The power finally came back on tonight through most of our community after this ridiculous fall snowstorm left things very dark and very chilly for a few days. The kids, not surprisingly, were in electronics withdrawal and the only thing in the house with enough battery life that I wasn't conserving to try and do some actual work was the iPad. An iPad 2, to be exact. The longer battery life in that model came in handy as it was passed from kid to kid as the days wore on with no sign of power crews.
The iPad, though, as most school systems who have looked to them for 1:1 initiatives know, is not cheap. It's fairly rugged, but my almost 2-year old isn't the most careful little girl on the planet and one of my kids is surrounded by a technology destruction field (he killed 3 netbooks in one year, one of which was a ruggedized Classmate). The others are a bit more cautious, but the average student can find plenty of ways to shorten the life of these handy little devices.
As I've noted, I think the jury is still out on whether the iPad represents the best 1:1 device available (and whether we've developed the pedagogy to make them really shine), but this hasn't stopped a lot of school districts, as well as individual students and teachers, from investing in them. As with any investment, iPads are worth spending a bit extra to protect from the rigors of backpacks and small, slippery (or sticky) hands.
So while the review i was planning to do earlier this week on a Luidia eBeam that's been sitting in my office was derailed by the snowstorm, another review item came by way of DHL on day 2 of our power outage. Tuff-Luv sent me their new Scribe iPad case to put through its paces and I have to say that it may be the single best case for school iPad deployments I've ever seen. The eBeam review, by the way, will be coming this weekend.
I had previously purchased one of their Tri-axis "Stasis" cases (they use small magnets to turn off the iPad screen just like Apple's Smart Covers) after my dog tore the heck out of a Tri-Axis test unit for my Xoom tablet (and the tablet survived unscathed). The new Scribe case, however, begs for backpack use. The pre-production models I received (in leather and hemp) lacked the stasis technology from the Tri-Axis case covers, but it will be part of the production version. Otherwise, however, the new case covers were well-padded and would certainly survive my evil dog.
More interestingly, though, the Scribe includes a pad of paper and a holder for a pen (or capacitive stylus). While most folks will happily tap and gesture till the cows come home, there are many times when the ability to jot down a note on an actual dead tree is important. Even removing the pad, the case could hold folded papers or notecards and also has a slide-out tab that can hold sheets from the pad of paper, ID cards, cash and 2 SD cards. Like their in-Genius smartphone case, the Scribe could be all a student needed to grab on the way out the door (especially if someone can get this whole electronic textbook thing right).
Our favorite during the power outage was the natural hemp case since it never got cold to the touch like the leather. Tuff-Luv also makes a faux leather version that is the most affordable (it was the so-called "veggie leather" that my dog ate).
Speaking of affordability, the cases themselves aren't exactly inexpensive. Neither, though, are iPads. Even a basic iPad 2 protective case/cover tends to run around $30 and students probably shouldn't be issued expensive tablets without a cover. The roughly $60 price tag of the veggie leather cover may put this closer to the territory of holiday gift than suitable for mass deployment to students, but, where budgets allow, it wouldn't be hard to justify the price with the added utility. In fact, one could pretty easily argue that anything that allows students to leave more backpack-filling paper products behind and use the iPad more naturally and frequently actually increases ROI.
The point here is that schools, students, parents, and staff need to protect their investments. Replacing a stack of books and binders (and even a backpack) with a well protected iPad, a pad of paper, and a pencil (that also doubles as a folder and wallet) makes for a particularly nice vision of the average student in 2012. While e-textbook technology needs to catch up, Tuff-Luv's latest case will be a much appreciated gift this season and is definitely worth a look for school IT staff nervously handing out $500 iPads to eager students.