Report on 2D Barcode usage – with user stories!

4 09 2006

From the Mobile Life Blog, news of a report on the PrintAccess project – looking at “hybrid solutions of the print and electronic media using printed codes“.

“The results showed that the code based integration between the camera
phone and printed media are technologically mature and there are
opportunities for commercial applications.”

Of further interest to educators will be the user stories – case studies of the use of 2D Barcodes in real-life scenarios:

“The following user stories were written:

  1. Access an URL with static content
  2. Question of the day -kind of poll
  3. Save a business card
  4. Electronic clip book
  5. Translated articles
  6. Access to additional video information
  7. Added-value services only available with the printed code (e.g. player information during the hockey game)
  8. Shopping list application
  9. Shopping list web service
  10. View new video / song of an artist, or get a ring tone / logo for your mobile phone
  11. Subscribe to an advertising information about a product (example: soccer club merchandising)
  12. Buy the product
  13. Save event information
  14. Vote on a TV programme
  15. Sponsored TV programme
  16. More information or a trailer of a movie
  17. Record a TV program
  18. View TV News
  19. Print2Audio”

As I’ve previously blogged, many of these user stories can be translated directly into engaging and interactive learning activities.  Practical use of 2D barcodes in education could become even more feasible if mobile phone operators seized this chance and incoporated 2D barcode readers in all camera phone handsets.

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Nimbuzz: Connecting Mobile and Web users for free?

23 08 2006

Mobilecrunch, a blog on “Mobile 2.0″ connective technologies, reports a new product that promises to connect the global community of 1.1 billion Internet users with 2.2 billion mobile communication device users, in real time (synchronously), for “free”:

I’ve had the good fortune to have been given access to Nimbuzz for
the last few weeks. My testing has convinced me that once widely
deployed, this application has the potential to shake mobile
communication service providers to their very core…

The application supports voice, presence and messaging and it does
so between mobile devices, PC’s, and mobile to PC or PC to mobile.
What’s more, these features are available to both individuals and to
groups and there’s multimedia support so that in addition to voice and
text, photographs can also be shared.

Using Nimbuzz you can participate in group and/or individual chats,
send SMS messages anywhere in the world for 10 cents, leave or retreive
a message, or call a friend anywhere in the world while only paying for
a local call (with INCREDIBLE SOUND QUALITY, I might add). The Nimbuzz
client supports access to many major instant messaging communities like
MSN and has the ability to let you send a “Buzz” which allows you to
alert offline buddies to go online.

Group messaging and conference calling are all supported and again, the cost is only that of a local call…

This is very exciting news indeed, and brings my vision for a connected web and mobile learning environment a step closer to reality. I’ve downloaded a copy of Nimbuzz to my mobile phone – installation was very easy – but at present I lack people to try it out with (though the automated helpbot account that comes with the installation is both helpful and witty).

I’ve tried connecting with my Google Talk account (above) and it works beautifully, so I’m very optimistic… but if you’d like to try out Nimbuzz with me, download the software (for Windows or most Mobiles) and contact me with your Nimbuzz account name! Or feel free to call or message me – my Nimbuzz account name is (very imaginatively, I know) “leonardlow”. :)

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denCity: location-specific QR-Code project

21 08 2006

denCIty is a student project originating in Germany, which is intended to create “virtual networks of real places”.

QR-Codes (2D barcodes) are used to physically tag buildings and urban sites. Using a mobile phone, users can take a picture of any QR-Code tag, which provides information on the location on the user’s mobile phone.

The example on the right shows the denCity system used to obtain information on a karaoke bar, which in turn links to information on other related locations (other karaoke bars) – with maps showing their bearing and distance from the current physical location.

In a learning context, denCity could be used to tag locations with interactive, location-specific information, to provide a contextualised, situated learning experience. It could also be used to link to other related locations in the area, providing learners with a real life “treasure hunt” of information. And the “guestbook” attached to each location makes for a more interactive and communicative learning experience…

Arrrr! A real-life Treasure Hunt, eh, with codes and all? Can anyone say “Polly want a QRacker”? :)

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M-Learning With Adobe Captivate and Flash Lite 2

21 08 2006

M-learning is starting to really take off, with more and more attention from developers, platform and application providers, and the mainstream press.

This article, written for developers, explores the possibilities of creating content with using Adobe Captivate (a program that provides animated screen capture, text/audio captioning, and authoring), and publishing resources as Flash Lite 2 “Learning Objects” for mobile delivery. Flash Lite 2 is a version of Adobe Flash for delivering animated and interactive applications to mobile devices.

A tutorial and some useful advice on development and deployment is provided.

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Find Out About Anything… Anywhere.

21 08 2006

Early in our August Community Networks Forum (where the current theme is m-learning), respected educator Stephen Downes made this comment:

I think the killer educational resource for PDAs (and esp. pre-packaged content for PDAs) will be photo-recognition.

When the built-in or string-camera in the PDA is presented with an object (say, a flower) it will be able to recognize the object and present appropriate learning materials (matched to the person’s previous learning, etc) and materials from the community.

That thought was eerily prophetic… for last week, Google annouced that they had bought photo-recognition software company Neven Vision, a company that produces a product called i-SCOUT, which they describe as a “visual Google”:

The image recognition algorithms can recognize anything from an ipod to a picture of the Mona Lisa to the flower in the above picture. Link this to a database of images and you have yourself a pretty nifty search platform for anyone sporting a camera phone.

Perhaps one day, we may have mobile devices capable of telling us what we’re looking at and providing us with learning opportunities relating the world around us to the learning paths we’ve set for ourselves:

It’s the ultimate fulfilment of situated, immersive, contextualised and connected learning, and it could be just around the corner…

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Immersive Situated Learning

14 08 2006

Here’s a post I created with a diagram to try to explain the concept of educational QR Codes to some of my esteemed colleagues:

The closest thing I’ve seen to the idea of taking a picture of something, and obtaining Just-In-Time learning on it, is Semapedia. Its Wikipedia article describes it thus:

Semapedia is a project which uses semacode nodes to connect Wikipedia articles with their relevant place in physical space.

Placing physical semapedia tags on real-world objects allows people with smartphones to use their built-in cameras to decode the Wikipedia-URL from the semacode. The phone can then use its internal browser to display the Wikipedia article of the physical object to the user.

Semacodes are barcodes that can be read using a normal camera phone (equipped with the right decoding software-many available for free). I’ve been an enthusiastic proponent of the use of 2D-barcodes in education for quite a while (see my blog: here, here, here, here, and here). 2D-barcodes can be used to form a ubiquitous interface between the “real world” and data repositories on a user’s mobile device or the Internet.

In the case of Semapedia, you place barcodes on realia – say, on the swing tag attached to every plant in a nursery. If a learner takes a photo of the barcode, the phone can “reinterpret” the barcode as a URL – in Semapedia, the URL of the Wikipedia article corresponding with the plant. In a learning context, however, richer target URLs could be assigned, such as a page with links to a number of learning resources on the relevant topic. Here’s a diagram of the process (click for full size version):

The software to both encode 2D barcodes and decode them is widely available for free – try it out! I have even been lobbying various Australian mobile phone vendors and service providers to pre-install the appropriate software in Australian handsets, as they do in Japan. That would *really* open up some options for educators. smile

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Four R’s Model and Mobile Learning Activities

11 08 2006

Repost of posting to EdNa forums, with other commentary here. A summary of previous theorisings on this model, here and here, supplemented with diagrams.

We can classify mobile learning activities using an activity-based model of the “Four R’s of Mobile Learning”.

In a reflection of the “Three R’s” of the essential pre-Net Generation skills (Reading, wRiting, and aRithmetic), the “Four R’s” of Net Generation learning reflect the current sociocultural shifts in thinking and learning for an increasingly mobile twenty-first century. Defined from a learner-centric viewpoint, these are:

Record : The learner as a gatherer and “builder” of new knowledge

  • The learner may use a portable device to capture, preserve, memorise, note, or create information.
  • The information recorded may be in response to a prompt from the portable device itself; or in response to a stimulus from a situated learning environment or their teacher.
  • The information may be recorded to the portable device itself; or the portable device could serve as a conduit for storing the information remotely.
  • Underpinned by a Constructivist theory of learning

Reinterpret: The learner as an analyst of existing data to discover new knowledge

  • The learner may use the portable device to discover, process or enhance existing data so that it is transformed into new information, or “remixed” to enhance learning. In these conditions, the mobile device enhances or supplements the learner’s own senses or processing abilities.
  • Underpinned by a Constructivist theory of learning

Recall: The learner as a user of existing information and resources

  • The learner may use a portable device to recall information, events, experiences or stories, stored on the portable device (e.g. iPod recording), or by using the device to access information remotely (e.g.on the internet).
  • Underpinned by a Connectivist/Instructionist theory of learning

Relate: The learner as part of a social context and a network of knowledge

  • The learner may use a portable device to communicate with other people; for example, with other learners, or with a teacher (i.e. in a learning relationship).
  • The learner can use the device to communicate directly and synchronously (e.g. mobile phone conversation), or access asynchronous communication services (e.g. web discussion board or weblog).
  • They can also recommend and share resources, for example, linking mobile devices (usually wirelessly) and sending a file from one to the other.
  • Communicative and collaborative: underpinned by a Social Constructivist theory of learning

Related activities include Mobile Assessment (self, formative and summative assessment), and Teaching and Learning Support (tools to help teachers and learners, such as mobile gradebooks, rollbooks, etc.)

Mobile Learning Ideas

Record : The learner as a gatherer and builder of new knowledge

  • Moblogging: (Remote Record) using a mobile device to record audio, video, or (most commonly) images and save them to the web in a reverse-chronological format with text annotations.
  • Database/Form Entry: (Local Record) inputting data into a mobile device that can later be reviewed or assessed. Example applications include:
    • Dance moves database demonstration – uses XSForms by Grandasoft (freeware)
    • Recipe database
    • List of vocabulary/glossary
    • Database of procedures
    • Generally done on a PDA
  • Recording media: learners can record audio and video to devices like mobile phones, audio players, and PDAs. Example applications include:
    • Recording a class or lecture for later review as an mp3 file NoteM demonstration
    • Recording a mock “interview” or interaction for review or assessment
    • Recording a video (e.g. “Changing a Tyre”)
    • Done on PDA, Phone, audio device, digital camera
  • Journal Using Calendar: If an online blog is not appropriate, Outlook Calendar can be used to diarise and record events, class notes, assessment deadlines, and more.
    • Why? Because this is what PDAs were originally designed for, they perform these functions well.
    • May also be possible (though less convenient) on some mobile phones.
  • Freehand Drawing: Ability to quickly sketch drawings, diagrams, and jot notes could be useful on PDAs. MobilePencil is a good product for this.

Recall: The learner as a user of existing information and resources

  • Accessing a local Learning Object: I’m using a very broad definition of “Learning Object” – includes learning video or audio file, a learning interaction such as a Flash activity, even a document. Some examples:
  • Accessing a remote Learning Object: as above,
    but not stored on the mobile device itself, but at another location in
    “cyberspace” – a network server, a PC, or the Internet.
  • Accessing an RSS feed: what’s awesome about mobile RSS aggregators is that they allow “real time” updates of information to a mobile device.
  • Mobile Web Search: Google mobile is an example – provides mobile web search from a connected mobile phone or PDA
  • SMS-based information service: these require a bit of preparation. A service is set up by a commercial provider that enables a student to send a text to a number, which then returns some information. For example:
    • a student sends an SMS with the word “impasto” to 131234
      (example only). They then receive a dictionary definition of the term
      back via SMS.

Relate: The learner as part of a social context and a network of knowledge

  • Ad-hoc networking: Programs such as “Proximity Mail” enable PDAs within Bluetooth range (approx 10 metres) to form an ad-hoc networks allowing instant messaging. Other products also allow file exchange, and operate on the longer-distance (100m) 802.11b wireless protocol. Examples of use:
    • Learners engaged in local text-based chat in a quiet environment e.g. art gallery, lecture
    • Learners share learning materials and resources in real time,
      as they discover them in their browsers or write down their own
      learning experiences
  • Instant Messaging: the preferred communication
    channel of the Net Generation. IM types include SMS/MMS between mobile
    phones, MSN Messenger (installed in Pocket PCs), and other IM products
    can be installed which operate over wireless Internet (802.11a/b/g).
    One of the most comprehensive is Agile Messenger, which supports five of the most commonly used IM clients on Pocket PCs: Yahoo, ICQ, MSN, AOL and XMPP.
  • Voice Chat: most commonly implemented in mobile
    phones, but also possible to accomplish from a PDA with a suitable
    Messaging Client installed. Some include “Press To Talk” functionality
    that allows PDAs connected to wireless internet to operate like Walkie
  • Mobile Blogging:
    • Winksite demo (text), Moblog.UK
      demo (moblog)
  • Mobile Discussion: Asynchronous communication tool. Truly Flexible Mobile Learning – anywhere, anytime participation.
    • Winksite demo
  • Mobile Chat: Synchronous communication tool. Text-based group chat, allows group interaction using mobile phones (Winksite)/PDAs (ProximityMail)
    • Winksite demo
  • Mobile Wikis: Collaboration tool.
    • No free implementations (yet), but some well-documented reasons why these are/will be a Very Good Thing for learners.

Reinterpret: The learner as an analyst of existing data to discover new knowledge

  • Location-specific (potentially, situated) learning: PDA used as a processing tool to provide contextual information to learner. GPS, 2D-Barcodes, RFID tags connected with learning materials.
  • Data mining: searching a mobile database for trends and patterns in data
  • 2D Barcodes: a “bridge” between print/screen and mobile devices.
    • A QR Code could be a link to whole range of resources. Instead of a studentcopying down homework tasks, they can simply capture the information, or a linkto it, with a camera snap. When they get home, they gain access to, say, (or page, wheretheir resources are assembled. Some of the resources might even be mobilethemselves, such as resources developed in mobileprep – a mobile phone flashcard creator.
    • This example links to a Wikipedia page on the video game Grand Theft Auto.With a click of their camera button, the user gets access to the information directly on their mobile device:

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M-Learning International

9 08 2006

M-learning is getting some exposure in India – though this article incorrectly states that M-Learning requires advanced “3G technology or Blackberry devices”.

A much better concept is this one – surprisingly, from an airline as a form of entertainment!  London-based Virgin Atlantic airways is introducing the world’s first “in-flight texting service, which will allow passengers to have questions answered on any topic at 35,000 feet”.

“Passengers will be able to text questions from their seat-back
television screens to an existing land-based text answer service which
promises to answer any question within minutes”.

Faaantastic.  I wonder if a general-purpose on-the-ground SMS-based service would “take off” as a business idea?  It’s basically a mobile on-request research service, and if there really are people out there paying $5 a hit for “hot babes on your mobile,” surely there will be many more who’d pay $5 to have any question answered promptly.  To start with, I think the questions would be on all sorts of things, but eventually, you’d be able to automate answers to frequently asked questions.

If the responses could be saved to the user’s mobile device, it would be the start of a truly personalised learning environment, where the learner aggregates “learning snippets” that are meaningful to them.

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QR Codes in Education! But not quite here yet…

27 07 2006

I was very excited to come across the first documented instance of QR Codes actually being used in an educational context today. This edublog documents a classroom example in Japan, where, instead of long URLS or information being copied down by students, the same information is captured with a single click of their phone cameras.

Qr_code_detailsLike me, the blogger realises that behind a QR Code could be a whole range of resources. Instead of a student copying down homework tasks, they can simply capture the information, or a link to it, with a camera snap. When they get home, they gain access to, say, a (or page, where their resources are assembled. Some of the resources might even be mobile themselves, such as resources developed in mobileprep – a mobile phone flashcard creator.

I’ve been doing some work behind the scenes to try to get QR Codes implemented in Australia. Last week, I sent emails to the general information contacts at Telstra, Optus, Vodaphone, and Virgin Mobile, viz:

As part of my job I am researching the use of mobile phones as tools to support
education. I’ve recently become interested in the use of 2D barcodes (QR Codes)
to access information from mobile phones. The technology could be used to help
students to access supplementary online learning materials through mobile

Given that QR Codes have demonstrated extremely high success in
Japan (where over 30 million users now have QR Code readers built in to their
mobile phones), are there plans to investigate or deploy QR Code readers in
Australian phones, for a myriad of commercial and educational applications that
would ultimately also be advantageous to carriers such as [carrier], due to
increased mobile phone usage?

The responses I got were in quite a different order to what I expected. I got a reply from Telstra first, thanking me for my enquiry, but advising that Telstra don’t seem to be pursuing this application. Vodaphone were next, and have asked me to call their Head Office to discuss the issue. I haven’t received a reply from Optus or Virgin yet; the latter particularly surprises me, since I’ve always thought a brand like Virgin would seize an opportunity to innovate.

Anyway, I’m pursuing this further. I will call Vodaphone and see if that gets anywhere; but I’m also going to try telephoning a couple of other Head Offices, getting details of someone who’s responsible for strategic development, and sending them some data to demonstrate that there are good commercial reasons for implementing QR Codes in all new mobile phones.

In the meantime, I encourage other interested educators to also contact their carriers and ask about QR Code implementation in Australia:

For those who would like to try integrated QR Codes, and own a relatively recent Nokia phone (other makes and models soon to be supported), Kaywa recently released a free version of their QR Code reader.

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Moodle for Mobiles

20 07 2006

I’ve just become aware of the Moodle for Mobiles extension for Moodle 1.6 – a development begun just this year. It can provide mobile feedback and quiz activities, with most quiz module features supported, including matching and multiple choice question types, auto question marking, password protection of quizzes, minimum time between attempts, and resumption of quizzes if aborted before completion.


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