Friday, 7 October 2011


At last, a chance to get out and talk to people about e-learning again! A nice day at The MØLLER Centre in Cambridge. I couldn't find the ALT code for a small version that character, sorry. The Eastern Region E-learning Forum, merged with the VLE and Technical Forums and probably the Staff Development Managers' one as well, and we all gathered in this lovely environment where we were well looked after by JISC Regional Support Centre colleagues.

Both speakers in the morning session had a similar theme - things you can do with a smartphone. It was such a relief that not once did I hear what is becoming an annoyingly generic term iPhone either. QR codes. I had inwardly groaned a bit when seeing this on the menu but the actual title 'Augmented Reality' was intriguing enough to make me pay some attention and I genuinely learned something. Dale from Exeter University explained nicely. QR codes are those strange square icons that are appearing everywhere nowadays. they contain some large box-like graphics in some corners and a load of dots in such a way that one would presume that there'll be quite a few combinations before they need QR2 with either smaller dots or larger icons. Each graphic represents a link to something. You can make your own and anyone with a smartphone with some QR code-reading app installed can then simply point the phone at the graphic and up will appear a bundle of information, usually a web site, about whatever it is the person who created the code wants to show.

Yes, there's danger there but never mind! While the chap was showing us some variations on the theme I downloaded a reader and tried it out. My first QR reading. I was quite pleased with myself and wondered why I hadn't done so ages ago. I think it's something about the graphic which I have to say I find quite annoying, almost offensive to look at. Why i should think that I don't know. perhaps my brain already has some software installed that simply sees the arrangement of black and white pixels and gets grumpy. I now know quite a bit about bats, for that was the material involved in this marvellous bit of research work done by Exeter University to enable students to wander around their campus with various devices and get told all about what creatures lurked there.

Prior to that I'd been dragged on stage to do a brief impression of a magician, sweeping away a cloak to reveal my Vice Chairman's innards being displayed on a huge screen by the QR code slapped on his shirtW we were both quite relieved that he hadn't worn it a little lower. thatw as a more advanced version which even moved as he did so as he jumped so too did his organs jiggle. Not the sort of thing you expect at an E-learning Forum at all.

We also got to see how Google Goggles identifies whatever you happen to point your phone at and comes up with a load of gen about that too. I knew about this but hadn't seen it in action. Great. I shall get that too. In fact, that could be even more useful and may be what can rid us of the nasty looking QR invasion as and when Goggles can do what the codes do and can maybe interpret individually designed items which don't have to be boxes of pixels.

A great time was had by all and I do hope that everyone responds really favourably to the surveys about how useful they find the RSCs as the Government seek to get them to justify their existence. Just get shot of LSIS and give the money to JISC RSCs, especially the Eastern people. That's what I say. Maybe I should make a QR code to link to a large message saying just that and then stick the codes all over the MPs' drinking areas, loos and wherever else they make decisions.

That's the odd thing about these QR things. You see one but may not necessarily know what it's going to tell you about. Could be fun.

Outside The Moller Centre, Cambridge is a fountain with worryingly straw coloured water

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