Making The Grade is a weekly series from Bradley Chambers covering Apple in education. Bradley has been managing Apple devices in an education environment since 2009. Through his experience deploying and managing 100s of Macs and 100s of iPads, Bradley will highlight ways in which Apple’s products work at scale, stories from the trenches of IT management, and ways Apple could improve its products for students.
I am in full back to school mode in my school. One of my big tasks every summer is to get our 200+ iPads ready to go back into the classroom. This process includes cleaning them, installing recent iOS updates, replacing broken cases, and more. Once I get them ready, we start handing them back out to teachers to get into the hands of students.
While doing my podcast with Fraser Speirs, I would often get emails asking what my recommended cases, charging solutions, and more were. I wanted to list some of my favorite items here. If you are in back to school planning as well, you might want to examine your current setup to see if any of the items I mention here could help:
The case we are using currently is the JetTech iPad case. It can usually be found for under $10, it’s durable, it supports sleep/wake when you open it, and it’s easy to install. As I mentioned before, you have to be careful with iPad cases because if you end up going with one that is $30 per iPad, you’ll spend thousands and thousands of dollars.
Do you know what my strategy has been? To buy the absolute cheapest case possible, and then I constantly remind students about how much the iPads costs. My current go-to case is this model. It’s $8, and it provides some basic protection. Is it going to cover against a direct fall on concrete? Probably not, but it’s a lot less expensive and a lot more functional.
It’s not as fancy as something Apple sells, but it works for us.
If your iPads stay in your classroom overnight, you’ll need a way to charge them. If you want to go high end for charging needs, look at solutions from Bretford or ERC4Kids. They both provide large charging stations that you can lock up. If you want to go low budget, I recommend a charging brick from Anker. Depending on the number of iPads you have, you may need a couple of them, but they work well.
If you need extra lightning cables in bulk, I recommend the AmazonBasics choice. They have a 6-foot option for $8. I’ve found them to be plenty durable over the years. There are better ones out there, but for the money (and in bulk), these are the way to go.
Adding a physical keyboard to the iPad certainly does increase the ability to type quicker. I’d argue that is just a small reason to use a physical keyboard on the iPad, though. One of the main reasons I use it when I do is so that I can see the entire screen. When the iPad software keyboard is activated, half of the screen is gone. When you are using an app like Google Docs, being able to see more of the screen is a huge feature. The 9.7″ iPad feels very cramped when writing using the software keyboard for long periods. I also struggle ergonomically when I use the iPad for longer period writing. I feel like I’m hunched over the iPad to be able to write and see the screen.
I don’t think you need a 1:1 deployment of keyboards, but we have some of the Belkin ones for when a task requires it.
These are some of my favorite accessories to use in the classroom. Do you have any more to add to the list? If so, leave a comment and let me know?