Sometimes the only way to make progress is to leave something behind.
As more and more mobile devices are brought in to the classroom, it becomes increasingly important to protect these investments by keeping them safe from harm and heavy use. OtterBox provides cases for smartphones, portable media players and tablets for today's most popular mobile devices. Before the International Society for Technology in Education's annual conference wrapped up in San Diego last Wednesday, I had the opportunity to spend a few minutes with a rep from OtterBox, who introduced me to the company's flagship solution for protecting devices and an accessory that offers a surprising degree of instructional value too.
A fellow teacher overheard me talking to the Otterbox representative and felt compelled to share with me her own positive experience with the company's Defender Series cases. "I teach second grade," she said, "and I can tell you these cases are awesome. There isn't a day that goes by when someone doesn't drop one, but we've never had one break." She did, however, warn me that applying the case is not very intuitive and admitted that she actually had to watch a video on how to do it. I confess — I did too.
OtterBox makes protective cases for most of today's popular devices, from the Amazon Kindle Fire to the Samsung Galaxy Tab. Since I own an iPad 2, the rep let me try out the Defender Series case for the new iPad and iPad 2.
Two pieces of polycarbonate form the case's inner shell and snap together firmly, and the outer silicone layer wraps snugly around that. The built-in screen protector prevents scratches, and fingerprints wipe off easily with a soft cloth. The versatile shield provides additional protection for the touchscreen and doubles as a handy, built-in stand that can be angled in four orientations, including at a natural typing angle.
Few cases on the market offer this level of protection, but there is a tradeoff. Weighing in at 15.84 ounces, the Defender Series case is significantly heavier than its counterparts. Older students may not mind the added heft, but younger ones may find the combined weight to be too heavy for casual reading or for using certain applications that require the device to be held for very long.
Otterbox's Utility Series Latch case, meanwhile, wraps six unique functions into a single versatile package: It's a hand strap, lanyard, shoulder strap, head-rest attachment, leg strap and angled stand. Four elastic loops grab the corners of the Defender Series case to secure the hand strap to the backside of the case.
The Latch case seems to work equally well with any 10-inch tablet form factor, securing my Acer Iconia Tab perfectly. The elastic is sized to provide excellent grip without adding extraneous thickness to the overall assembly. The case also includes a small zippered pouch that's perfect for storing accessories.
When it comes to classroom applications, the two features of the Latch that stand out to me are the hand and shoulder straps. Teachers often use their tablet to refer to their notes during presentations and usually need to show students images or video clips. The hand strap makes it easy to hold and display their digital content easily and securely.
Sometimes, holding a tablet for extended periods of time can be difficult, and teachers often find that there isn't a safe or appropriate place in their classrooms where they can temporarily set down their devices. But the shoulder strap on the Latch case connects to two mini S-shaped nylon carabiners on the hand strap assembly, making it easy for teachers to carry their tablets as they would an over-the-shoulder satchel.
For more on ISTE 2012, visit our ISTE 2012 Conference page.