It seems that Microsoft have discovered the 2D Barcode. Expect to see a proliferation of mobile 2D Barcode products and services in the next two years, now that Microsoft have just released Windows Live Barcode (still in Beta).
The 2D Barcode standard they have chosen is the QR Code – distinguised by the three concentric squares visible in each code. Although it’s proprietary (owned by Denso-Wave corp.), it is the most widely adopted barcode format used in Japan, where over 30 million mobile phones already feature the software required to decode the barcodes. The next most popular format is currently Semacode (aka Datamatrix), which is an open, non-proprietary standard. Most popular readers (such as the Kaywa Reader) support decoding both of these major barcode formats.
Unlike other “proximity” technologies like RFID, “Smart Chips”, GPS, or magnetic strips, the 2D Barcodes can be read by an ordinary camera phone, loaded with the correct software; and can be created without any special hardware, software, or consumables. The barcodes can be printed on paper, read from computer monitors or TV screens, or even created on and read from another mobile phone. Just to prove the capabilities of this technology, I have even created a working barcoded T-Shirt.
A QR Code can store over 4,000 alphanumeric characters within a barcode. The capacity, flexibility, and inexpensiveness of 2D barcodes makes their application to education extremely diverse.
In the future, expect to see educators accopanying printed notes with automatically generated 2D barcodes on each page, linking to electronic versions available via students’ smartphones.
Expect to see 2D barcodes attached to “real life” teaching and learning realia, such as plants in a nursery (for example). A learner could find out more information about any tagged object, just by using their mobile phone to capture the Code, and either directly accessing the data stored in the code, or being directed to a URL (which could contain multiple links to related resources, including images, articles, and video).
(Click image for larger version – excepted from Low & O’Connell 2006, “Learner-Centric Design of Digital Mobile Learning“)
Expect to see learners sharing information with each other using QR Codes to encode, exchange, and store data – saving learners the trouble of manually and laboriously inputting text using mobile phone keypads.
Expect QR Codes to provide an instant context for information, so that a learner’s interactions and learning can be guided by their current situation or context, such as in this example of a tag that might one day be attached to the Sydney Harbour Bridge:
There are already a number of online tools for creating 2D Barcode enabled mobile websites, such as WinkSite… and a lot of online generators for creating your own 2D Barcodes for other sites of your choice.
I’m aware of just a few educators who are trying out 2D barcodes, but the true potential of this technology won’t be accomplished until we can get the attention of telecommunications providers – to have decoding software installed in Australian camera phones by default, as it is in Japan. I have previously tried to telephone and email Optus, Telstra, a number of other providers and industry groups including the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association and the Australian Consumers’ Telecommunication Network, but it’s been a struggle to convey to them the applications of this particular technology.
Still… Now that Microsoft are in on the game, we may see advances made in the deployment of 2D barcode technology software, even without the participation of telecommunications organisations. I’m certainly looking forward to a more connected future of learning!
technorati tags:2dbarcode, barcode, qrcode, qr-code, qr code, mobile learning, mobilelearning, mobile-learning, m-learning, mlearning, education, pedagogy, mobile, carnivalofthemobilists, 2d, 2d barcode, microsoft, live barcode, windows, live, situated, mlearn, mlearn2006, mlearn 2006, 2006
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