Category Archives: App of the Week

Give yourself some Headspace

It’s been a while since I shared an app. This one kept popping up as a sponsor for a bunch of my podcasts, so I decided to give it a try. And now, with finals and the end of the year approaching, I thought some of you might find it helpful.


Headspace is a meditation and mindfulness app (and website). I’ll be honest, I’m usually not much of a meditation or mindfulness person. My mind drifts and I start thinking of the 20 million things I could be doing if I weren’t sitting there doing nothing (like I could be sitting there watching reruns of Bones). But here’s the thing. Headspace starts with something called Take 10. It’s just 10 minutes. And once you get a little used to it, 10 minutes really isn’t that long. The first one feels a little funny. There’s this guy, Andy, kind of talking you through. And then all of a sudden, he’ll stop talking and you’ll think, “Oh, is it over?” Nope. He comes back and gives you some more guidance. But you get used to it. Then it’s not so awkward.

And there are some things from the meditation that you can take with you through the day. So if you start to get a little stressed about a test or quiz or paper, you just use part of the method to help you focus and calm down. (I did a meditation class years ago, and even though I never really stuck with it, I ALWAYS use the techniques I learned when I go to the dentist.)

And like all good things these days, there’s a social aspect to it. Sign up with friends and connect as buddies and compare your progress.

The app is free for the Take 10 portion, which is ten 10-minute guided meditations (which can be repeated). If you really like the practice and wanted to do more with it, you would need to subscribe. It’s available for both iThing and Android and on line.



Spring Break Listening

Okay, I really should be giving you more book suggestions for spring break, but I’ve found a new podcast that I am just so in love with I have to share it with you today.

I just started using an app on my phone called Podcast Republic to download my podcasts. Once I got my regular subscriptions on there (like Stuff You Should Know and Stuff You Missed in History Class and Freakonomics), I took at look at their list of top podcasts. And that’s where I found The Way I Heard It with Mike Rowe (the link is to the website for the show, but you can also find it on iTunes or any other podcast app).twihi_podcast_logo_1400-250x250

You may know Mike Rowe from the awesome TV show Dirty Jobs. I loved that show and always appreciated his humor. So I decided to add this to my subscriptions, with no idea what it was about.

He dubs it “the only podcast for the curious mind with a short attention span.” Each podcast is 5 minutes long. He presents the story as a mystery…not telling who the person is or what the discovery was until the end. And the episodes have great titles like “Little Bits of Corpse” and “Sorry About Your Face.” Did you know that an actress from the 30s and 40s, who was considered the most beautiful woman in the world, is responsible for the technology that makes wi-fi and Bluetooth work?

The other neat part about this podcasts comes from one of Mike Rowe’s passion projects. He is a big believer in training young people to work in the trades…as electricians, plumbers, carpenters, auto mechanics, etc. So he starts each podcast with a reminder of all of the corporations that help support his scholarships for people who want to enter a trade. If you’re thinking about a technical college for when you graduate from here, start checking out his mikeroweWORKS Foundation for all sorts of scholarships.

Apps of the Week – Test Prep Options

Well, since last week I spent a bit of time overwhelming the 10th and 11th graders with information about SATs and ACTs, I thought it might be kind if I started this week with some test prep options.

khanKhan Academy (iOS and Android)

Most of you are already familiar with Khan Academy from other classes. They are now the official test prep partner of the SAT. So, you can download the app and watch a number of videos on how to approach the different types of questions on the new version of the SAT. The app only has videos, but if you go to the website, you can also look at sample questions and take practice tests.

Daily Practice for the New SAT (iOS and Android)dailysat

This is the official app from the College Board. Get a random practice question each day. As with the practice questions on the College Board web site, you’ll get immediate feedback on your answers. The app gives the reasoning behind correct answers and will also explain why an answer is wrong. I haven’t had a chance to try it, but apparently you can download an answer sheet from the website, take a picture of it once you’ve finished a practice test, and the app will score it for you (although several reviews of the app indicated that this feature is still a little buggy).

ACT Question of the Day (web based)

The ACT also posts a question a day to help you prepare in short but regular intervals for the test. Like with the College Board, ACT will let you know why an answer is not correct and will give a detailed explanation of the correct answer. There is one official ACT prep app, but it is designed to work only with an online ACT test prep account, which is $40. If you’re interested in that, you can find more information about it here.

Apps of the Week – Pre-mid-terms Version

Happy Monday! With mid-terms just a week away, I thought this post I found on Tumblr was quite relevant. It lists a bunch of apps intended to help you focus, de-stress, and concentrate. Not surprisingly, a lot of them are centered around sleeping, because the better you sleep, the better you can concentrate and the less stressed you feel. I also thought the sleep apps were quite relevant since the alumni who were here on Friday stressed the importance of being able to get yourself up in time for class.

The links to the apps in the original post are to the iOS versions. A few of them have Android equivalents. The Android links are below. For a description of the apps, see the Tumblr post.

And as long as we’re talking how to handle mid-term stress, check out this TED Talk on power poses and confidence. It’s one of my all time favorites.


Monday Fun Thing

This week it’s an app! I’m sure most of you know this one by now, but it doesn’t hurt to remind you.

classroomYes, Google Classroom can be downloaded onto your phone or tablet. I actually like the layout on the app – with the classes loaded in one column, as opposed to the grid on my laptop.  You can check your assignments, load papers, even type right into the assignment if you like typing on your device (I’m old, I don’t like the tiny keyboards on my phone).

You can download Google Classroom for free for both iThings and Android. (And while you’re at it, check out the apps for Docs, Sheets, Slides, and Drive. You never know when they might come in handy.)

Monday fun Thing – Library World

This is a repeat of an app from last year, but it will be a perennial one, so get used to it.

libraryworldLibrary World is our circulation and catalog system. With this app, you can search for any book in the library, see if it’s available, and put it on hold. So, if you think of a book you really want to read at 7.30 at night, look it up on Library World and put a hold on it. When  I come in the next morning, I’ll get an email letting me know that you’ve requested that book and I’ll grab it and check it out to you.

The app is available for iOS as well as Android. When you set it up, it will ask for a library name and password. Our name is “hill top” (two words, no capitals) and you can leave the password blank.

And don’t forget the web version of the Library Catalog! Go there now! Bookmark it!

App of the Week – Stickman

This week’s App of the Week was discovered during the 5th and 6th grade Information Skills class a few weeks ago. We were exploring Infotopia (remember, that wonderful search engine that has been curated by teachers and librarians) and I started digging through the Games section. And that’s where we found it.


Draw a Stickman. Like some other apps, this has a web component and that’s where we started. But then we discovered there was also a mobile version and decided it needed to be shared with the community.

The concept is simple. Step one: draw a stickman. Step two: Follow the directions to take your stickman on an adventure. Draw well or your stickman may be singed by a dragon or eaten by sharks.

The app is free and available for both iThings and Android. And there’s also Stickman Epic (Apple and Android), where you draw a friend for your stickman and have to help save him or her from a book in which he/she has been captured. Both are free for the basic levels, but require payment for higher ones. You can play all levels on the web for free.

Thanks to Ben H. for making today’s announcement!