Jen is the Teen Services Librarian for Boise Public Library's Main Library. Follow her on Twitter @jen1n to read more of her musings on libraries, YA lit, and all things geeky and glorious.

App of the Week: Specimen: A Game About Color

Title: Specimen: A Game About Color
Cost:  Free
Platform:  iOS

If, like me, you’ve always loved the paint chip aisle at your big box hardware store of choice — the orderly color squares andSpecimen rectangles, the fun color names, the act of comparing a Bubblegum Pink and a Primrose Blush until you can see their subtle differences plainly — you, too, might think you’d be a whiz at a game that’s only objective is the matching of colors. If so, I wish you better luck than I’ve had.

Specimen: A Game About Color is a color-matching game that puts your eye for color to the test. Instead of gazing at rows of orderly paint chip samples, players are called to match jellybean-like blobs of color floating in an inner circle to the color that fills the screen outside the circle, all while a timer ticks away the seconds.

The game gets tough pretty quickly, though you can earn extra lives by showing exceptional skill, and the addition of special blobs in the higher levels allow you to do things like detonate two color blobs at once (or so I hear.) Lives and special blobs can also be purchased through the app to further gameplay.

At first glance, a color-matching game might not seem to lend itself to library programming, but for those libraries with Apple devices, Specimen could be an unexpected addition to an art-based STEAM program. And much more fun than staring at paint samples.

Have a suggestion for App of the Week? Let us know.  And find more great Apps in the YALSA Blog’s App of the Week Archive.

 

App of the Week: 1010!

Title: 1010!
Cost:  Free
Platform:  iOS and Android

In these summer days of heat and travel and waiting in lines for things, I often find myself opening a file on my phone titled 1010 logo“Meditation Games” — games like Candy Crush, Dots, and 2048 that help me shut my mind off when I’m stressed or worried, or just block out the world when I need a break. 1010!, a minimalist puzzle game by Gram Games, is the newest addition to my meditation game arsenal.

1010! is essentially a modern-day version of Tetris, without the stress of the falling blocks and the timer.  Hit the green play button on the home screen and you’re met with an empty 10 by 10 grid with three colorful block shapes below. Your job is to place the shapes on the grid. Once you’ve placed the three shapes, you get three more until you run out of room for your shapes. Completing a row of 10 squares, vertically or horizontally, clears that row to make room for more shapes and the more shapes you fit on the board, the higher your score. It’s really that simple.

1010

 

You can play challenges against friends via your platform’s game center (or by signing in with Facebook) or try to beat your own score. The free version comes with ads that disappear with a $1.99 upgrade available on the home screen.

Whether you’re waiting in an airport this summer or hiding inside to avoid another scorcher, 1010! is a good thing to have in your pocket.

Have a suggestion for App of the Week? Let us know.  And find more great Apps in the YALSA Blog’s App of the Week Archive.

App of the Week: Kong

Title:  Kong
Cost:  Free
Platform:  iOS and Android

Kong iconWhen stories about Kong, a social media app devoted to selfie GIFs, started popping up in my news feed, I had some questions. Mostly of the “why?” and “really?” variety. I couldn’t see how a network of moving selfies could possibly be interesting or worthwhile. But I’m here to tell you I was wrong. This thing is super fun.

Set up an account and you’re introduced to the app through your home page, which starts as a grid of brightly colored boxes that are empty except for the top left square — a live feed from your front-facing camera (the only camera Kong allows you to use at this time.) The other boxes will eventually fill up with the feeds of friends you add through your phone’s contact lists or by following other users.

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30 Days of Teen Programming: Organic teen-led programming

Before last summer, whenever I heard the term “teen-led programming,” this feeling of ennui would descend upon me like a black cloud.  Okay, I exaggerate a bit, but let’s just say I felt . . . defeated.

I loved the concept.  How exciting to have programming not only for teens, but led by teens!  What better way to offer programming that is relevant and exciting for them?  But even with an active Teen Advisory Board, I had never been able to make it happen.  No one ever had the time, commitment, or desire to do the work of leading a program.

Then, last summer I planned and facilitated a Teen Writing Camp that was well attended by both teen program regulars and newbies.  We did all kinds of writing exercises, talked to YA authors via Skype and in-person visits,  ate snacks, and generally had a great time.  And then it was over, and we all moved on to other things.

That’s when the ennui-busting magic happened.

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App of the Week: Opinion

Name:  Opinion
Platform:  iOS
Cost:  Free

ICON_OpinionWith shows like Serial and Welcome to Night Vale, podcasts continue to gain popularity with teens and those of us who work with them, but the options for creating our own podcasts require more time and technical wizardry than some of us possess. Opinion is the app that will eliminate any remaining excuses to jump into the fray.

Two screens and three buttons are just about all it takes to record your podcast.  Hit the red button at the top of the home screen to record audio, which shows up as a vertical sound wave that stops when you hit the button a second time.  Tap on the sound chunk you just created and you’re taken to the second screen where you can check the flow of your sound bites, edit out the dead air and exorbitant “um”s with the touch of the scissors icon, or get rid of an unsuccessful segment by selecting the trash bin.

Opinion Screens

A trip back to the home page allows you to add music and sound effects from your device’s library, rearrange any of your sound wave segments, and export your finished product to SoundCloud, email, or text message.

While Opinion may not be a professional-grade recording platform — there are no options to layer audio or work on more than one project at a time, and you’re stuck with a 10-minute recording limit until you pay $3.99 for an upgrade — it is fast, free, and so easy to use it’s sure to inspire the podcast fans in your midst to become podcast producers.

Have a suggestion for App of the Week? Let us know. And find more great Apps in the YALSA Blog’s App of the Week Archive.

App of the Week: Nutshell Camera

Name:  Nutshell Camera
Platform:  iOS
Cost:  Free

Nutshell CameraNutshell Camera, from the creators of Prezi, allows users to create tiny stories with a unique combination of video, photos, text, and animation.

Hit the plus sign on the opening screen and you’re met with a giant camera button, three numbered circles, and a prompt to take three photos.  After the three photos are taken (filling each corresponding circle,) you’re taken back to the first photo to add text and animated overlays such as sunbursts and arrows.  After repeating the process with all three photos, hit the play button to see the magic happen — because while you were taking the photos, the app was also recording video, and the result is a super short, documentary-style video with a Ken Burns effect that can be shared via email, text, or social media.

The lack of ability to import media and the sometimes wonky sound quality on the videos are issues for future updates, but the simplicity and fun of the app makes it a perfect tool for book trailers, digital storytelling assignments, promoting programs and services, or just as a fun addition to your photo app arsenal.

Check out more Apps of the Week in our Archive. Know an app you’d like to see featured? Let us know.

App of the Week: Adventure Time Game Wizard

Name: Adventure Time Game Wizard
Platform: iOS, Android
Cost: $4.99    atgw3

Fans of Cartoon Network’s Adventure Time series can choose any number of games from just about any app store in order to continue their adventures in the Land of Ooo, but the show’s latest app, Game Wizard, gives players the power to design levels of game play as well.

At it’s core, Game Wizard is a typical 2D sidescroller game that follows favorite characters from the show as they collect coins, battle villains with their awesome swordplay, and jump from level to level.

atgw1

 

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App of the Week: Dungeon Runner: Fitness Quest

Name: Dungeon Runner: Fitness Quest
Cost: Free
Platform:  iOS

Dungeon Runner: Fitness Quest

The creators of Run, Zombies! Are back with another app that encourages players to exercise in the name of game play. This time, players control the fate of a small, pixilated knight with the help of their device’s forward-facing camera and some fairly basic calisthenics.

Set the device six feet away and follow the old-school instructions at the bottom of the screen to help the knight navigate his way past five levels of baddies in the dungeon. Exercises — including burpees, punches, jumping jacks, squats, and side-to-side shuffles — all correspond to actions on the screen and the knight’s success can depend on the speed in which the exercises are completed.

While the motion tracking isn’t as seamless as an Xbox Kinect, and the number of calories burned during a session seems a little dubious, Dungeon Runner did get this player up and moving when all I wanted to do was eat seasonal pies and read books in front of the fireplace.  And for that, it gets all the stars.

Have a suggestion for App of the Week? Let us know. And find more great Apps in the YALSA Blog’s App of the Week Archive.

App of the Week: Steller

Name: Steller
Cost:  Free
Platform: iOS

Steller

Digital storytelling apps have a tendency to be cumbersome and not so conducive to telling stories on the go.  Not so with Steller, which lives up to its name by letting users combine text, photos, and video to create stories with the ease of an Instagram or Twitter post.

Users build their stories page by page, choosing the type (text, photo, or video) and layout before tweaking things like colors and fonts.  Design choices are limited, but result in a modern, professional-looking story that, once published, uses the parallax effect in iOS to produce an impressive 3D page-turning experience.

Publishing your story adds it to Steller’s home page, where other users can like, comment, and follow your profile.  The stories can also be embedded into blogs or websites, emailed, or posted to Pinterest, Facebook, or Twitter.

So far, stories posted to Steller run the gamut from travelogues and fashion lookbooks to illustrated recipes and even short works of fiction, but the potential uses for libraries and teens are exciting:  book reviews, booklists, school projects, and portfolios would all be at home here.  Or, you could turn all the photos you take this holiday season into beautiful stories to share with your family and friends.

Have a suggestion for App of the Week? Let us know. And find more great Apps in the YALSA Blog’s App of the Week Archive.

App of the Week: Canva

Name:’  Canva
Cost:’  Free

Platform:’  iPad

Canva app icon

Graphic design is a tricky business, and one that many of us don’t realize is part of our job description until we’re faced with a blank document and a list of almost-but-not-quite-right font choices. ‘  Canva, a free, web-based application’ that lets you easily produce’ professional-looking’ designs, made this part’ of the’ job much easier for me when it debuted over a year ago. ‘ Now, with the introduction of the iPad app, the possibilities are both endless and mobile.

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