Friday, March 25, 2011

QR Codes and The Academy

(click image for clarity)

A while back I read a post titled "QR Codes Everywhere But Higher Ed?" by Mike Richwalsky (@mrichwalsky). I noticed Mr. Richwalsky also wrote a post back in February 2009 titled "QR Codes: Is it Time?" so he's been tracking these codes for a while.

I've had similar thoughts about QR Codes. And, like others, we've been slowly implementing the codes in our university library. Recently our marketing department created a nice promotional card for our new mobile library site, which included a QR Code for easy access (incl in flickr set below). Overall, higher ed has been slow to adopt QR codes, but based on the number of conferences and presentations featuring this simple technology, that may be changing.

I've seen QR codes in our Best Buy and a few other stores, and there is a definite increase in our local newspapers and mailers, but QR codes are still not a mainstream technology in Portland, Oregon USA. I'm not sure why, though I have some theories (another post). And the majority of people I know (other than early adopter librarians and techies) still don't know what they are.

At times I wonder if QR codes will ever mainstream in North America, and lately I've decided that for some purposes, I don't think that it matters.

Institutions of higher education and libraries (public and academic) are places that I believe can benefit from using QR codes even if they never mainstream, at least for now. Simply put, they are a low threshold technology that provide a lot of bang for the buck. In some cases I think we could ask ourselves why we wouldn't use a QR code. I'm not saying let's start blanketing our libraries and campuses with QR codes, but a QR code on a mobile website promotional card, in a university brochure, and various other places just makes sense to me.

I've embedded my most recent presentation on QR codes below. The presentation includes examples of how QR codes are being used in libraries, with publishers, vendors, retailers, and popular culture.
An article titled "7 ways higher education can use QR codes to connect with current and prospective students" has ideas to assist those in higher ed in getting started.

The Arboretum - Next Generation of Learning blog from the University of Oregon has a number of QR code posts worth reading by Robert Hill Long (who recently found and kindly posted my QR code article). Mr. Long has some great ideas for implementing QR codes in higher ed, and I suspect there will be more posts to come.

Below is a YouTube video on QR Codes at the University of Guelph:

I've embedded a new flickr set dedicated to QR codes and the academy which I'll be adding to as I discover more:

And finally, A press release on the journal NEUROSURGERY® titled "Medical Journal Using QR Codes to Link Print and Digital Video" includes a QR code (which is also on the cover of their April 2011, Vol 68, issue 4 publication). When scanned or photographed, that particular QR code takes users to one of the clearest QR Code tutorials I've seen yet. For those who don't yet use QR codes, I'll include the youtube video of the tutorial below:

I'd love to gather more examples of QR codes related to higher education. Please feel free to recommend links to information or images in comments.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Mobile Information Literacy & Mobile Trends

I've attended two of the four Handheld Librarian Conferences (#HHLIB on twitter), and hope to attend many more. This was one of the most relevant conferences I've attended in a while, and one I recommend others consider in the future. It's affordable and as an online conference, accessible to most. (And the archives from years prior are accessible to all.)

I also appreciate that the conference has a good sized international group of attendees/participants. The US is often lagging when it comes to mobile and much can be learned from those outside our country with more experience.

I've embedded the slides here from my Handheld Librarian IV presentation (including links to videos shown during the presentation)
Newer technologies, like those I and others shared, can be fun and useful. However, there were meatier presentations as well, many given by excellent keynote speakers. I discuss one of those presentation below my slides.
There were many valuable sessions during the two day conference, but for me there was one session, a keynote, that stood out - Presented by Andrew Walsh, University of Huddersfield:
"Handheld Information Literacy: Mobilising Existing Models?" Here is a link to the PDF of the presentation.

Research data (cited in the Walsh presentation, my presentation's first video link, and any Google search) confirms that mobile is of huge importance. Many industries are currently hyper-focused on mobile. I don't think most expected the level of exponential growth of mobile we've experienced quite so quickly. Even Google was off with mobile predictions. I know the recent Educause ECAR report on mobile undergraduate use caught me off-guard and I suspect most in higher education are still unaware of those statistics, no less thinking about the teaching and learning implications.

Libraries have been having mobile conversations for a while and many have created mobile sites or mobile library apps. Early adopters within libraries have been implementing simple mobile technologies like QR codes, and soon I expect we'll see more practical and location-based augmented reality used in libraries as well. However, few have begun to think about the larger implications of mobile and it's impact on libraries and educational institutions.

Those attending the Andrew Walsh presentation linked above were challenged to think deeper. The big questions he addressed: "What does all this wonderful technology mean to our users?" and "What does the mobilizing of search and information sources mean to our ideas of information literacy?"

Mr. Walsh presented a brief history of information literacy (IL) including a list of IL attributes fed into standards and models such as the ACRL 2000 standards, the SCONUL 7 Pillars and more. He then compared traditional competency based IL models (fixed IL) to more relational based mobile models and spoke on how mobile IL varies as mobile search can happen anywhere from a range of devices using the mobile web browser or specific apps. Search no longer happens in fixed controlled environments and since people are increasingly attempting to meet their information needs via handheld devices, IL is drastically changed. We need new models to reflect this change. What will it mean to libraries if most information needs are met while on the move?

A lot of food for thought was provided by the Walsh presentation along with Lee Rainie, Director of the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, keynote on "The State of Mobile Connectivity" earlier in the day.

More questions than answers are apparent to me at this time, such as: How will mobile change our roles as librarians? What about mobile learning in the classroom and beyond? Will librarians eventually move from being embedded in classrooms and Learning Management Systems to provide more services via twitter and other mobile apps? What other services might we provide? Will librarians, many still expected to fill traditional librarian roles, be free of some of those responsibilities so they can begin to consider the impact of mobile within their organizations and work towards supporting mobile users?

Libraries and librarians are currently working hard to keep up with the digital revolution and the move from print to electronic. The move to mobile is yet another shift, which could further drastically change our traditional roles. How will librarians and libraries keep up and be able to support the needs of our unconnected users as well as our connected and increasingly mobile users? Will we receive the needed buy-in and support from administrators? Or will we be caught off-guard and in outdated librarian roles be seen as no longer relevant?

I've recently begun working on a collaborative research project with two School of Education professors related to mobile learning in K-20 classrooms and beyond. Naturally mobile learning would have a mobile information literacy component. I've been thinking hard about my role as a librarian and relevance, as is the case with many librarians these days. I'm thankful for librarians like Mr. Walsh and others who follow mobile trends from whom I can continue to learn as libraries and librarians help move their institutions into 21st century literacies.

I'm also glad there are IT leaders in higher ed who are focused in this direction as well. My university's CIO, Greg Smith, recently attended the ACU ConnectEd Summit 2011 and shared some thoughts on his blog and in the video below on "The State of Mobile Learning."