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Accessories for protection and improved usability

This article was originally published in the Ministry of Education's Assistive Technology Newsletter. To sign up to receive this newsletter, please email CAT.Help@education.govt.nz

““Accessories are important and becoming more and more important every day.”

― Giorgio Armani, Italian fashion designer

Although I have a feeling Giorgio Armani was talking about a different kind of accessory than I am, his statement is just as true when it comes to the use of accessories in technology.

Often, we focus on the primary device and how it is going to support the student to achieve. And rightly so. However, the accessories chosen to go with that device also play an essential role. They can enable greater independence, better access, and improve the overall experience for the student. They can also create barriers when the accessories chosen don’t match the needs of your student.

Over the next few issues, I’m going to focus on some of the accessories that can be used with devices and what to consider when selecting the right one for your student. As always, the student’s essential learning needs should be at the heart of the decisions made.

 

Protective Covers and Cases

We usually recommend a protective cover or case for any tablet being used in a classroom environment. They provide some protection against bumps, knocks and drops, whether the tablet is being moved around the classroom or transported in a bag or backpack.

Occasionally I get questions about whether a protective cover for a laptop or Chromebook is necessary. Covers for these devices are less commonly available. When they are available, the additional weight isn’t worth the potential protection for most students. Although breakages do happen, they are rare, as laptops aren’t picked up for use as frequently as tablets are (for photos or videos). They also tend to be used in one area, usually a classroom. In contrast, tablets are often taken to a larger variety of settings to capture photos and videos that can then be used back in the classroom.

 

Examples of covers

There are a wide variety of covers available for tablets like the iPad and Surface Pro. Below are some examples of covers that offer full protection (back and screen), drop protection, or light protection. Some come with stands, others have keyboard folios as well.

Otterbox Defender Series Case for iPad

3SIXT Apache Rugged Case

SUPCASE Unicorn Beetle Pro Rugged Case

SUPCASE Unicorn Beetle Rugged Case

Gumdrop Hideaway for iPad 7th Gen

NZSTEM Education Soft handle case

UAG Metropolis Series Case for iPad

STM Dux Plus Duo case for iPad

Logitech Slim Combo keyboard case

Gumdrop DropTech cover for Surface Pro

                                               

Questions to consider

When looking for a protective cover for a student, you’ll need to keep in mind what the device is being used for and what features are going to be most important for your student. All the cases in the table below have been successfully used on assistive technology devices, but not all cases will be successful for your student. Some questions you can consider include:

  • Does it have a stand? How easy is it to use?
  • Can the stand be used in both portrait and landscape modes?
  • If the stand includes a folio cover, does it get in the way of the camera when trying to take photos or videos?
  • Does it offer adjustable viewing angles?
  • How easy is it to use the buttons with the case on?
  • Does it come with a keyboard? Can this be removed? Does it get in the way of the camera?
  • If it has a keyboard, does it have any iOS shortcuts?
  • What guarantees of protection does it offer?
  • If it offers drop protection, from what height?
  • If it has screen protection, will this increase glare or have an impact on the touch surface?
  • Does it offer a place to store a stylus?
  • How much weight will it add to the device?

Final thoughts

It pays to think about why the student will need the cover and focus on the features that will meet this need best. Any other advantages it offers are just a bonus! Have a look in tech shops to see what covers they offer or have a chat to your local assistive technology coordinator to see what advice they can offer. They might also be able to provide equipment for a trial if you’re not sure whether it’s going to be suitable or not.

Most importantly, if something isn’t working – change it! Assistive technology can only be assistive if it works for the student using it.

If you have any other hints, tips or tricks for supporting students using digital technologies, please let me know! As always, if you have any suggestions or questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Assistive Technology

Assistive Technology

Using technology to support students with disabilities and special learning needs.