Thing 23: Evaluate 23 Mobile Things

It’s hard to believe that 23 Mobile Things is done already. I’ve really enjoyed working through the different Things, as well as reading others’ posts as a coach.

I went back and read my initial goals for the program:

I’m hoping to discover additional ways I can use the iPad in my work and gain a better understanding of the variety of apps out there. There are certain types of apps I know a lot about and use all the time, and others that I haven’t explored as much. In addition to being a participant, I’m also a coach, so I’m hoping to learn from others going through the program as well!

I felt like I did learn a lot more about apps and mobile devices. While I was already comfortable using my device, there were some areas (e.g., photo, video, local apps) that I hadn’t explored as much. Having a reason to jump in and try apps was useful. In some cases, I knew about an app and maybe even had it downloaded it, but hadn’t taken the time to try it out (Hootsuite, Spotify, Duolingo, Instagram, Vine). In other cases, I had never even heard of the service (QuickOffice, Educreations, Socrative). And finally, there were several times, I mentioned that I couldn’t see a use for an app (audioboo is the app that comes to mind), only later to be presented with an opportunity where the app was a perfect fit.

I did get to connect with others during the 23 Mobile Things, both with a co-worker who was also doing the program, and because I was also a coach. I enjoyed reading other participants reflections on each Thing. In fact, I learned just as much from others as I did from my own explorations and the 23 Mobile Things website. If the program is offered again, I’d love to see ways to make the program more social–either with established ways to discuss progress with others (twitter chats, Facebook, forums, ning, etc.) or some sort of opt-in small group model where you’re in a group of participants and encouraged to keep up and comment on their progress.

Thanks for the great program, 23 Mobile Things.

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Thing 22: Discovering Apps

Thing 22 explores ways to find even more apps.

Quixey

Quixey is a search engine for apps (one that works better than the app store). This would be a great resource if you had a type of app you were looking for (gardening, Netflix). Quixey also has some browse functions by most popular or by category, but I found it just pulled out very common apps. You can filter your results by price/free and by mobile operating systems.

I think Quixey would be more useful in a library than the next option, Apps Gone Free, especially if you were helping someone try to find an app that serves a particular function.

Here are a few apps I found using Quixey:

app icon for InkwellInkwell for Dropbox is a writing app that is free for a limited time. This looks like a simple, streamlined app just for writing that automatically saves to Dropbox. This would be great for students who want to write on the go or for writers.

garden compass app iconGarden Compass Plant/Disease Identifier sounds really neat. If you come across a plant or plant disease you can’t identify, you take a photo of it and upload it to this app. “Expert horticultural garden advisors” will get back to you with an answer. And, as far as I can tell, this is all for free!

IWGuide for Netflix appIWGuide for Netflix is updated weekly and tells you what is new on Netflix, what is coming soon, and also what will be going away soon. Sounds like a good app for frequent Netflix users.

Apps Gone Free

Each day, Apps Gone Free highlights a few apps that usually cost money that have temporarily “gone free.” This would be less useful for discovering free apps to know about for the future, because they won’t always be free. However, it’s a great way to find good deals on apps. I plan on using this in the future, and it would be great for patrons who are always looking out for deals like this.

Here’s an app I found using Apps Gone Free:

Read Quick app iconRead Quick is an app that is normally $12.99. It is designed to help people learn to read faster. You can pull in article text from various sources. You set a reading pace, and then it flashes each word on the screen at the pace you’ve set. I tried reading one article this way. It was a bit disconcerting at first, but I could read and understand it as long as I didn’t think about how I was reading.

Thing 21: Free-for-all

For Thing 21, we get to choose our favorite apps to talk about. I’ve already found ways to talk about most of my favorite apps already (see my reviews of Pocket, Feedly, Evernote, Zombies, Run!, and TwoDots). However, I have a personal finance app and a weather app that I use regularly and haven’t mentioned.

Mint

It took me years to join Mint, so I can definitely appreciate if anyone feels uncomfortable with the app. Mint was created by Intuit, the company behind Quicken and TurboTax. You connect all your financial accounts with Mint (without using your actual account numbers). The app automatically tracks your spending and saving habits. You can set a monthly budget and it will tell you when you are about to go over budget in a category. It creates different ways to visualize your spending habits or helps you set up savings plans. It sends you alerts about any unusual account activity. However, what I like most about the app is actually a simple feature: it allows me to see the current status of all my accounts in one place.

The app is free, so how do they make their money? Referrals. Mint will recommend services you might be interested in based on your financial information in Mint, and they get money for some (but not all) of these referrals.

However, I’m feeling the need to put a disclaimer here. While Mint has worked for me, I am not a financial advisor or anyone that should be recommending financial products at all (a shocker, I know). As with any financial decision, you should research this on your own and talk to any professionals you already consult.

Due to the sticky nature of finances and account security, I wouldn’t feel comfortable recommending just this app to a library patron as a library worker. However, I think it is good to know services like Mint exist, so we can help them find trustworthy information to help them make their own decisions.

A few more articles about Mint:

Dark Sky

screenshot of Dark Sky app: 69 degrees out and rising, heavy rain starting in 9 minutes

Dark Sky is a weather app I discovered a few months ago. This is an app designed for very short-term forecast. So, maybe you are thinking about going outside for a walk, but it is a little cloudy. This app will use your GPS and tell you if it is going to rain at all in the next hour and when. So, in the screenshot above, I was walking home from work and saw it was supposed to rain in 9 minutes. I tried to make it (it usually takes 12-15 minutes), but heavy rain did start about 9 minutes later.

The app will also say things like “light rain stopping in 12 minutes and resuming 20 minutes later.” I’ve found it to be accurate quite often. It seems to be less accurate with weather that switches back and forth between a  light drizzle and nothing.

The app also has a 24-hour forecast (see below), a more general weekly forecast, and a precipitation/temperature map.

Screenshot of daily forecast on Dark Sky app

 

There are two downsides I see with Dark Sky: it is not free (currently $3.99 in the App Store) and only runs on iOS. Unfortunately, they are not actively working on a version for other systems right now either. However, if you or a library patron enjoy tracking the weather, worry about the weather, or just often need to know whether it’s about to rain, Dark Sky might be an app to check out!

Thing 20: Games

Thing 20 is about games! Oddly, I haven’t played a lot of games on my mobile devices. There were a few games (Draw Something and Words with Friends stand out) where I went through a phase of playing them all the time for a few weeks before abandoning them. For this Thing, it was fun to try out a few games that I’ve heard a lot about but never played.

Temple Run

screenshot of Temple Run game

 

Temple Run is tricky! This is definitely an app for people who are very comfortable with their devices. It moves very quickly. Your character runs out of a temple, chased by monkeys. You don’t control the speed you run and  have to swipe the screen to turn corners, jump over tree roots or gaps, or to slide under things. You also tilt your device to alter where you are running on the path to collect coins or avoid gaps where part of the path has fallen away.

Personally, I was really horrible at it. I think the farthest I got was 500m. I do not have a future as the next Indiana Jones.

I can see where the game would be addicting. This would be great for those who like fast-paced, action games.

Candy Crush Saga

screenshot of Candy Crush game

 

I feel like Candy Crush Saga is a quintessential smartphone game. I hear about it everywhere, even if I’ve never played it. Essentially, you have to switch around two pieces of candy to put three of the same kind in a row. Then, those three are eliminated, along with any other sets of three that are made as a result. In the little bit I played, they started introducing other tricks, so I’m sure the game gets trickier and adds more features as you move along.

Because it isn’t based on speed or lots of different types of swiping, this is a great game for beginners or people who like puzzles or games that make you think strategically.

QuizUp

screenshot of QuizUp game: Harry Potter Quotations Quiz

 

QuizUp doesn’t come from the 23 Things list, but from my sister. They call themselves the largest trivia game in the world. You choose from over 400 topics (Harry Potter Quotations, Name the Pop Star, Indian Geography, Winter Olympics, etc.). You can challenge someone you know to play in real time or not, or you can be paired up instantly with someone you don’t know from around the world. I was playing Lord of the Rings trivia live with my sister who is currently in the Netherlands–yay, technology!

Each game is very short, less than 10 questions. If you replay a category, you get new questions. You get points based on whether or not you answer correctly combined with how quickly you answer.

If you know a trivia buff in your library, you might want to recommend this one to them.

Two Dots

screen capture of Two Dots app/gameI mentioned earlier that I rarely get hooked on a game, but right now is one of those rare times. Two Dots is a recently released sequel to a game I’ve never played: Dots. You have dots of different colors that you have to connect with right angles. Once they are connected, they are eliminated from the screen. If you make a square/rectangle of the same color, it eliminates all of the dots of that color on the screen. In each level, you have a goal of items to collect (or anchors to sink) in a set number of moves.

Hint: the key to the game is to make as many squares as you can.

In addition to being fun to play, I find Two Dots to be very visually appealing. Just look at their adorable website to see what I mean. Again, Two Dots would be good for those who like puzzle/strategy games.

Thing 19: Hobbies

Thing 19 explores apps that are all about hobbies! Again, I wanted to try them all, but narrowed it down to four.

MyGarden

screenshot of the plants in a balcony garden created using MyGarden

MyGarden is a very basic app for gardeners. You can look up basic information about plants, connect with other gardeners, get reminded about to-dos according to the season, and add plants to a “My plants” for future reference and reminders.

This app was not as robust as it could have been. I had several items I looked up in my garden that had essentially no information about them. I was hoping for more detailed information about when to harvest, how to plant, identifying common problems or diseases, etc. Some plants had more information and some had less. As a reference tool, MyGarden’s use is fairly limited. However, this would be a great app for patrons who garden to try out. Hopefully more information on plants will be added in the future.

RoadNinja

screenshot of upcoming food stops at an interstate exit on RoadNinja app

You’re on a road trip. The person you’re traveling with is getting hungry, but didn’t like any of the food options at the last exit. Or maybe you’re eyeing the gas gauge and wondering where the nearest gas station is. RoadNinja uses your current location to show you which exits are ahead and what food, gas, lodging, shopping, etc., options are available.

This app was easy to use. I’d recommend it for any patrons who have any sort of traveling to do (as long as they have a passenger to run the app).

Spotify

For some reason, I didn’t try Spotify until about a month ago when I noticed it was ahead on the list of apps to try and I was looking for a new way to listen to music while working on a longer spreadsheet project at work. Spotify is a great app that lets you look up songs or albums and stream the songs. There are ads you get to listen to every few songs (unless you pay for the premium version), but I found them relatively unobtrusive, especially compared with recent ads I’ve seen on streaming tv.

You can also put together playlists, or listen to other playlists people have created. The 23 Things description for this app instructed us to create a playlist for our library. As a student, I often studied to soundtrack music because it was interesting but didn’t have words to distract me (I would start typing the lyrics into my paper otherwise). So, even though it’s too late to use this year, I put together a playlist of high energy, “epic” songs from popular movie soundtracks that our students could use for studying.

It would be a lot of fun to crowdsource a playlist and get recommendations from students as well.

Zombies, Run!

screenshot of base camp map on Zombies, Run! app/gameZombies, Run! wasn’t on the list of apps, but it’s an app I enjoy. If you are a runner, or are looking for some inspiration to become a runner, Zombies, Run! gamifies running. You become Runner 5, and your job is to run outside Abel Township and collect supplies while avoiding zombie hoards. As you run, you progress the story, collect items, and listen to your own music.

It’s a lot of fun. They also have a version that works with the Couch-to-5K programs if you are just starting running.

Sadly, this app is not free. It usually costs about $8, and each additional season also costs money. I haven’t finished season 1 yet, but I did find it on sale. Something to keep your eye out for!

 

Thing 18: Education

There were so many choices for Thing 18 (Education), and I wanted to try them all!

Khan Academy

Khan Academy logo

 

I had heard of Khan Academy before, and explored their website, but I had never tried the app. The app is broken down into overviews of different topics by subject areas and then sub areas. Most of the content did not appear to be interactive–mainly video. However, there were a wide variety of topics in Khan Academy. This would be a great resource for lifelong learners wanting to revisit a forgotten subject from high school, current students who are having trouble grasping a topic, or even parents who are trying  to help their kids with a subject they know little about.

Duolingo

Choosing the word for girl in German using photos in Duolingo

I really loved Duolingo, although I’m not surprised because I love learning languages. Duolingo was easy to use, targets multiple learning styles, includes exercises to record yourself and compare to the teacher’s voice, and more. It’s also gamified, so you have so many “lives” per lesson that you lose when you make a mistake, and it tracks your progress and assigns badges.

Most language learning program start with just vocabulary and basic travel phrases right away. I tried the German program, and they had me working with full sentences right away, which made me feel more accomplished than memorizing hello, goodbye, and where is the bathroom?

screenshot of learning basic German (translated Ich bin eine frau into I am a woman)

Apparently, Duolingo is completely free because it crowdsources the translation of online text. As you learn, you are translating text from the web that Duolingo combines with other translations and sells. I don’t know if you are actually translating from the first lesson. Unless there are lots of documents out there that say things like “he is a man,” “you are a woman,” or “a boy is a child” in German.

I was a Spanish major in college, so I also eyed over the lessons in Spanish, and Duolingo takes you quite far in the language.

The only downside to Duolingo is that they only have five complete languages (Spanish, French, German, Italian, and Portuguese) for English speakers, though they are developing more. They also have courses between two non-English languages, and English courses for non-English speakers.

This would be a great tool for anyone looking to learn a language or current high school or college students who are looking for additional help for their language classes. It would also be very useful for English-language learners who use your library.

Socrative

Screenshot of what students and the teacher see when asking a multiple choice question in Socrative

 

Socrative was another really great tool to capture student responses live in class. It would be wonderful for information literacy instruction. Socrative is designed to be used during a class. It would require every student and the teacher to either have a mobile device or be on a computer. Teachers can ask a question aloud and start a multiple choice, T/F, or short answer activity. Students who are logged into the same classroom number can chose an answer and the data is displayed live on the teacher’s screen (see above). The answers can be anonymous, or the students can enter their names. This would be a great way to check for understanding if you’re having trouble reading a class.

screenshots of what students and the teacher see when answering a previously created multiple choice question in Socrative

 

Instructors can also plan ahead an make a quiz of questions to be asked during class, as shown above. You can work short quizzes to check for understanding into your lesson plan and get feedback that way. These can act as real quizzes (students enter their name and a grade is recorded) or it can just be feedback for the instructor.

I was initially leery about how much this could actually be used because I thought it required a mobile device. But, students and the instructor can access the same things on a computer by going to m.socrative.com or t.socrative.com.

 

Thing 16: Audio

Thing 16 is about apps that let you record and share audio.

Audioboo

Audioboo is a very basic, easy-to-use app. The 23 Mobile Things description said Audioboo allowed 3 minutes of recording time, so I was pleasantly surprised to see I could record for 10 minutes. Apparently, this is a recent change.

You can also edit recording and cut out unwanted sections after recording, which seems very helpful to me. However, the first time I tried this, I mixed up their directions and ended up deleted all of my good recording and keeping the small, unwanted chunk.

I wasn’t going to share my final product, but why not? Here I am reading part of a book review I had previously written about Rainbow Rowell’s Attachments.

I feel less inspired by the audio apps compared with the video apps. We (the Internet? society?) seem to very centered on the visual, so I don’t see a lot of use for audio-only content in a public library or academic library. I know another 23 Things participant mentioned they a different audio app (Voice Record Pro 7)  to record and archive staff meetings for those who couldn’t make it. I also think it is good to remember these in case anyone is looking for a way to take audio notes, etc. Oh, and these would be great for patrons interested in collecting oral histories as part of their genealogy/family history work. Actually, that is a great use for these apps, now that I think about it.

However, I do see more uses in the classroom or with kids. I especially liked the audio book reviews example used by this school that the 23 Things people shared: