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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 →

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Name: Leafsnap
Platform: iOS
Cost: Free

Leafsnap has languished for years on my phone. The app represents the sort of big audacious online project that we as librarians need to know about. Merging geographic location with image recognition, it combines reports from the field to produce an interactive electronic guide.

For the end user, Leafsnap is designed to make a "best guess" about the species of a plant, based on an image of a leaf you upload or input through the camera. I hadn't been able to use it before last week. It's limitation? Spearheaded by the Columbia University, the University of Maryland, and the Smithsonian Institution, Leafsnap is crowd-sourced, and a caveat warns that the database best reflects the northeasten U.S. for the time being (though there is a U.K. version, too). When I heard someone speculating about the name of a specific tree while I was in Massachusetts, I was happy to put the tool to work.
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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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Title: Plain Text 2
Platform: iOS
Cost: Free

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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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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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