Together, these free-to-download readers provide QR Code support for almost 1000 different phone models across all of the major phone manufacturers (and many smaller ones).

Download: Free QR Code Readers (2 Nov 2007)