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Pros: Lightning-fast Web access and solid sharing features create a satisfying browsing experience. Search and sort features for built-in websites are easy to use.
Cons: Long-term use can drain the device’s battery, and gestures that work otherwise on the device are inconsistent or missing. Only a limited list of websites are available for browsing.
Bottom Line: A good resource for accessing websites that aren’t compatible with the device’s built-in browser capabilities.
Encourage students to use their devices to visit Flash-based education and news sites. Have kids use the bookmarking and sharing features to explore different educational websites and then save them for later sharing and use.
Editor's Note: Puffing Academy is no longer available.
Puffin Academy is a Web browser for mobile devices that gives special access to a specific list of education-related websites. Puffin is especially speedy because it does most of the heavy lifting of the Internet -- like downloading and rendering images -- in the cloud, rather than relying on the device’s own computing power. For the average user, this makes the Internet experience seem especially fast. In addition, the app provides useful features for bookmarking, sharing to social media, and sharing content with other mobile apps on the device. It’s also possible to download content directly to cloud-based services like Dropbox, rather than onto the device. As you might expect, staying connected to Puffin’s servers can quickly drain a device’s battery.
Puffin’s main claim to fame, though, is that the app lets users access websites that use Flash, making it a great choice for some mobile games and educational websites. Gamers can choose to overlay game controls directly on the device’s touch screen; it’s also possible to enable a trackpad to interact with websites with more mouse-like gestures.
Although Flash has disappeared from many websites with the advent of the smartphone, it’s not gone completely, and some great Flash-based websites are still out there, especially sites related to education. Puffin brings mobile access to those sites quickly and reliably. Unfortunately, only a slim portion of the Web is accessible through Puffin Academy: The site's main page links to a list of approved sites from such educational institutions as publishers and nonprofits. Some great content is available, but it's definitely limited. While it's technically possible to bookmark other sites -- like the New York Times website -- the browser blocks most sites not on its built-in "whitelist." This is an effective way to prevent kids from wandering into unseemly corners of the Internet, but it can also be pretty limiting.
Other than the limited content, Puffin’s only drawback is its navigation features: The device’s native gestures for clicking and selecting content on a webpage don’t always work with Puffin, making the trackpad overlay more of a necessity than a nice add-on.