Google handwriting

Title: Google Handwriting

Cost: Free

Platform: Android (4.0.3 or later)

Google Handwriting is an app that works as an alternate keyboard to give Android users access to data wells through your scribbles.

Apps like Penultimate and Evernote have long enable handwriting input for searching content, but Google is a more "full-featured" handwriting-to-digital-text tool.

The really exceptional thing about Google Handwriting is how exponentially more accurate the writing-to-text translations manage to be, however sketchy the writing, as demonstrated below:

Part of the reason for the prediction quality: Google's optical text recognition has fine-tuned through Google Book project. Predictably, you can add your feedback on the accuracy of the handwriting translation to their database, but the default leaves this in-app reporting off. Read More →

Are you a maker? With all the emphasis on high tech gadgetry, it can make you feel a little left behind if you can't swing a 3D printer on your budget or lack the skills to wield some soldering equipment.

But, like the science-technology-engineering- math portmanteau STEM which added an "A" added to encompass art and become STEAM, the expansion of the "maker" trend to incorporate arts and crafts as a creative and productive use of time and space is a step towards recognizing the wide variety of material production that libraries have long been supporting. And it's an easy way to get in on the making trend with supplies you likely have laying around.

We've had success with this sort of low-stress, drop-in crafting at our library.

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April is School Library Month! Here are some easy strategies for public librarians seeking to build productive partnerships with their school colleagues.

Get in touch with your local school librarians! Sometimes, this can be the most difficult aspect of cross-agency collaboration. I’ve noticed that, especially with regard to youth services librarians in larger, more bureaucratic public library systems, outreach specialists may try to follow a chain of command, asking for the building principal or even the superintendent for access to the school librarians. In many cases, those administrators may either not realize that the public library wants to help, rather than place demands, on school staff, and they often have a lot on their plate anyway. Reaching out to school librarians directly can be more effective, or better yet, ask a school librarian you have worked with in the past to connect you.

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Give local school librarians and teachers some extra privileges. One easy way to support the educators in your community: create a special patron class in your automation system, with an increased checkout limit. Nashville Public Libraries are on the cutting edge of this, with their Limitless Libraries program. They even have the high school and middle school libraries as routing stops! If your library doesn’t allow holds against on-shelf materials, you might consider a different policy for teachers. No teacher or school librarian wants to swing by the public library at the end of the day to find the audio version of Fahrenheit 451 has been nabbed since they looked it up in the OPAC that morning. Read More →

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Title: Lark

Cost: Free

Platform: iOS

Many youth services specialists will be familiar with Lark's parent site, Storybird, which enables dazzling yet simple drag-and-drop digital storytelling. Like Fridegpoems by Color Monkey, Lark, Storybird's Poetry app, is a digital incarnation of a refrigerator magnet poetry set, inspiring creativity within a finite vocabulary set as you move and reorder the words it generates over an image.

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A lightning bolt icon launches a new project. You can browse art in a gallery, search by keyword or choose a random different background or word bank by swiping left. Many of the images, alternatingly fantastical and almost unbearably poignant, look as if they were cribbed from vintage picture books. You can also use a color picker to change the colors of the words on screen for optimal artistic impact. The overall effect is quite attractive and quickly achieved. Read More →

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Title: Post-it Plus

Cost: Free, with in-app purchases

Platform: iOS

From LiveScribe to Moleskine, there have been a number of visions on how to capture the physical process of notetaking in a digital incarnation. Like many with a love for stationary, I had played around with the digital sticky note applications, but when a student raved about the Post-it app, it sounded like something more than a mere yellow placeholder.

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There are two methods for creating notes. You can add them with a click, as you might in decades-old Windows programs, or your can photograph your actual physical notes. The in-app photography mechanism is among the easiest I've seen, coaching you on light levels and holding your device steady. But it's what happens when you take that picture that sets this app apart. Read More →

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Title: Aa

Platform: iOS and Android

Cost: Free, with in-app purchases

I discovered this addictive "waiting game" after watching our students staring, seemingly blankly, at their iPads, ready to spring when they see an opening. It might look like something out of The Manchurian Candidate, but while the central wheel twirls around, the player must gauge the perfect moment to add another spoke in the spaces remaining without knocking any of the existing elements. Any error sends you back to the adding all of the elements all over again.

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Like Dots, the underlying gaming concept behind Aa couldn't be simpler. Any gesture on the screen inserts a spoke at the bottom of the spinning radius. But, by adding an element as you advance through each level, it quickly builds into a challenge as it becomes more difficult to insert a new one given the scant room available. Avoiding the impulse to "fire" spokes in a rapid-fire manner is the real test of patience and hand-eye coordination.

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Aa is free, but the ability to skip and unlock levels are available as in-app purchases, as is a nominal charge to remove ads, which appear every few levels (just when a break can be welcome). The highest level you've mastered appears numerically in the center of the wheel, providing an immediate talking point based on skill.

General Adaptive Apps has a range of similar games using different shapes and objectives, but this seems to be their most popular incarnation. I think it might appeal to novice gamers getting new devices over the holiday, too.

For more apps for teens and the librarians who serve them, check out the App of the Week archive. Have a suggestion for an App of the Week? Let us know.

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Title: Sphere 360º

Platform: iOS, with some limitations

Cost: Free

Sphere 360º bills itself as "the future of photography." It adds a three dimensional aspects to your panoramic shots, with sometimes startling results. Be it a Siberian forest or an Italian coastline, there's a definite concrete virtual reality aspect to viewing a "sphere."

The gallery of shared spheres is pretty intimidating. Many are taken with a rotating gadget called a Motrr, which can be controlled wirelessly. There is an "easy" mode, but there is a definite art to creating a sphere. Additionally, you must be connected to a network, which could make capturing nature scenes difficult

To begin your sphere, you can scan a panorama or upload one saved to your camera roll. To complete the sphere, you use your finger to create details and depth, essentially zooming in and moving around to flesh out the experience of being there.

If that's not enough to get your teens interested, Kendall Jenner recently recommended it her recent Vogue interview with an enthusiastic "Download immediately."

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2048
Title: 2048
Cost: Free
Platform: iOS and Android

2048 may be 2 to the eleventh power, but it's also the name of a game I have noticed a lot of people playing lately. It's based on a paid game, Threes!, which has won numerous game design awards, but the story behind 2048 involves a teen game developer, Gabriele Cirulli who tackled the design' as a weekend project then released the game as open-source so that anyone can use the code behind it to build their own versions. You can play through a browser' as well.

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Learnist
Title: Learnist
Cost: Free, with some premium boards as in-app purchases
Platform: iOS and Android

Learnist offers bite-sized learning, ranging from to academic topics to pop culture, with lots of food and DIY step-by-steps to mix things up.

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There are a lot of these user-generated learning platforms around, many with big name content tie-ins. Learnist is like Instructables, but with a better user interface, or Curious, but with more free content.
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What if the collection in your library was circumscribed by your state legislature? This spring, the Michigan state legislature introduced a bill specifically designed to penalize instruction surrounding an important but politically disfavored topic, that of labor organization.

The legislation reads:

Prohibited Instruction Activity. The Senate added new language stating that it is the intent of the Legislature that a public university that receives funds under section 236 shall not participate in any instructional activity that encourages or discourages union organizing of employees including, but not limited to participating with any business or union, or group of businesses or unions, in hosting, sponsoring, administering, or in any way facilitating an academy, seminar, class, course, conference, or program that provides instruction, in whole or in part, in techniques for encouraging or discouraging employees in regard to union organizing. The appropriation in section 236 for any university that participates in an activity described in this section shall be reduced by $500,000 for each occurrence. (Sec. 271A)

Specifically, the bill challenges Michigan State University's incorporation of a Building Trade Academy as part of their existing School of Human Resources and Labor Relations. The issue seems to have come to a head surrounding coursework that has been described as promoting labor organization.

Promoting labor relations – that seems like a broad umbrella. There is real potential for this movement to stifle any academic debate related to labor history and workers' rights. Read More →