Thursday, October 14, 2010

Playing with QR codes

I have just been speaking to Paul Simbeck-Hampson (he gets around, doesn't he?) about QR codes and both of us have been waxing enthusiastic. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if he posts about them too!

In case you're not familiar with them, a QR code is a kind of variation on a bar code, only instead of bars, it has tiny squares of black and white, in which information can be embedded. The information can be text, or a URL, or even audio.

With the means to scan these codes, all manner information can be shared. Paul and I have both loaded an app onto our smartphones that reads and generates these codes. He has an Android, while I have an iPhone. If our conversation is anything to go by, the Android version seems to be better.

Also, Google translate has a QR feature (and an app for Androids). Using the smartphone, you can scan and decode the code for the word you have looked up.

We were discussing possible learning applications for these codes and I shared about a speaker at the eLearning Africa conference in May (it pains me that I can't remember his name, even though he and I spoke at the same session), in whose organisation QR codes are being used to overcome language barriers. The code may be placed upon an item of furniture, for example. When scanned, this reveals the name of the item of furniture in the desired language, together with an audio of the correct pronunciation. I guess you could link to a list of the words for that item in any number of languages.

Similarly, the codes are being attached to informational posters in the office, containing a translation of the content in the user's language.

Just think about the potential applications:

  • shipping consignments
  • museum exhibits
  • tourist attractions
  • bird identification rings
  • ...
I reckon the list is only restricted by the imagination! Talk about ubiquitous learning!


Paul said...

Hey Karyn! Great write up... and you were absolutely right, I went off and created a little game around location - which you happened to win ;)

For others, see >

When learning evokes a inquisitive reaction half the battle is won. QR codes provide an opportunity to make learning more fun and with the tools already sitting in our pockets, it's an easy way to engage the audience.

I'm continuing my exploration of this topic and as I stumble across inspiring ideas I'll post them to my blog.

Best wishes and thanks for 'playing' today,


Views from Malmesbury said...

Is there a way this could be used when information has to be presented in multiple languages like NHS or Social Services information etc? Have I understood what QR is about properly? Could the authorities reduce the mountains of foreign language literature currently printed out?

Karyn Romeis said...

@Views I don't see why not... in theory.

However, I imagine that those people living in the UK without the level of language proficiency to read the notices in English would be unlikely to have very high earning potential, due to the language barrier. As a consequence, it is probably not a safe bet to assume they have smartphones.

Views from Malmesbury said...

Good point. Ah well!

Karyn Romeis said...

@Views But, don't be discouraged! That kind of technology will soon be more wide-spread. It's better to think huge and then have to rein yourself in than to mosey along in the same old same old.

I can't see that the cost of adding a QR code to new materials would be particularly high, so you could start catering for those who do have smartphones in the meantime. By the time the technology is commonplace, it will be established as standard practice within the organisation.


Paul said...

@Malmesbury - Karyn makes some excellent points here... can I recommend that you both take a look at this post

@Karyn - I've working closely with and they have activated a special option that allows me to change the URL of the QR code... it's not a standard and will become a paid option in time... I've been given beta access to it so I'm just using it a playful, learning kind of a way, but sit back and imagine how that now fits into the entire picture ;)

The QR code delivers fresh information as and when - WOW...

Now watch the video :-)

David Hopkins said...

Great article, and can I direct you to a few of my own posts, just in case they help you and you readers?

QR Codes in the classroom -

QR Codes and Learning Technology -

All the best, would be happy to talk through all this and more.


Sidneyeve Matrix said...

Hello, thanks for the post. I'm using QR codes in my teaching too.

Here's an article I wrote on ways to use QR codes in the classroom and on campus:


Paul said...

@Karyn, It would be great to have a Skype chat with David about QR codes... just been reading the links he posted - amazing! Sidneyeve post also rocks... thanks for sharing :-)