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“Reports of my demise have been somewhat …” July 9, 2011

Posted by IaninSheffield in Musings, Tools.
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from A. Davey on Flickr

Caught a few tweets/retweets this morning pointing to a post “Death To The QR Code.” A bit harsh … and somewhat premature perhaps? Although the article is posted from a business/advertising standpoint, it was tweducators directing us there, so that set me wondering why.

But first let’s take a look at the article which suggests that QR codes are confusing, waste time and probably aren’t necessary. Problems cited include:

  1. having to download an app
  2. figure out how they work
  3. use the right app for the right code
  4. boot the app, wait for the camera to set itself up
  5. achieve the right distance and focus
  6. hope you have network connection.

So let’s take a look at those issues:

  1. Downloading and installing a QR code app takes what, a minute? Just once.
  2. Figuring out how it works … another minute? QR code readers aren’t highly featured; they don’t need to be, so are relatively straightforward to use.
  3. Really? I haven’t yet found a code that my reader couldn’t interpret. Maybe there are some proprietry ones, but hey if you want to hide the information you want to pass on, more fool you.
  4. Booting the app does take a moment … but don’t they all?
  5. Positioning is important … as indeed it is with snapping any photo, but we wouldn’t advocate not using cameras because of that would we?
  6. Connectivity? Maybe, but not all the secrets behind the QR codes do require a network connection. It simply depends on what you choose to put there.

The post suggests alternatives like just providing the URL. Er, but wouldn’t that mean booting up a browser and typing in the URL … correctly.That’s quicker? Wondering also how using a URL means that connectivity is no longer necessary? Another alternative the post suggests is that with improving features, we could just use image recognition? But surely the 6 problems they cited for QR codes apply equally for image recognition? Finally we’re told that near-field communication is all but upon us which will make things much faster and the need to fire up an app unneccessary. Well, possibly … but I wonder what the relative costs are for the producer of the information adding a QR code or near-field technology to their information source?

qr code

QR Codes: Give it time!

So I guess I found the article rather hypocritical, offering alternatives which in fact have the same drawbacks as QR codes themselves. But to return to my opening point, why would some educators wish to point us towards such an article. I can only assume (given that there was no further information in the tweet than a title and URL) that they support the notion that QR codes should have seen their day. Which bothers me a little. There are lots of people doing interesting things with QR codes; new refreshing things. They are experimenting, exploring and evaluating the different affordances that new technologies bring. Some of those explorations will be more successful than others, but the good stuff can be spread more widely for other educators to use to help their students’ learning. And there’s the rub I guess – if we cast aside what might be ‘in vogue’ just at the point where the wheat has been sorted from the chaff and the good stuff is starting to emerge, then maybe we risk failing to allow new opportunities the chance to become embedded. I sometimes worry that’s what happened (is happening?) with interactive whiteboards … or perhaps just technology in general.

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