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For some reason, I've been really interested in user interface design (probably because I'm a graphic designer and I'm practically inseparable from my iPad). And when I run across an especially bad design in a app, I really get an itch to "fix" it. Problem is, the vast majority of them are poorly designed.
Chess games being no exception. Additionally, though, I thought the subject matter would lend itself to some pretty fun visuals and illustrations.
As a teen, most of my notebooks were full of stick-figure flip animations performing stunts on the page edges. Loop is the digital equivalent of those over-doodled notebooks, allowing users to create hand-drawn, animated loops that can be exported as GIFs.
The app’s interface gives much of its screen space to a whiteboard-like drawing area with a grid of tools permanently situated at the lower edge.
The basic tools include three brushes in black, red, and blue that vary in width from ballpoint to brush depending on the speed in which a finger or stylus is used. There’s also an eraser for fixing mistakes (no “Undo” button, sadly) and a button that duplicates one frame at a time.
The toolkit’s superstars are the “Onion Skin” button, which shows a ghost of the previous frame in order to more accurately place the next, and the “Guide Video” buttons that allow users to access videos recorded on the device to use as guides for more fluid animations. These tools help take creations to a new level and introduce users to concepts they’ll need to know if they want to do more than dabble in animation.
Once finished, the loops can easily be exported as GIFs via email, the Loop Gallery (shown below) and Tumblr.
Everything about Loop is bare-bones, including the support (don’t expect much from that “Help” button) but as I recall the best part of drawing flip books was the trial and error involved in getting my stick figures from point A to point B. In this and other aspects, Loop replicates that feeling of doing something awesome with very little skill.
For more YALSA App of the Week posts, visit the App of the Week Archive.
Amazon has updated its Kindle app for iOS devices bringing integration with Audible audiobooks.
The app now allows readers to access more than 45,000 Kindle/Audile.com book pairs from directly within the Kindle app. Previously a reader would have to launch the Audible.com app in order to listen tothe audiobook.
Whispersync for Voice now automatically syncs a reader's progress between reading progress between the Audible and Kindle versions of a book. In addition, the app now allows users to read and listen to a Kindle book at the same time.
The Version 4.3 update also brings with it the ability for students to search for terms in X-Ray for textbooks and then tap a page thumbnail in the X-Ray feature to find the term highlighted in the page of the book.
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Today, I'll end the series with some tips for using your mobile office to help you manage your writing life. These ideas can help you work better so you can achieve your writing goals.
Make It a HabitOne common problem for those of us who try to work writing in with our busy lives is making the time to write. Unfortunately, nobody has made an app yet that adds a couple hours to the day or makes our day jobs go away or extends the kids' nap time. However, there is a class of apps that enforces good habits and helps to break bad habits. These can be used to remind us to write, and to check our progress against our goals.Apps like HabitBull (Android, free) and Way of Life (iOS, free for three habits, $3.99 for more) let you set goals. These apps can be configured with whatever parameters you want. Use them to cut down your soda intake, or to spend more time doing something you love, like writing. For example, if you want to write three days a week, you can set a habit reminder that asks you every day if you have written. You wouldn't want to disappoint your tablet, right?
The Habit Editor in HabitBullIn addition to yes/no goals like whether you wrote today, you can set number-based goals. Want to write 1,000 words a day? Set that up as a habit, then set a reminder each night that asks you how many words you wrote.
Each habit app is a little different, so look for one that will suit your goals.
Keeping FocusedTo meet your goals, you need to stay focused.One simple use for your tablet or, especially, your phone, whether you're mobile or stuck at the office is a timer. A timer can you keep you focused. Make a goal to write for a solid hour without checking Facebook or email or grabbing another root beer float at your favorite cafe, then set a timer and don't stop writing until it goes off.
There are tons of timer apps, and they all do what a timer does, so really it probably doesn't matter which one you use. Two I like on Android are Timers4Me+ and Timely Alarm Clock. Both support multiple timers, alarms, and include a stopwatch. Again, I'm not sure what to recommend for your iPad or iPhone, but it really doesn't matter much. A timer is a timer. You can make it pretty, give it fancy options, or whatever, but in the end, it keeps track of time and lets you know when time is up.
Track Your Progress
Anybody who has learned about goal-setting has learned that an important part of meeting your objectives is to make your goals measurable. The apps I've mentioned so far will help you do that. But another way to measure your goals is to track your progress.
app for Android helps you meet your goals. It includes a timer and a writing log, and gives you rewards (guavas) if you meet your goals. For every writing project, you can set your total word count goal and your daily writing goal, and you can set a deadline date. Then, you can set reminders to kick you in the pants. By gamifying your goal tracking, Writeometer keeps you more engaged, and helps you feel good when you accomplish what you set out to do.
If your goals are fairly basic, such as writing 50,000 words in November, you might like an app like NaNoProgress
, also for Android. The concept is simple: enter your wordcount for each session and the app displays a bar showing your progress toward 50,000 words.
Those apps are great for Android users, but what about authors who use an iPad or iPhone? They have options as well, such as Word Tracker
. I didn't find anything quite as fancy or fun as Writometer, but all you need, really, is a place to enter your goals and measure your progress.
Keep a JournalFinally, many Utah writers come from a background where keeping a journal is encouraged. A writing journal (see "The Writer's Journal," a post on this blog from way back in 2009), helps you be accountable to yourself, and helps you vent those natural writing insecurities so they don't build up inside you. You can track your objectives, note ideas and problems that need to be fixed, and remind yourself where your next session is supposed to start. Writeometer includes simple journaling functionality, and the app stores include tons of journal apps. You can use one of those, or you can use the note apps or writing apps we've already talked about in this series. You don't need anything fancy. The only thing you need is something you like writing in so you are motivated to keep your journal.
There you have it, pretty much everything you need for the well-equipped mobile office. By choosing the approach that works best for you at each step of the writing process, you can easily break the chains of a desk and write wherever inspiration hits you best. Or, if you still do most of your writing in your office (I call my home office my Schreibwinkel
), you have everything you need if an idea strikes while you are on the road. Your writing comes from your own brilliant mind, so doesn't it just make sense to have your office wherever that mind of yours happens to be? Even if you prefer the routine of writing in the same place every day, sometimes the best cure for writer's block is a simple change of scenery. If your computer screen becomes the intimidating monster that sucks your creative juices, get away from it for a while.
I hope you have enjoyed this series, and that it helps you to be more productive. The key to writing, it is said, is putting your butt in the chair. But nobody says it always has to be the same chair in the same place. It's 2014. You don't have to lash yourself to a desk anymore. Enjoy your freedom and let the words flow wherever they come to you.
Looking for ALA Annual programs on apps for kids? ALSC will be hosting two educational programs on apps – “The Apps are All Right! Exploring the Role of Apps in Children’s and Teen Services” and “Whet Your APPetite: Rapid Reviews of Apps for Children from Preschool to Tweens”, which will take place at the 2014 ALA Annual Conference.
The Apps are All Right! program is scheduled for Saturday, June 28, 2014, 8:30 – 10:00am PT in Room S230 of the Las Vegas Convention Center. Designed as a primer for children’s and teen librarians, this program will offer a dynamic overview of the place of the app as a new format within the library profession. Four panelists will provide relevant research and examples from practice with diverse populations of children and teens. Participants will also be invited to explore the continuously evolving rationale for strengthening the role of the children’s and teen librarian in app recommendation for the communities libraries serve.
The Whet Your APPetite program is scheduled for Sunday, June 29, 2014, 1:00 – 2:30pm PT in Pavilion 11 of the Las Vegas Hotel. This program will showcase some new and favorite apps selected by ALSC’s Children and Technology Committee and Digital Content Task Force. A variety of app recommendations will be paired with ideas for how to use them with children in your library.
By: Jen Robinson
Blog: Jen Robinson
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Here are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this week include authors, book lists, the Cybils, common core, aging, ebooks, apps, growing bookworms, kidlitcon, reading, writing, play, schools, libraries, and summer reading.
Books and Authors
Stories from authors about school visits "gone terribly wrong" at Wild Things blog http://ow.ly/zcwJO @SevenImp @FuseEight
75 Years Old, Still Showing off her Scar, fun details about Madeline from @SevenImp + @FuseEight at Wild Things blog http://ow.ly/z94Jk
Book Lists and Awards
Amazon-backed Booktrust Best Book Awards‘ Lifetime Achievement Award turned down by Allan Ahlberg | @TheBookseller http://ow.ly/z3OLT
The Wildest (bold + unique) Children’s Books of 2014 as picked by @100scopenotes http://ow.ly/zcxat #kidlit
Teen blogger Summer from @miss_fictional looks back on Favorite Books from her Childhood http://ow.ly/z5flg #kidlit
Who knew that there could be a list of Top 5 Picture Books about Ninjas? @rosemondcates could! http://ow.ly/z3KJl #kidlit
Thanks! RT @145lewis: #CYBILS are an amazing resource Looking for summer reading ideas? http://dadtalk.typepad.com/cybils/finalists/ … #kidlit #edchat #elemed
Common Core and STEM
#CommonCore Becomes Touchy Subject for Governors Group, reports @WSJ, as both parties are internally split on CC http://ow.ly/z5fA0
Tap the STEM Resources in Your Community! | ALSC Blog post for librarians by @amyeileenk http://ow.ly/z3KzZ
RT @tashrow 5 Stereotypes Positive Aging Picture Books Avoid | Lindsey McDivitt http://buff.ly/1zmZLk9 #kidlit
eBooks and Apps
RT @TWhitford: Great Apps To Introduce Coding to Young Kids http://goo.gl/uUdGX0 via @mattBgomez
Malorie Blackman: ‘I love gadgets, but e-reading has to be carefully handled’ | @GuardianBooks http://ow.ly/z3P8z via @PWKidsBookshelf
What Do Phonics, Phonemic Awareness and Decoding Mean? @CoffeeandCrayon has the scoop http://ow.ly/zeLEb #literacy
How #Comics Create Life-Long Readers -- @MaryAnnScheuer interview with @jenniholm http://ow.ly/zeLPW #kidlit #literacy
Teaching My Daughters to Read -- Part III, Phonics from @ReadingShahahan http://ow.ly/zcvyn #literacy
RT @LiteracySpeaks: 5 Simple Ways to Improve Reading Comprehension from This Reading Mama! http://fb.me/6BtWnEOln
Fun times @everead | How I Stopped My Children's Whining with Story Club http://ow.ly/z5eUD #literacy
BOOM: And we are LIVE! Why you should attend this year's KidLitCon, from co-organizer Tanita Davis, FindingWonderland http://ow.ly/zcvbM
The registration form for #KidLitCon14 Oct. 10-11 in Sacramento is now live: http://ow.ly/zc0lr A great way to see friends + talk books
October will be here soon, soon, soon — @bkshelvesofdoom is coming to #KidLitCon14 Are you? http://ow.ly/z3GYs
RT @CBethM: The 8th Annual @KidLitCon - Spending Time Face-to-Face with Kindred Spirits by @JensBookPage #nerdybookclub http://wp.me/p21t9O-1zS
On Reading, Writing, and Publishing
On having (and integrating) multiple Reading Lives by Kristin McIlhagga @TeachChildLit @NerdyBookClub http://ow.ly/z94kV
Cultivating Curiosity, on love of stories vs. love of words at So Obsessed With blog http://ow.ly/z94SO via @catagator
Food for thought at Stacked: Growing Up, Leaving Some Books (Narnia) Behind by @kimberlymarief http://ow.ly/zi3Ac #kidlit
Why Book Reviewers Would Make Awesome Authors, by @Miss_Fictional http://ow.ly/zcvDd
A proposal from @100scopenotes | All Middle Grade Novels Should Be 192 Pages. No Exceptions. Thoughts? http://ow.ly/zcvYJ
Here's what @medinger thinks about @100scopenotes idea for Putting a Stop to Middle Grade Novel’s Increasing Girth http://ow.ly/zcwej
Confessions Of A Binge Reader (Or, How I Read So Much) | Ryan Holiday at Thought Catalog http://ow.ly/z3LKY via @tashrow
Why Readers, Scientifically, Are The Best People To Fall In Love With @EliteDaily http://ow.ly/z3NZQ via @librareanne
How Much Activity Do Our Students Need? asks @katsok How do you help kids who can't sit still, in era of less recess? http://ow.ly/z92pA
Did What You Played as a Kid Influence Who You Became as an Adult? asks @FreeRangeKids http://ow.ly/z933H
Powerful post @KirbyLarson by Michelle Houts on adults looking back and regretting childhood acts of bullying http://ow.ly/z3K36
Schools and Libraries
Bridging the Gap: Making #Libraries More Accessible for a Diverse Autistic Population | @sljournal http://ow.ly/z3Omk
Corporal Punishment in Schools: Can it be Justified? @TrevorHCairney thinks it's not the right approach http://ow.ly/zi3el
Top 10 Ways to Turn Classroom into a Hotbed of Enthusiastic Readers by @megangreads + @muellerholly @NerdyBookClub http://ow.ly/z5eFi
This could keep us busy for the rest of the summer! 50 Fabulous Movies based on Children's Books from @rosemondcates http://ow.ly/zcvGP
#SummerReading Tip20 @aliposner Set up your vacation accommodations in ways that make literacy more likely to occur http://ow.ly/z3LbF
#SummerReading Tip21 @aliposner Encourage your kids to author “vacation books” when you are traveling this summer http://ow.ly/z5eOF
#SummerReading Tip25 @aliposner | Read the SAME BOOK that your child is reading independently + discuss it together http://ow.ly/zeM9u
#SummerReading Tip26 @aliposner | Try to connect reading to your kids’ summer activities http://ow.ly/zi3mT #literacy
Reading Is Fundamental Study Says Summer Reading Is Not Priority | reports Lauren Barack @sljournal http://ow.ly/z3OeW @RIFWEB
© 2014 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook.
Part One: The Portable Office
Today, I'm going to cover some mobile apps you can use to manage your mobile workspace.
Organizing Your Workspace
A phone, tablet, or computer quickly becomes a disorganized pile of apps and files. You'll want to make it easier to find your things. It's the difference between having an organized workbench in your garage with all your tools sorted and safely stowed away and having your hammers and screwdrivers scattered throughout your house, stuffed into kitchen junk drawers, or hiding with the dust bunnies under the bed. I know that last "organization" method all too well.
When setting up your mobile writing space, the goal should be to have everything--writing programs, manuscripts, notes, schedules, files, and contacts--as readily available as they would be if you were sitting at your desk. Because you're packing everything into a smaller space, you might even discover that you can be more efficient with a tablet than you can be with all your stuff stacked in piles in and around your desk.
If your device provides multiple pages, take advantage of them. Keep all the icons for your most frequently used writing apps on one page so you don't have to search for them. If your device supports folders, use them to further organize your stuff. If folder support isn't built-in, there's an app for that.
Create shortcuts to your favorite websites (like, ahem, this blog) and keep them handy. Use an app like Pocket
to store info you find on the Web so it's handy, even when you are not connected.
Apps that you want to access quickly, like your camera and your note-taking app, should never be more than a tap or two away. If you have to search for anything you need in your mobile office, you could probably organize your workspace better.
Your organization scheme should be a natural extension of the way you work, and will differ from person to person, but the key to a successful mobile office is keeping everything you need within easy reach. You should never have to look for anything. It's just there.
Your Filing CabinetOf course, you'll want to have your files wherever you go. You can carry a flash drive or external hard disk (with an OTG cable, if you use a tablet) with you, but the cloud is perfect for storing essential files. If you use Google Drive, Dropbox, or a similar service, your files are available anywhere without requiring you to carry more stuff with you. If you have a file on one device but not the others, you can use a Bluetooth program, such as the aptly named Bluetooth File Transfer app, to copy the file between devices.
An app like Android's AirDroid is essential if you want to manage your mobile devices from your computer, including moving files around, without even plugging in a cable from the device to the computer. I don't know if there's a similar app on iOS devices, but if you use Android, this one is a must.
Manage your mobile device wirelessly with AirDroid
And, if you really want to get fancy, you can use a remote access app, such as PocketCloud (Android or iOS), to actually access your Windows or Mac computer from your mobile device. With one of these apps, your tablet or phone becomes a sort of remote control for your "real" computer. You can run programs on your computer and edit that file you forgot about, then transfer it to your Dropbox so it's available wherever you are.
You could even remotely access your computer, find the file you need, and use AirDroid to transfer the file directly to your tablet. These kinds of programs tend to run slower than using the computer itself, and feel a little glitchy, but they're great when needed--as long as your computer is turned on, even if you're not home. If you're computer is off or asleep, you can't access it.The recently released Google Remote Desktop also lets you access your computer from your mobile devices (Android and iOS). It's similar to PocketCloud, but feels a little less laggy. There are some things I can do on PocketCloud that I haven't figured out yet on Remote Desktop, like keyboard combinations, and the way you move the cursor around is odd for a touch screen app, but it looks promising. Unlike PocketCloud, with Remote Desktop you can use your tablet and your computer at the same time, if you ever need to. Whatever you do on your remote desktop also shows up on your computer's screen.
Now that your portable office is ready and organized, you'll want to organize your work. Come back next week to find out how to use your mobile device to track your time and your tasks, and to keep your project notes handy.
Title: Adobe Voice
Platform: For iPad iOS 7 or later
Adobe Voice is a brand-new app for creating videos that integrate voice, text, music, and images. It makes it easy to create professional looking movies that are informative, creative, and entertaining. The screencast below gives you an overview of how the app works.
The app is very simple to use and is a great tool for teens for class projects, storyboarding ideas, turning creative writing into moviemaking, and more. Ask teens in your community what they want to do with Adobe Voice. I bet they will have ideas.
I love illustration. You may have guessed that already. I also love design. Also, probably somewhat self-evident.
I have discovered over recent years, however, that I also like designing for interactive format, or GUI (Graphical User Interface), such as web sites and apps, etc.
On top of that, I've also discovered that I like designing and/or illustrating stuff featuring wildlife or any other zoo-ish or safari-esque subject matter. Who knew.
This project, then, was a pleasurable combination of all of the above. It's just a concept, mind you, so don't go looking for it in the App Store just yet.
Even pantsers need to do some
planning. Today I'm going to tell you about some apps that can help the mobile author plan a story.
There are many ways to plan a story. My favorite is to make notes that summarize key events in the story. The note apps I described in last week's article are perfect for that. But there are some other useful tools that you might find helpful, depending on your work style.
Many writers like to start with a detailed outline. I'm not one of them, but for this article, I looked for a good outlining app. Outliner
seems to be almost perfect for you Android-using planners. It enables you to make a detailed outline, and even create a task list based on the outline. If you're an outliner, you might try this app. I also see several outlining apps in the Apple App Store for a variety of prices. Let us know if one of these works for you.
I admit it, I like mindmaps. I've used them to organize projects for my day job. I've also used them to help me spawn ideas by creating word associations and following character traits through a map. If you want ideas for using mindmaps to create a novel, you might start with this article
A character mindmap in SimpleMind Free
There are several mindmapping tools you can try, but the one I've used on my tablet is called SimpleMind for Android
. SimpleMind is also free in the Apple App Store, so iOS mindmappers rejoice.
SimpleMind is easy to use, even on a small screen. It's easy to create nodes and move them around, and the mind maps are simple but attractive. I haven't tried syncing a map or saving to Dropbox. You're more likely to want to use this on your tablet than your phone because the bigger screen is nice, so syncing between devices might not matter much unless you have more than one tablet.
The whiteboard is a perfect tool for story building. What can be better than a blank slate and colorful pens? You can free-associate thoughts and words, make mind maps, do whatever. When you have a blank white board, you have no limits.
I've been playing with a whiteboard app called SyncSpace Shared Whiteboard (Android
). In addition to being a cool whiteboard with the features you'd expect and infinite zoom in an out, you can share your board across devices, including over the web, for collaborating. It's free for Android. The iPad version will set you back $9.99, but you get significant additional features.
There are tons of whiteboard apps for both Android and iOS. This is another app category where the best thing to do is try a few and decide what works for you. Go to your app store and search for "whiteboard." If you find a favorite, let us know.
I mentioned Trello
in the previous article in this series. Trello is essentially a bulletin board that you use to pin and organize cards. Like a real index card, a card has two sides that can contain anything you want it to, and you can organize your cards in a list, which is basically a bunch of cards pinned together in a column.
Think of the possibilities. You could have a card for each character and include whatever information you want, including a picture. Then, keep all of your character cards in the character list. Or, you could write a summary of each scene on its own card, then organize the scenes in order or into chapters. You could easily rearrange scenes, add new ones, or discard them into a discard list.
Because Trello is a Cloud application, all you have to do is set up an account and install the app, and your cards are available wherever you are, on any device.
StoryboardBack in December, I wrote a detailed review of the Cardboard index card app
and how it can be used for storyboarding. I'm happy to say this app has gotten even better since then, with better terminology and some interface changes. Best of all, the plug-in that included card styles for writers is no longer needed because those cards have been added to the main app. There are cards to help with common story elements, plot in traditional acts, or follow the journey of the hero.
If you like storyboarding with index cards, or if you like the storyboarding feature in programs like Scrivener, Cardboard
could become one of your go-to apps in your mobile office.
Next week, I'll get down to the nitty-gritty with some suggestions for using your tablet to actually write your story. I'll discuss some full office suites, some minimalist text editors, and some ways to use the features of your mobile office to keep you focused on meeting your writing goals.Part One: The Portable Office
German eBook company Bastei Luebbe GmbH & Co. KG has created a graphic novel in the form of an app called The Butterfly Attack. The app is part of the Netwars project, a multimedia experience that uses fictional characters to explore the threat of digital warfare. Here is more about the story:
The near future: Europe's top military officers employ a team of elite hackers. By order of the EU, they conduct a secret cross-border cyber war exercise. But what starts out as a simulation suddenly becomes deadly serious. The story is anything but science fiction. The scenario is alarmingly real. The digital war affects every one of us, and it’s happening right now.
The app uses parallax technology, motion sensors and 3D animations to make the story interactive. For instance, the reader can get inside the machines that the main characters use. There are hidden clues throughout the story which link to external content to help inform the story. This includes articles about the real events and science that helped inspire the story.
The book is available for both iOS and Android devices. Follow this link to check out a trailer for the story.
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On Wednesday June 4th, Smith Magazine will sponsor the summer edition of the Six-Word Twitter Festival. The theme for this event will be to share “The Best Advice in Six Words.” The event will kick off on live on WNYC’s Leonard Lopate Show on Wednesday.
Share your six-word advice at this link. The event will include contributions from: George Take, Rob Delaney, Molly Ringwald, Rick Springfield, Piper Kerman, Katherine Schwarzenegger, Jenny Mollen, Jason Biggs and Judge Alex. In addition, Sesame Street, BabyCenter and WNYC are encouraging their audiences to share their six word bits of advice via Twitter.
Here's more about the event: "From June 4-6, celebrities in film and TV, comedy, writing, music, parenting, lifestyle, and social justice will pose prompts to their combined 5 million Twitter followers challenging them to respond and 'say it in six.' The best responses as determined by celebrity judges will be retweeted and announced on SixWordMemoirs.com—as well as be included in a new book of Six-Word Advice, publishing in Fall 2015 from St. Martin’s Press."
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Bluewater Productions has created an app edition of the Female Force: Julia Child comic book.
After the original print version of this biographical comic had sold out, the publisher used Authorly to transform it into an interactive app. The price for this app has been set at $2.99; readers can download it from iTunes, Google Play, or the Amazon Appstore.
Here's more from the press release: "Click on 'audio hotspots' to hear sound effects play and swipe to navigate through Child's journey toward being a chef. Authorly apps include features such as narration, word-by-word highlighted text, audio and video hotspots, basic animation and movements, sound effects and background music, and more!"
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By: Betsy Bird
Blog: A Fuse #8 Production
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- So the big news this week was that a writer at Slate decided that now was an ideal time to take a potshot at adults reading young adult books. And, as you might expect, everyone got quite hot under the collar about it. To arms! To arms! Considering that this sort of thing happens pretty much every time a new YA book hits the mainstream I wasn’t quite as upset as some. Honestly, I thought Roger Sutton’s piece Why Do We Even Call It YA Anymore? was much more along my own thinking. I could not help but enjoy Marjorie Ingall’s response as well.
- It’s one of those stories that’s just so crazy you don’t quite believe it at first. So about a year ago I attending a lovely dinner for Stephan Pastis, author of the book Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made (as well as the other Timmy books that would follow). Stephan was one of those fellows just filled to the brim with stories. And, as luck would have it, his stories were about syndicated cartoonists; one of my favorite things in the world to talk about! I heard him wax eloquent on the subject of Gary Trudeau, Berkeley Breathed, you name it. He even had ties to Charles Schulz (a fact that served me well when I interviewed Sparky’s wife Jean). But when I dared to ask if he’d ever met the elusive Gary Larson or Bill Watterson (of Far Side and Calvin & Hobbes fame respectively) he confessed he had not, though Watterson had once sent him a nice note about one of his comics. Well bust my buttons, but recently Pastis got a lot more out of Watterson than a mere note. He got three illustrated comic strips! Read this post to learn how he did it and why this is as extraordinary a fact as it is. Wowza!
- I was very sad to hear about the recent death of legendary children’s book editor Frances Foster. Read this remarkable interview with her from Horn Book, conducted by Leonard Marcus to get a sense of the woman we just lost. PW provided a very nice obituary for her here.
- Essentially, this is kind of a real world case of Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, but with a dark dark twist.
- The voting may be over, but I can’t help but love the collection of different Penguin Random House logos that dared to combine the publishing behemoth. My personal favorite? Right here:
- I’ve oohed and cooed to you about the fact that Shaun Tan’s rather brilliant picture book Rules of Summer has an accompanying app with music by the amazing and fantastic Sxip Shirey. However, when I mentioned this fact before the app was not available for purchase. Now it is. Go get that thing then. You can even hear a selection of Sxip’s music for it here.
- Speaking of Rules of Summer, did you see Travis Jonker’s predictions of what he thinks will win the New York Times Best Illustrated Awards? Sort of a brilliant list to predict (and I think he’s completely and utterly dead on with his selection).
- Brain Pickings recently featured a selection of photographs of fictional meals from your favorite books. The photos are from the book Fictitious Dishes: An Album of Literature’s Most Memorable Meals. Though not strictly limited to children’s literature, it contains a handful of tasty treats worth noting. Be sure to check out the meals of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, The Secret Garden, Heidi, and a Chicken Soup With Rice that will knock your socks off.
- Just a quick shout out to my fellow metropolitan librarian Rita Meade who just sold her first children’s book. Go, Rita, go go go!
- One minute he’s winning a Tony. The next minute he’s turning The Dangerous Book for Boys into a television show. Wait . . . say what now?
- Did you guys happen to see Grace Lin’s rather remarkably good Cheat Sheet for Selling Diversity? Selling, heck. This should be disseminated into all the MLIS programs in the States. Future children’s librarians should be memorizing it by heart. THIS is how you handsell to a kiddo or a parent, guys. And Grace did all the work for you!
Thanks to Marci for the link.
You are walking down the street and have a great idea, but as soon as you get back to your computer it’s gone. All writers have experienced it.
Lawrence Smith, the founder of the storytelling community SMITH Magazine, has created an iPhone app to help solve this challenge. Six Words is designed to help you quickly write down ideas in six words. Users can write six words on any topic and include a photo to help keep track of their ideas on-the-go.
There is a social component as well, for users that want to engage their ideas with the community. Writers can share their six words to get comments from the group and comment on others’ ideas. There is even “The Daily Six” and “Editor’s Note,” both of which highlight popular ideas.
New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.
Digital writing community Wattpad has partners with UTA to represent the film and TV rights to After, a story by by Wattpad writer Anna Todd.
The three-part story has garnered more than 500 million reads and regularly trends on Twitter, YouTube and Instagram. Here is more about the project from the press release: “Written serially with daily updates to meet reader demand, After became Wattpad’s most shared story of 2013. Readers have also created thousands of pieces of fan art including images, videos, and music to extend their After experience, helping fuel the viral success of After around the world.”
“After has millions of fans around the world who want to see the story on the big screen,” stated Candice Faktor, General Manager of Wattpad. “Reader demand for After creates a massive built-in audience as the story migrates to film, television and elsewhere. We’re excited to work with UTA to bring After to life on the big screen.”
New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.
This is the presentation I did for Texas Library Association's Tech Camp, 2014. The list of apps is found below. I originally presented this without the names as part of audience participation :) 1. Skitch 2. Join Me 3. Aurasma 4. Mindmeister 5. Touch Cast 6. Loopster 7. Video Star 8. Paper 53 9. Mindmapper 10. Videolicious 11. Dropvis (this costs .99 cents, but as I told the audience, that’s a Sonic drink during Happy Hour but lasts a whole lot longer ) 12. Davinci Note 13. QR Reader 14. PicCollage 15. Muzy 16. I-Books 17. Kindle 18. Titlewave 19. Destiny Question 20. Gale Cengage for Schools 21. Symbaloo 22. Haikudeck 23. Voicethread 24. Mindomo 25. Popplet 26. Prezi 27. Animoto 28. Google Drive 29. Livebinders 30. Pinterest 31. Linkedin 32. Google Hangouts 33. Twitter 34. Scoop It 35. Google + 36. Yelp 37. Facebook 38. Tumblr 39. All Recipes 40. Fast Food 41. Weather Channel 42. Runkeeper 43. Uber 44. Airbnb 45. Flixster 46. Calorie King
Title: Local Birds
Springtime. Flowers are blooming. The sun is shining. Birds are singing… and flying by and hanging out on the lawn. Hey, what kind of bird is that anyway? If you’ve wondered about this, Local Birds can help.
Local Birds pulls together a database of birds based on your location. If you use the browse function, birds are sorted by types, raptors, songbirds, etc and listed in order from most common to least common in your area. You can also search for birds that don’t live in your part of the world and get information about them as well. For each bird, the app gives a short description and pulls in data from around the web to provide detail. The Details tab links to the bird’s Wikipedia page, the Images tab links to Google Image search, and the Videos tab links to YouTube videos of the bird.
Birdwatching is like a scavenger hunt for getting close to nature. In most places, if you pay attention, you’ll see birds. On this New England spring morning, I woke to bird calls, Chickadees and Crows, and something else that I’m not quite sure about. (One thing I wish this app had was a more consistent means of hearing bird calls. YouTube has great videos for some birds, Crows and Ravens for example, but nothing of the American Robin or Song Sparrow). If you pay more attention, you’ll notice things about the birds you see and hear. That’s all well and good if you enjoy nature and are interested in paying attention to birds, but birdwatching is very specific. It’s not for everyone.
Something I noticed about this app that might be interesting to a wider audience is the way the app is structured. It pulls together information from different places to make a quick and useful resource focused on its topic. This is the kind of thinking teen researchers should be using when working on a large scale project: focusing on a topic, pulling data from multiple sources, and organizing it for ease of use. In that way, Local Birds, is like a research project presented as an app. I wonder if this is a type of project we might see more of in high schools and colleges as a companion to the traditional research paper. It’s something to consider, perhaps, when you’re not checking out that Red-tailed Hawk or trying to spot a Bald Eagle.
Title: Monument Valley
Platform: iOS (with Android coming soon)
After hearing great reviews of Monument Valley, I decided to give it a try and I am so glad that I did! Players take control of a small, silent princess named Ida, helping her to navigate through a world filled with beautiful but surreal architecture. To succeed, you must solve puzzles and redesign Ida’s world to help her along on her journey. The pastel artwork appears simple at first glance but is deceptively complex, a fact that becomes very clear as you try to find the correct configuration to allow Ida to reach her destination. As you manipulate the architecture of each level, the music changes as well, making a very cohesive and immersive experience.
The game’s world immediately put me in mind of M.C. Escher’s drawings, which is part of what drew me in, but the engaging gameplay is what kept me playing. The puzzles in each level build on one another growing more complex and adding new elements as you move through the game. If you enjoy puzzlers or simply appreciate beautifully designed games, Monument Valley will not disappoint! Check out the trailer for the game below.
For more app recommendations visit the YALSA App of the Week Archive. If you have an app you think we should review, let us know!
At last August’s Summer Institute, Cornelius Minor, teacher extraordinaire and staff developer at TC’s Writing and Reading Project, gave an unforgettable presentation on technology in the classroom which I wrote about on my… Continue reading
Title: Color Splash
Apps for mobile devices make it easy to achieve impressive visual effects that used to require expensive equipment with an app. Color Splash is an excellent example of this. The app, which works with both iPhones and iPads, lets you remove color from your photo and then selectively add it to only specific sections of your image or objects within it.
Colored areas marked in red.
The first time you open the app, you will be presented with a brief animated tutorial that walks you through the process, but even without this help, the app’s functions are very intuitive. You can load photos that are saved to your device or those that are on your Facebook, Instagram, Flickr, Google+ or Dropbox accounts. When the image first loads, it will appear in color and then fade to gray so you have a chance to see what color you want to restore to the image. You can then simply tap the “Color” button and start swiping your finger over the areas of the image that you would like to appear in color. If you accidentally add color to the wrong part of the image, you can tap on the “Gray” button and swipe your finger over the section to remove the color from it. There is also a “Pan + Zoom” button that allows you to zoom in for greater control. To make it easier to see whether or not a pale area is in color, there is a button that will make the colored in areas appear red. You can also adjust how bright the color you add to the image is as well as the overall brightness, contrast, saturation, color temp, hue shift, and grey tinting of the image. There is also an undo button if you inadvertently swipe the wrong area.
Finished images can have the gray and color sections inverted with a single click, meaning that if you change your mind at the last moment, it is quick to completely change its look. Once you are happy with your photo, you can save it to your device, post it to Twitter or Facebook, upload it to Flickr, Google+, or Dropbox or email it. If you have your device hooked to a printer, you can also print it from within the app. This is a fun photo editing app that gives fairly professional effects if you take the time to zoom in and do the detailed work necessary to color specific areas of the image.
For more app recommendations visit the YALSA App of the Week Archive. If you have an app you think we should review, let us know!
Summer is almost here. It's always a challenge for a writer to find time to work on that latest project, but it's especially difficult in the summer. At this time of year, we tend to spend a lot less time indoors, tied to our desks.
Fortunately, over the last couple years, it has become increasingly easy to take your work on the road. I'll leave it to you to decide whether that's a good thing, but it's certainly useful when you're up against a deadline or in the middle of a project to have your work available if you have some time to work on it or if an idea strikes you while you're sitting in a cafe in Paris. Or a McDonald's in Cedar City.
Over the next few Wednesdays, I'm going to give you suggestions for setting up a mobile writing office that can go everywhere with you. You might find many of these ideas useful for more than just your writing life, but because this is a blog for writers, I'm going to focus on writing.
I'm going to show you how to set up a mobile office, then I'll lead through using that office for the key phases of a writing project: planning, writing and revising, sharing and critiquing, and submitting. I'll provide brief overviews of useful apps and websites that will help you through each of those phases. Because my own portable office uses Android and Windows, there will be a slant toward those operating systems; however, if you use Mac and iOS, don't worry, I won't forget you. I promise.
I hope you find my suggestions useful. If you have questions, or have suggestions of your own, we love comments.
So, let's get started.
Setting Up Your Mobile Office: Your Portable Desk
The first thing you need if you're going to work away from your home office is something to work on. Until about five or six years ago, that meant a laptop, unless you wanted to carry your computer system on the road. The advent of tablets and smart phones provided more options, but until fairly recently, their usefulness for writing was pretty limited.
In the last year or two, the capabilities of those mobile devices have exploded. The devices themselves have increased tremendously in power, and the number of useful apps continues to grow.
When it comes to spending long blocks of time writing, nothing serves the mobile author better than a trusty old (or new) laptop. The keyboard is usually more comfortable and accurate than those little phone and tablet keyboards, and the larger screen is easier on the eyes. A laptop also lets you open more than one screen at a time, so you can have your notes and your writing program open next to each other.
If you're on the move, it's not always easy to carry a laptop everywhere you go. Even if you usually have a backpack with you, a laptop gets heavy and takes up a lot of space. A tablet is much more convenient. It's much lighter and can easily fit in a small backpack pocket or a purse. This series of articles will concentrate on tablets, under the assumption that you already have what you need on your computer.
But let's not forget the smart phone. Although the small size makes it less-than-ideal for serious writing for long periods, the size is an advantage for other writing tasks, such as making notes or taking pictures. If you are out somewhere and suddenly have an idea, you probably have your phone with you so you can jot your thoughts before they slip away. Or, if you see something that gives you an idea or would work well in your story, you can snap a quick picture.
Other Useful Gadgets
If you're going to do much writing on your tablet or even, if necessary, your phone, you'll want to invest in a Bluetooth keyboard. You can find a keyboard designed specifically for your tablet, one that comes in a case for your tablet that essentially turns it into a mini laptop. In theory, any Bluetooth keyboard should work with any Bluetooth-enabled device, but you'll want to scan reviews carefully before making a purchase in case others with your device had trouble with a specific keyboard. You might also want to check out keyboards in an actual store (remember those?) to make sure the one you pick is going to be comfortable for you to type on for a couple hours at a time. There are many types of keyboards with different styles of keys, and chances are good you won't like some of them.
Less necessary but definitely useful is a Bluetooth mouse. You can do without it, but chances are you'll eventually wish you had one.
You can also get an inexpensive little OTG (On-The-Go) cable
that plugs into your tablet where you usually plug in your power charger and lets you connect any USB device, like a mouse of flash drive or external hard drive. If you get one of these handy little cables, just make sure you get the right connector for your device. A microUSB connector works for many tablets, for example, but won't work for an iPad, so if you have an iPad make sure you get an iPad-compatible cable.
For me, the ideal mobile office includes a laptop, a tablet, and a phone. Each is useful for different things.Although I don't think it's the perfect situation, having just one of these gadgets is enough to keep you writing when you're away. I use the laptop in a hotel room, and a tablet if I'm away from a desk. Add a keyboard and mouse, and you can do just about anything on the road you would do at home.
Come back next week and we'll discuss using your mobile device to organize your office.
By: Stacey Shubitz,
Blog: TWO WRITING TEACHERS
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Some students want to write more than what is required of them in writing workshop. Enter independent writing projects! But how do you go from being another set of eyes on some additional writing a student does to helping him/her go public with their work?
Over the past year, I’ve been experimenting with using apps in programs for kids in grades K-5, with great success! Sometimes I plan a program entirely around an app (like using LongExpo to do light painting and Stop Motion Studio to make stop motion animation movies). Other times I come across an app that I think would enhance a program I have already planned. Below are three examples of how I’ve incorporated an app into an otherwise tech-free program.
Screen shot of the Little Things Forever app, taken by the author.
Little Things Forever by KlickTock (App Store: $2.99, Google Play: free)
In this app, you try to find hidden objects in a large collage-style image. On some levels, you race to find everything before time runs out.
Over spring break, a coworker and I did an I Spy program for kids in grades 3-5. The kids assembled their own I Spy-style collages using paper and small objects. They wrote a list of the objects to find and we photographed the results. The kids finished their collages at different times so it was the perfect opportunity to use this app, because kids could easily join in as they finished. I projected it onto a large screen and manipulated the image on the iPad while the kids gathered around the screen and pointed out the objects as they found them. I had been uncertain about how this would play out in a group setting, but the kids worked cooperatively and were quite enthusiastic about it.
My First Tangrams Lite by Alexandre Minard (App Store: free/full version is $1.99)
Tangrams are ancient Chinese puzzles that use seven specific shapes (five triangles of different sizes, a square and a parallelogram) to create images, such as a cat or boat. This app has kids assemble the images by dragging pieces into the right spot on the screen and includes pieces with different shapes (rectangle, semi-circle) than a traditional tangram.
As part of a series of STEM programs for kids in grades K-2, I did a program on tangrams. I read a story aloud, the kids put together various tangrams, and they did a craft. At the end, I passed out four iPads and the kids worked on the app in pairs. Even the kids who had a hard time with the actual tangram pieces understood the app and had fun with it. I think it builds different skills than actually holding puzzle pieces in your hand, but it was a nice complement to the rest of the program.
Underground Kingdom by Visual Baker (App Store: $2.99)
This is a Choose Your Own Adventure book turned into an app, about a person who falls into a seemingly bottomless crevasse in Greenland and finds a secret underground world. This style of story lends itself quite well to the app format.
Ok, I admit that I haven’t actually used this one in a program. I planned to use it last summer in a read-aloud program for kids in grades 2-4. It was an informal program in which we read funny picture books and chapters of longer books, and I was looking for activities to break up the reading. I ended up scrapping the app at the last minute for time reasons. But I think it would be great to do with a group; every time you run into a decision that has to be made you could have the kids vote and go with the majority. If you try this, let me know how it goes!
Liz Fraser is Children’s Librarian/Technology Coordinator at the Ela Area Public Library in Lake Zurich, IL and serves on the ALSC Children and Technology Committee. She writes about library programs for kids at Getting Giggles and can be found on Twitter as @lizfraserlib.
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We’ve all seen it…parents engaging with their mobile devices while their children sit idly by, or worse, wandering off unattended…or even WORSE, passing off their smartphone to their young child as a miniature babysitting device. Smartphones and mobile devices are here to stay, at least until the next new technology comes along, which got us wondering…what can we do as children’s librarians to engage the smartphone generation of parents…? Something that will also engage their children…or better yet, engage them TOGETHER? The answer: build an app just for them, one that encourages interaction rather than isolation, and bring the library to WHERE THEY ARE!
Enter the ACPL Family App, designed for parents and caregivers of children from birth all the way through elementary school. This app is intended to be used by adults and children together, promoting age-appropriate learning and literacy development via:
- Video and audio activities for parents of young children, with very do-able examples of ways to incorporate reading, talking, singing, playing and writing into every day. Not sure what it looks like to play with puppets with a child, or why it’s important? Watch and learn!
- Push notifications of early literacy tips for parents of babies, toddlers, and preschoolers, and fun facts for adults to share with school-age children. Parents can sign up to receive early literacy tips weekly on their devices!
- An easy-to-use library events calendar, specifically for children’s programming, searchable by library location and age group. This feature will even add events to a personal calendar, so customers will have another tool to help them remember library events!
- A reading timer and log to keep track of time spent reading. This feature has the ability to log multiple users, so families can all log their reading time. This will be very handy as we roll out this year’s Summer Reading Program!
- Librarian-created booklists to help adults find great books to share with their children. Looking for a great book on potty training for your toddler? Look no further – once again, the library saves the day!
This project certainly didn’t happen overnight. It started as many of our library programs do: a need was waiting to be fulfilled. And it didn’t happen because of one person. It happened because many people, with a wide variety of interests and talents, were dedicated to one common goal. Talk about teamwork! Children’s librarians, IT technicians, library assistants, as well as other staff from all over the ACPL system were involved in this process. This, I believe, is the key to its success. Libraries, as a rule, tend to draw the greatest, most creative minds to their employee rolls, and when you put several of those minds together, with a goal of producing something for the common good, you just can’t help but get great things.
(All screen shots courtesy ACPL Family app)
Our guest blogger today is Kris Lill, a Children’s Librarian at the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana and a frequent blogger on the ACPL Kid blog.
Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.
If you’d like to write a guest post for the ALSC Blog, please contact Mary Voors, ALSC Blog manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org.