App of the Week: Find My Car

By Dr. Shannon VanHorn, Director of Distance Learning and Faculty Development

I was in Minneapolis at a meeting, when I parked my car in a parking ramp. I thought I paid attention where I parked my car, and when the meeting concluded (at 2 p.m. on a Friday), I thought “Great! I can get out of downtown Minneapolis before rush hour out the cities beings!”

One problem.

I could not find my car.

I knew I was not far from the elevator to the door, but didn’t see my vehicle. So I clicked the panic button (yes, the annoying horn).  I HEARD my car, but didn’t see it. Suddenly I was panicked.

After 20 minutes of wandering, it dawned on me that my vehicle was on a different level. Ten minutes later I was on my way out of the cities.

Later that day, I downloaded MyCar Locator.

This app uses the GPS position of your car (or other location you give it) and shows you where it is on a map. It helps you navigate to your vehicle. You can take a picture of your parking spot, send it to friends or family members, and even enter notes about where you parked.

This app is free for both Android and iOS systems, although there are a few ads that may show in the app. If you wish to be ad free, you can purchase that version for about $1.25.

 So if you are one to often forget where you parked, this app can save you time from wandering the parking lot, especially on a hot summer’s day or a freezing cold wintery night.

App of the Week: Sleep Cycle

By Dr. Shannon VanHorn, Director of Distance Learning and Faculty Development

We are entering the last three weeks of classes, with finals after that.  While many of you will be spending late nights studying and working on projects, it is also important to get a good night’s sleep each night.

Sleep Cycle will help you achieve this goal.

Sleep Cycle, created by the Swedish company Northcube, is an app that monitors your sleep cyles, waking you up gently in the morning at the most optimal time to help reduce that “I’m exhausted” feeling when you have to get up.

Using the accelerometer in your iPhone, the app monitors your movement to determine which sleep cycle you are experiencing, awaking you in the lightest part of your cycle (within 30 minutes of when you set your alarm.  It also provides graphs and statistics of your sleep cycles the night before.

Still want 10 more minutes of sleep? No problem! By tapping your phone, it works as a sleep button.

You also have the choice of several sounds in which to wake you.

This app is available for both iOS and android platforms, although there is also a Power Nap app that are available for just iOS platforms. Power Nap (also $1.99) allows you to take power naps in the afternoon without drifting into a deep sleep, yet leaving you refreshed an awake.

While both of these apps cost $1.99 a year to access they are worth it to get a good night’s sleep!

App of the Week: Countdown Timer

By Dr. Shannon VanHorn, Director of Distance Learning and Faculty Development

It’s week 12 in the semester! Just six weeks left and then finals. For some of you, the semester has probably gone quickly. For others, it may seem like it’s dragging on.

Countdown Timer is actually that—a timer that countdowns the time to a big event, be it a new baby, a wedding, a birthday, a vacation, and even the end of a semester!

This app is available not only for iOS, Android, and Window users, but also as a web page you can bookmark for easy retrieval. Or you can place the URL on a website, too.

Once you go to the website or download the app, you can choose the font you wish for the title, along with the date and time down to seconds if you wish.

I suggest not putting in the place of the event.  I tried typing in Valley City and Valley City State University and it took me to a list of more than a hundred places to choose from that had the word “Valley” in it somewhere, but not “our” Valley City.

So as you are looking forward to that special day, be it graduation, the end of a job, or Christmas, the Countdown Timer will help you count down the weeks, days, hours, minutes, and seconds toward towards that big event!

App of the Week: Handpick

By Dr. Shannon VanHorn, Director of Distance Learning and Faculty Development

As the semester gets busy, I do not always have time to get to the grocery store. But sometimes when I come home, well, the fridge and cupboards are kind of bare. I might have three potatoes, a couple slices of cheese, and a clove of garlic, half a stick of butter, and a container of yogurt.

I could order pizza or go out to eat, but that can eat away at my budget.

Or I can use Handpick.

Handpick is an app with more than 10,000 ingredients listed. Simply click on the list the ingredients you have available, and it will search hundreds of sites for recipes that include your ingredients. Some recipes require more ingredients, but many will call for just the ingredients you listed (or less).  This app can be downloaded from the App store or from Google Play.

According to the National Resource Defense Council, we waste 50% more food than we did in 1970. This app is a wonderful way to make use of the food you currently have, save you a few dollars, and provide you inspiration to try new culinary delights!

(What did it suggest for me and my ingredients? Baked potatoes topped with a cheese sauce made from the cheese, butter, garlic, and a couple scoops of yogurt.  Hungry yet?)

App of the Week: Free Rice

By Shannon VanHorn, Director of Distance Learning and Faculty Development

Are you in to trivia?  Would you like to answer trivia questions and at the same time feed the hungry?

A few years ago, I went to a professional conference and was introduced to the website “Free Rice.”  Sponsored by the United Nations World Food Programme, this website provides players the opportunity to earn 10 grains of rice for every correct answer to trivia questions you provide at this site.

Categories of questions include English Vocabulary, Famous Quotes, Chemistry Symbols, Famous Paintings, Anatomy, Literature, a variety of languages, Flags of the World, and pre-algebra. Get an answer right, ten grains of rice are donated.  Get it wrong, you’ll get an easier question to answer, building back the supply of rice.

Most recently, the site is focusing on Syrian Refugee children.

For your IOS system or iPads, Pocket Rice does the same thing. Right now they are focusing their attention on Columbia and Sri Lanka.  You can download this through iTunes.

For all you Android users, Foodonate is an app that does that same thing, too. Their focus seems to be Haiti, as well as other impoverished nations.

So don’t just play trivia games online.  Why not help others at the same time?

AppS of the Week: Honey and Paribus—Money Saving and Making Shopping Apps

By Shannon VanHorn, Director of Distance Learning and Faculty Development

It happens all the time. I spend money on an item only to discover a week later that it’s on sale (and $20 cheaper). Or I’m buying something online and I see box for a coupon code. I never have one, so if there’s a deal, I’m missing out. Then my daughter alerted me to these apps!

Honey searches for digital coupons from thousands of online stores.  Those stores are everything from Shutterfly to Express to Amazon to Levis to Tractor Supply Compnay to Maurices to Burpee Seeds to True Value to Jellybelly to JC Penneys to J.R. Cigars to Expedia to, well, you get the pictures.

You do need to create a log-in and password, but then you can search for stores in which they will supply you with codes and let you know if something is on sale.

One fun feature is it will tell you if you are getting the best price on your Amazon purchases. Before you complete a purchase, it will pop up and let you know if a cheaper version exists. You can even learn bonus money from some of the stores (all stores with a G inside a box)!

 Honey is available on all browsers except Explorer: https://www.joinhoney.com/

 Paribus actually gives you money back should an item go on sale shortly after you purchased it.

After you have downloaded Paribus (you can find it in most app stores), it will look for e-mail receipts of items you have purchased within the past 14 days or so. If it finds any, it will scan it and look for price drops from the store.

If it sees a difference, it will request the refund for you. It does charge you a 25 percent commission fee. But it is time-saving rather than scouring every ad every week in hopes of paying less.

One issue, and it may be a big one for you: you need to give them more information than you may want to an internet site: your full e-mail address, credit card info (so it can put in for the refunds) and if you want them to do Amazon, your Amazon password. They do purport the highest of security, but really, anyone can be hacked.

Happy Shopping and saving money!

App of the Week: Instant Buttons

By Shannon VanHorn, Director of Distance Learning and Faculty Development

A couple of years ago, I attended a conference in which the presentation was a bit dry. She was presenting a lot of technical info, and when she asked us a question, it was dead silent.

Then we heard it: Crickets!

But it was too late in the year for crickets to be around.

The sound of crickets was coming from her phone, which she was also using as a remote. From just a push of a finger, she created that sound when no one was answering her question.  Finally someone did, and there was applause coming from her phone.

She then told us all about Instant Buttons.

Instant Buttons is a fun app that can be used to create sound for the mood of the moment.  From a sad trombone to Ferrell’s “Happy,” from television theme shows such as “Big Bang Theory,” “HIMYM,” “Batman,” and “The Flintstones” to characters, such as Chewbacca, Santa, and Homer Simpson, this app is entertaining and can humor to many situations.

You can create a favorites list, hide those you do not like, and even create your own sound buttons.

Instant buttons can be found in the App store, Google Play, and Galaxy Apps for quick downloading, and are supported by Crema games.  Got a great idea for a sound? Let Crema know and they may include in their upgrades.

Warning: the buttons are addicting.

Check it out and see which ones you like!

App of the Week: Quizlet

By Shannon VanHorn, Director of Distance Learning and Faculty Development

Midterms are coming up soon. Are you ready?

Studying through several weeks of notes and chapters can be quite daunting. There’s a lot of information to remember for those exams.

This week’s App of the Week, Quizlet, is a place where you can create your own flash cards, quizzes, and even study groups.  Best of all, it’s free! (or for a more detailed version, it’s $199 a year. But you probably won’t need that version.)

You can log in through Google, Facebook, or your e-mail address.  You will need to sign up for an account and you do need to approve the Terms of Agreement and the Privacy Policy.

Once you are in, you can create study areas for each of your classes. You can invite friends to study with you, or you can study by yourself.

Many study sets on a variety of subjects have already been created, so you could use one of those, too. For example, I teach communication, so I searched for “Communication” and found one that focused on the communication model.  It has flashcards, a quiz, matching, and much more. I’m willing to bet that every subject at VCSU has something in Quizlet.

Quizlet is available on your computer (www.quizlet.com) or as an app in the App store.  The app will sync with the website and visa versa.  You can even use it while in airplane mode as you travel.

So try out Quizlet and experiment making your own study aids.  It will help in your learning and retention and should make midterms a bit less stressful. Good luck!

App of the Week: Last Pass

By Shannon VanHorn, Director of Distance Learning and Faculty Development

I have a problem: I can’t remember passwords.  I need a password to open my computer, access my e-mail, log into Blackboard or ConnectND, and log into my bank, Facebook, iTunes, my medical charts, Amazon, and the list goes on and on.

I have three or so that I usually use (I know, I know—the wrong thing to do), but sometimes they don’t work and I have to try to remember another combination of letters and numbers.  Let’s see, I used my address last time, and the time before that I used my grandmother’s maiden name, etc. By the time I’m done, I’ve ended up changing my password. Again.

Last Pass is a password manager.  What does that mean? Well, it remembers your passwords. It stores all of your passwords either synced with all your devices online or just on one device. It even changes a password for you if it thinks your password has been compromised. It manages your passwords so you do not use the same password on every site (a no-no) and you don’t have to keep a log of your passwords.

And the best part?  It’s FREE! (although you can get even more options for just $1 a month).

You can access it through a browser for your computer via http://www.lastpass.com. For your mobile device, it’s compatible  with OS, Android, iOS, and Windows Phone.

So forget about worrying which password will work for which account you have. Let Last Pass do the job for you!

App of the Week: Open Table

By Shannon VanHorn, Director of Distance Learning and Faculty Development

I travel often, and am not always familiar with the towns and cities I visit.  On one trip, I asked the front desk personnel where was the best place to eat in that city.  She laughed, then sent me on an adventure to get to a place, only for it to be closed.

My friends and I ended up eating at a Chinese buffet. Not bad, but I was hoping for something better.

Open Table is an app that can be downloaded to your iPhone or Android, or you can access it via its webpage, www.opentable.com .  You can search for restaurants and reserve a table.

All you have to do is type in how many will be eating, the date, time, and location (or restaurant if you know where you want to go) and click “Find a Table.”  Several choices will appear, along with times in which you can reserve a table. Once you choose a place, a map will also appear.

Reserving a table may not seem like much of an issue in Valley City, but it can be when you travel to larger cities.  For example, let’s say you want to eat at Hell’s Kitchen in Minneapolis. Simply type in the name and you can easily get a table there, rather than standing in line for an hour hoping for a table.

So download this app and try it out. Bon appetit!