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The thread that runs through my rant yesterday and today is how people talk smart talk but walk dumb.

Several weeks ago, I had an unpleasant dining experience. It gave me food for thought on why technology-led change in school flows slower than molasses.

I revisited an eatery that made some changes. One such change was a subtle one. There were QR code stickers on the tables which linked patrons to an online menu and ordering system.

The process was straightforward: Scan, select, order, pay, wait.

While waiting for our food to be served, I dealt with a technical issue on my son’s phone. It took a while to deal with because the problem was quite serious. I spent almost 20 minutes trying to troubleshoot the problem. I know this because my food order did not arrive and I checked to see why.

Online order.

I walked to the counter staff and asked if there was a problem with my order. They replied that I not ordered because I was “just sitting there as if I was waiting for someone”. Forgive me for doing what customers do, i.e., order and wait.

They also said that they tended to rely on online orders at lunch when things got busy. Apparently I was supposed to know this. Forgive me for not being a mind-reader.

A staff member then reluctantly pulled out a previously hidden iPad and saw the order. Almost as soon as she tapped on her screen did a confirmation appear on my screen. Forgive me for not reminding you to check your ordering system.

I am sorry. I apologise for the portion of the human race that holds the rest back because they cannot overcome their inertia and bias. They do what is good and comfortable for them instead of focusing on others.

I am not sorry. I make it a point to create dissonance. I tell and show people — teachers in particular — why and how to teach better with technology. The process is sometimes painful and difficult, but we do this because we focus on our learners.

Most of us would not put up with shoddy service at an eatery. I cannot put up with schooling that pretends to be education. I see through the lip service and push or pull people along if necessary. If this makes them feel uncomfortable, then so be it. Better to be honest than a hypocrite.

I found out about this metropolitan station in Romania that houses a library of sorts.

There are no actual books there. Just covers or boxes with QR codes. When scanned the QR codes allow users to download and buy e-books.

At first I thought this was a good idea. It makes interesting use of a public space, uses a current technology, and gets the general public to read. But have you heard of Amazon and other electronic book stores?

My mind wandered to what happens in many schools. There seem to be interesting interventions in the classroom space using current technology in order to get learners to read and explore.

Like the Romanian installation, these are sometimes large and loud so they can be showcased. Unlike the installation, schools are not (supposed to be) in the business of advertising or making money.

There are often better, more efficient, and more effective ways integrating technology meaningfully. These are often transparent, cheaper, and leverage on a culture of use.


Video source

I like how this implementation of QR (quick response) codes is meaningful to the user. Instead of wasting time while waiting for the train, they can shop for groceries. The grocery chain not only advertises but sells products at the same time.

Likewise. educational implementations of QR codes should drop the cool factor and focus on uncovering meaningful uses of QR codes for learning.


This semester I am including QR codes in my ICT course in a more basic way.

In semesters past, I have used QR codes for station-based learning and scavenger hunts.

This semester, I am simply adding QR codes to presentations in SlideShare. The QR codes lead to resources that are relevant to the content on a slide.

I hope to add value to the presentations by allowing my student teachers to not only get information on their smartphones but also go beyond the content of each slide.

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I have used QR codes to create scavenger hunts for various courses that I facilitate: ICT for Meaningful Learning, a Master course on e-Tools for Training, and an elective inservice course Enabling Change with ICT.

The ICT course has a game-based learning component where I reinforce the concepts of self-directed learning (SDL), collaborative learning (CoL) and cyberwellness. My teacher trainees experience, observe and discover for themselves what video game-based learning is.

Video source

They play some games, watch one another play and reflect on two main questions:

  • What is video game-based learning (GBL)?
  • How might I design lessons that leverage on GBL principles without actually playing video games?

To help them discover these principles, I provide resources that are linked to QR codes.

What do these lessons look like? There is the video above and some snapshots here. Many thanks to Carolyn for shooting the video last year and Pek Mee for editing it. Enjoy!

mojo ingredients by chotda, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License  by  chotda 

I have lunch with my team leaders every other Monday. Sometimes we talk shop, sometimes we talk about shopping. But whatever we talk about, I learn something new. Last Monday, I learnt that my tech-admin assistant took her own mobile and open initiative.

She had opted to tag our departmental assets with QR codes. [Here’s how I’ve used QR codes in a class.] Scanning these codes with a mobile phone equipped with free software (e.g., i-nigma) would lead you to a password-protected wiki page. Collectively, the wiki pages would be our database of assets.

The system would allow us to track the location an item or its history (when it was purchased, which financial vote it had come from, etc.). Any one of my staff could create the codes, access and update the database, or otherwise use the system.

The system is a simple and effective solution to a common problem in stocktaking. Got the QR code but not the item? Use the code to find it. Got the item and need to get more information about it? Scan the code on the item.

It is, in the words of my tech-admin, created so that you did not need to rely on just one person. It is also a good example of using open and mobile tools.

If you conduct a survey and ask people around you what it would take to innovate, you’d get an assortment of answers. I’ve discovered that there are two key and intertwined ingredients: Innovative people and innovation-open environments.

If you have creative staff but a restrictive workplace, you are unlikely to get innovation. If you create a risk-friendly place but no one wants to take risks, you will get frustrated. But if you simply provide a mission and empower your people to elicit change, you might just get a self-sustaining, self-evaluating system.

By the time you read this, I will be on my way to the airport and bound for Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

But since I often write in advance and schedule my entries, this should appear in my blog and its feeds be they on RSS, Twitter or Facebook.

Video source

So what did I discover this week? This wonderful example of an outdoor mobile museum that supports informal and social forms of learning!

Click to see all the nominees!

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Get a mobile QR code app to figure out what this means!

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