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July 27, 2015 / carlispina

Have Some Fun With Let’s Go Rocket

Let's Go Rocket LogoLast week at the YALSA Blog, I wrote about Let’s Go Rocket. This free game for iOS devices gives you control over a rocket ship. All you have to do is control its speed to avoid obstacles while staying on the screen. While this might sound easy, Let’s Go Rocket manages to take this simple sounding set up and make it difficult and engaging. If you enjoy gaming on your iPhone or iPad, this app is well worth a try. You can see my full thoughts over at the YALSA Blog.

July 20, 2015 / carlispina

Try Out An Interesting Example of Interactive Fiction With Lifeline

Lifeline LogoLifeline is a new example of interactive fiction for your mobile device. In this game you are the only person a stranded astronaut name Taylor can contact after his spacecraft crashes on a distant moon. After the trauma of the crash, he is understandably distraught to be left alone in space, particularly since he is a student who has only minimal training. As Taylor slowly tells you about his experiences, you are prompted to choose his next actions by selecting between two options at set points. Each time you make a selection, it will take you on a new branch of the story.

To take advantage of the interactivity that is possible with modern mobile devices, the story unfolds in real time with Taylor sometimes cutting communications to go off and complete a task and then returning after he has finished his task or when he needs some human interaction. The game will display his next communication on your device’s lock screen or it will pop up if you are using your device, but updates can also wait until you have time to resume playing. The app was made with the new Apple Watch in mind and, if you have one, you can set the app up to notify you on either or both device so that you can have a more immediate interaction with the story. Overall this is an interesting app. I would recommend it for fans of interactive storytelling and those who enjoyed The Martian by Andy Weir. Note: the app does include occasional use of mild adult language.

You can see the app in action in the video below:

July 13, 2015 / carlispina

Create An Animated Video Presentation With Adobe Voice

AdobeVoiceAdobe Voice is an interesting new tool for creating dynamic, engaging, and animated videos for practically any purpose. This free iOS app walks you through the process of recording audio, adding imagery, selecting a theme and publishing your video. The entire process can be done in a matter of minutes, making this one of the fastest tools I have found for creating videos, particularly if you like to use your iPad for your media projects. Getting started with the app requires an Adobe ID, but once you have this set up, the app quickly gets you started with video creation via a detailed tutorial that helps you through your first project.

The opening screen of the app shows a variety of videos as examples of what you can do with it, but it also has a button at the top of the screen to create a new story. When you tap that button, you are given nine story “structures” to choose from, including an option to make up your own. If you opt to use one of their pre-created structures, you will get additional support in creating a video for a set purpose. However, with Adobe Voice it is easy to make up your own structure as you go along. After you have selected a structure, you can immediately start recording. The app is set up so that each snippet of audio you record is a “page.” You can have a single page for your entire project or you can add multiple pages, which will likely be needed for most projects. After you record the audio for each page, you are offered the option to add an icon, image, or text to show on the screen while that audio is playing. You can search for both icons and images in the app, but also have the option to use content you find elsewhere or have created yourself. Adobe Voice also offers the ability to customize the layout of these assets so that you can get exactly the look you want for your project. You can preview each page or the entire project with the tap of a button and once you are happy with the state of your project, you can select from one of the 32 themes that are included in the app or you can customize your own theme. You can also choose from over 30 different songs that can be played over your video or you can upload a song from your own device. Once you are happy with your project, you can share it on Facebook, on Twitter, via email or messages, or save it to your device for use elsewhere. At this point, you can also add any credits or author information you would like the project to have and decide whether you would like it to be viewable by the public or only by those with the link. Adobe Voice is a very impressive app that has a lot of potential applications, particularly in libraries and other educational settings. It is well worth a try. You can learn more about Adobe Voice in the video below.

July 6, 2015 / carlispina

Learn Dutch With Hoi Holland

In recent years, language tutorials have proliferated rapidly both as web tutorials and as apps. Some tools, like Mango Languages and Duolingo offer lessons on multiple languages, while others such as Nihongo Master focus on a single language. Hoi Holland is a new app that focuses specifically on teaching users Dutch.

Available for both iOS and Android, the app focuses on teaching the basics of Dutch language and culture with a particular focus on phrases that will be of use to students or young adults. The app is broken into five levels and offers a total of 30 different lessons. It isn’t aimed at making users fluent in Dutch, but instead focuses on making it fun to learn the basics of the language. To this end, all of the lessons focus on 6 Dutch young people who are the guides and teachers throughout the entire app.

I’m just getting started with Hoi Holland, but so far it is a nice app for those who want to learn the basics of Dutch, particularly for a trip to Holland. The app’s content offers a nice starting place for traveler-friendly phrases and conversations. Intermediate and advanced students probably won’t learn much from these lessons, but if you are new to Dutch, this free app is worth checking out. You can see an introduction to the app in the video below.

June 29, 2015 / carlispina

A New Javascript Resource From Code School

Javascript.comCode School recently debuted a new resource called Javascript.com. This site combines a new tutorial with a curated collection of resources and news items on Javascript. It also links visitors to Code School’s FiveJS podcast and newsletter. According to the Code School blog, the site was made as an answer to the question “If JavaScript had a homepage, what might you find there?”

At this point, it is clear that the site is very new. The brief tutorial that first time visitors see is quite simple. While the look and feel is engaging, it only walks users through a few very basic elements of Javascript. This seems to be an intentional choice since the goal of the tutorial is more to pique the interest of those who have never written Javascript before than to create experts. Once visitors complete the tutorial, they earn a badge that ties into the Code School profile system and are given the option to explore more of the site’s resources. Most of the resources right now are beginner tutorials, though many of the news items may be of interest to more experienced programmers. Overall, those with an interest in learning Javascript might like the resources, and particularly the tutorials, found on the site, but so far there aren’t that many new resources that can’t be found elsewhere. However, it will be interesting to see how the site develops over time.

June 22, 2015 / carlispina

Who’s Going to ALA Annual?

AC15_Speaking_250x124Later this week I’ll be headed to San Francisco for the ALA Annual Convention and I’m looking forward to some great programs. I haven’t decided everything I will be attending yet, but I am hoping that I will get to learn about a lot of new topics and get more involved in areas that already interest me. I definitely know that I will be leading the meeting of the Library Services to People with Visual or Physical Disabilities that Prevent Them from Reading Standard Print Interest Group at 4:30 PM on Sunday as part of the ASCLA All Committees meeting. I’ll also be speaking as part of the Data-Driven Libraries: Capturing Users’ Behavior Across Library Platforms panel on Monday at 1 PM. I’d love to meet up with others who will be there, so let me know in the comments or on Twitter if you would like to meet up.

June 15, 2015 / carlispina

Take Beautiful Black And White Photos With Lenka

Lenka LogoLast week on the YALSA Blog, I wrote about Lenka. This free app for iOS and Android devices makes it possible to take beautiful black and white images with your mobile device. Best of all, since it was developed with input from a professional photographer, its design is thoughtful and focused on making the process simple for both experienced and amateur photographers. If you enjoy taking pictures with your mobile device, this app is well worth a try. You can read my full review on the YALSA Blog.

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