App of the Week: Explain a Website

Title: Explain a Website
Cost: $.99
Platform: iOS 5 or later – iPad compatible

About two years ago I reviewed Explain Everything, a great app for iPads and Android tablets that gives users the ability to create videos comprised of images, screenshots, and more. While I love Explain Everything it wasn’t all that I wanted it to be. I was still looking for an easy to use app that made it possible to create screencasts that showed how to use websites. And showed that by recording actual screen movements, navigation from page to page, and so on.

That is why I was really happy when I discovered Explain a Website. It’s exactly what I was looking for. As you’ll see in the video below using Explain a Website users can screencast web content straight from an iPad.


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30 Days of Innovation #19: I’ve grown accustomed to that face

When this month’s theme was announced I got to thinking of some of the innovations that have entered into my world since I was a child. I should state here that I am defining innovation according to its “invention” and “evolution” roots. I wanted to think about what new systems/ideas/products have been brought into librarianship that have made me wonder how we could have ever done without.

Like poor Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady, what have I grown accustomed to? So, I’ve been thinking about this for a while and here are a few of my favorite innovations without which I am sure my job and my life would be far more challenging and far less enjoyable. Continue reading

App of the Week: Oscars

Title: Oscars
Cost: Free
Platform: iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad. iPad version requires iOS 4.2 or higher

home screen of Oscars appTeens interested in movies and the Oscars can gear up for the annual event (this year on February 26) with the Oscars app. The key to the app is the Backstage Pass feature that will be available the night of the Oscars. But, before that content is available there are still aspects of the app that are worthwhile as movie lovers of all ages prepare for the red carpet evening. These include:

  • A Twitter feed that includes posts with the #oscars hashtag. While the Oscars are still three weeks away, that doesn’t mean people aren’t tweeting about them. The feed is a good one stop shop for keeping up on Tweets about hosts, Oscar related events, and more.
  • My Picks, a section of the app where users can make their predictions of winners. Use of My Picks requires logging in with a Facebook username and password. However, the picks are not available to others unless the user turns on the Play with Friends component which makes picks visible to Facebook friends. There is also a countdown clock in the My Picks section which tells users how long until the ballot choices are locked in. A good idea in case a teen wants to change a choice along the way. Continue reading

App of the Week: Gift Giving Special

Note: This is a repost from November 30, 2011. Now that the holidays are over and teens have new devices, and maybe gift certificates for apps in hand, those looking for just the right apps for those devices will find lots of possibilities in this gift-giving special.

In this special edition of YALSA’s App of the Week, our app reviewers bring you their selections (listed in alphabetical order) of apps that make great gifts for teens. If YALSA Blog readers have ideas of great apps to give to teens during the holiday season, feel free to add them to the comments on this post.

Title: Biophilia
Cost: Free initial download, $9.99 to download all song apps.
Platform: iPhone, iPad, iPod (requires iOS 4.1 or later)

Biophilia app iconBjork’s latest offering is part album, part exploration of music theory, and part audiovisual playground. Every part of this app is meticulously designed. From the font you see throughout, which was created especially for Bjork, to the sound and motion in the menu screen. Put on your headphones, and arrive in a galaxy of nine stars, one for each track. When you navigate to each song star, you have options to watch an animation, follow along with the score, read a narrative about the inspiration for the song or a musical analysis, and to play. In this case, play does not mean simply to listen to the song, but offers an option to explore an interactive piece, to play with the song, rather than just to play it. The music itself is as sensual and strange as Bjork’s other albums; the songs are conceptually connected by a love of nature and feeling of interconnectedness (hence Biophilia). Continue reading

App of the Week: Skitch

Title: Skitch
Cost: Free
Platform: iOS 5 or later, Android 1.6 and up

I’ve used the Skitch program on my MAC for several years. It’s a great software that makes it easy to take and annotate screenshots. Last week when I learned that there was now a Skitch iPad app I thought, “That’s going to be interesting.” Then when I tried it out I thought, “This is really useful.”

skitch main screenThe basics are pretty simple. Once Skitch is installed all a user needs to do is select from the screenshot options to begin working with an image. Options include annotating photos from the device camera roll or photos taken within Skitch using the device camera, web pages, and maps. Once the screenshot type is selected users can start annotating using the built in Skitch tools. These include drawing, text, and cropping tools. It’s also possible to use different colors in annotations (the color palette is pretty limited however) and highlighting content using different shapes – square, circle, and freehand.
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App of the Week: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: The Interactive eBook

Title:‘  Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: The Interactive eBook

Platform: iPhone (3GS, 4, or 4S), iPod touch (3rd & 4th generations), iPad (iOS 4.0 and later)

Cost: $4.99

Released in time for Halloween 2011, this interactive eBook brings to life the Regency-era undead of Seth Grahame-Smith’s cult-classic novel, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.’  The app includes’  400 “brain eating pages” of text, graphics, interactive features, music, and animation.

PadWorx Digital Media and Quirk Productions have successfully produced a game-like reading experience that will appeal to teens.’  The promotional video illustrates how the text comes to life as the reader taps through the pages.

Atmospheric music and sound effects will further draw the reader into the story, and the interactive features are a true example of the media’s potential.’  Dripping blood, brain splatter, and feasting undead–all excellently rendered! Moreover, the developers corrected a minor lag between page turns with version 1.0.1. Continue reading

iPad, wePad: Programs with Teens

I’ve owned my iPad for several months now and while I enjoy it on a personal-level, I really love utilizing it professionally. When I bring it to the library and hook it up to our overhead projector for after-school programs, my teens can’t wait to find out what we’ll be doing. So far, we’ve only explored one aspect of apps-based gaming—trivia—and the teens have really responded favorably to it, so we’ll continue to incorporate this into our programming as we look to broaden our apps horizon.

The Scene-It? programs that are available, particularly the Horror version, are the current teen favorites, but the Family Feud app is gaining momentum. In both cases, the teens work together to answer the questions and beat the clock, and while they enjoy bragging rights for figuring out difficult clues, the teamwork they demonstrate supersedes everything else. They’re competitive without being cutthroat, and they enjoy showing off their knowledge of pop culture and trivia.

The teens and I haven’t even scratched the surface of programming possibilities; in fact, we’ll be trying Lego’s Life of George soon as well as other creative apps including Toontastic, ComicBook!, and Wordfoto. It will be challenging to coordinate a program where so many teens will have great ideas but only one iPad to voice them; my teens, however, have shown that they’re willing to try anything. While I’d love to have an iPad available for everyone, for now we’ll share mine as we continue to discover new apps and programming ideas together.

App of the Week: Side by Side

Title: Side by Side
Platform: iPad
Cost: Ad-supported: free. No ads (pro version):$1.99

I learned about Side by Side just about a month ago and since that time it’s become one of my go-to apps. The app fills a need for those that use an iPad as a desktop, netbook, or laptop replacement. As a device for getting work done. Side by Side achieves this by making it possible to have up to four pieces of content all visible at the same time on the iPad screen.

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28 Days of Teens & Tech #2: It’s An App World

In October YALSA launched the weekly blog column, App of the Week. The idea behind the column is that there are a lot of apps available to teens and to the librarians that serve them, and getting the word out about what’s available and what’s worth spending time with is something the YB (YALSA Blog) should provide.

Yet, at the same time that YALSA launched the new YB column, I started to recognize that not everyone realizes or accepts that we do now live in an app world. Over the past few months I’ve had several conversations with librarians serving teens and have heard things like, “I don’t get why apps are something I should pay attention to. Not all the teens I serve have devices that can run apps. And, I don’t have a device that runs apps. So, what’s the big deal?” (Of course I’m paraphrasing.) Continue reading

App of the Week – Pulse

Welcome to YALSA”s new weekly feature App of the Week. Every Wednesday a YALSA blogger will review an app of interest to librarians and/or the teens with whom they work. If you have an idea for an app that should be reviewed, feel free to send it to YALSA’s Blog Manager, mk Eagle.

Name: Pulse
Platform: iPhone, iPad, Android
Cost: iPhone – 99’¢, iPad/Android – $1.99

Pulse is a news reader for the iPad and smartphones that turns browsing and reading feeds into a visual experience. Continue reading