Saturday, May 17, 2014

Post #23: Evaluating 23 Mobile Things

I didn't know quite what to expect when I began examining all the different "mobile things" that were included in this "learning program," but I really did learn quite a lot by participating.  I don't own a cell phone or any other kind of mobile device (my wife has one she rarely uses), so the program helped me see the value of the apps and the devices themselves.  A mobile device doesn't immediately seem to be a useful learning tool or something that would assist patrons in a library, but actually there are many uses.  The fact that so many people today use mobile devices and apps on a daily basis means that library staff need to be aware of how the devices can be used in a library setting.  Patrons, whether they be students or adults, will be expecting that libraries use the next generation of cutting edge technology to make their visits easier and more productive, so libraries must incorporate these technologies for survival, as well as to fulfill their role as centers of learning, information and community service.

My personal favorite "things" were those that were useful for the classroom or school library, as well as the apps that related to my interests outside of work.  Dragon Dictation, the Hennepin County Library App, Free Books, the Bill Nye the Science Guy app and several others could all be used to enhance the classroom and make learning easier for students (and teachers) and provide an engaging learning environment.  Apps are, at times, very user specific, but I felt like there were many uses for these apps in the school or library setting.  MyGarden was especially cool for me because I love gardening and I could easily see myself using the site, or even the app, in the future.  I would say that all of the apps have their uses, but these were some of the ones I either thought were the best or helped me see that mobile devices can be used for learning or, more specifically - learning in the library!

It was easy to connect with others and share what I learned because I am taking classes to become a school librarian.  Classmates and I shared information and traded experiences, which was especially helpful as I worked through all 23 "things."  Sharing and reflecting together is an important part of the process because it helps one see things from different points of view.  It certainly helps me see more value in apps I didn't personally like, such as Pinterest.  Several classmates seemed to really enjoy using it.

The thing that surprised me the most about this program was how much it helped me see the usefulness of mobile apps and the extent to which they can be used for reference and learning.  Also, surprising to me was the fact I found some of the apps very fun - Bill Nye was a blast, as was Temple Run and ipadio.  Apps like those may someday convince me to buy my own mobile device, such as an ipad.  Sometimes it was shocking just how many uses the apps have - and how interesting they can be to use.

The program was revelatory for me, so it's difficult for me to comment on what could be done differently.  My only suggestion would be that if another 23 Things is done in the future, it may be useful to put together a completely library-specific program that leaves out some of the games and social networking apps; or perhaps do a 23 Things for school libraries.  All-in-all, I thought the suggestions for different apps were appropriate and provided users with ideas for the future.  There isn't much I would change, actually.

I would participate in another program like this one to help continue my learning about mobile devices and apps, especially if, as mentioned previously, it would directly apply to library studies or school libraries.  I think a 23 Things for school libraries would be a great idea because many schools are eliminating school library positions due to administrations not seeing the value of having a school librarian or media specialist.  Providing school librarians with an opportunity to discover new skills and new ways to integrate technology into the classroom would help them keep school libraries vibrant as centers of learning within school buildings.

Describing my learning in one sentence: Before doing 23 Mobile Things, I had no idea a person could do so much with an ipad!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Post #21: Free-For-All - geotimescale

This was a difficult blog to write, simply because of my limited experience with apps and mobile devices.  In fact, as suggested, I blogged for #22 first because I had no idea what app to look at for #21.  I went back to Quixey and looked at some of the "sample searches."  One sample search was "find historical references."  I selected that phrase and conducted a search to see what Quixey offered, as I definitely wanted to find an app that could be used for education.  The results that came back were very promising - in fact, I had a hard time choosing an app to review because there were several good ones.  While looking for "historical references," I found - and decided to examine - geotimescale (a science app) because it received good reviews and sounded interesting.  The app is very basic, but it's extremely useful as a reference for a science class that studies earth's geologic eras.  The app is a continuous "Geologic Time Scale" that is broken down into eons, eras, periods, epochs and time measurements.  There are various reference points throughout the time scale that can be clicked for further information.  They are marked by an "i" and provide details, such as when the genus homo evolved or when when dinosaurs dominated.  The app is very basic and is useful for a niche audience only, but as an educational science reference tool it serves its purpose very well.

Another app I found really useful was the U.S. Historical documents app, but unfortunately it is a paid app (but only $0.99, $4.99 for the "pro" version).  It has copies of U.S. historical documents, which the user can read and highlight using different colors; fonts can also be changed and bookmarks added to certain documents.  Searches can be conducted using a text box.  This would be a good investment for U.S. history classes.  I'm glad I went back and searched Quixey again after Thing #22, because I found a lot more useful apps the second time around.

Post #22: Discovering Apps - Quixey

Since I have very little experience with apps, other than the ones I have tried for 23 Mobile Things, I went to to see what I could find.  I tried to find more apps that would be appropriate to a library or school setting, and while some had potential in the library or classroom, there were many that didn't seem very worthwhile for an educational setting.  Many of the more useful apps that are already on 23 Mobile Things were on Quixey and available for free download - Pinterest, Photo Editor by Aviary, LinkedIn and many others.  The "Learn" section offered apps for Google Play Books, WebMD, BBC News, Wikipedia Mobile and many others.  The selection in the "Learn" section was pretty small.   I think looking only at free apps is somewhat limiting in quantity and quality, but Quixey features a good selection overall.  On the positive side, the site has many quality apps that assist with "quick" information, such as Yahoo Weather, Google Translate, Mapquest - and those are going to be the most valuable for someone using a mobile device.  Knowing and being able to use a site like Quixey is important for librarians because one never knows what kind of a question or need a certain patron will have.  If the patron has a mobile device and the librarian can point them to a site like Quixey (or better yet, to a specific app), the patron's need will be fulfilled - and that is always the ultimate goal in a library.  It's all about getting people the information they need.

Post #20: Games - Temple Run

Since I was a history major in college and teach social studies, I elected to try out the Temple Run game.  Okay, the real reason I chose this app is because I love Indiana Jones and I played the Tutankham game on my Atari 2600 for hours when I was a kid.  Temple Run just sounded cool.  I played it for a while and it is a fairly fun game.  The "adventurer" character in the game needs to escape by running, jumping, sliding and collecting tokens.  It's fast-paced and has good graphics, so I think a lot of kids and young adults would enjoy playing it.  Games like this could be made available to students, either in the public or school libraries for free time.  I say that because, while it is only another video game (and I know many kids play way too many video games), it may foster student interest in archeology or other cultures.  I know my interest in history was partially fostered by movies, games and comic books and I think the same holds true for kids today.  Limited time playing a game like this may spark an interest in actual learning, so I think it could have a positive impact.

Post #19: Hobbies - MyGarden

As soon as I opened the "Hobbies" page of 23 Mobile Things and saw "MyGarden," I knew that was the app I wanted to try.  Since my wife and I spend much of the summer gardening, it was the perfect "hobby app" for me to try.  The free app provides the option of registering with so the user can connect with other gardeners, ask questions of other users and post useful information.  The website can be used independently of the app, but both compliment each other nicely.  Through the app, users can browse plants by popularity or name.  Each plant has a profile which includes planting information and a general description; users can also add plants to a list  This app and the accompanying website would make a valuable resource for gardeners, especially beginners.  Librarians could refer patrons to this site if they have questions about gardening and show them how it works.  The app would be perfect for a gardening class at a local library (or even a school library).  An expert could come in and teach about how to start a garden, then the patrons/students could use this app to begin planning their own gardens.  The expert would be on-hand to mentor and make suggestions as well.  The app isn't perfect.  For example, the plant list can only be searched by using "popularity" or a text box search, so users either need to know what they are looking for or rely on the "popularity" of plants - not the best way to find them.  But overall, its useful and fun - and the website has extra features that help gardeners be successful.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Post #18: Education - Bill Nye the Science Guy App

Since I have limited experience working with elementary school students as well as science, I elected to try a program designed for that age group and subject.  I downloaded the Bill Nye the Science Guy 20th Anniversary app. This app is a lot fun and teaches through the use of interactive games.  Bill Nye walks users through the different scenarios where kids can learn about astronomy, home experiments, the human brain and other topics.  Actually, the game for astronomy was so fun, I didn't want to stop!  The app would be very useful for an elementary school class that studies the planets or any of the other topics included.  Not all of the "games" are related, so the usefulness of the app would largely be based on grade level science standards.  If libraries had ipads, students could use the app during library time (or free time) to learn about a topic that interests them.  The app could also be used if a library had a special display or class on astronomy and the planets.

Post #17: Connecting to the Community - Highlights of the Superior Hiking Trail

When I saw that the first app for #17 was one for the Superior Hiking Trail, I knew that was the one I needed to examine in more detail.  I love the outdoors and have wanted to explore the Superior Hiking Trails for a long time.  The app itself is fairly simple, but for someone planning a trip to Minnesota's North Shore, it provides valuable information.  As an app for a mobile device, it would come in very handy while hiking the state parks and trails along the North Shore.  The app has three sections - the first is a map with with links to descriptions of trails in each area of the North Shore, with details on the local state parks, including camping spots.  The second is a summary description of the trail system with additional links, and the third has contact information for state offices related to the S.H.T. and state parks.  This app is good for travelers and tourists but could also be used for library programs.  For example, a librarian could have students explore the North Shore area as part of a student program about Minnesota State Parks or Minnesota in general.  The uses for this app are somewhat limited in an educational setting simply because it is designed specifically for hikers out on the trails.  It's important for librarians to be aware of these apps  because people visit the library looking for all kinds of resources.  If a patron inquired about information on the North Shore, I would definitely recommend it if I were the librarian helping them.  There are a lot of apps out there that serve a variety of purposes and librarians need to know about them - especially the "local apps."