App of the Week: The Room

 

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:

 

For more app recommendations, visit the YALSA App of the Week Archive

App of the Week: Alge-bingo

Title: Alge-Bingo
Platform: iOS
Cost: .99

It’s back to school time and this month the YALSA App of the Week bloggers are’  focusing each week on apps that are good for students and teachers. We’ll cover research, science, math, and staying organized. If you have a favorite school related app feel free to post information about it in the comments on our App of the Week posts. And, don’t forget, the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) is taking nominations for Best Apps for Teaching and Learning. You can make a nomination on the AASL website.

I don’t like math. Never have. I see a string of numbers and my brain grinds to a halt. I have empathy for teens who feel the same. They might try to laugh it off, like it’s cool not to like math, or maybe they think it isn’t important because they are strong in other subjects.’  But trying to rationalize a dislike of math won’t help anybody.’  Math is important and necessary. This is why I chose to share a math app for our Back to School series. Maybe if I’d had an app to play with when I was struggling with math it would have helped me stay focused instead of getting frustrated.’  According to this article in Education Week, students and teachers alike seem to enjoy apps for math.

In searching for great math apps, there are several. I decided to focus on an app that helps with basic arithmetic,’  the type of math I struggle with the most, as well as the foundation for other mathematical pursuits. Alge-bingo makes a game out of basic algebraic equations and challenges you to do your arithmetic fast.’  Continue reading App of the Week: Alge-bingo

App of the Week: Process

Title: Process
Platform: iOS
Cost: 9.99
(It was recently marked down to 4.99 when it was included on the “App Store Essentials” list, but the discount price has ended.)

Most photo apps give you a selection of filters to choose from, with Process you can make your own.’  There is something reminiscent of’  darkrooms and f-stops as you turn the dial of each of several possible image adjustments. Each time you make adjustments to a photo you can easily add and remove different effects and see your changes in real time. Once you create a combination you like, you can save your “process” and apply it to other images.

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The evil kitty and my godson are both enjoying a “process” I called Blue. Continue reading App of the Week: Process

App of the Week: Minecraft Explorer

 

Title: Minecraft Explorer Pro
Platform: iOS
Cost: .99

 

 

 

Tired of switching between windows as you pause your Minecraft game and open your browser to look something up on the Minecraft Wiki?’  This hand-held reference for your mobile device has all of the crafting recipes and mob facts you need, as well as an Enchantment guide, a Skin Studio (in app purchase of an additional 1.99), seed codes to type in for different map results,’  and a list of Minecraft servers, where you can keep track of your favorite places to play.’  The app includes links to the Minecraft Wiki for more detailed information, but is organized visually for quick browsing that is fast and user friendly. Continue reading App of the Week: Minecraft Explorer

App of the Week: Temple Run: Brave

Title: Temple Run: Brave
Platform: iOS and Android
Cost: .99

I’m excited to see Pixar’s new movie Brave. I have plans to go on Friday. ‘ One of the things that makes Pixar’s movies great, is that they have such broad appeal. Kids, teens, adults, everybody wants to see the new Pixar movie. And everybody will have an opinion about it so we can use it as a conversation starter for the rest of the summer. ‘ If you are not already excited about Brave, go watch this trailer, and then come back here and have a look at this game.

While I was being excited about Brave, I was chatting with one of the teen pages who work at my library. She recommended the new Brave inspired version of the immensely popular Temple Run. ‘ “The graphics are like ten times better,” she said.

If you’re not familiar with Temple Run, it is a fast paced game that’ demands quick reflexes as you guide your Indiana Jones-esque jungle adventurer in his escape from ravenous monkeys. You control his movements by swiping your touch screen left or right to turn, up to jump, or down to slide. You must also tilt your device to collect coins that may balance precariously on the edges of your path. ‘ You need to be quick or you will meet a brutal end by falling in water, crashing into an obstacle, or getting eaten by monkeys.

In Temple Run: Brave, you’ are transported to the Scottish Highlands in lush detail, guiding Merida and her wild red hair through the twists and turns of the game. ‘ Your pursuer is the giant bear from the movie, adorned with the spears of its fallen enemies, and eager to catch you and eat you. Epic music sets the tone for your run. The controls are the same for the most part, but an added archery feature adds flavor and challenge. ‘  The graphics are indeed stunning, almost as detailed as what you’d expect from the big screen, and the gameplay is just as exciting and frustrating as the original. ‘ Check out a trailer for the game here.

A great summer game for waiting in line to see, what I hope will be, a great summer movie.

Welcome back to the YALSA blog. ‘ For more app recommendations, visit the App of the Week Archive.

App of the Week: Bump

 

Title: Bump
Platform: iOS, Android
Cost:‘ Free

 

One day a teen I know came barreling into the community room for a program shouting to her friend, “I must bump with you!”‘  Was this a new dance craze? A euphemism? What did it mean?’  The two pulled out their iPods, tapped at their touch screens, and then, with iPods in hand, bumped fists. They had just shared photos between the two devices. I wanted to try it.’  So, I downloaded Bump on my iPhone, and had the teens show me around.’  Bump is an amusing tactile way to share pictures and contacts between two devices. It’s quick, it works cross-platform, and it inspires smiles in the people doing the sharing. Continue reading App of the Week: Bump

Apps, Apps, Everywhere at the Massachusetts Library Association Conference

I had the pleasure to present my first conference program alongside my esteemed colleague Linda Braun yesterday.’  We talked about apps at the Massachusetts Library Association Conference.’  As when any two people who are enthusiastic about a topic are given room to run with it, we could have gone on quite a lot longer than our hour and fifteen minute time slot.’  In an effort to economize on time, and deal with some inevitable technical difficulties, our presentation was a fast-talking, fun, and somewhat chaotic look at a bunch of apps we think are great and their potential for library applications.’  Discussion was sparked, and various people stopped by throughout the rest of my conference day to say they were excited to experiment and learn more about apps.

To prepare for our presentation we used a Google Doc to create an annotated list of apps we wanted to recommend.’  We weren’t able to discuss everything we listed, and our list is by no means comprehensive, but it is a selection of apps in various categories from gaming to art to academic, that we think you would enjoy.

Have a look at our document: Apps Apps Everywhere‘  and feel free to add some apps to our list.

30 Days of Innovation #15: Begin

We are creative people, we do a lot of creative things in our work, and we are subject to the kinds of fear and burnout that can come with being creative.’  How do you fight burnout? Take inspiration wherever you can get it.

I find a lot of inspiration in other people acknowledging the struggles and triumphs of creativity. One person who inspires me is Ze Frank, who I believe I once referred to as the father of modern video blogging.’  He had a successful Internet show, The Show with Ze Frank in 2006 and he is now, with the help of Kickstarter, returning to the Internet to start up a new show.

Ze says if you have an idea, you should just do it. Don’t worry about the skills or resources you might lack, just go for it. Because if you wait too long to get your idea out into the world, it becomes brain crack, an obsession with the perfect version of the idea that just gets more and more impossible to achieve.’  So fight brain crack, take the leap, put your ideas in motion, and don’t be afraid to fail.

His latest video, an Invocation for Beginnings is about just that.

Disclaimer: There is a bit of swearing in this video. (As there is often a bit of swearing in the creative process). I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily NSFW, but I also wouldn’t watch this on a public desk with the volume all the way up.

 

30 Days of Innovation #11: Incorporate Teen Art into Your Space

As a part of redesigning the teen space at my library we were looking for a way to partition off some space without building an actual wall. ‘ We thought about moving bookshelves, we daydreamed about sound proof glass, but nothing seemed feasible. ‘ Until my director came up with an idea: what about movable partitions that you can hang things on? ‘ Where would they go? Wherever we wanted. We could reserve the right to change our minds whenever we liked. ‘ What would we hang on them? Colored paper? Teen programming information? We settled on sketchbooks, figuring that would make it easy for content to change.

Continue reading 30 Days of Innovation #11: Incorporate Teen Art into Your Space

Wreck This App (of the Week)

Title: Wreck This App
Cost: 4.99
Platform: iOS, Android
(this review refers to the iOS version)

 

 

Based on Keri Smith’s Wreck This Journal, Wreck this App is a collection of activities designed to awaken creativity through the power of destruction. Don’t worry no iPhones were harmed in the process of writing this post. The destruction this app inspires might take the form of defacing a photo, repurposing text, or using the various drawing tools to smear ink, cut up an image, or scribble all over the page. Other times the activities are more wacky’  rather than actually destructive, designed to shake up your brain, like putting your fingers in your ears and touching your nose to cure hiccups. For example, you will be asked to draw a picture of something you dislike, connect a set of dots from memory,’  and make a collage of photos of stickers found on fruit. Continue reading Wreck This App (of the Week)