App of the Week – Duolingo

We are continuing a series called App of the Week, wherein we recommend the best apps to support the academic experience. Please let us know what you think, and feel free to provide suggestions for apps we should review.

Duolingo_logoIf you are looking for an app that will help you learn a new language, or offer additional practice in one you are already learning, you will want to check out Duolingo.

There are many other language apps out there, such as Rosetta Stone, but most require in-app purchases for the user to get the most out of the app. Duolingo, on the other hand, is completely free. Released in 2012, Duolingo quickly became one of the best free language apps available, and was recognized as the 2013 iPhone App of the Year and one of Google’s Best of the Best in 2013 and 2014.

Duolingo

Most Useful Features:

  • Choose from 9 languages: Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Dutch, Irish, Danish, and Swedish with more on the way.
  • The system is gamified, making it slightly addicting and fun to learn.
  • The option to compete with friends.
  • Immediate feedback.
  • The focus on reading and listening.
  • It’s possible to test out of certain sections
  • Choose how much or little you want to learn at a time with different coaching levels ranging from 1xp to 50xp required per day (11xp per lesson).
  • Will send push notifications and email reminders.
  • Also available on their website with additional grammar information
  • Clean and easy to use interface.
  • An independent study shows that 34 hours with Duolingo = 1 University Semester (11 weeks)
  • Completely free. Lingots

Downsides:

  • Limited language choice, and lack of Mandarin, Farsi, or Urdu in the upcoming languages.
  • Speaking is not emphasized or practiced.
  • Lack of natural conversations.
  • Not ideal to prepare to converse on a trip.
  • Only one language allowed at a time in the app (can do more than one at a time on the website).
  • Website version makes it too easy to just see what a word means.

Bottom Line:

If you’re looking to try a language app on a budget, Duolingo is a great choice. While it probably won’t make you fluent, it will definitely get you started on your way to learning a new language. If you want to stay free, but are looking for a more robust list of languages, Mango Languages is an excellent option that is free with an MWR Library account (definitely worth getting, as most posts have a MWR Library) and is available both online and as an app.

As always, if you give Duolingo a try, feel free to let us know what you think!

Further Reading:

Duolingo (Review)

Can you Learn a Language with Just Duolingo? (Review)

Duolingo Review: The Quick, Easy and Free Way to Learn a Language

Duolingo (Review)

The views expressed in this post are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government. No endorsement or recommendation of any specific products or services is intended or implied.

Contents contributed by G.J. Corey Harmon, Circulation Librarian

App of the Week – IF (formerly IFTTT)

We are continuing a series called App of the Week, wherein we recommend the best apps to support the academic experience. Please let us know what you think, and feel free to provide suggestions for apps we should review.

IFTTT (Android-app-automator-IFTTT-is-dead-long-live-IFpronounced like “gift,” with no “g”) is a well-established, much-loved website and app for those who enjoy simplifying their life with automation. The name is an acronym of “If This, Then That,” which reflects the service it offers: creating “recipes” that link unrelated apps and services together with triggers. Easy examples include, “If I upload a photo to Instagram, then post the photo to Flickr” or “If I receive an attachment in Gmail, upload it to Dropbox.” These recipes are only the tip of the iceberg, of course – IFTTT supports over 100+ services and channels to link together.

However, as of this week, the original IFTTT app has rebranded itself as IF, and launched 3 additional companion apps: Do Note, Do Camera, and Do Button. Do Note is essentially a programmable notepad, Do Camera focuses on automating your photo storage/usage, and the Do Button is a automatic recipe launcher for anything else you can think of. While IF runs in the background of your device, initiating recipes as the triggers come, the Do apps require you to take action to start the recipe. The Verge calls it “creating a remote control for the internet.”

RecipeSuggestions

SelectTrigger

Most Helpful Features:

  • While the customization of recipes is seemingly endless, IFTTT offers lots of suggestions for commonly used/helpful recipes by other users on the Dashboard of the app.
  • Easy, one-time sign-up, and once you’re logged in on one app, the “Do” apps recognize your account when you log in to those too.
  • If you have Hue wireless lighting, you can even make your lights flash or turn purple when you receive an email or a Facebook notification (or any other trigger you can think of).
  • Once you get the hang of the concept, the apps are very simple to use, with extremely user-friendly, readable interfaces.

Downsides:

  • I personally dislike when established apps split themselves into separate apps, and IFTTT now has 4 apps total. However, unlike the Foursquare/Swarm and Facebook/Messenger splits, you’re not forced to use the other apps – they’re just streamlining certain processes for users.
  • As of now, each of these apps only let you start/keep 3 recipes at a time, whereas IF allows unlimited recipes.

Do Photo

Bottom Line:

IF is truly a must TRY app. If you’re still confused about how it all works, this article provides a step-by-step account and recipe creation process. Maybe you feel that adding all of these digital “recipes” will complicate your life more than simplify it, but you won’t know until you create a few! As always, if you try them out, feel free to let us know what you think.

Further Reading:

IFTTT Launches 3 “Do” Apps To Automate Photo Sharing, Tasks, Notes; Rebrands Main App “IF”

IFTTT introduces three new apps to automate the world around you

IFTTT’s New Apps Offer a Button for Triggering Other Apps

15 Clever Recipes to Try with IFTTT’s New Do Apps

The views expressed in this post are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government. No endorsement or recommendation of any specific products or services is intended or implied.

Contents contributed by Lauren D. Hall, Circulation Librarian

App of the Week – The U.S. Constitution: Analysis and Interpretation

We are continuing a series called App of the Week, wherein we recommend the best apps to support the academic experience. Please let us know what you think, and feel free to provide suggestions for apps we should review.

This wewethepeopleek’s app is not flashy or life-changing, but it serves as an example of excellent educational content waiting to be discovered in the app store. History and law majors will certainly want to take note of this resource, but regardless of major or area of interest, you’ll feel like a well-informed citizen after downloading this app.

The U.S. Constitution: Analysis and Interpretation app is the mobile version of the legal treatise popularly known as the “Constitution Annotated,” or officially, Senate Document No. 112-9. The comprehensive treatise is a clause-by-clause analysis of the Constitution written by legal experts from the Congressional Research Service under the direction of the U.S. Senate. First published in 1913, the Constitution Annotated has been published as a bound volume every 10 years, with constitutional law updates every 2 years. With the launch of this app by the Library of Congress and GPO in 2013, not only has this valuable content become extremely accessible, portable, and searchable, but it enables updates of new case analysis multiple times a year.

ConstitutionTableofContents

Most Helpful Features:

  • In-depth keyword search function on the main menu that searches within the entirety of the document; you also have the ability to search within individual documents and sections within documents.
  • If the keyword search isn’t immediately helpful, there is an excellent index, table of contents, and table of all cases cited in the document.
  • The app allows you to export any documents to PDF and read within an e-reader app of your choice (e.g. Kindle, iBooks); the documents can also be emailed, AirDropped, or opened in Evernote, Dropbox, Google Drive, and more.
  • The app is self-contained, and with the exception of exporting documents to email or other apps, does not require internet access to use.
  • In addition to the main treatise, the app includes bonus content, such as the Constitution and Amendments in PDF form without any annotations; all Supreme Court cases related to interpretation of the Constitution; and “all federal, state, and local laws struck down by the Supreme Court,” including “all cases where the Court overturned its prior precedent.”

ConstitutionSearch

Downsides:

None that I can find—the app is simple to use, organized, and does exactly what it promises.

Bottom Line:

Whether you’re a student of history or law, or just interested in learning more about the law of the land, getting up close and personal with the Constitution is only a download away.

Further Reading:

There’s an App for This: The Constitution – Direct Access to Expert Analysis of the Supreme Law of the Land

Constitution Annotated (web version)

The views expressed in this post are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government. No endorsement or recommendation of any specific products or services is intended or implied.

Contents contributed by Lauren D. Hall, Circulation Librarian

Alexander Nininger, 1st WW II Medal of Honor Recipient

NiningerAlexander Ramsey (Sandy) Nininger, USMA 1941, is a name known to many at the Military Academy. Alexander Nininger became the first World War II Medal of Honor recipient, as well as the first casualty in his class, dying on January 12th 1942 just seven months after graduating from the Academy.

Nininger’s Medal of Honor Award reads in part: [He] voluntarily attached himself to Company K, same regiment, while that unit was being attacked by enemy force superior in fire power. Enemy snipers in trees and fox holes had stopped a counter-attack to regain part of [the] position. In hand-to-hand fighting which followed, Lieutenant Nininger repeatedly forced his way to and into the hostile position. Though exposed to heavy enemy fire, he continued to attack with rifle and hand grenades and succeeded in destroying several enemy groups in fox holes and enemy snipers. Although wounded three times, he continued his attacks until he was killed after pushing alone far within the enemy position. When his body was found after recapture of the position, one enemy officer and two enemy soldiers lay dead around him.

Nininger Hall, which houses the Simon Center for the Professional Military Ethic in the center of the Cadet Area, provides a daily reminder to cadets and faculty of the core values of the Academy and its graduates.  In addition to Nininger Hall, we remember Alexander Nininger with a collection of books and pamphlets on Bataan and Corregidor housed within the Library’s Special Collections and Archives Division. These materials, collected by Nininger’s nephew, John Patterson, are for use by cadets, faculty and those interested in the study of World War II in the Pacific. (A complete listing of the Nininger Collection is available via the Library Catalog.)

Contents contributed by Elaine McConnell, Rare Book Curator

Spring 2015 Service Announcements

NEW FIRST FLOOR WELCOME DESK OPENS

The new Welcome and Circulation desk is now operating on the first floor of Jefferson Hall. Library users may now check out and return materials in the rotunda. This new service point has been designed to provide better security for both visitors within Jefferson Hall and materials held by the Library. We will be continuing to adjust our security and access policies over the coming semester. Please remember that our current force protection policies require that all visitors to Jefferson Hall be in uniform, or have valid DoD identification displayed at all times. Outside guests should be accompanied by West Point personnel at all times.
DIRECT BORROWING FROM NEW ENGLAND EXPRESS LIBRARIES NOW AVAILABLE

Our statewide library consortium, ConnectNY has entered into a partnership borrowing arrangement with NExpress, a regional library consortium in New England to allow direct user borrowing across consortia. This partnership now brings more than 7 million new titles available directly to USMA Library users. New partner libraries include Bates College, Bowdoin College, Colby College, Middlebury College, Wellesley College, and Williams College. For more information on borrowing materials from our consortial library partners, see http://usma.libguides.com/ILL.
LIBRARY EXHIBITION SPACE OPENS

New exhibit cases are now installed on the second floor of Jefferson Hall containing featured materials from the USMA Library collections. Currently on display are materials from the manuscript collections of COL Donovan Swanton USMA April 1917. In particular, this exhibit profiles letters written one hundred years ago by then Cadet Swanton describing life at the Academy during the build-up to the American entry into World War I. New letters will be placed on exhibit throughout the spring semester.
LIBRARY BLOG PROFILES USEFUL IPAD APPS

Looking for good iPad apps? Check out our series of profiled apps on the USMA Library Blog. New profiles are posted regularly. To access the archives, visit: http://blog.usmalibrary.org/category/app-of-the-week/
SPRING SERVICE HOURS

Hours for operation for USMA Library and Jefferson Hall are always posted on our website at: http://www.usma.edu/library/SitePages/Hours.aspx. Please note that there can be adjusted hours based on the schedule for the Corps of Cadets.
STAY CONNECTED TO THE LIBRARY

We’d love to keep you up-to-date throughout the year on library news and programs. You can follow our blog: http://blog.usmalibrary.org/, like us on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/USMALibrary, or follow us on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/USMALibrary.

App of the Week – Evernote Scannable

We are continuing a series called App of the Week, wherein we recommend the best apps to support the academic experience. Please let us know what you think, and feel free to provide suggestions for apps we should review.

evernotescannableIf you rely on Evernote and Evernote Peek for your notetaking, information organization, or digital flashcard needs, you’ll want to check out the newest companion app: Evernote Scannable.

While there are dozens of free scanning apps on the market, Evernote Scannable already has rave reviews, integrates seamlessly with an app people already utilize, and is faster and more sophisticated than the scanning feature built in to the original Evernote app.

Most Helpful Features:

  • Incredibly user friendly, and no set-up involved. Immediately upon opening the app, the camera loads. Point your device’s camera at any piece of paper, and Evernote Scannable digitizes it instantly.
  • The app highlights easy scanning of receipts and business cards (small objects that are easy to lose, but contain important information), but it also excels at scanning handwritten notes–and anything else you need to upload.
  • Lightning fast. PC Mag claims that Evernote Scannable is “faster than a pronghorn racing a cheetah.”
  • Handles lengthy or wrinkled papers with ease, and digitizes them masterfully.
  • After scanning, you can crop, rotate, or delete your image.
  • You can immediately export your scans to Evernote (and comes with an opt-in feature to automatically save every scan to your Evernote account), email, iMessage, camera roll, iCloud, Flickr, and more.
  • After scanning someone’s business card, the app will immediately find their LinkedIn page (if they have one). You can also add your LinkedIn account to the app to immediately connect with business card contacts.
  • Since it’s a completely independent app, you don’t have to connect the app to an Evernote account to use it–but if you frequently use Evernote, it’s a good idea to do so.

EvernoteScannable

Downsides:

  • This is not a full OCR app – meaning, it won’t read and understand the text scanned, so you won’t be able to keyword search through your scanned PDFs. However, it does “read” business cards, hence the “find contact in LinkedIn” feature.
  • You can’t adjust the camera focus, but the app does an excellent job of capturing the document at many angles/lengths.
  • The app does not store your scans long-term to “reduce clutter,” so you’ll want to make sure to export the scan to Evernote or another preferred method of storage.

Further Reading:

Evernote Scannable (Review)

Best iPad Apps: Evernote Scannable

Use Evernote’s Scannable App to Go Paperless in a Snap

The views expressed in this post are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government. No endorsement or recommendation of any specific products or services is intended or implied.

Contents contributed by Lauren D. Hall, Circulation Librarian

 

Staff Profile: Travis Schaben

TravTravisSchaben2is Schaben recently joined the library staff as Associate Director for Library Systems. He arrived here from Ramstein Air Base in Germany, where he was librarian for both the Vogelweh and Ramstein Base libraries for the last four years.

I recognized his last name as being of German origin, and couldn’t help but ask what Schaben means in German. He explained that it is an unusual last name, which the Germans usually pronounced “schäben” (with the umlaut), which means wood shavings, or shives. (A shive, I have learned, is a wooden fitting used to plug an ale cask, or in New Orleans slang it means “cool.”) Schaben (without the umlaut) is a slang term for cockroach. In leaving all but the last slang term out of the discussion, we’ll just say Travis is “cool.”

Travis grew up in the small town of Holbrook, Nebraska (pop. 300), where he was one of only three children who attended school together from kindergarten to 8th grade. As a result, he says it was really hard to get away with anything. He enlisted in the Air Force directly from high school, serving at Ramstein AFB.

After returning to the states, Travis completed his BA in literature from Webster University in St. Louis, MO. His introduction to library work was at University of Florida (Gainesville), where he was assigned to Acquisitions and Licensing, but took on IT work as a side job because of his interest in it and the fact that the library contained a branch of the University IT Department. From there it was a logical segue to library school, and he attended Florida State University (Tallahassee) for his MLIS.

Upon his “re-arrival” in Germany in 2010, his first experience working as a DOD civilian brought several challenges. Unexpectedly, within his first few months, he was told he would be singlehandedly responsible for not just the opening of a new library, but also the closing of an existing library and the move of another library collection from a temporary location.

Though Travis has not before held the title of “systems” librarian, he is a self-proclaimed techie and has gravitated to the IT role in each of his past positions. He has a passion for researching, learning and evaluating new technologies and exploring different ways technology can be used in libraries.

In his spare time, Travis likes hiking, biking, climbing and skiing­­—pretty much any outdoor activity. In addition, he reads Russian classic literature and techie stuff.

He and his partner, Alison, live in Cold Spring with their two rabbits, Turnip and Belle, who travelled here with them from Germany. I asked Travis , “Why rabbits?” He explained that about 15 years ago he and Ali adopted a rabbit that needed a home. That rabbit lived for about 12 years and moved to Germany with them. When it passed away, they rescued Turnip, a rabbit who had been in the shelter for five years because everyone found unfriendly. Later, Belle joined the family, also as a rescue. Although the locals loved these furry creatures, most Germans would think of them as a meal, rather than the family they are to Travis. The real question, then is, “Why NOT rabbits?”

We’re grateful to have Travis joining our staff, where he will likely meet many more challenging situations (and tackle them head-on) and update us on the joys and antics of these small mammals in the family Leporidae.

[It is with sadness that we report, with condolences, that Belle has passed on since the time of this writing.]

Contents contributed by Manja Yirka, Continuing Resources Librarian

App of the Week – RefME

We are continuing a series called App of the Week, wherein we recommend the best apps to support the academic experience. Please let us know what you think, and feel free to provide suggestions for apps we should review.

This wlogoeek’s app, RefME, is a reference citation generator, which sounds incredibly boring–but trust me, it’s a game changer. As those of us who conduct research know, constructing bibliographies and reference lists for papers/articles in the desired citation style is a time-consuming affair. However, there dozens of citation programs out there, and a growing number of free/freemium websites out on the web. What makes RefME stand out among the other citation tools? In a nutshell–scanning technology and automation. RefME simplifies research organization in a way some reviews are calling “revolutionary.”

RefMEbarcodescannerMost Helpful Features:

  • Free! Software like RefWorks and EndNote are great assets to research, but they usually require expensive institutional subscriptions. However, if you happen to have a subscription to one of those already, you can actually export your citations from RefME.
  • Barcode scanner! Scan the barcode on the back of any book, print journal, or other resource, and your resource will magically appear on your bibliography page.
  • Easily find any citation by typing a few keywords. You can search by book/journal article title, DOI, ISBN, or ISSN. You can also copy and paste any website URL to create a reference in seconds.
  • Contains 6,500+ referencing styles (did you know that many citation styles even existed?).
  • Switch between styles with one click. So if you discover that you’ve completed your reference list in APA instead of MLA, your entire list will update automatically with no extra effort on your part.
  • If you do have to enter your citation manually, RefME supports dozens of types of sources–anywhere from “song” to “interview” to “scientific dataset.”
  • When you create an account, your list is synced and saved with refme.com and stored in the cloud, so you can access it from anywhere.
  • You can export your references from your app to email, Microsoft Word, Evernote, Mendeley and more.
  • The interface is incredibly easy to use.
  • According to RefMe, PDF, OCR and other features are coming soon.

RefMeBibliographyDownsides:

  • None that I’ve found so far. If you need help finding work to scan into RefME, USMA librarians are always ready to assist you with your research!

Bottom Line:

RefME is the citation management app we’ve been waiting for–correctly citing sources is only going to get easier from here on out. Remember, of course, to ALWAYS double check your work with an official citation manual. This is a great tool, but don’t leave your grade/professional work up to any one app. If you try RefME for your next project, let us know what you think!

Further Reading:

RefME is probably the best free app for university students out there

New app means students can create essay footnotes and references in seconds

RefMe app review: bibliographic entries made simple

The views expressed in this post are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government. No endorsement or recommendation of any specific products or services is intended or implied.

Contents contributed by Lauren D. Hall, Circulation Librarian

App of the Week – Khan Academy

We are continuing a series called App of the Week, wherein we recommend the best apps to support the academic experience. Please let us know what you think, and feel free to provide suggestions for apps we should review.

Khan logoAcademy, founded by Salman Khan in 2008, is a free educational site containing over 5,000 micro-lectures/tutorials on subjects ranging from line integrals and Green’s theorem to Symbolism and Art Nouveau. These aren’t lectures in the traditional sense, though–most tutorials simply contain an electronic blackboard with notes and illustrations that appear as Khan talks. The beauty of Khan Academy is the concept of “self-paced” learning, which differentiates it from the traditional one-size-fits-all lecture model. Students can pause, rewind, fast forward, and review lectures as needed. They can also take quizzes and do exercises to test their knowledge, check their progress in a subject, earn badges for leveling up in a subject, and more. If an instructor is using Khan Academy to teach their material, they can access their students’ progress, too, and determine exactly which concepts their students are struggling with.

KhanProfile

Chances are you’ve already heard of Khan Academy, and perhaps you’ve used it to clarify fundamental concepts in physics or figure out a difficult calculus problem. Now that the semester is back in full swing, you may need a refresher in certain subjects–so here’s how you can integrate the app into your studies.

KhanLessonMost Helpful Features:

  • Access to all 5,000+ video tutorials on the regular website.
  • You can download videos to watch offline; perfect for traveling or studying on the go.
  • Most videos contain subtitles with an interactive transcript — so you can easily rewind or jump ahead in each lesson.
  • You can access your profile and progress in the app, so log in to receive credit and “energy points” for the videos you watch.
  • Pro tip: You can watch videos on the iPad while taking notes on your laptop, or vice versa.

Downsides:

  • Exercises are not built into the app itself, but they can be launched from the app into Safari. If you’re online, it’s a fairly seamless transition, but If you’re offline or want to use another internet browser, it’s not ideal.
  • You won’t get credit (assuming you’re logged in and tracking progress) for videos you watch offline.
  • The app can be buggy at times – for some reason, I haven’t been able to get subtitles to load on my app at all. The videos have always worked for me thus far.

Bottom Line: Khan Academy is an educational gem, and the app is, essentially, a portable mirror image of all the website has to offer. As always, if you use this resource, feel free to let us know what you think!

Further Reading:

Khan Academy – PC World Review

Khan Academy – Edsurge Overview

How Khan Academy is Changing the Rules of Education

The views expressed in this post are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government. No endorsement or recommendation of any specific products or services is intended or implied.

Contents contributed by Lauren Dodd Hall, Circulation Librarian

Workaround Information for Database Connectivity Issues

Unable to connect to Library databases and journals with links beginning with 0-*** ?

There’s a workaround to be used while we complete networking changes required by our server migration.

For example, instead of:

http://0-www.ancestrylibrary.com.usmalibrary.usma.edu/

use:

http://www.ancestrylibrary.com/

This is not available for off-post users (unless using West Point VPN).

We regret this inconvenience and hope to correct it soon.