This week, I’ve personally put together 10 free travel apps that I think will help ease the hustle and bustle of traveling this holiday season. Planning a trip is a great way to take a break from studying for finals. Whether flying or driving, these apps will help you focus on being there, not getting there. Continue reading Top 10 Free Travel Apps for Winter Break & Beyond
The power of a compelling narrative has always been an easy draw for me, particularly in the travel narratives of others. Wanderlust piques my interest, but the story captures my attention, and I’m not alone. Narratives and storytelling are fundamental to human experience. Doris Lessing writes, “A story is how we construct our experiences,” and as products of an increasingly digital world, this sense of construction is nowhere more tangible than in our engagement with social media.
Each time we post, tweet, or snap to impart information to others, we also contribute to and shape the narratives of our lives. In turn, our followers interpret, engage with, and respond to what we’ve shared. As an information student, I am especially focused on the information habits of others: how do other people interpret information, and, consequently, which methods are best to reach the widest audience?
This past summer, I wanted to share my own travel stories easily and instantaneously with family and friends. Before and during my travels, I wondered how best to translate these experiences for others beyond a photo album or the occasional post of media on Facebook.
So I investigated and considered the storytelling capabilities of three social media apps: Instagram, Vine, and Snapchat.
Instagram‘s optional filters and simple editing tools enable users to design a cohesive and aesthetically pleasing narrative. Its accessible interface fuels creativity in its users, and interesting angles, unusual subjects, and attention to details are all hallmarks of Instagram’s most attention-grabbing photos and videos. Videos may last from 3 to 15 seconds, providing for a momentary glimpse into the user’s experiences. I also found the add a location feature helpful to connect with other users, who also linked their posts to my location. In this way, our media becomes a collaborative effort in sharing our diverse perceptions of the landmarks we encountered.
Twitter’s Vine is the app I used least during my travels. Vine videos last approximately 6.5 seconds long and usually require some preparation beforehand, which is not often an option for the on-the-go traveler. However, this length is ideal for followers, who can review posts with ease while scrolling through their feed. Vine also offers little in terms of editing, but the initial planning required before recording combined with the time constraint, challenges Vine users to be innovative in their design. The products are often highly addictive and hilarious, and because they are experienced at lightning speed, it is much too easy to get lost in the Vine vortex.
I had initial reservations about Snapchat. Mostly because many of my friends use it almost exclusively to exchange hilarious selfies. I mean, have you seen the rainbow mouth feature?! Yet, I soon realized that posts on Snapchat or snaps introduce a temporal element in a way that Instagram and Vine posts do not. Videos sent directly to followers may last 10 seconds at the most, and once viewed, they disappear. Users may also post their snaps continuously over the course of 24 hours to be compiled in the “my story” feature. These, too, will disappear after a 24 hour period. This ephemeral in-the-moment quality demands that your viewers follow your stories closely and nearly contemporaneously. But fear not! Users may save their snaps to their device for later viewing. Snapchat’s editing features are less extensive than those of Instagram, but in some ways, the shakiness of the camera and the background noise provide for a more authentic narrative.
What do you think? How do you share your stories?
Hi folks! My name is Meaghan Moody, and I’m a new graduate intern at the Weigle Information Commons. As I embark upon both my first semester of graduate school and of my WIC internship, I realized I was in dire need of some productivity tools to manage the mayhem.
I know it feels like the semester only just started, but midterms are bearing down on us, and it’s time to finally buckle down and get things in order.
Here are a few helpful productivity apps to aid you in this endeavor. The best news? They’re all free to you via the App Store and/or Google Play Store!
- Wunderlist: To-Do List & Tasks
Available For: iOS, Android, Mac OS, and Windows
This easy-to-use organizer will allow you to keep track of your assignments as well as everything else in your life. Make a multitude of lists and keep them orderly and at your fingertips. You can also easily share your lists with others and sync them between devices.
- Pocket: Save Articles and Videos to View Later
Available For: iOS, Android, Mac OS, and Windows
Instead of leaving a million windows open in your browser or inundating your email, save articles and media to Pocket! This handy app will organize it all for you, allowing you to revisit your articles and media at your leisure.
Available For: iOS, Android, Mac OS, and Windows
Sometimes it’s easier to tackle your assignments if you work on them in increments of time. With Pomodoro, you can time your tasks and breaks. Set the timer for thirty minutes and dedicate yourself to the books, and when the timer rings, enjoy a break!
Note: There are several variations of this app available. I have linked to a free lite version via the App Store.
Available For: iOS, Android, Mac OS, and Windows
Described as a “scanner in your pocket,” Office Lens allows you to keep track of documents, whiteboard notes, and even the scraps of paper from the bottom of your backpack! Printed text will become searchable, and you can convert your uploads to Word, Powerpoint, or PDF.
As always, we here at WIC are here to help you out! Check out our reservable study rooms and booths AND our awesome workshops. Don’t see a workshop on something you would like to learn? Request a custom training session!
When a colleague suggested that I attend the ISTE Conference for K-12 educators, I was a bit skeptical. I thought, “What can I learn from K-12 educators that would be applicable to the undergraduates – and often graduate students and faculty members – I work with as a librarian?” However, as I browsed through the workshop and session descriptions, I realized that we in higher education can take a few pages from the books of K-12 educators to enhance teaching and learning at the college level. Here are some highlights I took away from the conference:
1. iPad Apps. There are so many. Whenever someone asks me for app recommendations, I often turn to my “go-to’s” without doing much more hunting. In a workshop about using tablets in the classroom, I learned so much about app integration for both content (student learning) and creation (student making). For example, AppFusion or App Smashing is the process of using several apps to create different parts of a project, and then using one app to pull all the parts together. One such “fusion” app is ThinkLink, which can incorporate sound, video, images and text to create a short presentation, much like a PowerPoint or Prezi. Learning about all of these different apps stressed our responsibility in higher education to be knowledgeable about a variety of apps for different functions, such as video creation, white board drawing, or photo editing. A grid with apps, their functions, preferred platforms, etc. is a simple tool that we can develop to help students and faculty choose the right apps to use in the classroom, especially as we prepare new iPads for our lending program this fall.
“Deeper learning.” Learning in the classroom is great, but if it can’t be applied to real-life situations, it may not stick for all students. Presenters Chris Dede of Harvard and Julie Evans of Project Tomorrow explained that “deeper learning” involves this connection between learning and life, and also spoke about essential strategies for mobile learning, stemming from their 2014 Qualcomm report, The 8 Essentials for Mobile Learning Success in Education. One of the highlights included a video of an augmented reality project where students interacted with hotspots on their mobile devices when out studying a pond in order to reinforce ecological concepts. The presenters also stressed the importance of how students use social media platforms to think together and share information, and offered a great resource called the Conversation Prism. One point that stuck with me in terms of working with students and faculty at Penn involved developing fluency in interactive media. Chris Dede made the point that often, we have to create communities of “unlearning” the more traditional methods we’re used to, in order to become fluent in various media and collaborative, inquiry-based learning strategies. This is a tall measure for folks in higher-ed, but nevertheless something I believe we should all be striving toward.
- Backchannels. A backchannel is a second form of communication that takes place at the same time as a face-to-face session, whether it’s a lecture, conference session, or other learning activity. In a great session on backchannels, where we modeled this behavior during the presentation, a high school teacher and college professor explained how they use backchannels, why they’re useful in the classroom, and shared a variety of different channels to consider. In one class, students used a backchannel while watching a video in order to answer certain questions about content and also ask questions of the teacher and other students. Backchannels, which include popular options like Twitter (using a class hashtag, for example), Today’s Meet, and Backchannelchat.com, can be a great way of getting students who usually don’t participate to join the conversation. In a “fishbowl” scenario, students on the outer edge of the class can be using the backchannel, while those on the inner circle can be paying attention real-time, and then roles reverse halfway through class. On certain platforms, students can remain anonymous to each other on a backchannel, but the instructor knows who’s chatting and can do some formative assessment. Some other backchannel platforms include Piazza, Tozzl, and Socrative. We often get questions from faculty about backchannels here at WIC, and this presentation made me feel more prepared to recommend different tools and discuss the pros and cons of using backchannels in teaching and learning.
Other great resources I learned about at ISTE included those about digital and media literacy, such as Common Sense Media’s digital citizenship curriculum, and how to teach and implement digital literacy using strategies from the Center for Media Literacy. I learned so much from K-12 educators at the ISTE conference. I now have some new goals and much personal learning to do as we prepare for the fall semester!
“Sorry, my phone died.” This short phrase is thrown around all the time—sometimes by us and sometimes to us. While it used to start out as an excuse for not responding to someone, more often than not now, it’s actually true. The transient nature of our battery lives is an increasing issue for phone-reliant college students. Luckily, there are little tricks you can learn to help keep your battery alive a little longer, or sometimes, even a lot. Check these tips out:
1. Turn off Parallax
You may have noticed that when you are at your home screen, your background will move with the tilt of your phone. While this feature is cool for some, it is often dizzying or unnecessary to others. Don’t think you need it? Turn it off through
Settings > General > Accessibility > Reduce Motion > On, and save some battery.
2. Quit Your Apps
Most people know this feature, but if you are iOS7 or iOS8, you can double click the home button to display all the apps open. You can then proceed to “swipe up” any app that you don’t need. People often forget to quit their apps after they are done, so even if you stop using the app, if you don’t close it, it’ll keep running.
A cool new feature of iOS8 is that you can now see what apps are using the most battery under Settings > General > Usage. This helps you know which apps to quit if you need them all or simply want to have your battery last a little longer.
3. Turn Off Location Services
Some apps like maps and weather are necessary for location services, but others really aren’t; they are unnecessarily and unknowingly draining your battery life when you open them. Edit these settings under Settings > Privacy > Location Services.
4. Turn Down Your Brightness
Unless you need your screen to shine like a flashlight, turn down your screen brightness. The level of brightness on your screen may seem like no big deal, but the energy your phone expends to keep everything a little bit brighter would really surprise you. You can also turn on auto-brightness if you want your phone to help when you forget.
5. Turn Off What You Don’t Need
This is like quitting apps, but for settings like WiFi and Bluetooth. When these features are on, they are constantly searching for connectivity and searching drains your battery without you even knowing it.
Recently moved to an iPhone 6 or 6+, or from Android to iPhone? Check out this post for more tips on using iOS 8.
This guest post by Kelli Liu, a sophomore from southern California majoring in biology and Apple campus representative, provides recommendations on apps. This post reflects Kelli’s personal opinions and should not be construed as an endorsement by Penn Libraries.
With the industry for app development booming, trying to navigate the app market is overwhelming and often times exhausting. While it’s nice to have so many options, it’s easy to settle for an application even if there’s an even better option out there for you, and it’s especially easy to scroll right past an app that could change your life, or at least the way you work.
Here’s a guide to some must-have, top rated apps that are certainly worth the download, and definitely worth the price—free! So check them out, download them, and enjoy the luxuries of this generation’s application boom.
Yet, there are always times when I find myself stuck without any of my cameras and I only have my phone ready to go. In those times, I use VSCOcam. I was introduced to VSCO through their film-like presets made for Adobe Lightroom and Camera Raw. I’ll often use them to edit photos in a hurry or to add an interesting layer to a bit of video work. When I heard they had an app for phones, I downloaded it right away. They recently released a new version of the app a bit before iOS7 arrived, so it’s better than ever, and it’s free!
VSCOcam provides film-like presets and a significant amount of editing power (saturation, fading vibrance, grain, upping and lowering shadows or highlights, vignettes, crops, the list goes on) for such a tiny machine. The app also grants you more control when taking photos. The coolest feature to me (and other excited camera lovers) is the ability to set separate focus and exposure points within my frame (and you can quickly return to the single focus/exposure point with a double tap on the screen).
While the app itself comes preloaded with plenty of dope presets, you do have the option of purchasing 16 different preset packages (usually at 99 cents, though recently they had a sale of all 16 presets for 6 dollars total).
The other enticing feature of VSCOcam is their user photo sharing community, VSCOgrid. You can create an account and share your own photos made through the app, or discover new folks to drool over. I also recommend checking out VSCO’s blog as they’ve got several helpful tutorials for editing better photos using their presets, and it’s always exciting to see the potential of a new tool like this. You can tell that VSCOcam was designed by folks who like to look at beautiful things, because it is a beautifully designed app. I find that it runs a bit slow at times on my iPhone 4, so I use it primarily as an editing and sharing tool, instead of as my main camera.images are from the very great review here.