Todays Entry: Covers.
My school district is in the middle of a large technology initiative. This initiative is a sub part of the Texas Literacy Initiative (TLI) Grant and our school district received enough funds to purchase 7200 iPads which will be spread out from our pre-K classrooms all the way through our 12th grade. The iPads will be used for improving literacy in selected campuses and grade levels.
I thought what I would do during this rollout is to create a diary so that other districts could share our knowledge, our successes, our mistakes, and maybe find some useful information that they can use when they’re ready to do a large technology rollout like we are doing.
The first entry has to do with covers for iPads.
First things first: Whatever you do, do not purchase the Apple iPad “smart covers.”
Smart covers are in no way designed for use in the classroom, unless the classroom happens to be a group of unexcitable adults that know how to take care of technology.
You need to find covers for your ipads that will give them some level of protection against accidental drops. Smart covers do not do that. I love Apple, I have the smart cover for classroom use.
When you purchase iPads no matter the quantity, they come with a limited Apple warranty which is good for one year. This warranty covers most of the inner guts of the iPad but does not cover accidental breakage. In a school district like ours, we have found that with the limited number of iPads that we do have, most of the breakage has to do with accidentally dropping the devices, stepping on them, falling off tables, et cetera.
There are companies that offer supplemental accidental damage warranty or insurance for iPads, but these usually add a cost to the device ($99 was what we found), which with a large rollout such as this adds a significant cost to each device. We decided we didn’t want to buy supplemental insurance, as cost was indeed a limiting factor. All the supplemental accidental insurance that we found also had a deductible, usually which had to be paid for each one of the accidental claims. So you were paying $99 additional for each device, plus an additional deductible which in many cases for the ones that we looked at, turned out to be about $45 per incident.
So just one accidental drop or breakage what add $144 to the cost of the device. This was way out of our price range ($144x7200) so we decided to skip the additional warranty and the additional accidental insurance and instead concentrate on getting some the best covers that we could get. We figured if we got really good covers they would protect the devices from most of the accidental breakage that came from falling off tables accidentally dropping and things like that.
You will have to decide internally if the cost of insurance is a better deal than the cost of the covers. For us, we chose the covers AS our insurance.
There are many many iPad covers out there. But there are not a lot of iPad covers that guarantee that your iPad will survive or are built to withstand some kind of fall or accidental drop. (We called them “ruggedized” covers.) When we started looking for covers we had one thing in mind: find covers that would protect our devices from our students dropping them. So being a public school district we had to go to a bid proposal because this is going to be a fairly large purchase of 7200 of these cases are covers and so we sent out a bit. We had budgeted about $35-$40 per cover (Amazon.com retail prices were what we based that on), but that was the high end. We knew that we probably would get a better deal based on the quantity of the bid.
Of course we had no specific cover in mind when we went to bid, but we had looked on the Internet for covers that were designed to protect iPads and there were a lot out there. Some of them were built for the military, some of them were built for industrial uses, and actually those are the kinds we were kind of looking at.
We figured if a case could survive being dropped from an airplane or drop from a weather balloon hundred thousand feet, or be used in paintball wars, it could survive a kindergarten student. We developed a set of specifications that each case had to meet, and made that part of the bid. We wrote the bid send out the vendors and we received back solicitations for that bid.
The requirements look like this:
Generally recognized as a Ruggedized Case
Designed specifically for iPad 2
Fits in most standard ipad charge/sych stations and or carts
Demonstrated ability to reduce accidental damage
Easy to Grasp for small children
Reinforced Corner protection
Replaceable Screen Cover
Camera opening front and back
Included USB Charge Cable
When the response to bids came in and the committee looked at the different samples that were sent to us (one of the things that we asked each vendor do is actually send us a sample so that we knew that they would also fit into the charging stations which is a another another diary entry coming up). Of course the criteria above have to be in place in order to even be considered for the to go forward in the bid but one of the things that we did also was we actually put an iPad into a sample case (that we thought would actually protect the iPad) and we threw it across the room with some force to see if it actually would protect the iPad. (We were actually surprised by the number of vendors that responded with cases that obviously did not meet the published requirements. I learned that just because a vendor responds does not mean they are actually reading the entire bid through and through.)
After going through the criteria, as well as our throw across the room test, the company that met all of our criteria and had the lowest bid was the Gumdrop Drop Tech series of cases. (One vendor came very close to the Gumdrop, but their port covers were very flimsy and would easily be ripped off by kids in a classroom setting.)
The Gumdrop Drop Tech cases were very nice in that they had reinforced/ruggedized rubber casings on the back and they have very strong reinforcement on each corner which we believe, is where a major drop would crack the entire case, and they also had a nice cover on the screen which would prevent scratches or other kinds of abuse of the screen.
The cases cover each of the port with a strong rubber cover, the plastic cover on the screen does not interfere with the operation of the device, and they easily withstood repeated drop tests. As a matter of fact, one of the things we like to do around the office is show off the cases by purposely dropping them. The reactions of people seeing it for th efirst time is priceless.
So, to summarize diary entry one:
Plan on getting a ruggedized cover as insurance to protect your iPads from accidents. Plan on spending about $35-45 per device extra for cases. You may pay less, but plan high. If you need to go to RFP, have the vendors send samples. Create a matrix of what you want the covers to do. Test the covers to see if they do what they claim.
This is not an endorsement of a specific cover, rather just a summary of what my district did to pick a particular cover.
Coming up: Choosing a Synch Cart.