Tag Archives: mobile

QR Code Madness

QRQR codes are square barcodes, which are quick to read and can contain more information than older linear barcodes. More importantly, QR codes can contains links which take scanners directly to a location on the Internet, and can be scanned by almost any phone or laptop. These codes can, with a little imagination, be used in some really innovative ways within schools. For example, students can record audio book reviews, which are then QR coded, and stuck onto books in the library, allowing potential borrowers to get a quick overview. Or, they could be used to tell stories around school, such as how each school trophy was won.

Today I unleashed Happyism, a little QR project I have been organising with my pastoral group. The aim of the project was to be the opposite of terrorism, namely an act of trying to make people happy, inspired and positive in a public place. When students came out of class for lunch, they discovered 150 unique QR codes stuck around the canteen and stairway area. Each of these codes, when scanned with a phone or computer, took the student to a website which aimed to make them laugh, think or act. Some staff also wore codes, linking to sites relating to their subject area, personality or nationality.

At first students were a little unsure, but with a lot of prompting, a few started investigating. Within 20 minutes there were groups of students gathering around phones, animatedly enjoying a variety of videos, pictures, quotes and stories. A particular highlight was Ms. Goldthorpe, whose QR code, resting on her bump, led students to an ultrasound of her unborn child (thanks to my wife for this genius idea).

The process of gathering the sites (shared amongst students and myself) was time consuming, as was vetting them, creating codes, printing, cutting and sticking. However, the effort was more than worth it, with a real buzz around campus during the day. Even better, a number of staff asked how they could build this into their curriculum areas, showing a great willingness to try new things. If you are interested in trying this out at your school, some of the following may be useful:

  • QR Code Madess – the full listing of almost 150 unique QR codes, appropriate for use in secondary school.
  • Web QR – scan straight from the web (seems to work best with Chrome, at least on Mac).
  • QR Droid – for Android devices.
  • QR Reader for iOS devices.

Digitally Driven Cultural Evolution

In the 19th-century, the Ludittes famously objected to steam-powered manufacturing, the technology of the day: they made their feelings clear by breaking mill machines. Of late I have started to think of this as representative of something that every generation goes through at some point or another: questioning the net value of new technology.

Over the last 12-months I have been witness to some alarming developments in the way individuals use technology. This dawned on me when I started noticing more and more restaurant-goers ignoring their friends and family in favour of interacting with their smartphones. At its worst this is manifest in a group of diners all steadfastly ignoring each other as they negotiate their individual digital worlds. I guess they might be playing an online game together, but then why bother with dinner? Whilst this is bad enough, I have seen this trend invade the most intimate of relationships: travelling on the train one day I witnessed a very attractive woman gazing intently into the eyes of her man. Rather than returning the gaze, he was frantically playing a shoot-’em-up game on his phone, which he had managed to squeeze into the small space between their faces. When people start choosing digital over intimate, I think we have a problem. These ideas are nicely expressed in some street art I saw in Sai Kung recently (see the thumbnail above, click to enlarge).

As a teacher of ICT, and as a parent, these developments give me a lot of food for thought. Of course, my own son is very easily and deeply engaged in the latest multimedia gizmo: why would he not be? And certainly my students need reminding to put their tech away and focus on human interaction. More to the point, I realise that I am not immune from this myself, often prioritising digital work ahead of face-to-face social interaction (isn’t there just too much to get done?). But where and how do we find the balance needed to remain healthy, grounded and connected to reality? And how do we help our students to see doing so as something positive.

Looking forward, where might these cultural and consumption trends this lead us? Perhaps to a place where being digital becomes more interesting than reproduction, in which case we certainly will be in trouble. Are we running the risk of turning our lives into a digital circus, punctuated by the odd intrusion of reality? Playing devil’s advocate, does it really matter at all, or is all this change just an accelerated form of business as usual? Haven’t things always changed? Is not everything we value merely a construct we have learned to love?

I don’t for a minute doubt the value of information technology, in fact, to the contrary, I often marvel at what it brings to our lives. Yet I can’t help but wonder if all of our devices are becoming just a little too personal.

Note: Having put these thoughts down, and shared them with others, it is now time to put the technology away and enjoy an evening with family.