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More protection on the way for student tablets
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A case has been made for protecting Manteca’s 23,500 Panasonic 3E tablets that cost $499 a pop.

The tough rubberized case will be shown to the Manteca Unified board when they meet Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the district office, 2271 W. Louise Ave,

District Superintendent Jason Messer has been working with a vendor to design the case. It’s design — a heavy, corrugated rubber — absorbs almost all of the pressure from books and other heavy objects that may press against the screen.

The leading cause of breakage has been when the device is placed in backpacks with books.

The cover also reduces damage when the device is inadvertently stepped on. It also significantly improves protection when the device is accidently knocked from a desk top to the floor.

Messer said the covers will initially be distributed to the seventh and eighth graders where breakage has been the highest.

The cover is designed so the tablet can be used with the cover in place.

Screen breakage is the biggest problem with the devices.

There were 470 devices out of 23,500 reported to have damage due to a cracked screen during the first three months of use. The breakage rate of 2 percent is less than what was anticipated.

By contrast several California districts using Chromebooks report breakage as high as 20 percent.

Of the 470 cracked screens, 75 percent were processed by the manufacturer as a warranty claim. A number of those broke when dropped a distance of 70 centimeters or less. That distance is significant as it is the distance between desk tops and the floor. Panasonic said the design was made to withstand such a drop.

Messer said he is working with other districts — internationally and in the United States — to impress upon Panasonic if they want to continue to retain the education tablet market that they need to made subsequent generations of the 3E compatible with the cases that represents a significant investment although it is roughly an eighth of the cost of the actual device.

Messer said while software updates are expected that could make existing models obsolete to a degree what isn’t acceptable is changing the hardware and shape that would render the covers unusable.

Since the 3E was designed specifically for schools, a supplier has not marketed a cover. At the same time, most manufactures do not make covers tough enough for most tablets to meet a school’s requirements.

The cover Messer is showing to the board Tuesday is to tablet protection what the Otter Box is to smartphone protection.