About Wendy Stephens

Librarian at Cullman High School, Cullman, Alabama

App of the Week: Wattpad

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Title: Wattpad
Platforms: iOS and Android, also web-based
Cost: Free

This spring, a student asked me if I knew about After, the One Direction fanfic “everyone was reading on Wattpad.” Then I saw Clive Thompson looking for people who were publishing on Wattpad… and I fell into the rabbit hole that is the reading/writing/commenting site.

After had already landed author Anna Todd a three-book deal, but that wasn’t the only interesting thing about Wattpad.
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Probably not surprisingly based on its fanfiction roots, YA is especially strong on Wattpad. The influences are somewhat predictable. One young writer named daven whose “story” (as all narratives as labeled) December I particularly liked, had a profile pic featuring her with Rainbow Rowell.
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App of the Week: Plain Text 2

Title: Plain Text 2
Platform: iOS
Cost: Free

plain text 2

When my school adopted iPads for AP and pre-AP students, one roadblock some students encountered involved working away from wireless networks. I showed some how to set up individual Google docs for offline access, but sometimes students wanted to begin typing an assignment and hadn’t created or adjusted a doc so they could access it at home. Plain Text 2 provides an excellent word processing platform for those instances, and it’s clean interface has made it a go-to for writing many documents.

If you’re thinking Notepad, the text isn’t THAT plain. Fonts include Helvetica, Courier, and Times New Roman, and you can adjust the font between 10 and 24 points…the only down-side is that whatever you specify is set for the document, so you can’t alternate fonts or sizes. You can also double-space, much to the delight of my students working on English papers, and there is a running word count and Flesch-Kincade Grade Level and Readability Scores (under the “info” option). An extended keyboard provides convenient access to the most commonly used symbols without toggling.

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App of the Week: FridgePoems by Color Monkey

Title: FridgePoems by Color Monkey
Platform: iOS
Cost: Free (for basic vocabulary set)

It’s National Poetry Month, and there’s no easier way to promote the creation of verse poetry than setting up a public access tablet with this fun app.

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When you launch the app, you get a “working” space with a handful of words, but you can zoom out to see more. Dragging the word boxes with your fingertips allows you to reorder things to create your verse.

Writers are not strictly limited to the words on screen. You can draw for new words or invest in themed WordPacks ($1 each for hipster tragic, redneck, hip hop, etc. or $3 for all of them). The provision of verb endings and plurals can add some variety as well.
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App of the Week: Waterlogue

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Title: Waterlogue
Cost: $2.99
Platform: iOS only

Instagram forever changed the mobile digital photography landscape, but for those who want to get a little more artistic with their camera snaps, the Waterlogue app, which offers a single version for both iPhone and iPads, offers a foolproof way to convert the photographic into the painterly.

Waterlogue provides a dozen options for rendering your photographs into lovely watercolors, from the draftsmanlike to the abstract. You can manipulate the sharpness of each image after the filter is overlaid.

Not only does the app allow you to output frame-worthy personal momentos, but it offers countless options for inventive library signage and brochures — and, as the Waterlogue FAQ states, if you own the image, you are free to do what you want with the watercolor produced, including commercial applications.
Painted in Waterlogue
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App of the Week: Whisper

whisper
Title: Whisper
Cost: Free
Platform: iOS and Android

When I read the New York Magazine article about Whisper, comparing it to one of my favorite blogs, PostSecret, the author waxed poetic about it hearkening back to the golden age of anonymity in online sharing. I had to try it.

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It’s a simple app. Compose your message, the app will suggest images based on the words you use, or you can use the camera on your device. It will give you a variety of fonts to choose from as well. The app auto-generates hashtags based on your text input, but you have the ability to remove or add more. Continue reading

New year, new look

When you turn (or swipe) your calendar’s page to 2014, be sure to pop by the YALSAblog to check out its new look.

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We hope it’s cleaner, more colorful, and offers better mobile compatibility for our readers-on-the-go:

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There’s also a changeable graphic to highlight YALSA’s of-the-minute work and initiatives, like Teen Tech Week.

And be sure to kick the tires while you’re there, and do let us know about any accessibility issues.

Tech Trends to Watch in 2014

Which technologies are likely to gain more traction in the new year? Some modest predictions about the tools and trends with appeal to teens and the librarians who serve them.

leo

Really ephemeral social media
Adults, like teens, are grappling with finding self-destructing social media which won’t haunt them into adulthood. First came Snapchat, with its associated imperfections, now Leo is all of-the-moment, but the platforms will likely change over time as adults cotton on to them. But, as TechCrunch points out, that need is not just about privacy:

Yes, its messages self-destruct after a few seconds, but the rationale behind doing so isn’t necessarily about privacy. For Leo co-founder Carlos Whitt, the ephemeral nature of the app is more about getting rid of the “cognitive load” that comes with photos or videos being saved or shared in public. People act and share differently when they know that a photo or video will live forever, the thinking goes. One need only look at Instagram and the all-too-perfectly filtered photos that appear there to know what Whitt is talking about. The impetus behind Leo, then, is to be able to share what you’re doing without having to worry too much about what happens to it.

Fuss-free augmented realities
This was the year augmented realities finally got some traction in the edtech world. Right now, most augmented reality is still a bit clumsy through interfaces like Aurasma and Layar. For now, augmented reality too ofter requires you to run a specific app to pull up applicable virtual content when you happen upon associated places in the physical world, kind-of like QR codes, which I find way too fiddly. I like Chirp, which uses an auditory, rather than a visual clue, to signal availability of digital resources.

Pebble Watch
Wear-able wearable computing Continue reading

App of the Week: Nearpod

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Title: Nearpod
Cost: Free, though many slidedecks are available as supplemental purchases
Platform: iOS and Android

As enthusiastic about tablets as I happen to be, I’ve been leery of the educational technologists suggesting mobile devices can replace more robust computers for teaching and learning. Nearpod was, quite frankly, the first tablet-based technology to make me gasp at its possibilities.

The backend is not unlike slideshare — you upload your files and publish them through the nearpod interface, and have the ability to embed assessments, too. A “live” session generate a PIN for students to follow along, and stydent viewers are visible in-app from a roster. Nearpod instructors have persistent access to anything uploaded into their library, but you can also purchase NPPs, sets of canned presentations on curricular topics, for an average of $10 for 12 in themed collections. Continue reading

Outstanding International Books and more, at the USBBY Midwinter Program

Maryann Macdonald, author of the World War II-era novel-in-verse and 2014 Bluebonnet nominee Odette’s Secrets, will speak at USBBY’s program at the 2014 Midwinter Meeting. The event will be held Friday, January 24th at 8:00 p.m. in the Howe Room at Loew’s Hotel.

odette's secrets

Macdonald’s historical novel is a fictionalization on the real experiences of Odette Meyers, a Parisian girl of Jewish descent who is sent into the countryside to hide with a Catholic family during the Nazi occupation. Kirkus, which gave the book a starred review, described it as “an ideal Holocaust introduction for readers unready for death-camp scenes.” Continue reading