Various batteries: two 9-volt, two "AAA&q...
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If you have any interest in exploring the potential for iPads in schools, you need to be following the journey of Fraser Speirs.   He’s the author of a few OSX and iOS apps, but also teaches computing at the Cedar School of Excellence.  Like many others, he’s in the midst of implementing an iPad initiative.  Unlike many others, he’s documenting the heck out of it.

His most recent post on the topic keys in on battery life.  I had to read the post through twice, because it explains in practice what I’ve been ranting about in theory for the past few months; that the killer feature for the iPad in schools may actually be its battery life.

I know, that sounds strange doesn’t it? But tell me if this sounds familiar to you…

When I was a tech coordinator, I had one laptop cart under my jurisdiction.  However, that cart was a major time suck to say the least.  It navigated like a Sherman tank in the halls, and often required furniture to be re-arranged so it could rest safely along the wall in a classroom, and still reach an outlet.  In the best of scenarios, a teacher would have to carve out at least ten minutes to get the cart set up, the laptops distributed and the computers booted up.  At least five minutes before the end of class were required to get everything put away.  That’s 15 minutes of learning time that nobody will be getting back.  And that’s the best case scenario.    A the worst case, some of the computers would have been put away without being plugged in, or the plus might have fallen out.  Students would spend 5 minutes watching a computer boot, only to have it shut down due to no battery life.  Or some might not power up at all.  And then the teacher needs to figure out what to do when 17 of 20 students have laptops and two are without.

We bowed and payed homage to the gods of battery life in so many ways.  We sacrificed periods after the cart went out so that the laptops would have time to recharge.  We bought charger after charger, so we could have one set on the cart, another in bags for checkout and others as spares if the students needed to power them up during a class period.  It’s just an inherent weakness with the platform.

And now comes a device that gets 10 hours of non-stop use.  That’s non-stop video playing, which is hardly a ‘real’ example.  In real world practice, I found that I could use it for that much time and still have about 50% batter life yet.

But is that really a significant enough reason to say that it’s a worthy contender in schools?

Look at it this way…  There’s no boot time at all, and programs open instantly, so there’s no class time lost there.  It takes up virtually no space and is incredibly lightweight.  And best of all, students could be using it EVERY period of the day and still not need to do a midday charge.  Is that compelling?  You bet it is.

As Fraser says, “Simply put: if your device doesn’t last for 10 real-world hours of use, your device is no longer competitive in education. I can’t imagine ever going back to using 4-hour devices like laptops on a regular basis.”

What do you think?  Are you willing to sacrifice Flash for battery life?