Monday, June 16, 2014

23 Mobile Things: Thing 23 (Evaluation)

  • Go back to your thoughts/ideas about  mobile devices and apps. Has anything changed as a result of this experience?
I am seriously considering purchasing a tablet device and I will definitely be upgrading my smart phone later this year, but I need to save up the money first. I am also paring down the apps that I do use and the apps that I tried and weren't fond of. I think the best apps are the ones that someone makes use of regularly.
  • What were your favorite Things and discoveries?
I really enjoyed the Things that allowed me to think creatively about the library, even if I might not be able to use them myself in my day-to-day job duties. Pinterest boards, Spotify book soundtracks, audio podcast news and reviews -- there are tons of easy, fun Things a library can do to promote itself, its resources, and services, and there are many ways to engage the library's community.
  • How did you connect with others doing the 23 Mobile Things?
Because of my demanding work schedule and duties, I confess to only discussing 23 Mobile Things with my workmates. I would like to now take a reflective look at what everyone else learned and see what I might do, both personally and professionally, to hone my skills and knowledge of apps and their applications to my colleagues and library users.
  • Were there any take-a-ways or unexpected outcomes from this program that surprised you?
I found that taking into consideration the breadth and depth of the digital divide is going to be a necessary step for libraries, otherwise we'll be offering multi-tiered accessibility to our overall body of knowledge. Mobile devices offer convenience, speed, simplicity and ease of use (in some situations), and an alternative format, and we need to engage users across the board. I think the more ways we can convey information and messages to patrons, the better. However, because we've got all these flashy cool new things we can do, like have live Twitter reader's advisory sessions, we need to remember the patrons who come in on foot for face-to-face interactions, too. It's an interesting balance. 
  • What could we do differently to improve upon this program’s format or content?
I like specific questions, things to think about, thinking about how we as library staff or how our patrons might use things, and thinking pragmatically about both potential opportunities for implementation and potential realistic challenges. 
  • If we offered a another 23 Things program like this in the future would you participate?
  • How would you describe your learning experience in one word or in one sentence, so we could use your words to promote 23 Things learning activities to others?
Warming up by dipping toes and diving headfirst into the app pool.

23 Mobile Things: Thing 22 (Discovering Apps)

When I'm looking to learn about new apps, paid or free, I like to look for "Best of . . . " lists from sources like CNET or PC Magazine. Those are the places I discovered some of my favorite and most used everyday apps, especially MyFitnessPal, Grocery iQ, and Mint

For people who are on a budget and who may not want to purchase an app for their rapidly-becoming-out-of-date iPhone 4, I would highly recommend the 50 Best Free iPhone Apps feature from PC Magazine. There are a lot of really great apps tested out by tech experts and given reviews. One can pick and choose the free apps most relevant to them, try them out, then keep or delete. Some of the apps are pretty obvious choices (Gmail, IMDB, Google Translate, Shazam), but some of them offer otherwise-unknown gems (like GAIN Fitness for people who might need something a little more motivating than MyFitness Pal).

23 Mobile Things: Thing 21 (Free-for-All: Health and Wellness)

MyFitnessPal is my favorite exercise-and-nutrition tracking social media app (and corresponding website). It makes analyzing your activity and your eating patterns simple, convenient, and, truthfully, kind of fun. You customize it so that your nutritional intake shows carbs, fats, protein, fiber, types of fats, cholesterol, sugar, etc., which is especially helpful for individuals trying to keep track of how much they are consuming and monitoring a specific part of their diet for health reasons. Instead of having meals like breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks assigned, I changed mine to read time chunks so I could see when I am consuming the majority of my nutrients. A number of regular cardio exercises -- gym equipment use, standard activities (Zumba, for instance), and things like walking and running with various speeds -- are found under the exercise activity search. For people doing strength training, they can track their workouts and reps. MyFitnessPal also has a social media aspect; you can post your updates to Facebook, you can find (and are encouraged to encourage) your friends, and you can participate in forums. Highly recommended for anyone looking to keep track of their nutrition and activity levels, needing motivation and accountability if using the social aspect with friends, and needing a push to start or to maintain a healthier lifestyle.
Today's MyFitnessPal diary entry, so far

Sunday, June 15, 2014

23 Mobile Things: Thing 20 (Games)

I am a little (okay, very) ashamed about my games use on my smart phone. My brother got me hooked on Candy Crush Saga (please don't judge me), and I am on level 183, trying to get three stars at each level (again, stop with the judging). I cannot justify recommending this app to anyone as it is a huge time waster, will make you lose respect for yourself and the family and friends who also play it, and offers little to no actual mental stimulation or educational value.

I will, however, recommend the Headspin: Storybook app for children's librarians, parents, and people who genuinely enjoy beautiful, popup book-influenced art. Storybook does offer some spatial relations/recognition skills stimulation, but it's also simply a gorgeous app.
In the game, one is trying to look for asymmetry. It's in the details, so it can be surprisingly challenging. One has to have a good sense of the picture as a whole and of the individual parts composing the picture. It's a fun way to combine the aesthetics of a popup book with touchscreen technology.

23 Mobile Things: Thing 19 (Hobbies)

I am a huge music fan, so I chose Spotify for this thing. Spotify is a music app that allows users to create a playlist from a fairly wide catalog of licensed music or to listen to a radio station based on a particular artist or song. This is a great app for getting to know sound-alikes. For example, by plugging in one of my favorite artists, C.C. Adcock, I got to hear a radio station that played similar sounding artists like the Legendary Shack Shakers, Dr. John, and the Urban Voodoo Machine. One can also search for songs based on title keywords, which makes this a fantastic app for coming up with playlists on a theme. Libraries and their patrons could create library-themed playlists (going beyond The Music Man) or book soundtracks. Spotify might be a great app for contemporary music selection librarians, especially those wanting to expand or diversify the collection with things that already circulate well and those wanting to introduce patrons/listeners to new artists.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

23 Mobile Things: Thing 18 (Education)

For this app, I tried out a free astronomy (well, Western star knowledge -- I didn't see any other cultural constellation configurations represented) app, similar to Star Walk, called Star Chart. This is the kind of app that can interest anyone from the very young to the very old and the very novice to the experts.  You frame a space with your device, and it shows you the stars and constellations. You can point it at the sky, the horizon, the ground, and you'll get to see the stars, even if you physically cannot see them because of daylight or distance.
Constellations of Hercules and Neptune
This would be a fun app to have on a nighttime walk or a camping trip to identify heavenly bodies. It would also be great to use in a classroom or an amateur astronomy class to get people to start considering our place in the universe. It's fun, and one can learn about constellations she never dreamed had existed. 
There's a ship in the sky!

One of the constellations and corresponding images gave me pause.
Indian? Really?
There are tons of mythological creatures and individuals, and we get a generic, stereotypical Indian in there, too, somehow? I wish this app contained this history behind the finding and naming of these constellations when possible. 

Other fun things I "discovered" -- a big Zelda: 

And my favorite, the unicorn: 
Kindergarten-Melissa would have died of happiness from this.

23 Mobile Things: Thing 17 (Connecting to Community)

Community-specific apps are a great way to convey relevant (and, hopefully, timely) information with people in a particular shared locale or with a particular shared interest. A philosophical question could be raised about whether these apps are helping us reach out to new people or making us more insulated and isolated. For example, I am a Minnesota Public Radio [MPR] listener, supporter, and sustaining member, and, yes, I have the Minnesota Public Radio app on my quickly-becoming-outdated iPhone 4. The MPR app offers timely news stories, focusing especially on the Twin Cities area and the entire Minnesota geographic region. However, an app like this might only appeal to regular MPR listeners. There is a stereotype about public radio listeners, and I will go so far as to say that I am a stereotypical Minnesota Public Radio listener, supporter, and sustaining member in that I am college-educated*, solidly middle-class-to-wealthy**, philanthropic***, politically left-of-center****, and lacking cultural/ethnic/racial diversity*****. The MPR app doesn't allow for direct connections (like commenting on articles or participating in a wider civic conversation, which we can pretend happens in the comments section of news articles), so this app cannot help me connect more with fellow community members who are interested in news and current events and an eclectic array of music or to have conversations with fellow community members. The MPR app also allows one to pick and choose stories to listen to and save; I have mixed feelings about this ability to cherry-pick the stories we hear and pay attention to. Do we miss out by having this option, and can we claim to be participating beyond this specific community in general society if we only pay attention to the stories we want to?

*Which means nothing to a lot of smart, hardworking people who aren't, including members of my own family who thought me going back to college to get my master's degree was some kind of remedial thing.
**Yes, my renting situation is bleak and my cat's grocery budget is larger than my own, but, all things considered, I am privileged and live very comfortably.
***Member drives and educational causes.
****President Obama is not a socialist; I should know, because I am a democratic socialist.
*****And love Tell Me More -- you know, NPR, I was told I can quit my membership at any time.