A couple of days ago I was quite interested to hear a local real estate agent interviewed on radio about the way he is currently using QR (Quick Response) codes, and it made me think again if there could be a use for them in a library. Many real estate agents use QR codes – they put them on For Sale signs in people’s yards and so that if someone is driving by, they can using their mobile phones to read the codes. This in turn takes them straight to the internet site advertising the property.
So, how can you get your mobile phone to do this? Firstly you need to download a QR Reader – a piece of software which will allow your phone to scan the barcode (as you take a photo). iPhoneapps have released Matrix QR Reader for iPhones, and you can view a video demonstration of it here. Of course there are multiple other QR Readers available for downloading onto any other mobile phone.
Once you have downloaded your QR Reader, you can then use your phone to photograph (scan) any codes that you see, and this will convert the code to text or a web address. From the point of view of marketing, the hope, of course, is that you will then visit the website and purchase or interact with the product.
In order to generate your own QR codes, you need to use a QR Code Generator. Kaywa Code Generator is a simple version where you can type in text, a URL, phone number or SMS and your QR Code will automatically be generated. Then you can simply cut and paste it and use it wherever you want it.
QR codes have been around for a few years now, and over that time uses for them in education have been proposed, but have never really taken off. This is most likely due to the fact that schools are already struggling with the whole idea of allowing mobile phones – particularly with the steady increase in cyberbullying, sexting, videoing playground fights and other inappropriate uses of mobile phones.
Educause Learning Initiative in Feb 2009 published 7 Things You Should Know About QR Codes, and here they comment: “the challenge remains to find appropriate and effective pedagogical uses of QR codes.” The article outlines the advantages and disadvantages of them, and contains implications for teaching and learning.
From another perspective, Leonard Low says “Where I see QR Codes becoming obsolete is through the rapidly improving processing capabilities of mobile devices, which are on the cusp of becoming capable of reading and interpreting printed text. Once phones become able to recognise a printed URL, for example, the use of a QR Code to “represent” a URL becomes superfluous… an unnecessary (and non-human-readable) duplication of information. Text-recognition will also be far more flexible than QR Codes; potentially, semantic constructs could be used to allow the recognition of an infinite variety of different types of data, the same way that OCR currently works on desktop computers.” (Mobile Learning Blog)
Nevertheless, I do like the following ideas for libraries from Lex Rigby, a science and engineering librarian. She suggests:
“If we started to use QR codes to label books, journals, audio/visual, offprints etc and a user wanted to see further information about that resource, all they’d need to do is scan the QR code. They’d be able to find descriptive information, images, useful URLs etc all at the touch of a button on their phone. And what if at that moment in time they have too many books out? Well, by saving the QR code as an image they’d have a record of the resource stored on their phone so they’d be able to easily find it when they’re ready to loan it….
…How about using QR codes on your promotional/marketing materials to link users directly to where information can be found on the Internet? Do you have a library weblog? Are you producing leaflets to inform readers where they can find it? Why not stick a QR code on there so that they’re able to link directly to you? Got some particularly good skills tutorials you want your users to know about? Stick a QR code on your promotional material and they’ll find it straight away! Got an extensive reading list you want your students to read? Why not put a QR code on there to link students directly to the library catalogue record or even the article itself!!”
Will I use them in my Library? Probably not at the moment (because I’m too busy) but that doesn’t mean I won’t re-look at them in future – unless they’re obsolete by then!
Using QR Codes in Libraries (John Lang)
Will QR Codes Take Off in Education? (Kerrie Smith)
By the way, here is a very interesting site showing documented uses of/references to QR codes on a timeline.