Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Drawing on the PlayBook

Need to sketch a diagram or demonstrate how to work a math problem? Using the keyboard just isn't an option. You need to write freehand on the screen. This post illustrates two apps I have downloaded.

Wet Paint

"Wet Paint" is a drawing program for the PlayBook. Tap the pencil or paint brush icons and write on the screen with your finger. Tapping the eraser icon allows you to erase any portion of your creation with your finger. Think of it as a miniature chalkboard. Swipe from the top bezel and you see options to play a game of tic-tac-toe or dots!

On your PlayBook, search BlackBerry App World for "Wet Paint." The app currently has an average rating of 4 1/2 stars. The price is free.

Letter Tracer

This app is great for young children who are learning their letters and numbers. Select from print, cursive, or numbers. The Playbook displays a large, dashed figure the child can trace with a finger. The app is very basic. When I downloaded it, I was hoping it would guide a child with the correct direction of the strokes. Children can often produce an end result which looks correct, yet if you look at the manner in which they arrived it, you see some bad habits forming. This app does not address that sort of thing, but its still a nice tool for little ones.

On your PlayBook, search BlackBerry App World for "Letter Tracer." The cost is 99 cents.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Need a "Cheat Sheet?"

I know you never used a "cheat sheet" in school. At least we'll give you the benefit of the doubt. Let's just say you at least know someone else who did. The art of composing a cheat sheet was efficiency and economy of words. A good cheat sheet packed the best information in a small space. I stumbled on two free download for my PlayBook that provide great resource information in a pinch whether you are a student, a teacher, or just someone trying to blow the dust off what you learned in high school.

Cheat Sheet...Your Math Refresher

On your PlayBook, go to BlackBerry App World and search for "Cheat Sheet." It's a free download, currently with a 4 1/2 star average review. 

You are presented with a menu of four options: Algebra, Geometry, Trigonometry, and Calculus. Tap on a menu and one of the sub-menus to reveal a sheet of formulas. They even look like they are written on notebook paper. The app makes no attempt to teach you the concepts. You simply get a refresher on the formulas you learned in the course.

Student Notes

On your PlayBook, go to BlackBerry App World and search for "Student Notes." It's also a free download, currently with a 4 1/2 star average review. Choose a subject from a wide array of courses. Whether you are interested in French, Physics, Biology, or a dozen others, this app is equal to the test. The information you are probably searching for is right at your fingertips. Grab it today!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Chess Clock Mobile and ScoreMobile

Today's post combines a great reference site for current sporting events with a great tool when you need a pair of timers. Both apps are available for the BlackBerry PlayBook.


Nothing beats being able to tap this icon and see up-to-the-minute college football scores. Tap on a game and see a wide variety of stats right down to how much time is left in the game, who has the ball, and on what yard line. But you can get more than NCAA football. Choose from NFL, CFL, NBA, PGA, NHL, NASCAR, and more.

Go to BlackBerry App World on your PlayBook and search for "ScoreMobile." It's a free download with an average review of 4 1/2 stars.

Chess Clock Mobile

This app is a free download and is currently rated at 5 stars. If you play chess, you can expect to pay $20 to $40 for a chess clock. Being able to get one for free and always with you on your PlayBook is a neat addition.

If you are not familiar with a chess clock, the idea is in tournament chess, each player has a specified time in which to complete a certain number of moves. When one player makes a move, his timer stops and his opponent's timer starts. A chess clock, therefore, is a pair of clocks where at any one time, one clock is ticking towards zero while the other clock is paused. If you have a need for this type of dual timer, even if it's not for chess, this app is for you.

Go to BlackBerry App World on your PlayBook and search for "Chess Clock Mobile."

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Linus' Thanksgiving Prayer

Charles Schultz gave us some wonderful holidays specials to be enjoyed one generation after another. Here is one of the classic scenes, Linus' Thanksgiving Prayer:

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

"Called to Be Exceptional"

Thanks to everyone who came to one or more of my sessions yesterday. You were an exceptional group. I am glad you took the time to visit this post. We covered a great deal of ground in a short amount of time, so this post gives us the chance to step back, catch our breath, and decide how to move forward from here.

Southern Division Teachers' Conference 2011
If you were in one of the sessions, this photo is a practical example of its use. I snapped the photo on my smartphone yesterday morning. I used Dropbox on my phone to upload the photo "into the cloud." That meant when I got back to the hotel and booted my laptop, there was the photo in the "My Dropbox" folder on my laptop. No flash drive, no cables!

Sunday night I made a few little changes to my presentations. No need to remember to make those same changes on the presentation back home on my desktop computer. Because I had saved the presentations in My Dropbox, the changes I made here in Louisiana have already been made on my computer back in Alabama.

To sign up for your own Dropbox account, click here. This link will also both you and me 250MB of additional storage!

Once you have created your iGoogle page and want to start adding gadgets, this post will give you a list of ideas. Each is a clickable link and will let you easily add any of the gadgets to your own iGoogle page.

Digital handouts from each session are available on the Free Resources page of my website.Remember the password which will be required to open each one. You will notice clickable links in the handouts, so you will probably want to save them to your computer rather than print them out.

Handling Multiple Projects
We were unable to get to the section on handling multiple projects. That's the beauty of the blog, and the very reason it was created over six years that when the workshop is over, the contact and the learning can just be beginning. Click here for a document explaining the concepts for handling multiple projects. There is a password, and it is the same password as what you used for the other handouts.

Drawing for Organization Made Easy
Congratulations to Lonnie Jones, who was the winner in the drawing for a free copy of Organization Made Easy!:Tools for Today's Teachers.

Staying in Contact
If you gave me your e-mail address, you should receive something by this weekend. School servers sometimes block e-mails, so if you run into a problem, you can always subscribe with a different e-mail address. On the sidebar, you see a button where anyone can click and sign up for this free newsletter.

Are you are Twitter? You will find me @DrFrankBuck.
Are you on Facebook? This is your invitation to "Like" my Facebook page.

Thanks again for being such an exceptional group!

Monday, November 21, 2011

What's That Tune...Shazam!

How many times have you listened to a song and just couldn't think of the name of it? What if you could hold your smartphone up to the radio and have the title and album from which it came displayed on your device a few seconds later? That's exactly what Shazam Encore does.

Shazam listens to song and identifies it
On your BlackBerry, go to BlackBerry App World and search for "Shazam Encore." Normally, this app costs $5.99, but it is one of the apps being offered for free as a result of the BlackBerry outage back in October. The complimentary status runs, from what I understand, through December.

In addition to identifying the song, Shazam Encore will allow you to buy a track, read reviews, search for songs, and watch YoutTube results for your search. 

Shazam is also available for the iPhone and Android.

Has anyone used this program extensively? What are your thoughts?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Dropbox and BlueBox: Access Your Data From Anywhere

If you are not familiar with Dropbox, I highly recommend this free service. Dropbox allows you to store up to 2GB on their server which you can access from anywhere. I am planning a complete post for later on exactly how I have set up Dropbox and how I use it. For now, if you do not have a Dropbox account, go to this site and create one. Not only will you get the 2GB of free storage, but by using that link, you and I will each get an additional 250MB of free storage.

One of the capabilities you have is anything stored in Dropbox can be accessed from your smartphone. All you have to do, once you have a Dropbox account, is download the app on your smartphone. This page will take you to links for any of the devices. For BlackBerry users, the easiest route is to go to BlackBerry App World and search for "Dropbox."

For BlackBerry PlayBook owners, there is not a Dropbox app, although hopefully that will come. Until then, there is a great free app called "BlueBox." BlueBox will allow you to download files from Dropbox to your PlayBook. It will also allow to upload files from the PlayBook to Dropbox. The missing element is the ability to sync with Dropbox.

I use BlueBox as the way to get files from my PlayBook to my computer. If I take a picture on my PlayBook, all I have to do is upload that picture with BlueBox. In a few seconds, it is available in the Dropbox folder on my computer.

While having Dropbox on my BlackBerry is a great convenience, the real productivity boost comes from BlueBox on my PlayBook. It is an essential piece in allowing the PlayBook to become a laptop substitute.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Live, Laugh, Love...That's American Education

Michael McBride of Plano Senior High School (Plano, Texas Independent School District) provided this speech for a gathering of Plano teachers.

Monday, November 14, 2011

You Want Heroes?

This article is now several years old, yet it's message is eternal. In the world of journalism, there is perhaps no truer friend of education than Frosty Troy. His message is that if we are truly looking for heroes in our society, the classroom is an awfully good place to start. His article can be read here.

As we begin this American Education Week, there is perhaps no more appropriate time to remind ourselves of how essential teacher are to the prosperity of this nation--past, present, and future.

Is there a teacher, past or present, who has made a significant impact on you or a loved one? Have you taken the time to tell that teacher how much he or she has meant? What are you waiting for?

Friday, November 11, 2011

On This Veteran's Day...

Veteran's Day is called by various names and celebrated in various ways by friends around the world. In England, they call it Remembrance Day. The playing of Nimrod, one of the movements of Edward Elgar's Enigma Variations, is a tradition on this day.

Veterans Day is an opportunity not only to carve out time from our lives to remember those who gave their own, but to celebrate all that we enjoy. Today is also my Davonia's birthday, my wife of 22 years. Nimrod happens to be one of her favorites.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Your BlackBerry Can Talk!

Yes, not only can your BlackBerry talk, it can speak a variety of languages. The speech capabilities of the BlackBerry provide the subject for today's post.

iSpeech Translator

This app allows you to choose the language to translate "from" and "to." You can type a phrase and see the translated text displayed. By tapping on the speaker icon, you will hear the translation read. By tapping on the microphone, you can speak your text. iSpeech will provide you the written translation, or you can tap the speaker and listen to the translation.

iSpeech Translator is available for the BlackBerry and the BlackBerry PlayBook. Go to BlackBery App World on either device to download this free app.

How many times do you find yourself driving along andyour smartphone starts vibrating? New e-mail is arriving! What do you do? Do you look down and read it while still trying to concentrate on the road? Or, do you resist the temptation until you arrive at your destination? eliminates the dilemma. Turn in on, and when new e-mail arrives, reads it aloud to you. Earlier, we reviewed Vlingo, which also has the capability to read your e-mail, plus much more. So, you may not find the need for this On the other hand, if you weren't crazy about Vlingo, but like the read-aloud feature for e-mail, may be for you.

If you want, you should waste no time in going to BlackBerry App World on your handheld and downloading it. Search for "Compliments of BlackBerry." comes in two versions. The free version reads the e-mails. The Pro version allows you to respond to e-mails by voice. RIM has make the Pro version free for a limited time (until the end of December from what I know).

Next Posts

The next three posts will deviate from this month's theme of great apps for your smartphone. Salutes to Veteran's Day and American Education Week will provide an "intermission" from talk about apps. Starting with the November 18 post, we will continue the discussion of some must-haves for your smartphone and tablet.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Apps for Musicians

When I was a teenager and learning a musical instrument, there were several essential tools for practice. First and foremost was the metronome, that unforgiving "tick-tock" that forced one to keep a steady tempo. Without it, you were prone to rush or drag without knowing it. As I remember, a basic metronome in those days set you back about $50.

A tuner was essential. Being able to look at a tuner as you play and see which notes are sliding sharp or flat develops the ear and allow ones playing to be much more pleasing to the listener, especially when playing with others. I felt pretty lucky that technology had advanced to the point that when I started teaching (in 1982), I could purchase a battery-operated tuner for slightly over $100.

Having a piano nearby always comes in handy. Being able to check yourself when practicing sight-singing is just one example. Of course, pianos take up a good bit of room and cost a good chunk of change.

Times have changed. I have all three tools on my BlackBerry PlayBook. If fits in the pocket of a sports coat, and the total cost for those three tools combined is 99 cents.


On your PlayBook, go to BlackBerry App World and search for "Steady-Tick Metronome." The cost for this app is 99 cents. The image on the screen looks just like the old-fashioned metronome from my childhood.

On your BlackBerry, go to App World and search for "Classic Metronome." This app is also 99 cents and presents the same old-fashioned look. This version gives you several options, including the normal metronome click, the sounds of a cowbell, the sound of clapping, or no sound at all. In the no-sound mode, you see the pendulum action of the metronome along with the BlackBerry displaying a flashing red light on each beat. The app will even emit an A-440 pitch for purposes of tuning.


On your PlayBook, go to BlackBerry App World and search for "Instrument Tuner." As you play your instrument or sing, the app will display the name of the note you are playing and give you a reading on whether the pitch is in tune, sharp, or flat (and to what degree). This app is free, which sure beats the $100+ I paid in the early 80's for a stand-alone tool that did the same thing.


What would you think about having a miniature piano keyboard in your pocket, and for free? On your Playbook, go to BlackBerry App World and search for "Piano." You will find several. This one is free, is currently rated at 4 1/2 stars, and has a range of two full octaves. You can play single notes or chords, and the sound is remarkably good. For a child, this app would prove a great introduction to the piano keyboard.

While these apps are available on BlackBerry App World, you will probably find comparable apps for other platforms.

For those using an iPad, Honeycomb, Galaxy, or any other tablet currently on the market, have you found an app that does what is described here? If so, leave a comment to let me and other readers know about it.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Vlingo: Your Personal Assistant

The most notable and publicized feature of the iPhone 4S has been "Siri." Vlingo is its parallel for the BlackBerry and other devices.

This video provides a great demonstration of Vlingo:

Here is a video explaining the "in car" capabilities of Vlingo. The demonstration is on an Android, so i am not sure about all of the capabilities you see here for other platforms.

Here you see a person using Vlingo while driving:

Finally, this cartoon video expands on the capabilities shown in the other videos. It's hard whether all of this capability is present now, or whether some is plans for future releases.

A free version of Vlingo is available. You can find it by selecting the BlackBerry App World icon on your handheld and searching for Vlingo. Versions are also available for Android, iPhone, Nokia, and Windows Mobile.

Another reason for exploring BlackBerry apps during this month is the current offer from RIM, the makers of BlackBerry. BlackBerry e-mail services were down for several days during October. For this reason, RIM is offering to its customers approximately a dozen apps paid apps for free. The apps are being released one at a time during November and will remain free through December. The full-fledged version of Vlingo is one of those apps. On my Facebook page, I am posting about the apps as each is released. Come on over and "Like" that Facebook page to stay up on the latest about the free apps.

Is anyone already using Vlingo? Are you using something similar? I would be interested in hearing your thoughts.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

There's an App for That

Commercials are great for leaving us with catchy phrases that remain with us. A generation ago, we had the unforgettable, "Try it, you'll like it" and "I can't believe I ate the whole thing!" One of the memorable ones of late is, "There's an app for that."

The leading makers of smartphones vie for our attention with the apps available for them. This month, I will be presenting my favorite apps for BlackBerry and BlackBerry PlayBook. If I write about an app you already use, let me know what you think about it. Let me know about any features I may be missing. If you use another smartphone, do what I do. When I read about a great app for another smartphone, I look to see if there is a BlackBerry app that does much the same thing. One of the statements often made about BlackBerry is that there are few apps available compared to the Apple and Android. This chart illustrates the disparity.

Only 20, 000 apps, but just how many do you need?

BlackBerry has a mere 20,000 apps written for it, while Apple tops the list at 350,000. But just how many apps do I need anyway? The surprise for me has been how many apps I see promoted in commercials which I later find are also available for the BlackBerry. I must admit, when it comes to putting ones best foot forward, RIM has not been doing such a good job. They make good stuff, but lack in the marketing department. I guess this month is my attempt to help them out a little.

BlackBerry App World
Look for App World icon on your BlackBerry

If you are new to finding and downloading apps, BlackBerry App World is the place to go. Look for the App World icon on your handheld. If may be hidden in a folder, so don't forget to check there. If you don't see one, use your BlackBerry's browser to go here and get it.

First up is Poynt. It provides information about things in your location (if your device has GPS capabilities) or any location you enter:

  • Business- Poynt is like the yellow pages. Enter the name of a business or the type of business ad Poynt provides the information for businesses in your area.
  • People- Poynt is also like the white pages. Enter the name of a person and see the phone number, address, and map to the location for any person in your area with that name.
  • Movies- Tap on the "Movies" icon and see a list of recent releases. You can see where movies are playing, get directions to theaters, view trailers, or read reveiws.
  • Restaurants- See a list of restaurants in your area. Search by cuisine. Read restaurant reviews and get directions. Planning a trip? Enter the zip code and view restaurants there.
  • Gas- When you are looking for a gas station, Poynt shows you locations and prices of all stations in the area.
  • Events- Looking for something to do? Poynt shows a list of events along with ticket information, directions, and available photos.

Poynt is a must-have, and is available for BlackBerry, Android, iPhone, WIndows, and Nokia.To get it for your BlackBerry, click the BlackBerry App World icon on your handheld and search the site for "Poynt." You can also download Poynt on the PlayBook by tapping on the BlackBerry App World icon on your PlayBook and searching for Poynt.