In my last post, I described instructional strategies for using QR codes, particularly in augmented reality applications. QR codes, a type of data matrix code, can be scanned by QR scanners, or mobile phone/smartphone cameras with QR readers. QR readers are readily downloadable from a variety of sources. (If you have an iPhone you can use some of these types of readers.) Scanning a QR code will let you view the information linked to the code.
But lest you think that QR codes are the only way to code the physical world, we’ll take a look at another type of scanning application in this post.
If you are fond of the more traditional-looking barcodes or don’t want to spend time creating a QR code and then affixing it to something, Stickybits may be the platform for you. You can download the free Stickybits app to your iPhone or Android phone and from there attach any information to any barcode. That information can include text, pdfs, photos, images, and audio. Stickybits also sells packets of barcodes for items that don’t already have a barcode. Packs of 20 go for about $10 on Amazon.
The Stickybits app notifies a moderator (the first person who scans a barcoded object) , each time one of his/her objects is scanned, gets new bits attached, and even changes location. You can login to Stickybits via Facebook connect and you can broadcast a scan and what you’ve attached to Facebook, Twitter, or FourSquare.
Instructional strategies: Stickybits makes scanning social
All of the potential uses for QR codes are available for Stickybits. Because you can scan pre-existing barcodes (and even QR codes), you don’t need to create an additional burden of barcode graffiti (unless an item lacks a barcode to begin with). Thus, for example, you can use the existing barcode on a library book to add your own book review or scan the barcode of a piece of equipment to access a how-to video.
This inherent stickiness of barcodes means that multiple users can add information to a barcode if they have a Smartphone and the Stickybits app downloaded. This also means that any coded item can be associated with information from multiple users. Also, identical codes become associated with the same information, so identical barcodes distributed globally will have the same multiple bits of information attached to them.
If you’re somewhat aghast at the idea of multiple users adding uncontrolled content, welcome to the sometimes terrifying world of social media. If you are the first person to scan a code with the Stickybits app, you have some control as the moderator to delete bits. Outside of this, you don’t have much control over the bits people post. If you want total control, what you really want is to use QR codes, as described in the previous post, but QR codes won’t let you tap into the potential of learner-generated content.
So in summary, Stickybits will save you time in the short run, since you don’t have to generate a code yourself, but you have to view the potential of social scanning as a significant plus to its use. If you have control over the pool of learners who can access the code, for example in a classroom or training setting, Stickybits may be quite useful. You can also try incentivizing good behavior by offering points for relevant or useful comments or correct answers, if you’ve initially attached a question to a barcode. Voting or a point system, can ensure that the best content rises to the top of a bit stream.
A new version of Stickybits is coming out in October, but from what I understand, the new features are geared towards making Stickybits more brand friendly, since its primary use right now is as a marketing tool. But instructional designers are creative folks; let’s see if we can use these new features to create better learning applications.