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1. App Review: Making Book Trailers the Easy Way with this Amazing Trinity!

In this new BYOD world we live in, creating videos has never been easier.  You don't have to lug around a laptop anymore...you can create stunning videos straight from your iPhone or iPad.

Two newer apps that have come on the scene and made things a LOT easier are both from Adobe and are amazing!  I'm not saying this flippantly..I love these two apps!  Admittedly, book trailers take time, but with these apps and an iPad students can start easily using their camera roll or online sources.  I'll break down both apps as well as give hints on making using these easier.

So here's a breakdown for both-

Adobe Voice:
-search photos on your camera roll OR through a CC image search built-in
- add music Adobe provides or use music from your iPad.
-record your voice to narrate a book trailer
-you can add titles and text between images for a more traditional trailer
-manage how long an image stays on the screen (up to 5 seconds)
-add icons
- from 32 themes that automatically add movement to your video
-save your project to work on at different times before you publish
-it has an option to make it private or public
-share via social media, email, or add it to your camera roll
-available only on iPad





Adobe Clip:
- add either clips or images from your camera roll.  This app doesn't have a CC search, so shooting videos will be the best option for this app.  You can search for CC images in Google and save them to your camera roll as the best option for images 
- has a built-in trimmer so you can customize your video clips or add slo-mo
-add individual text slides between clips or images
-add music from the library provided or from your stash on your ipad
-selection from three transitions: fade in from black, fade out to black, crossfade between clips
-has a built-in image enhancer with 30 different filters
- publish and share the video on social media or through Adobe Creative Cloud (there isn't a private button on this one)
-available on iPhone or iPad




Hints:
-mash up these apps with different apps like Whiteboard or Paper 53 to add text or videos
-think of other places to get CC images or videos like Instagram, Facebook or Vine
- download Google Slides or Docs to create unique text slides
- use an app called Downloads Plus lite to download and use CC friendly music from Purple Planet




And now to play with Adobe Slate, the newest app that helps make reports, newletters and other text-based documents beautiful by adding photos into them.




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2. App of the Week: Crop

crop
Title: Crop
Cost: Free, with $ 1 in-app purchase to remove ads and maintain aspect ratio
Platform: iOS

Sometimes an app is so simple, but works so well, it's hard to imagine how you would get along without it. For me, one of those is Crop by Green Mango Systems.

IMG_3694

Whether it's focusing on the content of a screen-captured Instagram post or creating a quick thumbnail for an avatar, there are many occasions when you'll want to remove the bulk of an image or rotate it on the fly. You simply select the image, use the eight points of the image canvas to determine the size you want, and you can keep finessing things until you hit "Save." And unlike the crop option within the iOS photo roll, Crop saves your creation as a new file, so you don't loose the original.

In a digital photography workshop at our state edtech conference this summer, the presenter, Leslie Fisher, emphasized taking pictures from where you stood and cropping them instead of using the digital zoom feature in your device camera. She said that results in less degradation of the image quality. Crop is super-useful for anyone adopting that sort of digital photography workflow.

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3. HeroesCon Interview: Comic Blitz App Offers Netflix Experience for Comics

Comic Blitz Founder Jordan Plosky on the floor of HeroesCon 2015

Comic Blitz Founder Jordan Plosky on the floor of HeroesCon 2015

by Harper W. Harris

On Saturday, I got the chance to speak with Jordan Plosky, founder of Comic Blitz, a new comic app that operates much like Marvel Unlimited, only not just limited to Marvel. Although the company has only Valiant and Dynamite on board at this stage, they have plans to announce many more publishers’ comics being available via the app soon. Interested comics fans can go to ComicBlitz.com now to join the beta while it’s open. Here’s what Jordan had to say on the floor of HeroesCon.

HH: First I’ll let you take the lead and tell us what Comic Blitz is, how it got started, and what it’s all about.

JP: Sure. The easiest way to describe Comic Blitz is thinking about Netflix for digital comic books. So, as a customer you’d be paying one low monthly fee for access to all the comics we have on our platform. At launch, which is in the very near future, we’re going to have thousands of comics on board, you will literally have unlimited reading, there’s no way you could breeze through everything we have in one month. You’ll have unlimited reading for a very, very long time.

HH: So how does Comic Blitz plan to really differentiate themselves from other digital comics distributors?

JP: It’s great that digital has been the opposite of what everyone thought it was going to be, right? It was going to be the downfall of the industry, but it’s not, it’s been the greatest proponent for print since newsstands. Digital is the new newsstand. So what differentiates us from the other platforms out there today is the value proposition. So for $10 a month, for the price of one graphic novel you not only have access to an entire comic book shop, but you can read everything. You don’t have to choose with your wallet if you want to buy the latest Hawkeye book or read a Hawkeye book from the 70’s or something like that. When you’ve already paid your entrance fee, you have access to whatever we have. So the wallet doesn’t do the choosing; you just get to read and read and read as much as you’d like. You finish one issue? You can just tap a button that says read next issue and go straight from one to the next, you don’t have to go back to a menu, you don’t have to close open, open close, it’s just a seamless transition from issue to issue.

HH: So you guys are really trying to kind of implement binge reading into comics instead of having to de-bag and board or search through a box of single issues.

JP: Yeah, we think so. We’re not saying, “Don’t go out and buy the physical copies, don’t go out and collect.” We’re collectors, we do the same thing. But the convenience for just reading something, we find that digital is the most convenient way to do it. So you can have the issue ready and you don’t have to go dig it out of your longbox or something, risk bending or creasing it, you can read it digitally and know that your copy is tucked away safe in the box that you put it in and you never have to touch it again.

HH: That’s really cool–I hadn’t thought about it as being a supplement to your physical collection.

JP: This is like your new reader’s copy in a way. You get your collectable and then you have your copy you can read on your tablet.

HH: Tell us about what publishers and creators you’ve gotten involved so far and who’s on deck to be added to the app in the future.

JP: Right now as part of the beta test we have a selection of comics from Valiant Comics and Dynamite Comics. That’s kind of all we’re revealing at the moment is those two publishers, but it’s safe to say that we have much more content than the 18 titles we have in the beta test, from both of those, and as I’ve said, we’re going to have thousands of comics from several top ten publisher and several other reputable publishers. There’s going to be a lot of stuff that people might have seen in comic shops but maybe have already spent their weekly or monthly allowance on comics already before they can get to that other issue. You know, “Oh, I heard about that” or “that looks cool, but I already spent my $4 over here,” so people who are very aware of everything else that’s going on in comics that might have passed them by, this is a great way to catch up on all of that.

HH: I’ve heard myself say those exact words, missing something and then never really going back to read it, so I totally get that! So as far as Valiant and Dynamite go, will you guys have their entire back catalog as well as new issues, and how will that work?

JP: So there are different deals in place with every publisher that we have; some publishers we get their content one month after its released in print and other digital formats. Some publishers its three months, some wait until the trade comes out and we’re a month after that, so that way they get to sell their single issues and the trade and make the money their going to make, and then it comes on here and extends the life of that comic even more. Something that people might not realize if they’re not way deep into the comic industry is that there are no residuals, there are no syndication rights the way that movies and TV have. So if a movie comes out in a movie theater, does gangbusters there, then comes to Netflix and VOD, then its on cable and in syndication forever, they constantly make money on that. A lot of creators don’t see that kind of money, if they’re not making a comic every single month, if their trade doesn’t do well, they’re not making the kind of money that other forms of media are making. So something like this, if we are successful it means success for the entire industry because the publishers make the majority of the money that comes into this, and then if the publisher is making more money, they get to put more money into books, pay creators more, get more royalties to creators. It’s win-win for fans, publishers, and creators, for everybody.

HH: So you mentioned you guys are in beta right now. How can people get involved with the beta, and what does that give them access to at this point?

JP: If you go to ComicBlitz.com, there’s a link right there to sign up for the beta test and we’ll send you a link for the beta. It will be closed after a certain amount of people sign up, I’m not sure how many spaces will be left by the time your readers see this, so sign up as soon as possible if you’re interested in doing the beta test. What you’re going to find is sort of a bare bones product, in the tech world it’s called an MVP (minimal viable product) just to see like, these are people that are interested in this, they can give us some feedback as to what they might want to see in a digital comic reader before we start building things that nobody wants and we get their feedback on the the things that we’ve already implemented as well. So you get to read the comics for free, there’s no commitment to buy it after we go live, but obviously we’re hoping you’re going to like it enough to sign up for a subscription and keep reading digital comics with us.

HH: This sounds really cool…I’ve gotten a chance to check out the beta here at HeroesCon and it looks very nice. Do you have an official launch date for the app at this point?

JP: Yes, we’re setting up at Boston Comic Con, so that’s July 31-Aug 2nd, we’re going to have a booth there and that will be our official launch, so about six weeks from now.

HH: I’ll be really excited to see what you have coming up next and to see how the app continues to grow!

JP: We’re excited to unveil it, excited to be able to let people know that we’ll have more than the 18 titles available in the beta. Hopefully people will be surprised and excited for what we have to offer them when we do launch. Thanks!

2 Comments on HeroesCon Interview: Comic Blitz App Offers Netflix Experience for Comics, last added: 6/25/2015
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4. Back Burner Writing, Essential Apps and How I'm Squeezing In Extra Writing Every Day

Morning writer.

Since I started getting picture book contracts (yay!) I've put my novel writing on the back burner. Then last summer at SCBWI-LA, I was talking with my editor at Simon & Schuster (Justin Chanda) about my middle grade novels and time management. Justin said that if my novel writing was important to me, I needed to set aside some regular time to work on it...no matter how much other work I had going on.

Absolutely! I said. I am SO going to do this. And yeah, well. I was right on top of that for a few weeks and then the reality of work deadlines plus personal commitments pushed my novel projects onto the back burner again.

I've since come to terms with this. I am having SO much fun with my picture book projects these days and things are very busy for me in a good way. To those who didn't know: I used to write nonfiction while I worked on middle grade novels; Writer's Digest even asked me to write a book for them. I met my wonderful agent because of my middle grade writing, through children's book writer, Lee Wardlaw; Lee critiqued one of my first MG novels (thank you, Lee!). The two middle grade manuscripts that Ginger and I sent out never found a home, though we got close a couple of times near the end. I could tell from the rejection letters that my writing was improving. I shelved the older mss and began working on new stories. One of my new manuscripts that never got sent out was nominated for the SCBWI Sue Alexander "Most Promising For Publication" Award; it didn't win but the nomination was encouraging; I could tell I was getting closer.

Then my picture book illustration career took off, thanks to the SCBWI and Simon & Schuster Children's. My heart is in picture books now, and I always want to help create them...I love this genre SO MUCH and connecting with the young readers continues to be one of my greatest joys.

There is still a part of my creative soul, however, that is still drawn to middle grade novels. I read middle grade constantly; not for market research but because I've always enjoyed reading them. It's okay that my novel writing on the back burner right now, but that doesn't mean I can't still keep writing! Even if it's only for a few minutes a day. 

So I decided recently to get back on my own 250, 500 and 1000 Words A Day Challenge.

 I created this challenge for those who are looking for extra motivation to get back into a daily writing habit but who also need some flexibility. Challenges like NaNoWriMo are wonderful (I've done Nano in the past and had great fun) but can sometimes be discouraging if, for whatever reason, you start falling behind.

Anyway, I have been trying something new which has been working pretty well, so I thought I'd share it. Here's what I do:

I bought the iAWriter app for my Mac and iOS devices (iPhone, iPad) and use it for my daily morning writing ritual. I've played around with MANY note-taking apps on my iOS devices ever since the first iPhone came out, and this remains one of the favorites because of its minimalist approach.

No settings to fiddle with, which means I'm not as likely to procrastinate. I love the easy-to-read monospaced font. 

I find using my iPad with my external keyboard works the best for this. Why not my Mac? Because I do most of my book illustration project work on my Mac, doing morning writing on a separate and very portable device helps deceive the "oh my gosh I can't work on my novel I need to get back to contracted paying work" part of my brain. Sounds stupid, I know, but I find it helps me focus. I can also take my iPad outside of the house at a moment's notice and work on my writing ANYWHERE.

When it comes to later revisions, I'll probably go back to my desktop computer so I can take advantage of the bigger screen space and two monitors. For a first draft, however, my iPad is perfect. I also tend to be the kind of writer who over-edits as she writes, and I'm finding that writing on a smaller screen encourages me to keep writing (editing is more of a pain). I know I will revise later. 

After I finish my session in iAWriter, I send the document to my Evernote account; happily, I can do this from within the iAWriter app. I know there are many other means of backing up my data and getting writing snippets to my desktop computer. I have tried many of them. This is the way that seems to work best for me, mainly because I don't need to open any other app that may possibly distract me. Did I mention that I'm easily distracted?

From the iAWriter app, I can share directly to Evernote and even choose the receiving project folder. I figure that I can always organize later on; I try to put a note at the beginning like "near end of book" etc. I also tend to write in scenes and snippets rather than from start to finish, and will organize them later. I *used* to write from start to finish but found that I tended to overedit and spend way too much time near the beginning.

I use Evernote for so much more, of course. Two of my favorite features: (1) with the paid version of Evernote, you can email anything to your Evernote account, and (2) when searching for a word or term in Evernote, the search will include any scanned documents...including business cards and handwritten notes (!).

I also use the Day One app for my Mac and iOS devices. I've tried other journaling tools before but like Day One the best because of its super-simple interface without all the bells and whistles.

As with iAWriter, I'm drawn to the minimalist interface because it makes it very easy for me to just open and use, without being tempted to tweak settings. 

I've been using the app to quickly record ideas and thoughts and character/title ideas as well as other personal observations, and I use tags (like "goals", "bookidea" etc.) so I can access them more easily later. One of my tags is "happy," by the way...whenever I'm feeling down, browsing all my "happy" entries always cheers me up. Another is "thanks", which I also try to use each day, to write down people and things and events I'm grateful for. 

I also use the DayOne app to quickly snap photos, which is great for grabbing a reference photo for illustration, character idea, a friend's book I want to read, etc. You can only take one photo per entry, though. If you plan to do this a LOT, I'd recommend Evernote instead. Also, you can share DayOne photos/text to social media as well! I don't do this, though; I'm too worried about accidentally sharing a post that's meant to be private. :-)

I do love Scrivener, by the way, and use it for many of my book projects (more on this in a future post), but the lack of easy syncing across all my devices makes it tough to count on Scrivener for my daily writing exercise.

Do you have any tools or tips to share that you've found useful in your writing? Feel free to share them below.

Good luck with your writing!

 

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5. Fusenews: And the tree was moderately amused

  • givingtreeHere’s your SAT question for the day: “Making fun of The Giving Tree in a parody is to shooting fish in a barrel as . . .”  You may put your response in the comments below.  I’ve lived long enough to feel that I’ve seen every possible Giving Tree parody man or woman could imagine.  The Taking Tree, the video with Sassy Gay Friend, that other video where it shows the boy growing up.  Been there, done that.  That’s why I really kind of respected The Toast’s take.  At first it sounds like it’s going to be more of the same old, same old: If the Boy From the Giving Tree Was Your Boyfriend.  But like most pieces on The Toast, it’s much smarter and cleverer than its initial concept.  Well played, Meghann Gordon.  Well played indeed.  Thanks to Cheryl Klein for the link.
  • Me stuff.  If you find that you haven’t heard enough talkety talk from me, Mr. Tim Podell was recently kind enough to speak to interview me for his remarkable, and longstanding, Good Conversations Radio Podcast.  Seven years ago he walked into my library and we talked about where to take his show.  Now he has a successful podcast and I my same blog.  Seems like only yesterday, eh, Tim?
  • This one just sort of sells itself.  The headline read, “British Library releases children’s book illustrations into public domain.”
  • I don’t know as many literary apps for kids as I might.  Pretty much everything on my phone is of the Endless series.  Endless Reader.  Endless Alphabet.  Now I hear they’ve a Spanish one as well: Endless Spanish/Infinito Español.  This is a great day for kinderappkind.
  • Who doesn’t like a good bookface (as the kids are calling it these days)?  Lots of children’s literature was on display in this recent Guardian article about NYPL’s call for pictures ala #bookfacefriday.

bookfaceNelson

I think the Libba Bray one is particularly inspired too.

  • With the sheer number of picture books out there, sometimes you want to see a recommendation list that isn’t the same old, same old.  So if you want something fun and entirely up-t0-date, step this way and take in the Pink Me post Super Summer Picture Books 2015.  Good for what ails ya.
  • I missed a lot of Publisher’s Weekly Children’s Bookshelf issues while I was moving to Evanston, so perhaps this piece has already been discussed ad nauseum without me.  Just in case it hasn’t, though, The Guardian post Picture Books That Draw the Line Against Pink Stereotypes of Girls is very interesting to me.  I should do an American version as a post soon.  In any case, many of these I recognize but I don’t think we’ve seen I’m a Girl by Yasmeen Ismail yet.  Eh, Bloomsbury?  Eh?  Eh eh?  *bats eyelashes*  Eh? Thanks to Kate for the link.
  • With his customary verve and panache, Travis Jonker accurately (insofar as I am concerned) pinpoints the books that will probably get some New York Times Best Illustrated love this year.  The sole book he neglects to mention, insofar as I am concerned, is my beloved Moletown by Torben Kuhlmann and possibly Mr. Squirrel and the Moon by Sebastian Meschenmoser.  Let’s show our German compatriots a little affection!
  • One might argue that launching a literary periodical with a concentration on children’s literature in this day and age is as fraught with peril as launching a children’s bookstore (if not more so).  Yet I find much to celebrate in this recent announcement about The Read Quarterly and what it hopes to accomplish.  You know what?  What the heck.  I’ll subscribe.  Could be good for the little gray cells.
  • Daily Image:

This . . . this looks like a lot of work.  Whooboy.  A lot of work.  But super cool, you bet.  Super cool.  It’s kids made out of books:

0109_poster_B1_右下統一

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6. Apps, Online Tools, and More!

Being a children’s librarian has to be one of the most fun and rewarding jobs a person could have, but that doesn’t mean it is easy! Balancing multiple responsibilities, tight scheduling, and having to constantly be “on” are just a few of the everyday challenges. Luckily, for us, there are tools out there to help us along the way. I posed the question to the ALSC Listserv “What are your favorite apps or online tools that help you stay organized, focused and energized?”

Here are some of the ways youth service staff are using technology to their benefit.

Productivity:

Google Keep is a post-it style system for checklists and notes. Share across your devices or with others. See real time progress on collaborative checklists or setup location reminder notifications.

30/30 is a task management system with a built in timer that tells you when to move on to your next task. The task list is controlled completely by gestures, and is the recipient of many awards and positive reviews.

 

Professional Development:

Many people use Evernote for note taking, but it can also be used for much more. Save program resources and collection development resources, tweets, bookmarks and more!

Pocket  allows you to store articles, videos or anything else to read at a later date. Save directly from your browser or from apps and access anytime, even without internet.

 

Wellness

Headspace is a meditation app that provides personal training for your mind. Learn the basics of meditation and participate in guided or unguided exercises ranging from 2 minutes to one hour.

Pocket Yoga  lets you take your yoga instructor with you anywhere you go! Choose between different practices, different durations and different difficulty levels.

 

Programs:

Canva  allows anyone to create visually appealing graphics. Flyers, social media posts, ads, and even presentations can be created by dragging and dropping images and fonts. Canva for Work is coming soon.

Finally, this one isn’t available yet but I know it will be worth the wait!

The Mother Goose on the Loose Online Construction Kit (OCK) is a free cloud- based tool developed by Mother Goose on the Loose, LLC that is designed to make planning storytimes easy by utilizing three big databases. One database aggregates nursery rhymes information such as:  lyrics, instructions, pictures, relevant illustrations, etc. The second database stores titles and bibliographic information of quality children’s books. The third database consists of developmental tips that can be used to explain the value and purpose of certain activities being done with children. There is also a wizard friend who will help users combine information from all of the databases mentioned above to generate either a barebones outline or a fully-fledged script with lyrics and instructions to help make planning high-quality programs for young children a breeze. OCK is still in beta testing, and anyone  who is interested can contact info@mgol.org

We hope these tips will help you further the amazing work you are already doing!

The post Apps, Online Tools, and More! appeared first on ALSC Blog.

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7. quick parent safety lectures

Screen Shot 2015-03-05 at 8.35.09

The principals of all the local schools got together and did a parent safety evening at the school. I was one of the presenters. I think they were expecting a big turnout, but it was a small (but interested) crowd. I did two very short presentations

1. Ten apps in ten minutes. For parents who are not using mobile devices for social purposes outside of facebook, knowing what the various apps are and what they do can be useful. I just had a very basic slide deck and talked over some images of the apps. I had to learn to use Snapchat which was sort of hilarious.

2. “How the heck does this work” a short talk about things parents can control in their home internet environment and what they can’t. Obviously the standard line is that the best thing you can do is talk to your kids and this is more useful than just using technological tools on what is, ultimately, more of a social problem. That said, it’s good to understand what you can and can’t do with the technology.

Most importantly was, I think, people seeing and getting to know each other and getting to have conversations about what their systems were at home. One parent charged all the devices in his room at night, for example, so the kids couldn’t sleep with their phones. Another had a “no phones/devices before homework is done” policy. Another had a “two hours of screen time a night” rule. I was glad to be a “local expert” of a sort who could give people some perspective on what technology can look like form another direction. The newspaper wrote up a short article about the event. Feel free to use my slides for your own safety talks.

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8. Cultivating Creativity: Technology that encourages learning about art

Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up. - Pablo Picasso

Two of my favorite types of programs to offer at the library are science and art programs. Many times I find the boundaries between the two blurring, discovering connections between the two areas. That’s probably why I loved adding the “A” for art to STEM to form STEAM (a movement started by the Rhode Island School of Design: http://www.risd.edu/about/STEM_to_STEAM/).

Pointillist style paintings of eyes

A 6th grade class used art to explore how the eye mixes colors that are adjacent to one another.

Children experience deeper learning about science through creative, artistic activities and correspondingly, discover more about art through the lens of science (think about light and the Impressionists, Georges Seurat’s scientific approach to pointillism, Vermeer’s use of the camera obscura.) So I’m adding a little art into your Pi day today!

Children are, as Picasso noted, natural artists. For preschoolers, scribbling is a first step toward writing and drawing.

hands pasting paper onto a mural

Preschooler and parent work together to glue shapes onto a mural.

Cutting with scissors, pasting and gluing, molding shapes with playdough, and scribbling all help to develop those fine motor skills that will be needed in school. Learning to appreciate art can be a bit more challenging, but something that can be encouraged. I didn’t take an art history class until college, but with online opportunities offered through Khan Academy and the Google Art Project, among others,  kids can explore art quite closely these days even if they live far from a large city with a major art museum. These sites also can develop vocabulary for talking about art. Experience with story is helpful in appreciating art, and it works both ways — children can learn about stories through art, and their knowledge of story and history can help them to understand and appreciate art.

Below are a few technological resources to support your exploration, to encourage you to help create a culture of art at your library. Hopefully these will be considered as starting points and as extensions for other activities, for there is no substitute for messy, hands-on creative activities or for an actual museum visit where you see a painting and think: “Wow! I didn’t know it was so big!”, experience a sculpture in all three dimensions, or wonder at the movement of a mobile.

Background Knowledge & Virtual Museum Visits:

Khan Academy

Web, free

From the main page, under “Subjects”, choose “Arts and Humanities” and the second heading is Art History. You might begin with the basics or try “Why Look at Art?

There are lots of great videos and resources included here. Preview videos before showing them and consider the ages and sensitivities of your audience (no fig leaves!)

Google Art Project

Web, free

Zoom in on some objects and be amazed at how close you can get — close enough to see brushstrokes. So close that if you were in a museum, the guard would likely be coming over to talk to you!

Playing with art:

NGAKids, National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.

iPad, free

Explore different paintings in the collection with different interactive experiences.With some activities children will gain familiarity with the work of art: for example, adding boats, figures and changing the light of a seascape before setting it in motion. In other activities they will create their own work in that artist’s style, as when they blend rectangles of color like Mark Rothko. Their works will be saved in an online art gallery and can be shared with parental permission.

MoMA  Art Lab, Museum of Modern Art, New York

iPad, free

Explore different artworks with engaging activities — for example, try to make mobile a la Calder, though it can be tricky to balance it just right.  Or “Draw with Scissors” and create a collage in the manner of Matisse. You can also choose a blank canvas to begin and create a completely original work with the tools provided.  Children can create art they can save and share, and get a smattering of art history along the way.

Lazoo: Squiggles

iPad, free

For the preschool age, this app is a fun early literacy tool to encourage pre-writing and fine motor skills. It is easy for young children to use themselves, open-ended and responsive to a child’s touch. After children make squiggles to the cartoon drawing they press “go” and the picture becomes animated. The more squiggles the artist makes, the more exciting the result.

For more apps that encourage creativity, see the recent Common Sense media guide:

“Modern Kids Guide to Creativity (to Crafting, Coding, Composing and More)”

which features many apps and games to encourage creativity. The guide offers detailed content reviews, recommended ages, information about in app purchases and ability to share with social networks. Some are low cost or free, while a few DS games are $30.

Additional Resources:

“The Art Room” by Heather Accero, ALSC Blog, Sept. 17, 2013. http://www.alsc.ala.org/blog/2013/09/the-art-room/

“Library as Art Gallery” Karen Choy, ALSC Blog. May 29, 2014. http://www.alsc.ala.org/blog/2014/05/library-as-art-gallery/

Library as Incubator Project. http://www.libraryasincubatorproject.org/

Making Art with Children blog from the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. http://www.carlemuseum.org/blogs/making-art

“Meet Art” by Heather Bentley-Flannery. Jan. 27, 2015.  http://www.alsc.ala.org/blog/2015/01/meet-art/ – describes a great Matisse program

“Meet Art: Creative Hands-On Art Programs” by Heather Bentley-Flannery, ALSC Blog, Oct. 30, 2013. http://www.alsc.ala.org/blog/2013/10/meet-art-creative-hands-on-art-programs/

Robin L. Gibson is a Youth Services Librarian at the Westerville Public Library in Westerville Ohio and member of the Children and Technology Committee.

 

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9. App of the Week: Lark

lark_icon

Title: Lark

Cost: Free

Platform: iOS

Many youth services specialists will be familiar with Lark's parent site, Storybird, which enables dazzling yet simple drag-and-drop digital storytelling. Like Fridegpoems by Color Monkey, Lark, Storybird's Poetry app, is a digital incarnation of a refrigerator magnet poetry set, inspiring creativity within a finite vocabulary set as you move and reorder the words it generates over an image.

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A lightning bolt icon launches a new project. You can browse art in a gallery, search by keyword or choose a random different background or word bank by swiping left. Many of the images, alternatingly fantastical and almost unbearably poignant, look as if they were cribbed from vintage picture books. You can also use a color picker to change the colors of the words on screen for optimal artistic impact. The overall effect is quite attractive and quickly achieved.

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You can post your creations to the shared database, save it to your picture roll, and Lark has the usual social sharing components built in, too.  If you're not feeling inspired, you can browse poems, follow those you find compelling, and "heart" or comment on poems you like. You can also block and unblock users, though the controlled vocabulary makes it pretty problem-free for school use, but registration through verified email is required.

Lark is designed for iOS 7 and is compatible with iPhone 4s and later. It isn't available for Android devices or optimized for iPad. Featuring it on public devices would make for an easy drop-in program for National Poetry Month, or working with a group to generate a poem with time constraints could prove a fun contest.

Have a suggestion for an app we should highlight? Let us know. And don't miss the hundreds of other great apps in our Archive.

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10. Rough Animator App Lets You Animate On Your Tablet

An iOS/Android app for easy animating on the go.

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11. App of the Week: PhotoMath

Photomath
Title: PhotoMath
Platform: iOS and Android
Cost: Free

From WordLens (now part of Google Translate) to Invisibility 3D, apps which use the camera as an input tool to harness machine intelligence always interest me. When one such app, PhotoMath hit the top of the download charts last year, there was some minor outcry among educators. Would students use the app to cheat? But while the PhotoMath app reads and solves mathematical problems by using the camera of your phone and tablet in real time, it is far from the scourge of math teachers. Like Wolfram Alpha, it is a nice tool to have on hand when you can't remember enough math to help students with their work.

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Within the app with an active camera, you can manipulate the size of the datawell to pick up the whole of more complicated questions, and the app solves advanced math problems including quadratic equations and inequalities. The app goes beyond solutions, anticipating the admonition to "show your work." A red button opens the step-by-step process for doing just that.

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You can flag incorrect answers, and updates build upon the errata to produce a more robust tool.

The app has its limitations. It can only scan printed text, so it won't work on a teacher's handwritten equations. And, given the push towards more constructivist assignments and the intuitive mathematical understanding embodied by the Common Core, I don't see it as a tool for cheating beyond the solutions which math textbooks have been including for decades. Y

Have a suggestion for a featured App of the Week? Let us know. And don't forget to check out more great apps in our archive.

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12. Trello for Writers

Lately, I've been using Trello a lot at work to track tasks and projects. As often happens when I'm using cool software, I automatically consider how it can be used to improve my writing process. Turns out that with a little creativity, Trello can easily be adapted to be anything you want.

I guess I should start at the beginning. What is Trello? Trello is a task management system, which is a fancy way of saying it's a way to manage your To Do list.

Trello is set up like a bulletin board where you pin cards with each task into a list. Typically, you might have three lists: To Do, Doing, and Done. When you start working on one of your To Dos, you move it to Doing, and when it's completed, you move it to Done.



Of course, the cool thing about cards on a bulletin board is you can make the cards whatever you want them to be, and you can arrange them however you want. That means the ways you can use it are limited only by your imagination.

Trello is very easy to use, but there are some tricks and tips that add extra power, which you can use to improve your writing processes. If it were just about making cards and moving them around on a board, this would be a short post.

In this series of posts, we'll look at ways to use Trello to manage a writing project. We'll use it as a kind of sketching tool to map out our plot, start developing characters, and build our fictional world. I'll also show you how you can use Trello as a way to organize your actual written documents, and to collaborate with others, whether it's a co-writer or your crit partners. And once you have everything written, you can, of course, use Trello to track submissions.

The first thing, of course, is getting it for yourself. That's the easy part. Go to trello.com and sign up. Trello is a web app, so you can use it anywhere you have an Internet connection. In addition to the web app, you can get free apps for iOS and Android. The mobile apps let you do almost everything you can do on the web, except for a number of customization options and some advanced management. You'll probably want to use both the web and the mobile apps.

Trello is completely free. You can create an unlimited number of boards and cards without paying a cent. There are a couple of paid versions, but you probably don't need them. The paid versions give you a few extra features, like emojis you can use as stickers on your cards and the ability to create more personalized backgrounds for your boards. The one bit of functionality that is nice in the paid version is that you can attach bigger files to your cards--the free version limits you to attachments that are 10MB or less--but unless you work with very large files, this really won't make much difference to you. Everything I will show in this series will take advantage of the standard functionality in the free version.

I recommend that you download Trello and get familiar with the basic functionality. Create a test board and some cards and lists. We'll start digging into the details in the next post.

But for now, I've finished this post, so I can move my Intro card to the Done list. Moving a card to Done always feels like a reward!



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13. Engage tweens with technology through Stop Motion Videos

Stop motion is an animation technique “to make a physically manipulated object or persona appear to move on its own. The object is moved in small increments between individually photographed frames, creating the illusion of movement when the series of frames is played as a continuous sequence,” (from Wikipedia). So, like Wallace and Grommet but, in our case, DIY and low-budget. I planned a stop motion program as a way of engaging tweens with the new set of iPads the Wellesley Free Library received thanks to a grant from the Wellesley Media Foundation. Tweens are a difficult audience to capture with technology programs, and after an unsuccessful QR code scavenger hunt, this seemed to be a fun idea that would attract tweens and leave them with new skills in using technology.

As I have written before, I am not the most technologically savvy of the new generation of children’s librarians. So I am always looking for a program idea where I can learn along with the kids, rather than needing to have prior knowledge or expertise. This hit the nail on the head. And it was fun too!

Here’s how it worked:

-I used Stop Motion Studio, a basic free app for iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch. If your library has any of these devices, you can pre-load the app beforehand. Otherwise, kids who have their own personal devices may use these. Don’t worry if you do not have a large number of devices to use, because this is an activity that lends itself to working in teams. Having one device for every four kids is not only completely reasonable logistically, it also builds teamwork and collaboration. Kids will enjoy creating a story together, and taking turns playing different roles in the process.

-Next is the fun part: gathering the materials. What you need are basically toys, toys, and more toys. Working in a library that values play as an important practice for building early literacy skills, I have access to plastic animals, plushy body organs, dolls and doll house furniture, puppets, vehicles, wooden food, blocks, LEGOs, playdough, and much more. I’m sure most of you have a similar treasure trove at your fingertips. I gathered this all together along with an assortment of craft supplies, paper, and markers.

-When the participants arrived, I gave them a brief tutorial of the app. Because we were using the basic free version, we did not have access to all of the extra features which can be purchased within the app, such as sound effects, movie themes, and the ability to import images. But for a beginner class lasting only an hour, simple was fine. Some of the kids had made stop-motion videos before using the Nintendo DS, but none had used the app. They picked it up in no time. The free version of the app does include a function to change the speed of the video, and the ability to have the previous photo appear as a translucent image in the background of the camera finder, in order to more precisely see the minute change in each frame. These features were very helpful in creating the videos.

-Next I explained the concept of story-boarding, and encouraged the participants to plan out their frames before executing the video. Then they collected supplies and began to take pictures. In the end, we shared our videos with each other. The three who chose to share their video through the library’s Youtube channel can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLEE6nkJzxnsQCemP82YXmZfLVhYE8uEzy

Overall summary:  Tweens enjoyed this fun and simple program, learned new skills on devices with which they were already somewhat familiar, and left with a sense of pride about their creations which some chose to share with the public through Library social media channels. The program’s success is determined greatly by the variety and whimsy of the materials you provide for making the videos.

Skills developed and strengthened: working using a tablet, digital photography, animation, story-boarding, working as a team.

Cost: $0

What programs have you done to engage tweens in technology? What has worked in your community?

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14. Week of Making: Collaborative Coding: Participating in a Community Appathon

What do you expect to happen when you shut 25 teens in a room for an entire rainy Saturday? I wasn't sure when I arrived at Skokie Public Library at 9:00am on May 30 for their first ever Community Appathon, even though I'd attended several planning meetings. The event was inspired by the National Day of Civic Hacking and spurred into being by a library patron (Maker Mom Kim Moldofsky) and her teenage son. A skilled coder, he'd attended an adult-oriented hackathon and found that a 36-hour event doesn't mix well with curfew. The goal of the appathon was to gather teens interested in developing, designing, and civic service to prototype apps to meet the community's needs.

IMG_0258The event ran from 9:00am to (slightly after) 6:00pm. We began the day with a State of Skokie talk that addressed many of the issues highlighted at a recent series of town hall meetings, followed by a brainstorming session to develop ideas to address those issues. Highlighted issues include safety, connectivity, diversity, environmental sustainability, the difficulty in finding information about local events, the need for an image makeover, and a need to be more pedestrian friendly. The teens then broke out into teams of five to create their apps. Three library staff and Kim acted as facilitators throughout the day: keeping everyone on schedule, serving food (bagels, fruit, pizza, popcorn and cookies), and offering assistance as needed. At the end of the day, each team presented their app to the whole group. All the teens (plus a last-minute group of teen volunteers) voted on the best one.

I came in with very little knowledge of coding. I've played with programs Scratch and App Inventor and prototyping software Fluid Ui enough to be able to talk about them. The self-identified teen coders were way beyond App Inventor. A few of the teens knew less than I did, but had design or other relevant skills. Skokie Public Library's webmaster was on hand to mentor them with coding issues, and several advanced teens helped the others periodically throughout the day, as well. SPL's teen librarian introduced teens to the art of the elevator pitch to help with their final presentations. My roles were to conduct a brief presentation on team selection, assist with user testing and design questions, and find answers to the inevitable, "Do you have an extension cord?" type questions.

IMG_0297The turnout, 25 teens, made the event a success. Coverage in the local paper may have boosted participation. Promotion at the local schools and word of mouth most definitely did. We were also able to entice them by offering a treasure trove of donated prizes. Local restaurants like Meatheads and tech companies like GitHub and Lenovo were eager to participate. Google even donated two chromebooks. One was awarded to the MVP of the day, as chosen by the teens, and the other was put into a random drawing along with the stickers, magnets, USB extenders, and other goodies. Each team also received a set of five matching prizes, so that no one went home empty-handed.

Participants were highly engaged and seemed to enjoy themselves. They worked independently of the staff for much of the day. One group took the initiative to send some of its members out into the community to talk with nearby business owners to gauge their interest and get their feedback on their app. In the end, all five teams completed working prototypes of their apps.

IMG_0333A few basic supplies were necessary to keep the program running. While most teens brought their own computers, we had several on hand for those that may not have their own. All of them ended up getting used. In addition to laptops, we also made sure to have plenty of power strips and extension cords. These also all got used as the teens' laptop batteries began to fade. For brainstorming and planning we had lots of pens, post-its, poster pads and markers. Various apple and android devices were on-hand for user testing, but didn't get used.

We identified a few areas to improve for future appathons. Several groups focused on similar problems like connectivity, image and finding information about local events, while no one worked on diversity, environmental sustainability, safety or pedestrian-friendliness. To remedy this, we might have participants vote on the top issues or ideas, and then form groups based on the top 5. Since the event also ended up running over its allotted time, it might work to extend it through dinner (more pizza!) or limit presentations to just 1 or 2 minutes, then time them to make sure they don't run long.

Click here for a video summary of the Community Appathon.

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15. Sesame Workshop Releases Its First ‘Digital Pop-up Book’

screen520x924If you thought a print book was required for reading pop-ups, think again. Sesame Workshop has teamed up with digital services firm StoryToys to create a digital pop-up book that brings the elements of pop-up to the screen.

The first Sesame Street 3-D pop-up book, Elmo Loves You!, actually looks a lot like a real book in the way that the content jumps out at the reader. The book includes 15 interactive scenes, in which characters move and pop off of the page in the way that they would in a real pop-up book. Readers can help Ernie play the drums, exercise with Cookie Monster and count with the Count.

The eBook is currently available from iTunes for $3.99 and will soon be available on Amazon and Google Play.

You can watch a video demo of the story here.

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16. Soundtrack Tool Booktrack Now Has 1 Million Members

booktrackBooktrack, a tool designed for self-published writers and publishers to add soundtracks to their eBooks, now has more than a million users.

The company, which launched 11 months ago, expects to reach 2 million by the end of its first year. Over the last year, more than 4,000 authors have joined the platform and Booktrack users have published more than 6,000 titles in 30 different languages. This includes more than just authors. Here is more from the press release:

Booktrack’s reach also extends to the classroom, where it has been proven to dramatically improve student literacy. More than 4,000 educators around the world have adopted the Booktrack Classroom application to help students more deeply engage with creative writing, essays, novels, and poetry studies.

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17. App of the Week: aa

Screen Shot 2014-12-23 at 10.04.05 AM

Title: Aa

Platform: iOS and Android

Cost: Free, with in-app purchases

I discovered this addictive "waiting game" after watching our students staring, seemingly blankly, at their iPads, ready to spring when they see an opening. It might look like something out of The Manchurian Candidate, but while the central wheel twirls around, the player must gauge the perfect moment to add another spoke in the spaces remaining without knocking any of the existing elements. Any error sends you back to the adding all of the elements all over again.

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Like Dots, the underlying gaming concept behind Aa couldn't be simpler. Any gesture on the screen inserts a spoke at the bottom of the spinning radius. But, by adding an element as you advance through each level, it quickly builds into a challenge as it becomes more difficult to insert a new one given the scant room available. Avoiding the impulse to "fire" spokes in a rapid-fire manner is the real test of patience and hand-eye coordination.

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Aa is free, but the ability to skip and unlock levels are available as in-app purchases, as is a nominal charge to remove ads, which appear every few levels (just when a break can be welcome). The highest level you've mastered appears numerically in the center of the wheel, providing an immediate talking point based on skill.

General Adaptive Apps has a range of similar games using different shapes and objectives, but this seems to be their most popular incarnation. I think it might appeal to novice gamers getting new devices over the holiday, too.

For more apps for teens and the librarians who serve them, check out the App of the Week archive. Have a suggestion for an App of the Week? Let us know.

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18. Take a ‘Shelfie’ to Get a Free eBook Version of Any Print Book You Own

1_shelfie.minWant an eBook version of a book that you own in print? Check out bitlit, a new app that will help connect you with an eBook if you can prove that you own the print edition.

With the app, you take a “shelfie” of your book shelf. The app will use that photo to see if any of the books on your shelf are eligible for a free download. Here is more from bitlit about how to claim the title:

Now that you know which books are available, take a photo of the cover of your book and sign your name on the copyright page in ALL CAPS.

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19. Electric Literature’s ‘True Legends’ Story App is Free in iTunes

screen480x480True Legends, an app adaptation of author Alex Epstein’s illustrated short story, is free in iTunes this week.

The interactive app, from Electric Literature, tells the story of a blind piano tuner. It features design and illustrations by Tsach Weinberg and music by Ulrich Ziegler. The app is designed with intuitive navigation and readers can use gestures instead of page turns to interact with the story.

“We are tremendously proud to publish Alex Epstein’s work again, and his use of a new medium and method of storytelling is inspiring,” explained Andy Hunter, founder of Electric Literature in a statement. “We are excited to present this unique app to readers everywhere. We are in an era of publishing innovation and Electric Literature is an enthusiastic participant.”

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20. Book App For Kids Supports Ebola Patients in Liberia

screen640x640In the wake of an Ebola panic, a new children’s storybook app has been published to help lift the spirits of children in West Africa.

Dentist Bird: A West African Folktale tells the story of bird who explores the sights and sounds of Liberia’s rainforest. The iOS app is based on a folktale called How Plover Bird Came to Clean Crocodile’s Teeth. Michael Richards reads the story. It was illustrated by Liberian painter David Wolobah and features music by Dora the Explorer composer Steve Sandberg.

The app makers Literary Safari are promoting the app with the hashtag #ReadforLiberia and are contributing the proceeds from the app to We-Care Foundation, a non-profit group that is pushing reading and education for children in Liberia despite the Ebola outbreak. (more…)

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21. Disney Imagicademy App Available for Free!

Do you work with kids in need? We’ve got great news for you!

Disney Imagicademy Launch

© Disney

Our friends at Disney recently launched an innovative learning experience that encourages kids to learn by interacting with their favorite Disney characters and stories – inspiring a lifelong love of learning and creativity. The app and tools are available now to program leaders and educators serving children in need for free through the First Book Marketplace.

For some time, we’ve heard from our network of 150,000 educators and program leaders that web-based tools and interactive learning programs are incredibly important to helping the children they serve read, learn and achieve. We’ve worked hard to meet this need. And today, thanks to Disney, the programs and classrooms we serve have greater access to innovative learning apps and tools at the same time it is available to the general public.

To further support learning for kids ages 3 to 8, Disney will provide a three-year, $55 million product donation to First Book. This donation over the next three years is First Book’s largest gift targeting early childhood programs.  Specifically, the commitment will provide $5 million in Disney Imagicademy apps and tools to First Book and other non-profit organizations.  Disney announced its commitment on December 10 at the White House Summit on Early Education.

Teachers and educators will be able to receive free download codes from the First Book Marketplace to use the new Disney Imagicademy math app.  As parents are an ever-important part of successful learning, educators will also have the opportunity to share these download codes with the families of the children they serve, allowing families to bring lessons home and be even more involved and engaged in their child’s learning.

mickeys_magical_math_worldThe first app available through the First Book Marketplace is Mickey’s Magical Math World, which includes five app-based experiences in one large app that immerses children in key math-focused activities and games, including count along, sorting, add and subtract, shapes and problem solving.

Parents AppThe companion app for parents, Disney Imagicademy Parents, which is free on the App StoreSM, enables them to see what their children create through the apps, send digital high-fives back to their kids, ask questions to spur conversations about their child’s work and get ideas for more activities to reinforce and encourage their child’s learning.

Do you work with children in need?  Sign up with First Book today to gain access to Disney Imagicademy apps and tools, along with many other books and resources!

In-App Purchases  may be sold separately. Terms and conditions apply. This offer must be redeemed on an iPad, and, if and when available, an iPhone or iPod Touch. 
This is a promotional code and is not for resale, has no cash value, and will not be replaced if lost or stolen. Valid only on United States iTunes Store. Requires iTunes account. Must be 13+ and in the United States. Terms and Apple Privacy Policy apply, see http://www.apple.com/legal/itunes/us/terms.html. Compatible products and services required. Apple, the Apple logo, iTunes, iPhone, iPad and iPod touch are registered trademarks of Apple Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries. iTunes Store is a trademark of Apple Inc. App Store is a registered service mark of Apple Inc. Apple is not a participant or sponsor of this promotion. Content is free for a limited time only and subject to availability.     

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22. App of the Week: Post-it Plus

Screen Shot 2015-02-18 at 6.50.52 AM

Title: Post-it Plus

Cost: Free, with in-app purchases

Platform: iOS

From LiveScribe to Moleskine, there have been a number of visions on how to capture the physical process of notetaking in a digital incarnation. Like many with a love for stationary, I had played around with the digital sticky note applications, but when a student raved about the Post-it app, it sounded like something more than a mere yellow placeholder.

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There are two methods for creating notes. You can add them with a click, as you might in decades-old Windows programs, or your can photograph your actual physical notes. The in-app photography mechanism is among the easiest I've seen, coaching you on light levels and holding your device steady. But it's what happens when you take that picture that sets this app apart.

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In contrast with Evernote and its associated applications, Post-it Plus is a little different: it doesn't attempt to make sense of your writing. Each note remains its own image, which can be dragged and dropped into intuitive order. But you can write more on the notes, or even use a typewriter gadget for longer, more legible input, or even delete it altogether after you have capture or refined the sentiment.

Post-it Plus Organization

Your scanned notes retain their original colors, but a $2 in-app purchase gives you access to a rainbow's worth of post-it color options, which also make for fun organizational options. When you're done with your creation, you can share it in a range of file formats, depending on your needs.

Post-it Plus Output

Post-it Plus is a possible solution for students, teachers, and librarians, or anyone else looking for digital brainstorming and storyboarding tools that can be output in a variety of file formats. The transformation of the fixed physical into the mutable digital is bound to give you a little thrill, too.

Check out more Apps of the Week in our Archive. Know an app you'd like to see featured? Let us know.

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23. Fusenews: Starring the World’s Creepiest Cat in the Hat!

  • Here in New York we’re getting very excited.  The 90-Second Film Festival is coming!!  And soon too!  Here’s a PW interview with James Kennedy about the festival and for those of you in the NYC area you can see it at NYPL on Saturday, March 7th at 3:00 p.m. In fact, now that I think about it, you could begin your day at NYPL at 2:00 p.m. at my Children’s Literary Salon Blurred Lines?: Accuracy and Illustration in Nonfiction.  We’ll be hosting Mara Rockliff (author), Brian Floca (author/illustrator), Nicole Raymond (editor), and Sophie Blackall (illustrator/author) as they discuss the responsibility of an illustrator when working on a piece of historical nonfiction for kids and whether or not words garner closer scrutiny than pictures.  Should be a fabulous day.
  • We all know on some level that when a book is adapted into a movie the likelihood of the strong female characters staying strong is negligible.  There are always exceptions to the rule, but by and large it’s depressing not to be more shocked by the recent Cracked piece 6 Insulting Movie Adaptations of Strong Female Characters.  I was very pleased to see the inclusion of Violet from A Series of Unfortunate Events too.  Folks tend to forget about her.
  • At the beginning of February I had the infinite pleasure of hosting a Children’s Literary Salon at NYPL on Collaborating Couples.  I invited in Ted & Betsy Lewin, Andrea and Brian Pinkney, and Sean Qualls and Selina Alko.  You can read the PW round-up of the talk here, but before we hit the stage I had to ask Sean about this incident that occurred involving his book with Selina, The Case for Loving and W. Kamau Bell’s treatment at Berkeley’s Elmwood Café.  We didn’t touch on it during our talk since it wasn’t pertinent to this particular discussion, but if you haven’t read the article I suggest you give it a look.
  • If I’m going to be honest about it, this perfectly encapsulates what I’ve always personally felt about the Elephant and Piggie books.  This is because growing up I was the child that wanted everyone and everything in the universe to pair up.  Sesame Street fed this desire to a certain degree but the only time Mr. Rogers got close was during the opera episodes.  And don’t even get me STARTED on Reading Rainbow (no sexual tension = no interest for 4-year-old Betsy).  Hence my perverse desire to see Gerald and Piggie become a couple.  I know, I know.  Clearly I need help.
  • Moomins!  Ballet!  Moomins in ballet!  Sorry, do you need more than that?  Thanks to Marci for the link.
  • It’s fun to read this look at the Mary Poppins Hidden Relationships Fan Theory, but I’ve a bone to pick with it.  Correct me if I’m wrong but doesn’t the book of Mary Poppins make it very clear that yes indeed Mary Poppins WAS Bert’s nanny back in the day?  Or am I just making stuff up?  I thought this was cannon.  That other stuff about Bert’s relationships is particularly peculiar as well.

Perhaps you feel, as I do, that you’ve read every possible Harry Potter related list out there devised by the human brain.  Still and all, while I had seen a bunch of these, there are still some lovely surprises in the BuzzFeed list 21 Times “Harry Potter” Was the Cleverest Book Series Ever.

Speaking of Harry Potter and BuzzFeed, new term alert: Racebent.  Didn’t know it, but this piece has actually convinced me that it is entirely possible that Hermione Granger isn’t the white-skinned schoolgirl she’s often considered to be.  Recall if you will that it was only ever made explicit that Dean Thomas had dark skin when the Harry Potter books were brought over to America (a fact that is not usually mentioned in these stories).

  • Oh, what the heck.  May as well get as Harry Potterish as possible today.  Look!  Cover animations!
  • For years I’ve yearned to go to TLA (the meeting of the Texas Library Association).  State library meetings are always fun, but Texas takes their own to another level.  So far I haven’t had an excuse, but I was reminded of this desire recently when I read the rather delightful piece on how an abandoned Texan Walmart got turned into the ultimate public library.  McAllen?  You’re good people.
  • Let It Be Known: That every author and illustrator out there that makes school visits on a regular basis should take a very close look at Nathan Hale’s School Visit Instructions and replicate PRECISELY what he has done on their own websites.  Obviously you cannot all draw so in terms of visuals he has you beat.  However, this information is perfect and you could certainly write it down in some form yourself.  Let it also be known that his upcoming book about Harriet Tubman, The Underground Abductor, is AMAZING.  Here’s the cover:

  • David Wiesner created an app?  Yep, pretty much.  It’s called Spot and it is now on my To Buy list.
  • Oh!  I don’t know if any of you folks actually know about this.  Were you aware that there is a major children’s book award out there for math-related titles?  Yep, there is.  It’s called the Mathical Award and it’s a project that has come out of a collaboration between The Mathematical Sciences Research Institute (MSRI) and the Children’s Book Council (CBC).  Those of you producing such books should look into it.  Could be very very useful to you.
  • Daily Image:

I’ve been meaning to get back to work on updating my post of the Complete Listing of All Children’s Literature Statues in the United States for a while here.  There are definitely some sections that need work.  However, one image I will not be adding is this statue of what might be the world’s creepiest Cat in the Hat.  Not because I don’t like him (oh, I do, I do) but because it’s on school rather than public property.  That doesn’t mean I can’t share him with you anyway, though.

Many thanks to Paula Wiley for bringing him to my attention.  Wowzah.

 

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24. More on Assistive Technologies

I’ll confess, like many of you I collect apps. I have an old tablet devoted to nothing but “kid” apps. Finding information about a variety of book apps is relatively easy now that so many of us are using them and reviewing them. One question I am asked frequently is “Can you recommend any assistive technology apps?”

There are several that have caught my eye recently so I decided to give them a try. I was impressed with the continued growth and development of these types of applications. There are many people, both young and old that could benefit greatly from using these simple programs. All the apps mentioned are intuitive, easy to use, some have a nominal fee and others are free.

Kidspiration Maps is a kid friendly mind-mapping app for the iPad. Kidspiration is similar to the Inspiration Maps, but Kidspiration includes more kid friendly templates and clipart like graphics. Kidspiration allows users to create mind mapping webs to help organize ideas and information visually. Unlike Inspiration Maps, Kidspiration allows users to insert a large variety of clipart images into their maps. Kidspiration also includes the ability to add a recorded voice note; a feature that is unfortunately missing in Inspiration Maps.

Kidspiration Maps includes a large number of pre-loaded templates for reading and writing, social studies, science, and math. These templates are geared for elementary school children and range from an “all about me” web to sorting and matching activities. If no template is applicable there is an option to start a new document. One template contains a number of words and instructions to arrange the words into alphabetical order while another asks kids to match states to their capitals. With the nice visuals these activities can be engaging and easier than using physical manipulative. One drawback is when the student is completing the activities there is no way to program the correct responses in order to give the student immediate feedback. Also, when searching for clipart students cannot search for an image by keyword, but instead must scroll through long lists of images.

Bookshare is an essential service for people with print disabilities. Bookshare.org provides accessible e-books for qualified students. Members can choose from over 200,000 downloadable titles including many textbooks. Bookshare books can be downloaded in a DAISY format for use with text-to-speech software or in a Braille format. Similar to Kurzweil, the combination of text-to-speech and highlighted text can greatly speed up and reading and increase comprehension for qualifying students. Thanks to a grant from the United States Department of Education Bookshare is free to U.S. students.

 Learning Ally is another provider of accessible books for the blind and dyslexic.Learning Ally mostly provides human narrated audio books for their members. Learning Ally is also expanding to provide “VOICEtext” books which include human narration and highlighted text. The highlighting of “VOICEtext” books is not word by word like in Bookshare and Kurzweil but rather is paragraph by paragraph. Learning Ally books can be read on iOS and Android devices using the Learning Ally Audio app.

 Co:Writer by Don Johnston is an app for iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch. Co:Writer has exceptional word predication capabilities that can help struggling spellers. Co:Writer’s most unique and noteworthy feature is the ability to use topic dictionaries to improve word prediction based on the topic a student is writing about. For example, if a student is writing about World War II he or she can turn on the World War II topic dictionary in order to get more targeted word prediction.

Prizmo is an optical character recognition (OCR) app for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch. The app gives students the ability to take a picture of a text documents and have it read back to them using text-to-speech in seconds. So if a student comes across a document that they can’t read they can use Prizmo to quickly take a picture and have it read back to them. Prizmo can also act as a portable scanner that can convert printed document into a digital PDF format.

These were are just a few of the many assistive technology apps available. If you are using or recommending and other apps that fill this niche, send me an email and let me know: asantos@princetonlibray.org

Allison Santos

ALSC Digital Task Force

Princeton Public Library, Princeton, NJ

 

 

 

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25. What Are the Best Literary Apps Available Today?

The question came to me and I admit I was a bit stumped at first.  A colleague was looking for recommendations of the best literary apps for kids.  Put another way, apps with a distinct tie-in to specific children’s books.  So I thought about it. I’ve toyed about with several apps for years.  I could make such a list.

However, before I present it to you, I would like to point out that literary apps are in significant decline.  When first they hit the scene they were prevalent because they were novel.  However, publishers were quick to notice that from an economic standpoint they don’t really make a lot of sense.  The amount of time and money you pour into an app is incongruous with how much one is allowed to then charge the consumer.  It can take years for apps to break even, and ours is not a society where such slow money is seen as desirable.  So while I don’t think apps will ever go away, literary apps will continue to be far and few between.  The only ones I’ve seen crop up in the last year or two are labors of love from creative personalities (Bill Joyce, Shaun Tan, etc.).

Also please note that this list is NOT particularly good at listing nonfiction tie-in apps.  There are, I know all too well, some fantastic ones out there.  However, aside from the Barefoot Book World Atlas, I haven’t had much contact with them.

And now, the hits!

Animalia by Graeme Base – Allows the reader the chance to turn a simple reading of the book into a game.

The Barefoot Books World Atlas by Nick Crane – Absolutely jaw-dropping.  A must-have for any child over the age of four.  Allows the viewer to zero in on different parts of the globe and learn learn learn.

Don’t Let the Pigeon Run This App by Mo Willems – I’m sort of cheating by putting this here since technically it’s based on a children’s book character rather than a specific title, but when it’s the pigeon, honestly who cares?

Dr. Seuss’s ABC by Dr. Seuss – Pretty basic, but I like a lot of what it does.  Reads the story straight through but allows the reader to hear individual words defined.  Plus I like how it handles the many mumbling mice in the moonlight. Mighty nice!

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore by William Joyce – The rare case where there was first an app, then a short film, and finally a book.  I don’t know how well this one holds up in terms of rereading, but it’s the closest thing I’ve seen to a film in a book app form.

Freight Train by Donald Crews – This may be the earliest book related app out there.  It used public domain music and was originally designed for phones. When the iPad was introduced it had to undergo a change, and remains somewhat pixelated as a result.  That said, it’s still a beautiful piece.

The Going to Bed Book by Sandra Boynton – Boynton books make for difficult book-to-app transitions since there’s not much too them to begin with.  This one relies heavily on a good narrator and small interactive options.  I don’t know that a kid would turn to it over and over, but it’s not a bad app for the little bitty guys.

How Rocket Learned to Read by Tad Hills – A great book to begin with, the app reads the book straight, but also contains interactive elements that don’t distract from the storyline.  A difficult balance to strike.

The Monster at the End of This Book by Jon Stone – Remarkably good. Truth be told, Sesame Street has almost never been good at books.  Stone’s classic is the sole exception, and the app they made for it is stellar.  Though Grover is not voiced by Frank Oz, you’d never be able to tell.  The imitation is dead on.  All the interactive elements work beautifully.  Kids can read this over and over and never get bored.

The Numberlys by William Joyce – Joyce remains the king of the app-turned-book.  Again, this was an app first, a book second.  I doubt anyone minds.

Pat the Bunny by Dorothy Kunhardt – When I first saw Random House premiere this app they acknowledged openly that a Pat the Bunny app is an inherently ridiculous concept.  That said, it’s a very good one for the younger ages.

Press Here by Herve Tullet – Also a bit of a cheat since at no point does the book appear. Then again, the book itself was a sort of anti-app, so what you’ll find here makes quite a bit of sense in retrospect.

The Rules of Summer by Shaun Tan – Tan bears a lot of similarities to Bill Joyce in terms of his love of apps, cinema, and books (not necessarily in that order).  He employed some truly lovely musicians when he worked on this one.

The Story of the Three Little Pigs by L. Leslie Brooke – Also a book meant to look like a pop-up but in this case the reader is allowed to see how the inner gears of such a pop-up might work.  It’s actually really quite cool to watch.

The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter – You’ll actually want the one called PopOut! Peter.  There is also a similar Benjamin Bunny app that makes for a good follow-up.  It’s just one of the most beautiful I’ve ever encountered.  It makes a great deal of effort to resemble an interactive book down to the silken ribbon there to hold your place.  A masterpiece.

Wild About Books by Judy Sierra – The designers did a very clever thing here when they found a way to allow the reader to tilt the screen so that you can see around and behind the characters and set pieces.

See a gaping hole in the list?  Tell me about it!

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