30 Days of Teen Programming: App of The Week: Green Screen

Green Screen logoName: Green Screen by Do Ink
Platform: iOS, compatible with iPad
Cost: $2.99

While digital media labs complete with green screens, cameras, computers and software may be out of reach for many libraries, creating composite photos and videos with your teens doesn’t have to be. I set out a few weeks ago to find a free or low-cost green screen option and have been fortunate. After testing several chroma key apps, Green Screen by Do Ink is the one I keep coming back to for flexibility and user friendliness. I had begun by looking for free apps, and quickly discovered that I could either pay up front for green screen capabilities, or download free apps that include “in-app purchases.” In-app purchases meant paying to unlock the chroma key tool or to get rid of an obtrusive watermark that rendered the free version essentially useless. I also discovered in one case that the developers’ definition of green screen did not match my own (it was basically a $4.99 masking tool, something that comes included in many photo editing apps). With no advertisements or watermarks, Green Screen’s $2.99 cost is worthwhile.
Continue reading

30 Days of Teen Programming: App of the Week: Storycorps

Storycorps LogoName: StoryCorps.me
Platform: iOS and Android
Cost: Free

Several years ago, YALSA Blog covered the original StoryCorps app, but recently StoryCorps released a new app that offers some great new features. The app allows you to create an account, but you can also proceed without an account if you would prefer. Once you make that decision, you can get started with your first oral history right away.

When you get started with your first interview, you can opt to either start recording right away or prepare your interview questions in advance. If you pick the option to prepare your interview first, you are offered several tips on best practices for conducting this time of interview. These are very approachable for those who are new to interviewing and cover the basic protocols that should be followed in a way that lets novices feel like experts very quickly. You are then prompted with the three preparatory steps for the interview: customizing a question list, selecting who you will interview, and setting the length of your interview. Continue reading

App of the Week: Lark

lark_icon

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.

IMG_3243

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. Continue reading

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: Trivia Crack

Trivia Crack LogoName: Trivia Crack
Platform: iOS, Android, Windows phone, and Facebook
Cost: Free

As apps have proliferated, so have the games that are available for mobile devices. It can be hard to sift through all of the available game apps to find those that set themselves apart, but recently I found one that I think is among the best of the trivia games available for mobile devices. Called Trivia Crack, this app combines an ability to compete against both friends and strangers with crowdsourced questions and cute graphics. Taken together, this translates into a fun game that will keep you playing for hours.

Trivia Crack makes use of many features that will be familiar to players of other games. In some ways, it is like Trivial Pursuit since it involves building up a collection of characters that represent the six different topic areas: Entertainment, Art, Sports, History, Science, and Geography. Like many mobile games, it also includes the option to choose to either play a game against a randomly assigned stranger or to search for friends to play against. The option to chat (and trash talk) with your opponent via the messaging feature is built into each round. Also like many mobile games, Trivia Crack features achievements that can be shared on social media, a shop where players can purchase tools that give them various advantages (with prices that range from $0.99 to $99.99), and rankings for those playing with enough other players. As a nice added feature, Trivia Crack also includes a “Question Factory” that allows players to create, rate, and translate questions that make up the backbone of the game. If a player’s question is ultimately approved and used, the player receives credit on the question screen, which can be a nice perk.

Trivia Crack QuestionTrivia Crack Question Factory

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Game play itself is much like standard trivia games. Users tap on a spinner to randomize the topic that they are assigned and must then answer a question in that topic area. The spinner also includes a wild card slot with a crown on it. If a user hits that option, they are given a chance to either answer a question to win one of the topic area characters (which serve a purpose similar to the pie pieces in Trivial Pursuit) or to challenge their opponent in a bid to steal one of their characters. To win a challenge, players are asked to answer several questions and their opponent is then given a chance to answer the same questions. Whoever comes up with more correct answers wins.

Trivia Crack is a fun and slightly addictive mobile trivia game. Because it is available for so many different platforms, it is a great option for groups of friends who use different types of devices. If you are a fan of trivia, it is a great (and free!) option.

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: OneShot

Name: OneShot
Platform: iOS
Cost:Free

oneshot logo Imagine that one afternoon after school the teens you work with are hanging out at the library reading articles of personal interest on their iPhones. All of a sudden one of the teens reads something that she has to let others know about. So, she decides she wants to Tweet the link. But, really what she wants to do is highlight one particular sentence in the article for her friends to read. She could copy and paste the text into Twitter, but maybe that makes her Tweet too long to post easily. But then she realizes, I have OneShot on my phone and I can take a screenshot of the part of the article that I want to point out, highlight the text on the screenshot, and then add that image to the Tweet. So, that’s what she does.
Continue reading

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: Post-it Plus

Screen Shot 2015-02-18 at 6.50.52 AM

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.

IMG_1085

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. Continue reading

App of the Week: Space Age

Space Age LogoName: Space Age: A Cosmic Adventure
Price: $3.99
Platform: iOS

Combining 8-bit-style graphics and a mysterious foreign planet, Space Age by Big Bucket offers players an opportunity to explore a new world while trying to solve puzzles and find a way home. Set in 1976, the game follows a small band of interplanetary explorers who are exploring Kepler-16. On the planet, they find a variety of alien life forms, including plants and insects, but no intelligent life. Or so they assume. Navigate a map to accomplish missions, move back in time to learn more about how the characters came to be on Kepler-16, and try to solve the mysteries of this alien environment.

This game gives you control over a variety of characters and an opportunity to explore a planet with only small segments of the landscape revealed at a time. The game alternates between exploration, puzzles, and characters’ interactions, which can range from fighting to conversing. The levels vary significantly so that some are easy to complete and others are more challenging, which I found made the game more engaging and kept it from being too short. Though I played Space Age on an iPad, it is also available for iPhones and I think that it would translate well to the smaller screen, though the images are more impressive when larger.

Space Age will appeal to video gamers who fondly recall 8-bit arcade games from their childhood, but it will also appeal to teens and tweens who like games that bring together appealing artwork and compelling storytelling to create an immersive experience. The puzzles will challenge even those who play a lot of mobile games, though the app remains approachable for those who are not dedicated gamers. Unlike many mobile games, I feel that Space Age manages to carefully walk this line between “serious” and “casual” gamers, in a way that I think will make this a popular game. If all of this intrigues you, you can learn more about the game by watching the trailer below.

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: 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

 

Continue reading