Mobile Phones for Art and Education, EDTECH 597 Week 4

Since beginning EDTECH 597, I have been more aware of the opportunities that smart phones and mobile apps present to the user, and I’m now trying to read the information that comes across my desk with a mind that asks questions like, “What is the logical progression of outcomes that can happen from this?” or “Where will this path logically lead and how can I apply what this information is telling me to the apps that I’m developing?” Along those lines, I saw two very cool, but very different stories on CNN about mobile technology, and in my mind by extension, possible mobile apps.

The first story was about how mobile technology was changing life in Africa in some pretty profound ways. According to the story, the mobile phone has replaced the PC in some countries, because the phone is cheaper than the computer, but does a lot of the same things that a computer does. Farmers check weather reports, water conditions, and other farm necessities as well as plug into mobile apps like iCow, a cow calendar, which tracks the life and fertility cycle of the cows.

People in Africa also use it to help in areas like entertainment, banking, and education—in the latter case, mobile phones can deliver school messages via social networking. This allows students who don’t have access to schools to get an education—at least in theory.

The second CNN story that caught my attention was a story about how mobile phones are being used as artists’ tools. The story specifically cited photographers who use mobile phones to take pictures and then go on to add collage items or print the photos off, stick them on canvas, and then add elements like paint, found objects and other items to create new works of art.

I must confess that while both stories could have long-term ramifications for my studies, I must confess that I’m most excited about the artistic potential of mobile phones and by extension, mobile apps. Considering that this week’s app, the Paint Pott assignment introduced me to the drawing tools on Android, I got pretty excited.

While I don’t exactly know the exact answer to the “What is the logical progression of outcomes that can happen from this?” or “Where will this path logically lead and how can I apply what this information is telling me to the apps that I’m developing?” questions, I do know that I need to learn more about the app builder tool so that I can learn its limitations, its capabilities, and possible work arounds for design problems that I encounter as I create my apps. With every art media I’ve tried so far in my life, this has been so.

Once you work with the tools long enough, you come to understand what they can and can’t do for you. It teaches you to spawn creations with a particular tool in mind. For example, I might want to create a realistic drawing of a leather handbag using charcoal pencil and graphite, because I know that these tools can create both the rough-looking texture of leather plus the metallic rivets in the leather bag. I would create these pieces of art based largely on what I know about each tool. So, too, do I hope that I can learn what mobile apps can do and therefore learn to create new pieces of art based on this new tool.

Here’s a picture of this week’s app that I created. It was the Paint Pot assignment.

Paint Pot Doodle Tool

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Reflections on HelloPurr, App Development and DC Comics, EDTECH 597 Week 3

I have found throughout the last several weeks of being in this EDTECH 597/ mobile app design class that I have a discrepancy in my skill sets. On the one hand, because of my background in traditional design—newspapers, magazines, etc—I can see the great potential in mobile apps and how they could help revitalize and change the design industry. On the other hand, since I haven’t owned an actual phone in several years, opting to use Skype on my computer instead, I’m finding that there’s a learning curve for the new technology. My computer can’t find the drivers to recognize my computer, I don’t always know how to retrieve my messages from my phone, apps that I really love take up a lot of my phone’s resources, etc.

As frustrating as this has been for me, it also occurs to me that the experience is useful. It will help me be more compassionate with clients as I work through the design process. Technology can be scary to people. Hopefully, the experience of doing this will enable me to better help them through the process of design.

It has also allowed me to look at the design principles that I do find valuable (from other media) and carry them over to app development. One stands out in particular, and that is the ability to click on an icon and be taken back to the main page of the app. Many of my apps don’t have this feature, and it frustrates me, because at this juncture I usually just have to go back to my phone’s homepage and try again. So far the one that frustrates me the most is the DC Comics app. It usually takes me down a maze with no ability to back track if I accidentally hit a wrong button. Since I love graphic novels and love DC in particular this frustrates me to no end. It also makes me wonder how it can be that organizations/ businesses like this that are design-oriented by the nature of what they do struggle so much when it comes to usability design. I guess it just goes to show that we all have blind spots in this age of ever-changing technology.

I was speaking to a friend of mine about this issue. He happens to work in instructional design, and he assured me that  I would learn this part of the design process in the course of my studies. He spoke about it in terms of user-interface design/ user-experience (UX UI). I have been exposed to this concept of design before in another class at the undergraduate level. It was the first time that I was introduced to the idea that design should be both pretty and functional, and I’m hoping to train myself to look for that element in design. While I learned in my newspaper days that design should actually look pretty, because it makes people stop and pick up newspapers (or read websites or try mobile apps in this day and age), it also should do something more. I will be mindful of that as I move forward.

Just for a visual record, the screenshot of my HelloPurr app is below.

HelloPurr app, assignment one in EDTECH 597, mobile app development class