Tech-ED

Enhancing Education with a Touch of Technology

Archive for the category “Apps”

App Review: DuoLingo

So I recently have invested a good portion of my time into the somewhat recent app DuoLingo.  I saw the website during the introduction phase and my how the service has flourished. Since las November they recently published the iPhone app which as increased my time learning Spanish tremendously.  It also helps that there is a little reminder everyday. This app is a true help to learning Spanish and Italian as I come to find out personally.

The structure of the software is somewhat of gamification where you have to complete several tasks before you can move on to the next round.  The layout reminds me of Mario Brothers 3 fo Nintendo. You can select a couple of things to learn first and move down the track from there.  It is also nice that every lesson you get 3 extra “lives”.  This allows you as the learner to have a safety net of failure and focus on the learning taking place. It is also nice because there is a limit to your tries before you have to start over again.  This is where I have a split decision and yes it does force me as a learner to go back through the exercise again, but now is the app training me for test taking? I will leave that up to you to decide. Regardless, the app has actually helped me learn spanish not just memorize it.  I was having an email conversation with a native Spanish speaker and I mentioned I was learning Spanish because I actually thought in Spanish instead of strictly English. He was elated, because to truly learn you must spend time and that time is also out of the “learning time” thinking about the language.

If you are looking for a free online learning tool this has to be one of the best I have come across and I say watch out Rosetta Stone! If DuoLingo can keep expanding and getting fans like myself and actually teach us new languages that we don’t just learn partially or key phrases I think they could easily have a new share in the market.  Thanks DuoLingo for helping me achieve one of my goals in life, and I will continue playing/learning until I reach the end of my map!

Day 4: Zombies, Run

Yes, I took a hiatus from writing about Zombies,Run! for a while now and there is no good reason for that other than mental health.  Zombies,Run on the 4th day ended my mission, and now I am convinced that it is a good app for exercise. I know I said I would give it 5 days for a trial, but the creators that came up with the story re incredibly clever. That is the main draw, is that I can escape my run into this world that is laid out to me in my ears.  Not many people can describe something so well that you forget about what you are doing and lose yourself in the story.

The game has become a book and I am the main character. Yes I am running, and yes it is a little cliché since it is about zombies and that phase might have passed onto something new; however, the game is fun and well funny. The story line continues and I still find myself slipping into the jungle surrounded by a city wall that protects me from the zombies. After 4 days I give this fitness app my approval for beginners.  It is fun and fantastic to take you through your run into another world where Zombies dictate your every move.  The game play is really nice since well you exercise the whole time.

The game continues after your runs too. You can use items you collect to upgrade your city.  I am not sure how much this does for you running, but it will help you and the people you meet survive the zombie assault! Get ready, run, and build you city to defeat the Zombies (if you can) and survive as long as you can! Good luck and boost your life and your miles with Zombies,Run!

Learning Languages

Recently I have been testing out the website and app Duolingo. There are claims from TechCrunch that the software is actually better and more engaging than RosettaStone and those other guys in this business.  There is much to be said about the newer soft ware, and I really like the fact that as you progress through the levels you are translating words online for others to read. The idea that as I learn I am helping others read these translations is amazing.  When all is said and done, does it really help?

I have used RosettaStone many years ago, but I have seen it in action recently, and it still remains the same. However, there is now some more speaking and you don’t just click on pictures to match words.  There have been many improvements since the early years. The program has been proven time and time again; however, when you think about it how many other language software programs can you think of quickly. If you are like me you can think of absolutely nothing else like this software.  Sure there are online courses for languages, but has RosettaStone been so good because it works or due to the lack of competitors in the market?

Move out-of-the-way Rosetta, you are getting some seriously strong competition! Duolingo has actually worked quite well over the past 3 weeks I have been using it.  The gamification of levels and lives make Duolingo somewhat addicting.  It is incredibly hard to put down once I start on a level I really want to move on to unlock the next level.  The interface is simple and reminds me of Mario Bros. 3 moving from level to level. However the graphics are better even on my cell phone.  Duolingo has me hooked and I am learning Spanish and Italian, but it is because I want to learn.

MarioBros3

Both softwares have the one major fatal flaw, the user.  No matter how many times we look at statistics of people using the software, we need to take into account the learners wanting to learn.  I know that if I was still in school I would prefer to take a course that had levels, and a gaming side to it if it was structured properly. What about those students and people “using the software” but not actually wanting to learn.  This is where I think Duolingo has the leg up in the competition because the software actually keeps the user in the software.

Have you used language software? If so what was your experience like?

Day 3: Zombies, RUN!

Yawn, another day to pound the pavement. Today was the mid-week struggle some of us can’t seem to shake. It was a struggle to get through the alarm, that didn’t go off and get ready for the late start on the run. I fired up Zombies, Run Chapter 2. Immediately I meet a new friend and I start to listen to his story, and I’m already through a 1/2 mile. What just happened?! I learned that there are multiple other cities in the story and different people had split up since the zombie outbreak.  It seems as if I am running through a novel for the first part of my run, which doesn’t disappoint me on a tough start.

The app has started to morph into more zombie chases in chapter 2.  The story slows down a little as you realize there might not be many people left in the world you are running through.  I venture out beyond the city walls and we find an old package through the run. It turns out there are necessities of life scattered all through out the jungle I am stuck in at this point. We are now on a race with zombies for supplies. The zombies seem smarter as well being able to predict where I am running now. It is getting harder to escape and escaping takes loner now.  They are learning my habits! I then her that I have hit 2 miles and I am right back on track for my pace.

The app on day three has me now running harder for longer and is pushing me to be a better runner. Honestly I am getting lost in the game part so I forget until I actually think about what I am doing. Every runner new or veteran knows that your mind carries you through or stops your runs, and the app really takes your mind out of the exercise.  This is fantastic if you struggle because you psych yourself out. This is where if you don’t have a running partner to get you  out and challenge you it can be tough to not think about your run. I am feeling a little faster and stronger from the zombie chases, and on my short runs it seems to be helping my endurance now.  Who would have thought an app about zombies would improve my running…

Day 2: Zombies, RUN!

So after the shortcomings of Day 1 with Zombies, Run!, I set up my online profile, and made sure that the GPS signal was good. I stretch, and as I start the morning of to recoup from the days previous run, it begins to mist, and the cool air sinks in as if the weather knew I was about to immerse myself into another round of the epic story. This time when I start-up the App I continue from the day before.

I am in a hospital, and I just had gathered some incredibly important documents, or so I think…Shortly after, I hear groaning and my “eyes in the sky” come in over the radio and let me know that there are zombies after me. I immediately begin to pick up my pace to out run the quick and agile zombies catching up to me. My radar is beeping lie crazy signaling me that they are getting closer and closer, and as they are 1 meter out I hear groaning, knives, and other zombie noises I don’t dare explain! At this point in real life I have left my running partner in the dust picking up my pace and never looking back.  If you know me, well I don’t like to lose at video games, or physical competitions so this app really began to push me. Earlier I turned on the split marker and I all of a sudden hear 1 mile, time 6:35. I looked to my marker and yes a 6:35 mile. How, wait, what, thanks Zombies, Run! So, after that shock wore off I hear more zombies and I am back in the game!

I keep running and they aren’t gaining as quickly now, and I would hope not for fear of not finishing the run. Soon the mission is complete and I can put Chapter 1 of the story down. I keep running at the same pace and I hear great job mission complete. Well, it would have been nice to immediately start Mission 2; however, the app took me into their version of the towns radio. It was actually like listening to a radio station in the village, what a novel idea! Personally, I don’t like to continually hear music because songs tend to blend together and this weird thing happens where songs blend together and time slows down. It was great after ever song or two I would be updated with life and meet new characters in the story.  I also was running around the camp to look for items and I picked up quite a few things that might be helpful later on in my journey.

Over all the app went from questionable to amazing in day 2. I would now begin to recommend the app to people, but make sure to do everything on the website first! I ended up running the loop in one of my fastest times and it was due to the timing of the zombies which seemed to coincide with the harder spots in my run. What a turn around! Now for dreaded day 3…..

Wunderful, Wunderlist

One of the best Apps I have seen for FREE for group organization is Wunderlist.  What is Wunderlist? Well, it is a simple to-do list (version 1.0) that you can share with anyone you would like, and set due dates and add notes.  Ever since the upgrade to 2.0 you can have checklists for your checklists coupled with a notes section to meet most of our organizational needs.

Why is this app so great? First, it works on almost every major platform available from mobile devices, applications, or web apps.  Furthermore, if you are managing a number of projects, or people with projects you can see and/or create a timeline with your team. Lastly, I personally love the fact that if someone is out sick before a deadline you can see how far along they have reached for their specific goals. The only bad part is if the lists have not saved/synced, which happens periodically on the apps, you will not have current information.

Personally the app has made me much more organized and I am working with my team to keep us all organized. There is the occasion that there needs to be a third layer nested for the to-do list, or a way to organize your lists without creating a lis for every piece of a larger list.  However, it works with notes, just not something you can check off and have disappear. Maybe we will see an upgrade with version 3 that every sub list item will have its own note section?

Regardless of 2 minute shortcomings of the service it works incredibly well.  I use it to plan out my blogs and keep the different topics organized for each day I write.  It also sends me reminders when things need to be done, just make sure to set them before the time it is due! Do you use any type of organizational apps, and are they free?

Day 1: Zombies, RUN!

I stretch, take a few deep breaths on a cool misty morning, wondering how this run will go today.  I feel heavy as if the world is on my shoulders, and suddenly it is. I get a radio transmission, that I can’t respond to because the mic is broken.  Great, what a way to start off a Monday. I hear that a city is dependent on my ability to out run, out smart, and out last a horde of ZOMBIES!

As soon as you start-up this running App it grabs you and doesn’t let you go, like a starving horde of zombies. The story starts off with some gripping radio transmissions as you run, soon enough things start to happen, bad things.  The only way to be sure of your characters safety is to run. As I used the App I was starting to get pulled into the story line very quickly. I was running and hitting markers on my route that I might have dreaded prior-to listening to the story of how I can help save a village from zombies.

The app is fantastic so far. Day 1 complete, and the run went well and I was able to forget some aches and pains as I ran. It actually made me want to keep running since my loop was shorter than the 30 minute option I had to choose from on the running options. Three miles later, I could have easily kept running to listen to see what developed. I am actually incredibly excited to see what lies next for me as I gather important items in the story for the town during my run.

If you are about to download the App wait! Make sure to register online first. Also, if you are an avid runner and want to track more precisely everything you are doing this might not be the app for you.  I plan on running tomorrow with my Nike App in the background to track my miles more accurately while I am running. I ran 3 but only tracked .22 km. I am glad the missions are not distance based!

We will see how tomorrow fairs for the 5 day test!

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