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Leveraging mobile technologies and Web 2.0 tools to engage those with an interest in the centenary of the First World War in the stories of the people of the era using strategically placed Quick Response codes.
Open Education in an Open Landscape
Inclusion: Innovation: Implementation
An OULive presentation by Jonathan Vernon 17th February 2014 @20:45
I’d like people to add a Quick Response code to their Commemoration Poppy
Fig. 1. Mashup of a Royal British Legion Poppy with a Quick Response code that links to the story of a veteran of the First World War.
Who are them men and women whose lives are remembered on British War Memorials?
Fig. 2 First World War War Memorials in Lewes and Brigthon
The problem with war memorials is that those named on them risk becoming forgotten words on a list. By using the Web we can find out who these people were and where they lived: we can try to put a face to the name and a story to the name – and then we can share what we find online.
There are more than 54,000 war memorials in Great Britain, most of these put up after the First World War; there is barely a community without one. There are some 900,000 names. Significant interest already exists, especially as we approach the centenary of the First World War making this initiative a potentially easy one to add, to what is already taking place.
“Fast, cheap and out of control”
Brian Lamb (2010) described those technologies that ‘lend themselves to … the networked and open approach’ (Weller, 2012 KL 244) as ‘fast, cheap and out of control’. It was with this in mind, taking an interest in the centenary of the First World, that I started to think about using Quick Response codes as a personalized entry point to the Web that anyone could generate in order to share a story about someone who served in the conflict, and to do so both online and on the street.
Fig. 3 How a Quick Response code might be used on a Royal British Legion Poppy in order to personalise your commemoration.
Quick Response (QR) codes are fast – they are easy to use, they are free; however to be effective in learning there has to be a ‘ modicum of control’ – the initiative has to come from somewhere. Worn in this way, I’d like to think that you can share directly with others the person whose name you have researched and whose life you wish to remember, as well as directing people to the content online and inviting them to ‘adopt’ a name from a war memorial themselves. This is designed as a ‘blended experience’, that uses ‘face-to-face’, ‘community’ and ‘classroom’ experiences, trips to monuments … and qualities of being and going online.
Fig. 4 QR codes are a product of the car manufacturing industry
Faced with increasingly complex components, Denso, a supplier to Toyota, came up with what is a 2d barcode in the 1990s. (Denso, 2014) Made free of patent, and using free software anyone can now generate their own unique QR code; you can even print them out on standardized sticky label stationery. There are a myriad of uses for QR codes, from embedding information that is read and stored by the device to a quick link to rich content online. The interest here is to use QR codes to link to learning resources, in mobile, or ‘m-learning’ contexts in particular, and for users to both ‘read and write’ such content. I liken QR codes to using your phone as a remote control to click to a TV channel. You point a smartphone, or tablet at the QR code to read it and go instantly, pretty much, to a web page. Unlike a TV remote though, you can just as easily create and share your own content too.
The use of QR codes in education in the last decade has been limited
Refereed papers are few, but between these and other published reports, suggestions can be made regarding their strengths and weaknesses. If QR codes are to be used successfully then champions need to be identified to take up the cause. Whilst QR codes use the power of the Web to connect people to rich content, that they may create themselves, a good deal of thoughtful planning will be necessary, not just explaining how to make use of QR codes, but also working them in, where appropriate to current learning schedules where QR codes can contribute to meeting clear learning objectives.
The 2009 Horizon report identified six technologies that were expected to be significant in the following few years, of these, five relate to this proposed innovative approach to learning by wearing a personalised QR code:
the personal web and
Use of QR codes in learning has had mixed results
Simply putting a QR code in front of a museum artifact, as they’ve done at the Museum of London and did at the Design Museum does not work (Vernon, 2013) – there isn’t enough to attract or necessitate their use, not everyone has a smartphone or tablet, and the technology is often not robust. While outdoors QR codes added to signs in the South Downs National Park, (Kerry-Bedel 2011) for example, barely received a view a day during a three month trial and in some instances there was no signal anyway.
Where QR codes have been successful is in targeted learning experiences in schools (Gradel & Edson, 2012), where the affordances of the QR code have been exploited to form part of an engaging, constructive and collective learning experience.
To be effective this initiative with war memorials requires galvanizing people to take part in a joint exercise – easier with a class in school or college, less easy with the general public.
Examples where QR codes work include:
where participants are ‘equipped’,
where they can take an active role, such as with ‘on the spot’ surveys or quizzes,
where they are prompted into cooperative learning
and where timely ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ are given.
(Awano, 2007: Information Standards Committee 2008; So 2008; Robinson, 2010; Hicks & Sinkinson, 2011; Ryerson Library & Archives, 2012.)
K Lepi (2012) Copyright 2013 © Edudemic
Fig 5. A Simple Guide to Four Complex Learning Theories. Lepi (2012)
The theory behind the idea of using QR codes in a mobile and open way, is that in the digital age ‘connectivism’ is the modus operandi. In Fig. 3, an infographic produced by Edudemic (Edudemic 2012) traditional and digital theories are shown. All are relevant, each has its place, with the digital environment offering new approaches to learning.
Learning ‘in the digital age’ enables and benefits from a level and quality of interaction and connectedness that is easier to achieve on the Web. It is particularly effective where the body of learners is large, where ‘birds of a feather, flock together’ (Li & Chignells, 2010) at a hub (Efimova, 2009) and their behaviour is open and shared so that knowledge acquisition comes through the challenges and rewards of sustained interaction. (ibid)
Only a fraction of an online population are naturally inclined to generate content. Nielsen (1999) suggested that only 1% create content, 9% might comment, while the remainder are readers or viewers. Nielsen cites the Amazon book reviewer who wrote 1,275 reviews in one year. I liken these people to what advertisers call ‘champions.’ The key influencers of a cohort or group, early adopters, who innovate first and do so with conviction and passion. (Vernon, 2012).
Fig. 6. Creators, commentators and readers – how use of the Web stacks up. Vernon (2010) after Nielsen (1999)
So if we are to rely on participants to generate content the total numbers taking an interest as viewers and commentators needs to be large. Building on Nielsen, and authors who have called groups who identify with each other through connected blogs as ‘like minds’ and my own experience in advertising I devised Fig. 4 to suggest degrees of participation.
How I would see it work with War Memorials is that as well as the key creators, there would also need to be, say branch members of an organisation such as the Western Front Association, they have over 3,000 members with branches across the UK, as a body of ‘like minds’ supported to work on the content, a figure increased further by engaging local schools or colleges – especially where the work is made part of formal assessment.
A balance has to be found, I believe, between the qualities of a tool that is ‘fast’ and ‘cheap’, and where, if it is ‘out of control’ – but you want to use it, to do so by creating parameters or ‘scaffolding’.
Fig. 7. Following ‘City Walks’ near Bloomsbury Square, London.
The potential weaknesses of using QR codes include the requirement for participants to have a suitable device, say a smartphone or tablet and communication fees. QR codes may not be so easy to stick to, then read from, a standard Poppy either. Reading from and using a smartphone or tablet presents accessibility issues. Though these devices are also being used in resourceful ways to support people with disabilities, and an audio guide, say a minute per name, for a war memorial, has its appeal.
Fig. 8. A mash-up of old photographs overlaying a Google Map
In relation to creating and sharing content in an open culture, Robert Capps (2009) coined the expression ‘the good enough revolution’. This precludes being prescriptive or from expecting perfection. Whilst output on the First World War from the BBC and the Open University should understandably attain a certain professional standard, the kind of creation required of those researching names on war memorials themselves should take inspiration from this ‘good enough revolution’. Examples include ‘pinning’ names from a war memorial to a home address, sharing photographs in a Flickr gallery, ‘pinning’ World War One photographs to battlefield maps, sharing photographs on Pinterest, numerous inventive YouTube videos, shared documentaries and memoirs presented as blogs.
Fig. 9. A mash-up of War Memorial which featured a Poppy, adding a QR code and links to an interactive online activity and a blog.
What has been shown, in museums and ‘out in the field’, is that simply ‘put out there’ QR codes are ignored. This makes the idea of ‘wearing your Poppy featuring your QR code’ appealing, as each person becomes an ambassador on the ground, in the street, on site, for that nugget of information, especially so if they are also responsible for – and proud of creating the content you then link to. The opportunity exists to engage people in bringing the stories of those named on our war memorials alive and sharing this knowledge in an invigorating, dynamic and Web 2.0 way. As a result, a deeper and more meaningful connection is made with the past and our relationship to it.
Awano, Y (2007). Brief pictorial description of new mobile technologies used in cultural institutions in Japan. The Journal of Museum Education, 32(1), 17-25
Capps, R (2009) ‘The GOod Enough Revolution: When Cheap and Simple is Just Fine’, Wired Magazine: 17.09. Avaialble at http://www.wired.com/gadgets/miscellaneous/magazine/17-09/ff_goodenough?currentPage=1 [accessed 18th February 2014]
Denso (2014). QR Code Standardization. Available at http://denso.com/ [accessed 18th February, 2014] also at http://www.denso.com.au/Products/Non-Automotive/Data-Capture/QR-Code
Edudemic. Traditional Learning Theories. Available at http://edudemic.com/2012/12/a-simple-guide-to-4-complex-learning-theories/ [Accessed 19th April 2014]
Efimova, L. (2009) Passion at work: blogging practices of knowledge workers. Novay PhD
Research Series 2009. Available at www.novay.nl.dissertations [Accessed 19th April 2014]
Gradel, K., & Edson, A. J. (2012). Higher ed QR code resource guide.
Hicks, A., & Sinkinson, C. (2011). Situated questions and answers: Responding to library users with QR codes. Reference & User Services Quarterly, 51(1), 60–69.
Information Standards Committee (2008) Section 3: QR code, Synthesis Journal. (From http://www.itsc.org.sg/pdf/synthesis08/Three_QR_Code.pdf )
Kerry-Bedel, A (2011) Smartphone technology – the future of heritage interpretation: Its in conservation. Avialable at http://www.kbstconsulting.co.uk/QR/images/ITIC.pdf [Accessed 14th February 2014]
Lamb, B (2010) ‘Open Contempt’. Available at http://wiki.ubc.ca/Open_Contempt [accessed 18th February 2014]
Li, J., & Chignell, M. (2010) Birds of a Feather: How personality influences blog writing and reading. Science Direct. International Journal of Human-Computer Studies 68 (2010) 589-602
Nielsen, J (1999) Web Usability
Robinson, K. (2010). Mobile phones and libraries: Experimenting with the technology. ALISS Quarterly, 5(3), 21–22
Ryerson University Library & Archives (2012). QR codes. Retrieved 6th Feb 2014, from http://www.ryerson.ca/library/qr/.
So, S. (2008). A Study on the Acceptance of Mobile Phones for Teaching and Learning with a group of Pre-service teachers in Hong Kong. Journal of Educational Technology Development and Exchange, 1(1), 81-92.
Vernon, J.F. (2012) How Blogging is going all TV. (Blog post) Available at http://mymindbursts.com/2012/01/06/how-blogging-is-going-all-tv/ [Accessed 18th February 2014]
Vernon, J.F. (2013) Mobile learning at the Museum of London: QR codes and NFCs. (Blog post) Available at http://mymindbursts.com/2013/11/10/molqr1/ [Accessed 14th February 2014]
Weller, M (2011) The Digital Scholar: How Technology is Transforming Scholarly Practice. 5% Loc 239 of 4873
In the abstract we are told that ‘Although ICT resources are commonly expected to produce uniform benefits’ Tolmie (2001) Are they? And that, ‘they are necessarily employed within pre-existing contexts of educational and social activity’. Tolmie (2001)
When and where could a context NOT be pre-existing?? Something is, or is not. Context is an absolute.
Rather, what is that specific context. Otherwise this is tautology. It is like saying that electricity pylons go into an existing landscape. Isn’t this stating the obvious so that a gullible audience nod in agreement?
Tolmie (2001) talks of ‘unexpectedly diverse effects’. Unexpectedly or diverse? Surely not both.
Is this not something of an exaggeration? And in any case, such diverse responses should be either expected, or not presumed either way to be likely or unlikely to happen. It is very dangerous to pre-empt findings.
I visualise the introduction of new technology such as this as drops of ink in a pool of water in a stream – it has to compete with the mix that is already there, as well as its natural flow and other behaviours – leaking away into the land and evaporation for a start.
My conclusion based on reading the abstract is to: Think people above all else. Internal and external contexts are fluid and based on responses too and feelings.
It is all complex, and more to do with the brains of the individuals than simply their context . Everything can and should be measured in some way, from an agreed benchmark, to monitor, track then analyse. It is far more complex.
Take any class, habituated by the classroom, the people around us and the pattern and behaviour of the teacher … especially on a warm Friday afternoon, no wonder the mind wanders. Just because a person is physically in a classroom, even participating in a task, does not mean that much is going in if they are dreaming of the weekend or Fiona Henderson from the girl’s school down the road …
The expression ‘oversimplified’ used by Tolmie (2001) is a) hyperbole b) a value judgment.
Better ‘simplified’, preferably qualification of the term – simplified as in ‘clipped or contained’ that parameters are created because of the remit of the funding process. You are not able to ‘look outside the box’ as only that which takes place in the box is funded. There needs to be some of one and some of the other – research based on ‘tackling circumscribed needs’ while at the same time research that has an open brief and is open ended – that stands back to see the wood for the trees, rather than, to continue the metaphor, to examine only one kind of tree in the woods in order to avert the ‘mentality of one-stop resources’ mentioned by Oliver & Conole (1998)
How else do you address improving a situation other than by identifying the problems?
Anything else is misguided (literally), or indulgent. Far worse, in the NHS, and Post Office and Banking System have been wholesale computing systems that really were alien and universal.
Change management. Everyone has a point. Time to listen and involves matters most. The psychology of innovation. Resistance is despised. (Robinson et al., 1998)
Making the wrong assumptions that blame the teachers rather than the technology – which is a catalyst for complexity, rather than a tool for conformity.
Evaluation work also rarely does more than examine the explicitly intended effects of ICT, and so fails to identify unintended or serendipitous repercussions that may actually be a critical aspect of its impact (Jones, 1998).
But the entire point and context of an exam is to remove such context in the surroundings by placing the student in ‘exam conditions’ in a neutral space, where parameters of time and context are controlled and aim to be common to other students and impartial.
Surroundings mean different things to different people. It is naive and deterministic to think that people are so easily governed by their context. The individual over the surroundings. Unless we think students are like a uniform tribal grouping.
I’m through the reading and taking it further – reading the original paper to see if my concerns and amusement are justified.
I find the gender difference uninsightful and unhelpful – we know this anyway. Men and woman are different physiologically – which includes the brain where there are various documented differences especially between the differing amount of grey and white matter and the concentration of neurones and close connections in women compared to men. But the differences between men and women are not black and white (and their are not racial differences whatsoever) … within these differences there is considerable variety.
Now add each person’s context – which for me starts a few months after conception and every possible influence since – the same chaos theory that says that when a butterfly beats its wings in the Brazilian Jungle there is a typhoon in Malaysia will suggest that that marshmallow your grandmother gave you on Christmas day when you were six while watching Jimmy Saville introduce the Chart Show will influence how you respond to the 14 year old boy you have been paired up with in a physics class who offers you a handful of mini-marshmallows by way of ‘making friends’ who in turn is nervous about this strange but beautiful creature who he hasn’t noticed all year but rather fancies even though his older brother has his eye on her – what was that the teacher said checking the trajectory of your balls on the computer ?????
The wrong approach was taken, though the theory throws up some interesting questions
I will change my opinion as I go through my notes but my current stance is that a quantitative before and after study requires many hundreds of participants in a randomised controlled trial and the gender differences are a distraction – far better to have administered questionnaires before and after and drawn upon each students SATS results or some such to get some sense of where they were coming from in relation to physics.
More interesting pairings would be like-minds and enemies – really. A couple of buddies having a laugh might learn less than a pair who can’t stand each other, or another pair who are rivals.
Have I been watching too many teen movies? Probably.
Already I have a script in my head based on Tolmie in which far from being the less talkative, the FM pairs are chatting away to themselves (in their heads, written and delivered as stream of consciousness voice over), communicating in subtle ways through body language and as a result actually communicating more, not less than the ones who won’t shut up – and who may be playing up to the research conditions.
This is the other fundamental humdinger of a problem – these students are being tested under ‘lab conditions’.
My memories of teenager physics classes are more akin to St.Trinian’s with boys. I even have a diary to call upon which I may look at just to get me into the role. I have a household of teenagers and another five nephews and nieces in this age bracket if I need to be reminded of what it is (and was) like.
Oddly enough, work is often the last thing on their minds. Which is why homework is so important – fewer potential distractions.
This will be less than hearsay in due course – I am also refreshing what it was and is like to be a teenager through some additional reading. Problem is my daughter senses that I am observing her from time to time.
I’m just asking myself the same question I asked when she was born, ‘what is going on in there?’ – but in a quasi-academic rather than father-daughter way.
Researchers make the mistake of believing that their intervention – in this case using a computer to support a physics class by trying to prompt discussion – is going to make some measurable difference.
Can they not see the bigger picture, and how vast it is?
If each human brain has as many neurons in it as the visible galaxy – 98 billion, and each brain though similar, is connected in different ways, by gender but essentially by genetics, with every remembered moment of waking and sleeping life in between. This is why, to have something measurable, researchers taken to the lab and until recently would have stuck with sea-snails, rats and in the past cats and primates … while gradually observation and measurement of electro-chemical activity in the human brain has become possible.
When it comes to exams surely examiners know that the response to a unique set of questions in an exam, certainly at undergraduate level, if not at post compulsory level, will test the student’s ability to construct a response both from what they know, and what they have to surmise.
Jones, C. 1998 Evaluating a collaborative online learning environment Active Learning
Oliver, M. & Conole, G. (1998) Evaluating communication and information technologies: a toolkit for practitioners. Active Learning, 8,3–8.
Robinson, H., Smith, M., Galpin, F., Birchall, D., Turner, I. (1998) As good as IT gets: have we reached the limits of what technology can do for us? Active Learning, 9, 50–53.
Tolmie, A. (2001), Examining learning in relation to the contexts of use of ICT. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 17: 235–241. doi: 10.1046/j.0266-4909.2001.00178.
- It is Possible to Alter Memory (medindia.net)