JISC RSC Learning Technologies

JISC RSC Scotland North & East

Today was our big annual Winter Fayre. Unfortunately we had to make the agonising decision to postpone it due to the incredible weather that has hit the central belt of Scotland and beyond.

I would have been doing a QR Code session today so I thought I’d make a short screencast of what I would have delivered.

I give a brief overview of QR Codes, a quick look at how they are being used generally then move on to more educational examples, show you how to create your own QR Codes and finally talk about some things to think about when using QR Codes institutionally.

And here are the slides with active links that I used in the screencast above.

If you’ve got any questions or queries about QR Codes please don’t hesitate to get in touch. We’re here to help :-)

Other related QR Codes posts on this blog

QR Code Icebreakers
Simplifying your QR Codes for Easier Scanning
Shorten your URLs with Goo.gl
QR Codes – For the easily amused: me!

Some external QR Code links which may be of interest

Tom Barret’s Interesting Ways to use QR Codes in the Classroom part of a user-contributed series on ways to use learning technologies
Don’t waste your time Blog QR Codes: In the Classroom
TechDis: Upwardly Mobile: Getting started with inclusive mLearning QR Codes

Speaking at Future Technology Now: the 5th annual SLIC conference for Further Education library and information staff in Scotland. Talking about QR Codes in libraries. Here’s my presentation. I’ve also added a live mindmap. More on that later.

Delicious is a social bookmarking site that lets you bookmark your favourite web resources or URLs. You can also search Delicious for resources. If someone has bookmarked a resource it’s usually because it’s useful in some way and we can use this to our advantage when searching for useful resources. You don’t need to have an account or be logged in to search Delicious.

In this short video I look at three quick ways to find information on Delicious

1. Explore Tags

On the Delicious Home Page, there’s an Explore Tags tab (1) which we can use to search for tags.

A tag is a keyword that users assign to a bookmark to describe the resource. So I’m interested in QR Codes at the moment so I’ll type in qrcodes (2) omitting the space. In delicious, tags don’t have spaces. QR Code related bookmarks could also be assigned tags such as qrcode and qr. You’ll get a feel for the various tags when you see the search results

You can also search for multiple tags so I could filter this search further by typing in education. So it returns all the recent tags with qrcode and education.

TIP: Each Recent and Popular tag search on Delicious has a handy associated RSS feed and if you’re familiar with RSS feeds you can subscribe to this feed by copying the RSS address into something like Google Reader and automatically be kept up-to-date with, in this case bookmarks being tagged with qrcode and education.

You can also search for Popular tags.

You can only search for one tag at a time but it’s a quick way to get a list of popular resources for the subject you are searching for.

2. Full Search

Delicious also has a global search facility and it will search not only tags but bookmark title and associated notes. You can refine your search in a number of ways. For example, restricting it by date, wrapping it quotes and filtering by tag. I go into more detail in the video.

 

3. Sort by Popularity

Finally, you can sort your results by the amount of times a resource has been bookmarked by using the Greasemonkey Firefox extension.

Greasemonkey lets you change the look and feel of web pages and here I’m using two scripts; AutoPagerize and Sort Visible Links. AutoPagerize lets you see multiple screens of information on one page. It saves you scrolling down the page and hitting the next page button. As soon as you’re at the bottom of the page it automatically loads the next page. Once you’ve got a few screens listed on the one page you can then use the Sort Visible Links script to sort the bookmarks into the most bookmarked resources.

I just came across this handy app for the iPhone/iPod Touch called Prizmo.

This app lets you take photos of text documents then performs OCR (Optical Character Recognition) allowing you to send the text to a variety of different destinations. It also has a built-in text-to-speech (tts) reader which may be useful for students with dyslexia. The synthetic voices are remarkably good. You do need to purchase these separately though (currently £1.79 each). For causal use it may be an alternative to the great, but expensive Intel Reader. I go through Prizmo’s features in more detail in the short video.

Prizmo’s Key Features

Scan text docs
Fast, accurate OCR (text recognition)
Text-to-speech voice reader
Text language translation (useful for ESOL/language students)
Send text to a variety of sources

 
Go to the Prizmo iTunes Preview Page. Currently priced at £5.99 in the App Store. Additional Voices £1.79

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Download Create&Convert Audio Overview MP3

I was delighted to be joined today by our eLearning Advisor for Accessibility and Inclusion, Craig Mill. Following on from the success of AccessApps and MyStudyBar, Craig discusses, in this short audio interview, JISC RSC Scotland N&E’s brand new software tool – Create&Convert.

On 1st October of this year the Equality Act 2010 came into force. The Act states that information must be available in an accessible format. If you’d like to know more about the Act, in a digestible format, JISC TechDis and JISC Legal have produced this short guide.

Create&Convert is a free, resource creation and training tool that has been designed specifically to help institutions or organisations comply with the Act and enables users to publish electronic documents in accessible alternative formats such as DAISY Digital Talking Books (DTB).

For more information go to Create&Convert

I ran a short QR Code workshop a couple of weeks ago and thought I’d share a couple of icebreakers I used which seemed to go down well.

Icebreaker 1: Retrieve your free RSC Pencils

I split participants into pairs, primarily because I didn’t have enough phones to go round and assigned them a team name. It also got participants chatting. Beforehand, the fun bit in the office was coming up with the team names. Included for reference! :-)

Laurel and Hardy
Fred and Wilma
Tom & Jerry
Starsky and Hutch
Morecombe and Wise
Lone Ranger and Tonto
Randall and Hopkirk (non-deceased)
Marks and Spencer

Their task was to scan the QR code displayed on the data projector screen at the front of the room and follow the instructions.

Decoded, the QR Code reads “Your task, should you wish to accept, is to find the set of pencils with your team name on it”. So it very quickly gave participants the opportunity to scan in a few QR Codes and find their RSC pencils. The QR Codes encoded with their team names, along with the pencils were laid out on a table.

Icebreaker 2: Name the conferences we ran in September

The second activity was to scan QR Codes attached to the RSC Posters on the wall. I asked a question about our website and they had to visit the resource to get the answer.

Notes

I was lucky enough to be able to borrow my colleagues phones. I didn’t want to use their bandwidth so turned off the phone part and flipped on wifi. Icebreaker 1 worked well because it wasn’t using any network resources. There was an issue with a couple of the older phones getting them linked up to the hidden wireless network at the institution we were at so Icebreaker 2 was a problem for those phones – although the QR code could still be scanned and the web address stored and visited at a later date.

If participants are using their own phones in a workshop and want to install QR Code software, a site I’ve found useful is http://percentmobile.com/getqr If they go to that address on their phones it suggests and links to a few QR Code readers that will run on their phone.

If you’re using QR Codes with student it might be worth checking your WiFi network. Can your students access it? Andy Ramsden at the University of Bath recently published The level of student engagement with QR Codes: Findings from a cross institutional survey. It indicated that only 18 percent of students would be willing to access mobile learning material using their own bandwidth.

I recently wrote a blog post on simplifying your QR Codes for easier scanning using Google’s URL shortening service. Now Google have opened up their service and you can create shortened URLs without the use of a browser extension or bookmarklet.

To create a shortened URL just go to Goo.gl and copy and paste in your URL to be shortened and hit Shorten. That’s it!

If you’ve got a google account it’s worth signing in before you use the service. That way you can keep track of all your shortened goo.gl URLs.

A Couple of Tips

Clicking on the Details link in your stats page will give you some stats on your shortened URL like number of clicks on the URL and it will also give you an image of the QR Code for the shortened URL.

You don’t need to be logged in to your Google account to do this and you can get stats on ANY goo.gl shortened URL by typing either typing a plus sign (+) after the URL or typing .info. So, for example goo.gl/VZ22+ or goo.gl/VZ22.info will take you to the stats page for the JISC RSC LearnTech Blog*. If you just want access to the QR Code just type .qr after the shortened URL goo.gl/VZ22.qr

Contributor BinBin on the goo.gle discussion forum submitted an excellent tip on how to resize the default QR Code size. RIght-click on the QR Code and open the image in a new tab (your browser terminology may be slightly different). If you go directly to the QR code, for example, goo.gl/VZ22.qr you don’t need to right-click.

Now, in the address bar you’ll see a size of, for example, 150×150 in the URL. This is the size of the QR Code. So, if you wanted to make the QR Code 500×500 just replace the 150×150 with 500×500 and hit return.

*This tip also works on any bit.ly shortened URL. Bit.ly is an alternative shortening service. It lets you customise the bit.ly URL so I can specify something meaningful like bit.ly/rsclt to take me to my blog rather than a randomly generated URL. Much easier to remember! Bit.ly doesn’t offer QR Code generation though.

UPDATE 13/10/2010: Bit.ly now offers QR Code generation. Same process as Goo.gl. Just add .qr after the shortened URL.

The more data you encode in a QR Code, the more complex the code becomes, making it potentially difficult for lower spec’d cameras to decode. You can make your QR Codes simpler by using a url shortening service like Google’s goo.gl service.

In this video I look at Google’s URL shortening service, goo.gl and the Google Chrome URL Shortener extension. Another bonus of using the goo.gl service is that by adding a .qr extension onto the end of any goo.gl address it also automatically creates a QR Code. If you’re not a Chrome user, you can still use the goo.gl service by using a bookmarklet or firefox extension. As an alternative, I also look at a QR Code Generator with built-in URL shortening service from Delivr.

Why I use a shortening service

When I first started using QR Codes a couple of years ago I would cram in a lot of information when generating my own codes. This lead to quite complex QR Codes. The camera on my phone had no problem decoding them, but after running a couple of workshops I realised it was proving problematic for lower resolution and lower spec’d cameras without autofocus or with long minimum focusing distances to read the QR Codes. Of course, you could always make the QR Codes larger. Kaywa suggest a minimum print size of 32mm x 32mm. If you’re interested in the gory technical details, Denso-Wave, the creators of QR Codes, have the specifications here.

For me, I want to make my QR Codes as accessible as possible, so now I make sure the information encoded is as short as possible. Rather than giving out my full contact details on a QR Code, I just encode my blog URL which has my contact details there. My blog address is rather long so I use a url shortening service to make the QR Code as simple and useable as possible. If (rarely now) my QR Codes contain a lot of text I just make sure the QR Codes are extra large.

Using QR Codes institution wide

If you’re considering implementing the use of QR Codes across your institution, and in terms of sustainability (what would happen if the third party shortening service you used folded?) and authenticity (users may be more inclined to use URLs created by a trusted institutional shortening service than a third party one), it may be worth implementing your own URL shortening service and QR Code generator. It’s pretty straightforward to do. Just purchase a short domain name and implement a url shortening script. Here’s a list of 10 free scripts to get you started. You could also, optionally, record tracking stats such as IP address and user- agent. And finally, write your own QR Code generator using Google’s Chart API.

I did an Audio Feedback workshop at the ePortfolio Scotland 2010 conference held last week at Queen Margaret University. One of the participants asked for more information on using the LAME MP3 encoder with Audacity.

Out of the box, you can’t export MP3 files with Audacity, the free open-source audio editor. There’s a patent issue with the MP3 file format so you need to download an extra file to allow you to convert your audio files to MP3 format.

The file you need to download, the LAME MP3 encoder file (lame_enc.dll) just needs to be placed somewhere where Audacity can find it. There’s more information on the Audacity LAME info page and I’ve made a short video for reference, showing how to download and use it.

In the video I downloaded the zip file rather than the exe file. It’s up to you which method you choose.

I’ve already blogged about using my iPod Touch and Apple Wireless Keyboard as a portable note taking solution. In addition now, I’ve got a shiny new Dell Streak Android device (is it a big phone or a wee tablet – a bit of both!).

So the obvious step is to pair it up with the Apple Bluetooth Wireless keyboard. And it paired first time with no problem. Just turn Bluetooth on. You can do this by tapping on the block that contains the battery level/phone signal strength indicators. Then from the same menu, go to More Settings > Wireless controls > Bluetooth Settings, turn the keyboard on, Scan for devices. When the Streak has found the keyboard tap it on the screen and follow the onscreen instructions. That’s it.

I have a quick demo in the video below. I also mention some keyboard shortcuts.