Friday, June 13, 2014

Thing 23: Evaluate 23 Mobile Things

Thing 23! How can it be??

I enjoyed being able to spend some time playing with the apps presented in the 23 Mobile Things. Prior to starting the course I had played with apps a bit, but my experience and knowledge of them was very limited. I had a rough idea of what a few were and roughly how they might be described, but after completing the training I feel much more experienced with apps and feel like I could adequately describe what an app is, what it does, how it works, etc. I'd say as a result of this experience I have gained experience and understanding of apps and mobile devices which should help me have another tool in my technology tool belt so I can better assist my patrons with their technology questions and concerns. Although I didn't complete this training on an Ipad/tablet (used my cell phone), I feel like my increased understanding of apps will also help me be a better resource for patrons coming to the library seeking help with library apps, and e services apps (e-books, e-magazines, e-audiobooks, etc.).

Along the way I had the chance to explore a wide range of apps --everything from productivity apps to note taking apps to gaming apps. I enjoyed the variety, but as I had the chance to play I especially enjoyed the Redlaser app and Fooducate. I also discovered my new note taking app that I have been using ever since and really enjoying! Although I decided not to keep the majority of the apps I tried, I did decide to keep these three to use in my personal (and perhaps at some point professional) life.

I unfortunately am squeezing this in pretty close to the deadline, so can't say I've had a lot of time to connect with others while completing this training. I have flipped through a few posts from other random bloggers occasionally over the few months we've been working on this project which was fun because I was able to see their reactions and inputs into the training as well as how they perceived the apps. I had the chance to chat with coworkers a bit about how they were doing, but it was just general checking in, how's it going, what do you like? etc.

If another 23 Things program was offered I'd be interested in participating. I enjoyed the fact I could boost my technology skills by learning about apps in general (which I wasn't very familiar with prior to the program) and explore a wide variety of apps related to different interests. I think the parts that intrigued me most was technology and variety being mixed together.

My sentence: 

23 Mobile Things is an online adventure course linking library staff with technology, variety and fun so that they can better serve the public and have a little happy appy enjoyment along the way. 

Thanks all for organizing a great and educational experience! 

Courtesy to Google for the picture

Thing 22: Discovering Apps

As I've been working through the 23 Mobile Things website I've had the chance to discover many apps presented to me that I've been able to play with. It seems very fitting that our last "thing" be an app about discovering apps!

I decided to try the Droid of the Day app because I like the fact it is android friendly, targeted toward android only (no getting excited about an app and seeing it is Apple only!!) and introduces one new app a day making it easy, manageable and fun to learn about new apps. There is a lot of variety in the apps presented (games, note taking, productivity, etc.) which is nice so that there is something for everyone.

Upon opening the app, the app of the day is presented along with a brief description of the app. There is a thumbs up and thumbs down feature for like or hate, a link to share with others via messaging, email, etc., the ability to directly link with Google Play to download the app, a feature to flip through to the next app and a search function that allows me to search for apps.

There is also a handy app list, easy to use and adjust settings, a help section that contains FAQ's and brief user guide and a suggest an app feature. It is nice because the settings allow the user to adjust whether or not they would like daily notifications, as well as what kind of apps the user would like presented to them (can include or exclude certain categories) as well as what time of day the user would like to receive their reminders. It was nice to see so many settings that are able to be customized!

Although I like the ease of use of this app, and the variety it presents to users, I can't see myself keeping it as a means to discover new apps just because I don't tend to like to just look for apps to look for apps. If I figure I need something or want to be able to do something on my phone, I search for an app that fits what I am looking for. Although this isn't something I'm interested in keeping I can see where it would be very helpful for individuals who like to explore new apps and a very fun and easy way to do so!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Thing 21: Free-For-All

Prior to starting 23 Mobile Things I wasn’t really using Apps a whole lot because I didn’t know there were so many of them, how easy they are to use, and how useful many of them can be! 

One of the few apps I did use prior to starting 23 Mobile Things is an app called “Send Anywhere.” I started using this app because I had content on my phone and my computer, but no way to send it between them besides for email, but I didn’t want to have to send emails every time I wanted to transfer a file between the devices. I discovered “Send Anywhere” because it promised to provide an easy alternative to that…and boy does it ever!! I’m able to send items between the devices with just a few simple clicks. I pull up the file in the Send Anywhere app, and once the file is uploaded to their server I get a code that I enter into my other device. The download starts automatically and –viola!—the file has been transferred between devices. Quick, easy, slick and free!!

Thing 20: Games

Currently I don’t play games on my phone (or really my computer either except maybe some Mahjong—I mostly just stick to board games) so I found this thing to be an interesting dive into a whole new realm of digital gaming via mobile. I decided to try Frogger because I wanted a game that was simple enough (Temple Run sounded interesting, but a bit harder) since I’m not real experienced with gaming, but yet I wanted something that would be interesting and fun too. The description likened it to an old arcade game, which I do like, so it piqued my interest enough to try it.

I was a bit disappointed to see that Frogger required an active network connection in order to be able to play since I tend to skip on the data whenever possible (in order to avoid having to pay extra for it), but in a way, I can understand why you would need it. Wi-fi still works for the game, and I have a lot of access to wi-fi between home and work so that's a pretty convenient feature. The game itself is pretty basic which is great for me, but overall, not something I can see myself spending a lot of time with just because I'm not big on games and because while the game is fun, it's not very enthralling.

I can see where people might like to have free games to play (and certainly a lot of people take advantage of it, I know), but it's just not something that personally interests me much (there's a reason paperback books fit perfectly into purses, right??). Fun to check out, but not something I'll be keeping.

Thing 19: Hobbies

Although the apps listed under Thing 19 don’t really reflect my interests, they were interesting to read about nonetheless. It appears there is an app for almost everything!

Roadninja sounded interesting and would have been nice to know about before taking my last road trip! I decided to try it just for fun to see what it comes up with near my home.

Roadninja is an app that works while you drive. It will automatically locate you and select the nearest exit or it will let you manually select your nearest exit if it cannot locate you. You can easily select what information you would like to see (gas, food, hotels, etc.) as well as how far off the exit you want amenities to show and what daily deals are offered. The gas portion I found especially useful because I do a lot of driving and I enjoyed the fact that Roadninja gave me the name of the gas station and the price of fuel for easy comparison! That was cool.

I tried the app from the comfort of my home as I don't live too far off a highway; it has a lot of great features for the traveler. Not only does it show nearby food and eating establishments (among other things such as hotels, entertainment, etc.), but it also will pull them up on a map if you desire, give you an address, phone number, ability to call the establishment in-app, directions and the ability to share the destination with others via text, email, bluetooth, etc. Certain establishments also link to Google reviews for quick and easy way to read reviews about others experiences.

I could see myself occasionally using this app for work as I do travel sometimes in order to switch locations and sometimes need to stop for gas and food. Usually I have a rough idea of what is available in the area, but sometimes I travel to a new branch or a branch I am rarely at and am more unfamiliar with the area. There is a lot of info and many useful functions packed into this app. It's free, but could certainly be the travelers/road trippers dream come true! This is an app that (obviously) requires data as it works as you drive which I would find a difficulty in using as I have to pay for any data I use, however, for people who have data plans or don't mind paying for data, this could certainly be a great app! Bon voyage! 

Thing 18: Education

A lot of these look FUN…I was disappointed to see that a couple of the ones I really wanted to explore were Apple only or were incompatible with my version of Android, but I was still able to find plenty of Android apps for me to explore. 

Although a lot of these are for fun, I think a few of them could be used in group settings professionally at the library such as using the brain or science 360 app to jump start a program related to those topics (perhaps pulling it up on a presentation format with an Ipad and projector before delving into an author talk/books/learning activity related to the topic). 

For fun I decided to try the Fooducate app because I am trying to eat healthier, and Duolingo to help practice my Spanish from high school (plus I just like to learn new languages). 

Duolingo is fun and easy to use. I was able to connect it to my Google account without ever using an email address or password to sign in which I thought was great. The program has fun graphics and is game-like which makes learning language concepts fun. The app allows the user to learn in a variety of ways by seeing the text, selecting text, typing text and listening to native speaking. I like that you can test out of a level instead of having to play through which is convenient if you have a basic beginning background in a language. The one thing I didn’t care for was the daily reminder that would pop up asking me to practice, but that is small and only an annoyance. There could be a way to turn off the daily reminders in settings, but I didn’t look as I don’t plan to keep the app.

Fooducate is an interesting app that I think is very nicely laid out and I could see being very useful. Often there are foods (like produce) that don’t have nutrition labels. You know they are healthy, but what vitamins do they contain? What calories? What is a serving size?

To use Fooducate you can either create an account or use your facebook log in and fooducate will let you access its database to research different types of foods (everything from produce to string cheese to ice cream. The food index is wide and deep covering not only foods themselves, but also letting you choose a brand name of the food too. If you search for a food type it gives the food a letter rating (A, B, C, etc.) and an explanation of the rating based on how healthy it is for you. Nutritional information is provided in detail including serving size, calories, fat, cholesterol, etc. 

Fooducate gives you several different options for searching for food in its database. You can search by category (meat, breads, dairy, etc.), search by food name (ex. Green peppers), or you can take a picture of the barcode of the item. I admit I was a bit of a skeptic at how well this feature would work, but after trying it a few times I was impressed.

Fun questions related to the food item are at the bottom of the page and are interesting to read through. There are also interesting facts related to the health of the food or ingredients in the food. 
Although both apps I explored were lots of fun, I don’t see myself spending a lot of time playing with Duolingo just because I don’t try to spend more time on my phone then I have too. I can see where this would be a useful app for individuals learning a second language who would like some variance in their practice aside from the usual exercises provided in a book or on CD.
I pretty much fell in love with Fooducate because it gives me a quick and easy way to learn more about the foods I am eating (and how some food choices I think are healthy may not be as healthy as thought!), tips to eat better and a way to easily track my diet and see the overall picture. This will be an app to keep.

Thing 17: Connecting to Community

Thing 17 was fun to explore…I was excited to see apps dedicated just to MN and although these are probably more useful in my personal life, there could maybe be times when I could connect it professionally as well (perhaps suggesting the Beer App to patrons I know attend brewing events at the library).
I was super excited to see hiking apps as well as a Minneapolis Skyway app and Going Out. Unfortunately, the Minneapolis Skyway app is Apple only and Going Out isn’t compatible with my device. In light of this, I wanted to try the MN Museums app, but it was so large (28M) that it wouldn't fit on my phone so I decided to skip it and try the Think Hopkins! app instead. 
Think Hopkins! was fun to play with. I've been to Hopkins several times so am vaguley aware of the area and what there is to do, but am by no means an expert. I thought it was nice that there were lots of nice pictures of the city, parks, etc. when the app first opened. Upon opening there were several choices to choose from  --quizzes, activities, arts, dining, shopping, history, cinema, more.  
I deiced to start with the quizzes. I was given the choice of 4 different quiz types to choose from --picture, Hopkins history, life in Hopkins, and shopping and dining. I tried each of the quizzes and all were well done with great pictures, a good assortment of questions and interesting trivia.
Next I tried the activities section and was given a list of sample activities one can do in Hopkins such as "Go snow sledding, Ice skate or play hockey, Take the kids to a playground, etc." and as I clicked into each activity a map popped up with options for where one could do each of the activities. The map was excellent because it utilizes Google maps. If the location of interest was a place --such as the Hopkins Pavilion-- a map as well as information about the destination was available and appeared to link directly to the locations website.  
I explored each of the other tabs (arts, dining, shopping, history and cinema) and all had similar features in regards to ability to quickly and easily gain information, good maps and pictures. The more tab gave the ability to turn the apps gps feature on or off, send to a friend or contact the app creator by email.
Overall, I must say I am very impressed with this app, especially considering that it has a very low download rate and is for a smaller suburb of Minneapolis. I think this would make an excellent resource for anybody moving into town or anyone who wants information about the area. I don't work at the Hopkins library often, but I would imagine that this might be a useful recommendation that staff there would appreciate!
Now if only there was one for my town!