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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Create a free SMS auto-reply learning tool

10 01 2008

I’ve previously blogged about StudyTXT, a system deployed at a number of New Zealand educational institutions (to whom it is available for free), which allows students to send an SMS and receive on-demand learning and support information on their mobile phones.

It’s a terrific innovation which has plenty of potential in academic settings. Some educators have used StudyTXT to provide brief revision “flash cards” or notes for their students on-demand; but I can also see the possibility for this kind of system to be used to play educational games or mobile quizzes.

But what about the rest of us outside of New Zealand? It’s possible for us to set up customised SMS-response systems by working with a telecommunications services provider, but this can be a pricey or time-consuming exercise.

Which is why I’m delighted to be able to share this tool with you: BaselsReply (v2.0). It’s a small application that runs on an ordinary Windows Mobile smartphone and basically turns it into a message server, with the advantage of being, itself, mobile – you can just take your message server with you and modify it whenever (or wherever) you want to!

You configure your messages by running it in “server” mode, and specifying “commands” and corresponding “replies” in the software. An incoming message prefixed with “br command” (where command is a recognised command will automatically be replied to with the appropriate response.

Use Case Studies

  1. Jane’s teacher uses an SMS reply system to provide a weekly summary of ten key terms or concepts learned during that week. Each week, Jane sends an SMS with the message “br vocab” to her teacher’s mobile. She immediately gets her weekly list of terms and concepts to aid her revision and vocabulary uptake.

    Because Jane is able to get this important information on her mobile, she can take it with her anywhere and can even reference it when she meets her classmates around the campus or if she meets her class friends off-campus for study or social time. Although each message is quite short, the cumulative effect over time is to build up a much longer list of vocabulary and concepts that Jane can both revise and reference, anywhere and any time, and she can even forward the messages to any classmates who missed a previous summary.

    Jane’s teacher Mary doesn’t need to send each individual request for the weekly list. Once she sets up the automated message on her smartphone, she can forget about it for the rest of the week while the 80 students taking her subject request the summary or forward it to each other – which ever they prefer. Mary also enjoys the convenience of being able to update the weekly summary anywhere and any time that’s convenient to her – all she has to do is pull out her smartphone and she has all the tools she needs.

  2. Ethan is an science teacher who has set up an SMS game for his students. He begins the game by asking them a question, for example: “In scientific classification, to what Family does the cat belong?” The answer is one word, “Felidae”.

    Dylan is studying Ethan’s science course. He doesn’t know the answer right away, but looks it up online and finds the correct answer. He SMSes “br Felidae” to Ethan’s mobile phone, and gets the message “Correct! Where on a cat are the carpal whiskers located?” Dylan wants to find out right away, because his teacher Ethan has offered a cool prize to the first student to complete all of the quiz questions – an autographed copy of Ethan’s memoirs! (Or, y’know, maybe something cooler)…Ethan can set up a series of questions such that each correct answer provides the next question in the quiz. The same idea could be used to generate treasure hunts or physical and mobile learning games.

Download your very own free copy of BaselsReply v2.0 and try out your own SMS auto-reply learning activities with your students! Here are the details:

basels replyBaselsReply v2.0 (152kB, Freeware)
Size: 152 KB
Date: January 7, 2008 (Updated)
Type: Freeware
• Windows Mobile 5.0
.NET CF v2.0 (install this first!)
Author: baselsw
Home: http://monkeyupdates.blogg.se
Email: [email protected]
Directions: First install the .NET CF v.2.0 on your Windows Mobile 5 (or better) device; then download and install the BaselsReply .CAB file, available here.

(via Pocket Picks)


Using Animoto to create short videos for mobile

5 12 2007

Animoto is an online site that will automatically analyse your images and music, and then composite them for you into a dynamic video with professional transitions and effects. It supports direct retrieval from other social web tools such as Facebook, Picasa or Flickr, so if you’ve already uploaded your photos, there’s no need to find and upload them again.

The results are stunning – the site has been created by professional video producers, and the transitions are timed nicely with the mood, tempo and beat of each musical accompaniment. Here’s a demonstration of what is produced - this example was put together on-the-fly at a live event, so it’s a good example of what can be done in very little time and without much effort: – a video of photos from the E-Learning 07 event held earlier this year at the University of NSW, created by Jo Kay:

[kml_flashembed movie="http://widgets.clearspring.com/o/46928cc51133af17/47567909364fd64f" width="449" height="315" wmode="transparent" /]

(Alternate link: http://widgets.clearspring.com/o/46928cc51133af17/47567909364fd64f).

You can make unlimited videos, but with a free account you’re limited to 30 second videos. You can pay for a premium access ($3 per video or $30 per year) and Animoto will generate unlimited-length videos.

The thing is, the best videos on mobile devices are high-impact, short ones! If you or your learners are creating content for mobile devices, 30 seconds is perfect (though I can see myself getting a premium account so I can use this as a presentation tool!). Short videos are engaging to watch on mobile devices, and can be quickly shared or downloaded; and the developers of Animoto are currently working on tools to allow users to download videos directly to mobile devices such as mobile phones an iPods (both “coming soon” according to their FAQs).

This would work really well as a tool for generating learner-created content. Imagine a construction student tasked with creating an item for their e-portfolio, or to start off a class presentation. They may not (and probably do not) have any idea how to put together a video (even if you give them a free video editor). But they probably DO know how to take photos and upload files – which is all they have to do to use Animoto. Because the site does the compositing for them, they don’t need to know video editing to create a terrific presentation or portfolio piece, that they can then take around with them on their mobile phone, USB memory stick or media player.

This is a really cool tool for mobile learning!

(Props to Harriet for sharing!)

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Free: SnagIt Screen Capture

26 11 2007

TechSmith, who are still giving out copies of Camtasia Studio for free, are now also giving away another of their premium products, SnagIt.

Like Camtasia, SnagIt allows you to capture anything you see on your screen and save it and edit it for creating small instructional resources. However, SnagIt can be configured for “one-clicK” access on your computer, and allows you to capture high-quality still images as well as video. You can add effects and instructional text and graphics, and even make your tutorial interactive with clickable areas and text.

Click here to download SnagIt 7.2.5 (English)
Click here to download SnagIt 7.2.5 (German)
Click here to download SnagIt 7.2.5 (French)

Click here for a key to register SnagIt 7.2.5 demo as a fully licensed version.

Because SnagIt outputs interactive Flash files as well as images and video files, it can be used in a number of ways to create mobile learning content for PDAs, mobile phones and media players. It could also be used by learners to document their mastery of a computer-based process or to create content for sharing with other learners.

(via Freebies Blog)

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Investigating Tablet and Ultra-Mobile PCs for Learning and Working

26 11 2007

Our department needs to replace some of its old equipment, including my laptop which (after months of wheezing) finally keeled on the very first day of this year’s MLearn conference – (talk about bad timing!).

We’re looking towards the future with smaller, more portable laptops, and I’m also investigating the possibility of investing in a UMPC and a tablet PC as part of our ongoing explorations of the potential of portable digital devices for learning. Part of my interest in the latter two platforms is due to our team’s current work investigating the potential of virtual worlds on mobile devices – for example, using EduSim on a tablet or ultra-mobile PC rather than an interactive Smartboard, to get the same “direct interaction” effect but with a portable platform. One possible application of this would be in the development of situated simulations, so that a learner in a particular location could “model” potential choices or actions to simulate outcomes.

Front view of X60 Tablet
[Above: IBM x61 Tablet PC, recommended by Harriet]

However, I’m also somewhat cautious about investigating tablet PCs, as one of the presentations at this year’s Handheld Learning conference suggested that tablet PCs failed to show any advantages over standard laptops in one particular trial. It would be important to determine why this was the case – if it was because the extra capability of the devices was not exploited or was simply not needed, or if aspects of the tablet form-factor were, in fact, counter-productive.

I’d be interested to hear if you’ve tried using a tablet or ultra-mobile PC in your education setting – how have they worked for you? Also, does anyone have a recommendation on a tablet or UMPC that I should evaluate!?

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Free: Camtasia Studio 3.1.3

23 11 2007

TechSmith, the makers of Camtasia Studio (one of the best screen recording and video editing tools around) are offering the full version of Version 3.1.3 for free download. This is a terrific tool for all educators to create resources as well as for learners to create their own digital stories and videos – so get it while it’s hot. :)

Click here to download Camtasia Studio 3.1.3.

Click here to request a software key to register Camtasia Studio 3.1.3 as a fully licensed version.

You also get the option to upgrade to Version 5 of Camtasia Studio, which incorporates export capability for various mobile devices. However, if you create your video in Camtasia 3, you can use a separate converter to create videos for mobile devices… but that’s another blog post. :)

(via The Freebies Blog)

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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)

HHL07: Creativity and Mobile Devices

29 10 2007

Now I *really* like *this* presentation from Handheld Learning 2007.  Although it’s advocating a proprietary product, nevertheless, the paradigm of using a mobile phone as a creativity tool – and rewarding students for appropriate use of mobile phones as a means of capturing and sharing creative content – is brilliant, and clearly explained in this visual presentation (unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be any accompanying audio).

Original video source here.

(via HHL07 Podcast)

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Using Mobile Phones for Voice-based Assessment

23 10 2007

In this video, recorded at mLearn 2007, Gavin Cooney, CEO of Learnosity.com, provides a personal demonstration of an application that allows a learner to call in, authenticate themselves, and then verbally respond to various questions. The responses are stored for marking and can be retrieved and even podcast.

YouTube link:  http://youtube.com/watch?v=F3PkIdF1R04

[kml_flashembed movie="http://youtube.com/v/F3PkIdF1R04" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

It’s a simple and terrific idea. Learners can call in using any kind of phone – no need to use a top-end mobile phone like Gavin’s iPhone seen in this demo, even a landline or Skype phone can be used – and using an application like this can make the process of assessing students more flexible and efficient: students can be assessed whenever is convenient, and the work can be marked later whenever convenient for the teacher.

Gavin’s company is already using this technology to support Irish language learners, and in this video he also discusses the wider applications of this simple, effective and accessible mobile learning approach.