My Digital Blanky – the PlayBook

30 Nov

In April of this year I was presented with an opportunity to use a new tablet that came out on the market. Being that our school division uses Blackberrys and has a Blackberry Enterprise Server, it seemed like the PlayBook would be a good fit to the work that I was doing as an Educational Technology Facilitator. Six months later, I am still using the PlayBook as one of the many technology tools in my daily work.

RIM’s PlayBook has a number intriguing features for both teachers and students to use in their learning/work which will be shared below. As well I will walk through “A Day in the Life of a PlayBook User”. Finally, I welcome any comments as to how you are using the PlayBook in your own learning/daily life.

I have six main introductory points to share regarding the PlayBook and its features before sharing some of the resources that teachers and students can directly use with this tablet.

1. Features

User Experience: from the home screen you can launch apps, multi-task, change settings and view notifications. One can have several apps open at once swiping back and forth easily, smoothly and quickly. Also, the PlayBook is easy, light and compact enough to carry around a school site to gather data, share information, and/or take pictures/video clips.
Full web browsing: flash is well-done, HTML5 handles quite nicely.
Wicked word processing: take notes, write letters, build docs with WordToGo (free and original app).
Multimedia max: amazing camera and HDMI video features, very clear, crisp, vibrant colors for audio and video.
Best bridging: love the Bridge feature that pairs with my Blackberry phone – messages to BBM messenger to browsing to Video Chat. Even if you don’t own a Blackberry phone, Gmail, Yahoo mail, AOL mail work fine.
Display and Battery Power: with an HDMI cable and projector, all features on the PlayBook are easily displayed and last for a whole work day (and more!)

2. For Teachers/Administrators

Teachers and administrators will like the portability and ease of use with this tablet. The majority of resources shared below are free, although I am looking at paid apps more and more to see if there are any ones that may be of better use.

Preparation/Management Resources:
* Clock native app – basic, stopwatch, and timer.
* Voicenotes – audio notes on the go!
* WordToGo – an original app that comes with the PlayBook. Great note taker.
* Bluebox (dropbox) – if you use Dropbox on your other devices, Bluebox syncs files on the PlayBook.
* Evernote – useful if you are already familiar with this app that culls your notes, ideas, pictures, audio.
* QR Scanner – take a picture of existing QR codes to get to the information tied to them
* GroovyNotes – a paid app that I just started to look at which records, manages notes, keeps lists, tracks plans, saves messages. Works like a digital agenda/notebook.

There are a variety of news apps like News360, The Edm Journal, Globe News, CBC News to name a few that one can download in order to keep up with current news locally, provincially, nationally and internationally.

3. For those people who like to use quotes when speaking with friends or in presentations there are two that I have a fondness for – Zen sayings and 3001 wisdom quotes HD free.

If you are ‘out and about town’ and are not familiar with either the town or a particular are of town then the Poynt app would be of great service to you. Poynt will find businesses, retailers, people, restaurants, movies, events, and weather information using GPS.

With regards to students, I am basing my resources on the three UDL (Universal Design for Learning) guidelines of:
1) Multiple Means of Representation – how materials are delivered/presented and what students know.
2) Multiple Means of Action & Expression – how students demonstrate their knowledge.
3) Multiple Means of Engagement – how students will learn.

So, let’s look at how the PlayBook can connect learning which happens in a variety of environments, anytime throughout the day or night and using a variety of materials.

4. For Students
The apps below are separated into subject specific areas, but can certainly be used in any content area. A majority of these apps are free.

Math – there are a number of apps from K-12 that can be utilized.
* CheatSheet – formulas for algebra, geometry, trigonometry, calculus
* EduTube – Khan academy videos
* Pythagorean Theorem – input values
* Minute Math – easy to hard questions in +,-,x,/ that you can answer in one minute
* Mathoku lite – levels easy to nasty. Need to remember order of operations.
* MathFlash – five levels, four operations.
* Randomize That – using either dice, cards, coins or numbers.

Music – various musical instruments invite students to explore sounds and make original compositions.
* Piano
* Playbox
* Slacker Radio
* Steppy Step Sequencer
* VEVO – music videos
* Xylopohone
* ZZing

Language Arts – from reference to reading to writing, these apps work alright!
* Dictionary and Thesaurus for Blackberry PlayBook
* Drawing Board – quick draw and save as .jpeg
* ebooks by Kobo
* Flickr explore browser
* Learn to Write – how to write the alphabet
* My Travel Diary
* Reader’s Digest – mix of tips, trends and interesting reads
* Scrapbook – create from wallpapers, pics, stickers to save and/or share
* StoryMasher free – fill in the blank stories that are mashed up
* The Ant and the Grasshopper and The Greedy Fisherman – stories narrated in own voice
* The Little Bun – russian folk tale
* thinkMAP – brainstorming, mindmapping
* Word O’The Day

Social Studies
* NFB films – 2000 free movies to watch with documentaries, animations and feature films.
* QuizIt – input content info and get quizzed.
* TVOKids My Canada (ages 6-11) – Canadian geography.

* Periodical – periodic table of elements complete with symbols and atomic numbers.
* Save the Last Drop – water scarcity game and information.
* WeatherEye HD – local weather and alerts with ability to track multiple cities at one time.
* Wiring Diagrams – common diagrams and quick reference guide.

* iSpeech translator – speak and translate any words/phrases included email or text in multiple languages

5. A Day in My Life Using the PlayBook

I like my digital blanky, I hold it tight

It’s very lightweight and sleek

I can swipe, type, use flash every week,

check my BB msgs and video chat

It even has a number of cool apps

I like my digital blanky in the day and night

(lyrics modeled after Baby Bop from Barney)


* Wake up with Clock alarm.
* After workout – Kobo to read a bit, then switch to Twitter and finally to BB email.
* During breakfast  – scan news apps for current events, check on Facebook, look at WeatherEye to see what clothing I should dress up in for work.
* At work – use Bluebox to look at files, Evernote to capture information or search, reading Messages, looking at Tasks, sending a BBM, updating my Calendar or having a quick VideoChat, twitter to tweet out events and/or learning and taking a break with some musical interludes (either streaming radio or even my own compositions) or staring at my virtual Aquarium. If at a conference/workshop off-site, will use WordToGo for notes, camera/video for clips, browse Twitter and internet browser (even GoogleDocs), check email and send messages.
* In the evening – checking out the videos and camera pictures taken throughout the day or during a workshop, leaving myself a VoiceNote, watching a new YouTube video, looking up a new recipe, chatting with Alice or listening to a Podcast.

As one can see, I believe that the PlayBook is a good tool to use in my personal and professional life. It certainly is not the only technological tool that I have at my fingertips, but it is one that I use daily and it has not let me down yet. The overview, the teacher use and student use have all provided you with a basic understanding of how a Playbook could be used in an educational setting.

6. Although my focus has been on the educational aspect of this tablet, one can recognize that it’s always great to have a little bit of fun too! I have brief list of some apps that are great time fillers in a waiting room or just when you have ten minutes to spare.

* Aquarium! – no need to clean or replace filters!
* Best Tic Tac Toe HD free
* Flashlight
* Flipclock – like the originals
* Galaxy Painting – create colorful graphics, save as .jpg
* Wallpapers by Gelaskins
* Hangman – classic
* LED scroller – type in a message and it scrolls across the screen
* Need for Speed – car game
* Shared – collaborative whiteboard
* Spot the Differences – find the 5 different elements between the 2 images within a time limit
* Tetris – fun

I would enjoy hearing from those of you who also have a PlayBook. What are some of the ways that you are using the PlayBook in your work? Feel free to contact me at or via Twitter at @nlakusta. As well, I have a webpage listing the above PlayBook Apps as well as Blackberry Apps for administrators and early, middle and high school years students at

Note: This article was written originally for the ETCATA – BitsnBytes – Winter edition. It received rave reviews so I also added it to my blog. Enjoy!


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