This week’s app comes to you from Kayla, a teen who works as a page at my library. The other day she came to tell me about the easy way she was doing biology homework on her phone. Since she was using the app, and if I downloaded it I would not have a class to practice with, I asked Kayla to tell us about how it works:
“Your teacher can upload multiple choice questions for you to answer for homework. They can limit how many times you can answer them, so it can give you a challenge by only having you do it once, or you can re-do it a few times and fix your mistakes. It’s a good learning site, because it’s hands on. It’s a good way to review for big tests because the multiple choice questions reflect what you’ve done in class. Teachers and students can post notes on it, and can comments on each other’s notes. You can look at the schedule for future assignments. You can put photos, vidoes, and files from drop box to share with the class. Students might upload their notes.”
Youth Librarians are wearers of many hats. For a lot of us, I think that is part of the appeal. It certainly is for me. I hate being bored. I recently had a long crazy day. This is not unusual, you’ve probably had one recently, too. But what struck me at the end of this day was the variety of things I did – the hats I wore, if you will. It reminded me of variousblogs and initiatives I’ve seen around the Internet detailing our days in order to show a wider audience what it is that youth librarians do.
I’m saying Youth Librarian as opposed to Teen Librarian because I was promoted earlier this year to Youth Services Coordinator, supervising the whole youth department- services to children and teens- at my library. It has increased the levels of metaphorical, and occasionally literal hat wearing in my work life. I have also found, as you’ll see later in this post, it has provided some different opportunities to get teens involved.
I’m going to tell you about my day, and perhaps it will inspire you, YALSA bloggers, to share your own long crazy day. (more…)
This game is really pretty. It’s also really hard. NightSky begins with the premise of a mysterious glowing orb found on a beach. The nameless narrator’s text tells us that upon bringing it home he or she began to have strange dreams. This, combined with a soundtrack that is quirky bordering on eerie, sets the tone for a strange dream of a game.
Do you re-read? I love to re-read. I do it all the time.
Some books are comfortable, familiar and relaxing (Harry Potter, Robin McKinley’s The Blue Sword and The Hero and the Crown, Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere). Sometimes a particular character feels like a friend I want to spend more time with (Q from Paper Towns) or the world of a book is a place I wish I could go (Cabeswater in The Raven Boys). Lately, I end up reading books by favorite authors or new books in a series too fast to savor them properly on the first go (The Fault in Our Stars, Clockwork Princess), so I like to go back and spend a more leisurely time with them later to notice details and moon over sentences. I also spend a lot of time commuting by car and have decided the best books to listen to while driving are books where I already know what happens. That way I’m not distracted from driving by a suspenseful twist of plot. And it’s fun to hear someone else read a book, especially when they sound like the characters (The Scorpio Races was great for this). I am currently in the midst of a Shadowhunter audiobook marathon, in part because I am excited about the City of Bones movie, and in part to refresh my memory before the final book in the Mortal Instruments, even though it doesn’t come out until next year. (more…)
Happy Teen Tech Week! This week’s app is a great example of technology and books coming together.
Cassandra Clare writes books about a race of demon hunters called Shadowhunters. She currently has two series with equally compelling ensemble casts: The Mortal Instruments which takes place in a contemporary urban fantasy setting, and The Infernal Devices which is set in a slightly steampunky nineteenth century. I’m getting pretty excited about her upcoming releases. Clockwork Princess, the third and final installment of TheInfernal Devices trilogy is coming to a library or bookstore near you this Tuesday, March 19. The City of Bones movie opens in theaters this summer, on August 23. And City of Heavenly Fire, the sixth and final book in The Mortal Instruments is due to be released next year. Clare will continue to write about Shadowhunters in forthcoming series The Dark Artifices. (more…)
Title: LiVe Well Platform:iOS and Android Cost: Free
Winter can be a tough time to stay motivated about being healthy. It’s snowy (in some places), it’s dark (in this hemisphere), and the cold brings on cravings for comfort food (admittedly, I could probably go for baked mac and cheese in just about any weather). Okay, it can be hard to stay motivated about being healthy all year round, but I know that I feel better when I get some exercise and eat my vegetables.
The app provides fun and easy ideas for activities and recipes, and a tracking-tool to chart your progress towards meeting daily and weekly goals for good food and getting active. If you need an idea for something to do, choose from outside, inside, night games, or surprise me, shake your mobile device and get a suggestion. The same goes for recipes, where you can choose from breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert or beverage. While charting progress may only appeal to the highly motivated, the easy interactivity of shake-for-an-idea, will appeal to many. Not all of the suggested activities involve what you might think of as exercise, either. Building a snowman putting on a puppet show, or dancing are all ways to be active. (more…)
At a New Year’s party I was introduced to a game that had a room full of 30-year-old nerds yelling things like: “Set shift-sanitizer to three! Contemplate existence! Wormhole, everybody flip!” Spaceteam is a hilarious cooperative game for 2-4 players where you must communicate instructions to your teammates while racing against your ship’s impending destruction. It is fast-paced, funny, and loud, which is why teens will love it. Play this game with a group in a room where you can close the door.
Spaceteam uses your wireless internet connection to link your team’s devices. It’s the only cooperative app game I know of that requires players to be in the same room. Each player’s screen has a control panel where you can manipulate various controls: buttons, levers, dials, etc. Many of these are labeled with lengthy, difficult to pronounce technobabble names. Some are instead labeled with things that sound normal, but come off as non sequiturs in the context of a spaceship, like a panel labeled “laundry” with a button labeled “sort.” Instructions appear at the top of your screen. Some of these may pertain to the controls you can see, but more likely, they will be things you need to tell the other players to do. You need to tell them quickly because each instruction has a timer, and you’re going to find yourself telling them loudly because everyone will be giving instructions at the same time. Successfully complete an adequate amount of these prompts and advance to the next level, where things will only get worse. There may be wormholes, which can only be bypassed when everyone flips their device upside down, asteroids that require you to shake your device, green slime that spreads across your control panel, and instruments coming loose and swinging wildly back and forth as you try to manipulate them. Wipe up that slime, hold the plasma gauge in place and remember to “work together… as a spaceteam.” (more…)
Title: Letterpress Platform:iOS Cost: Free, upgrade for .99
I’ve played a lot of app games this year, and while many of them are fun and compelling, Letterpress stands out. It is every bit the addictive game of the moment, but two qualities make it particularly engaging: it is social and intellectually stimulating. Playing against friends makes this game about connection and competition and the way you play is a challenge of vocabulary and strategy. It is a simple game, but it involves a little more thinking than your average app game, which has caused it to capture my attention. It seems I am not the only one. Letterpress came out in October and was an instant hit; according to this post from the New York Times Bits Blog, which also gives some background on the app’s creator Loren Brichter, it was downloaded around 60,000 times on its first day.
The game’s grid reminds me of Boggle, but instead of making words only with letters that touch, you can use any letter on the board. Sometimes you’ll have lots of vowels and tons of words will spring to your mind, while other times you’ll find yourself struggling to use a z, an x, or a q with no u. All of the letters on the board must be used to end the game. In addition to gaining points for the letters you use, you claim letters as territory. Each player gets a color and your goal is to capture letters with your color and take control of the board. Using a letter shades it a lighter color and means that if your opponent uses this letter in their next turn, they can steal a point from you. Surrounding a letter on all sides with other letters you’ve used turns it a brighter shade of your color and means that your opponent will not get points for that letter if they use it. (more…)
Title: Flow Free Platform:iOS and Android Cost: Free, with additional paid content
Who knew connect the dots could be so compelling? Flow Free is my new favorite addictive puzzle game. It starts out easy on a five by five grid with five colors. You must connect the dots and cover each square on the grid without crossing over paths, or flows, between dots. As you progress through the levels the game becomes increasingly more complicated, adding more dots to connect and more space in the grid to connect them. Bright colors on a black background resemble an 80s arcade game, but, unlike most arcade games there is no pressure of a time limit if you don’t want one. In free play mode, you can spend as long as you need on each level, and make as many moves as you like. You can even take back all of your moves and start over. The fewer moves you need, the more points you get, and if you solve a level perfectly you’ll get a star. Or you can up the tempo and play against the clock in time trial mode. (more…)
Title: The Room Platform: iPad 2 or higher Cost: 4.99
The Room is an old-fashioned puzzle adventure updated for the interactivity of the touch screen. You begin the game, like a proper tale of mystery and suspense, with a hastily scribbled note left by a vague acquaintance imploring you to solve the puzzles he has left behind. “The stakes are higher than you could imagine,” writes A.S., who instructs you to begin by finding a special lens. To navigate around the game, you use your touch screen in many of the familiar ways: pinch and pull to zoom in or out, tap an object to get a better look, or slide to look around. The best part is, instead of using a keyboard or a controller to interact with the puzzles in front of you, you can touch the things you see: turn a key, slide open a panel, rotate a series of metal rings. You can explore each puzzle more physically than a game where you can only see and hear.
The graphics are intricate and beautifully rendered: wood finish and shiny metal mechanical parts. Reviews are comparing the game to Myst, and The Room certainly has a similar intriguingly suspenseful tone. You know intellectually that it is not the kind of game where any enemy will appear and attack you, but the first time I used the lens to look around for clues, I jumped when I saw the invisible ink it revealed.
Full disclosure, I haven’t had a chance to play through the whole game. I don’t have an iPad, but I have a friend who does. My friend Anna is an avid gamer on all platforms; she’s the person who first introduced me to Minecraft. I find her gaming habits to be a helpful resource because she always knows about games I haven’t played and tends to be familiar with games that are popular with my teens. Friends are a part of your personal learning network. It’s always worthwhile when I learn from mine. Fellow App of the Week blogger, and all-around technology advocate, Linda Braun, mentioned this in her column, The Unbound Word in this month’s VOYA. You can always stay up to date on a device you don’t have by asking a friend to let you play.
So far the only complaint I’ve heard about The Room, is that it’s too short. Anna broke it down for me this way: the game costs 4.99 for maybe four or five hours of gameplay. Initially, she thought the price seemed a bit high, but when she compared it to a more expensive PC game that might be four or more times as long, it seemed to work out fairly.
Take a look at the game in this quick spoiler-free trailer: