What Chromebook Case Option is Right For Me?

Congratulations- you’re the proud owner of a new Chromebook! You’re all set up too- you’ve got your reliable WiFi connection, your chromebook headphones with microphone, and the charging cord just in case you need to plug it in after a few hours of use. Looks like you’re all set to bring your Chromebook everywhere you want to go!

But…what are you going to put your Chromebook in? If you haven’t already noticed, there are a multitude of cases specially designed to accommodate Chromebooks on the market, and it can be a bit overwhelming to determine which of these options best fit your needs. Fortunately for you, we did the research, so you can just sit back, relax, and read on about the advantages and potential drawbacks of each of the most popular types of Chromebook case available.

Briefcases and Carrying Cases

NUTKASE BALLISTIC NYLON FOLIO

Need a little more room for your peripherals, charging cord, Chromebook headphones with microphone, and other accessories? You may be in need of an upgrade to a carrying case! These soft-sided, briefcase-style bags are equipped with a handle, carrying strap, or both for easy transportability, not to mention a number of pockets for your other school or office supplies. We like the NutKase Ballistic Nylon Folio Big Pocket for Chromebook shoulder bag carrying case.

Pros:

– Slim, compact profile allows for ease and convenience.

– Solid outer clamshell design and quilted padding interior for maximum durability and protection.

– Accessory storage pockets eliminate the need for a second backpack or bag. Students can transport everything in one case!

– Padded shoulder strap provides comfort and ease when on the go.

Cons:

  • May not be practical for those who rarely have to carry their Chromebook long distances.

Who Should Buy One: Any student or office worker who needs to transport their Chromebook back and forth every day should look into this convenient, all-in-one carrying solution. It is especially ideal for kids on hybrid learning programs.

Gumdrop Cases*

Gumdrop DropTech Case

Before you ask, no- these cases are sadly not made of gumdrops. However, if you are looking for a case that is so durable and rugged that it renders your Chromebook virtually unbreakable, this may be a case worth looking into! Gumdrop cases combine the impact-resistant outer shell of a standard hard case with the practicality of rubberized sides, backs, and edges to help build air pockets inside, cushioning just about any blow. We like the Gumdrop DropTech Case for Chromebook.

Pros: 

  • Made with durable thermoplastic polyurethane for extreme drop protection.
  • Rubberized sides and back offer maximum shock absorbency.
  • Slim profile makes your Chromebook a breeze to pack in a backpack, briefcase, or suitcase!

Cons:

  • No variety of color or style options are available.

 

Who Should Buy One: Do you or your kids drop stuff, like, constantly? Do you work in a field that involves you bringing your laptop to construction sites, geological digs, or other dangerous surroundings? Do you just want to be certain that nothing’s going to break your Chromebook? This might be the best investment you ever made.

Hard Cases (Shells)

Max Case* Extreme Shell

As its name implies, a hard case is, well, hard. That is to say, it is built for durability and can protect your Chromebook in a number of otherwise problematic situations. We like the Max Case* Extreme Shell for Chromebook.

Pros: 

  • Rugged hard outer shell provides shock resistance from drops, collisions, and other types of impact or force. 
  • Dust-proof, waterproof case protects against other types of damage.
  • Shell fits right over your Chromebook, protecting it in the same way that a phone case protects your smartphone- no excess baggage when you travel!

Cons:

  • Most hard shell Chromebook case models don’t have a handle or carrying strap, meaning you’ll have to carry it separately in your hands or put it into a backpack or messenger bag.

 

Who Should Buy One: Anyone who is prone to dropping their laptop at regular intervals (read: your kids) or who has to commute on foot, by bicycle or scooter, or take public transportation regularly, as these activities increase the chances of dropping your Chromebook.

No matter which style of case you choose for your Chromebook, it’s important to always make sure the case you choose is designed to fit the size, make, and model of your laptop. These cases are rarely a one-size-fits-all option and it’s imperative to read all the fine print either online or at the electronics store to ensure it will fit your Chromebook.

It’s also fun to choose a case that suits your personality as well as your Chromebook protection needs. No matter what kind of commute you have or how often you have to take your laptop out of the house, the most important thing is to select a case that fits your lifestyle.

Additionally, keep in mind that a case for your Chromebook is always a great investment, no matter how infrequently you plan to take it out of the house. By purchasing a case for your Chromebook now, you can have the ability to safely transport it wherever you want to go in the future.

By taking good care of your Chromebook and keeping it protected against drops, collisions, shattering, dust, and water when you’re on the go, you can look forward to many years of enjoying your computer and learning new things!

 

*Though not listed on our website, Gumdrop and Maxcase Chromebook cases are available in classroom-sized quantities from Encore Data Products. Contact Customer Service to tell them what you need and they’ll provide options and a quote.

How Headphones in the Classroom Support Independent Learning

Classroom headphones are becoming more and more popular; however, many are still on the fence about how they can create and support an ideal independent learning environment. From minimizing background noise to helping students relax, headphones are quickly becoming one of the top learning tools utilized by instructors in classrooms around the world. Read on to learn some of the benefits headphones can bring to any classroom.

Minimize Background Noise

Classrooms are noisy. Even in the quietest classroom, students talk, keyboards clack, and pencil sharpeners whiz all throughout the average school day, so why let these noises distract your learners? Headphones facilitate noise cancellation, allowing students to ignore the noises they’d normally hear every day. As a bonus, they also allow for a quieter classroom in general, meaning instructors can receive some quiet time as they prepare for other lessons or grade assignments. 

Optimal Learning Environment

A quiet learning environment optimizes students’ learning experience, meaning they can learn quicker and retain more information. Optimized learning environments allow students to focus on their tasks, and headsets are the perfect way to create the correct atmosphere for each student’s needs. One methodology a number of instructors find helpful is teaching their students that when headphones are on, it’s time for learning. This tends to make students know they need to focus on what they’re focusing on. Finally, some students learn better with music. Allocating time for students to listen to their music while working on an assignment may improve focus.

Practical Applications

Headphones are not just for the classroom; they can also be used in a variety of other locations. Certain areas or lessons may benefit from headphone use, including:

  • Listening Centers
  • Language Labs
  • Computer Labs
  • Using Computer Programs
  • Watching Videos
  • Cafeterias 
  • Events
  • Field Trips
  • Loud Areas 

Some of these areas may be for the benefit of the environment, like computer labs, while others can benefit students with disabilities who can feel overwhelmed by too much stimulation. Regardless of where headphones are used, they allow students to focus on what instructors are teaching without distractions.

Facilitates Relaxation 

School can be a stressful environment, especially for younger children. They’re outside of their comfort zone which may cause behavioral issues, stress or anxiety in some children. Headphones allow students to relax and create their own personal learning space they can thrive in. For students who become overstimulated or those with behavioral issues, instructors may find that giving students a few minutes of headphone time may calm them down or allow them to better focus on lessons before rejoining their classmates.

No Hearing Issues

Parents understandably may worry about their children’s hearing, but headphones at a reasonable volume have not been shown to cause hearing issues. Most hearing issues are actually caused by constant exposure to extremely loud noises, like concerts, construction sites or even noisy classrooms. Headphones give students an auditory break by making them refocus on their lessons and protecting their hearing. Finally, students with hearing issues may become better equipped to complete their lessons by adequately hearing their instructors.

Maximizes Focus

We’ve talked a lot about focus in this article, but it definitely necessitates its own section. Headphones allow students to “spend” their mental effort in productive ways by focusing on learning, without over-exerting their brainpower. Headphones block out noise and feed students the information they need to know, which can be especially helpful for auditory learners who may struggle with traditional visual learning methodologies. By pairing headphone learning with visuals, instructors can reach all their students—no matter which learning style they’re more likely to utilize. Finally, headphones during testing periods allows students to create an individualized learning environment that fits their needs, meaning they may score higher on standardized test scores.

Make Easy Accommodations 

Accommodating students’ needs can be difficult, especially when multiple students are at different reading levels. Students who are behind can experience stigmatization from their peers if their delays are known. Headphones allow students to learn at their own pace, letting instructors tailor each students’ curriculum to their needs, rather than attempting to make all students learn the same material (with some falling behind and more advanced students becoming bored) at the same time.

Make Learning Fun

Keeping students’ attention all day can be one of the hardest aspects of teaching due to the monotony of lessons. Headphones can facilitate learning becoming a fun experience. Even giving students headphones in a fun color can make learning fun, but they also allow teachers to utilize a variety of programs and games they wouldn’t introduce their students to without headphones. Finally, teachers can reward their students for good behavior with “headphone time” by allowing them a few minutes of music or games, leading to better behavior in the classroom.

Affordability 

Creating an individual learning environment for each student can be expensive, from printing personalized worksheets to buying special supplies. Headphones allow instructors to easily tailor their curriculum to each student by allowing them to utilize a variety of programs they simply need to download onto a device and plug some headphones in. This allows instructors and schools to spend a minuscule amount of funds when compared to what they’d spend completing the impossible task of tailoring their supplies to each students’ needs. While headphones may have a higher up-front expense, they can save schools thousands over the course of the school year.

Headphones can become an invaluable tool for schools and instructors to create individualized learning environments for all their students. From facilitating quiet, safe, and less stressful learning environments to making accommodations dependent on student’s learning styles and their ability to handle the stressors of a classroom. By providing students with headphones, teachers will most likely see an improvement in focus, grades, and test scores, meaning they have more time to dedicate to crafting better lesson plans, completing administrative work, and spending more time outside of the classroom. For more information on school headphones, please visit our website.

How to Identify the Best Headsets for High Schoolers?

As young adults with different educational goals and needs (not to mention larger heads!), it stands to reason that high school students may have different requirements and use cases for school headphones. Here are some of the things you should consider when determining which headsets will be the best for your high school student.

Ear Cup Size

Available in three primary styles, (in-ear, on-ear, and over-ear) the right ear cup size depends on each student; however, there are pros and cons of each style as detailed below.

In-Ear – Commonly called earbuds, in-ear headphones require users to place the headphone directly into the ear canal. This facilitates excellent sound quality while keeping outside noise to a minimum—all while being portable. However, they can be exceedingly uncomfortable or regularly fall out if using the incorrect fit, expensive and easily lost.

On-Ear – Sitting on top of the ear, on-ear headphones send sound directly into the ear canal while still being portable. They also have a few drawbacks though, namely that they can’t filter out background noise and need to have a proper fit to avoid causing pain to the user.

Over-Ear – Providing the best sound quality of all three options, over-ear headphones cover the entire ear, allowing for noise cancelation. They’re the least portable option; however, students are unlikely to move from their computers, making this a moot point for most high schoolers. This is usually the ideal pick for most students.

Comfort

High school students are going to wear their new headphones for several hours each day, so comfort should be a top priority when looking for which model to purchase. Again, exactly which model is purchased depends entirely on the student. In-ear and on-ear headphones need proper fitting to ensure a comfortable fit while most parents can purchase nearly any pair of adult-sized over-ear headphones. Finally, when examining over-ear or on-ear headphones, make sure to find a pair that has a soft, padded ear cup.

Microphone

In-ear headphones won’t have a built-in microphone which means a separate purchase for parents to ensure proper communication and ideal sound quality between students and teachers. In comparison, microphone options are available on both on-ear and over-ear sets with varying sound qualities. Look for a set that allows the mic to go close to the mouth—ideally around an inch to prevent picking up background noises while also not catching breathing from the user. 

Sound Quality

On-ear headphones provide the poorest sound quality of all three headphone options, allowing background noise to filter in and cause distraction. In-ear and over-ear headphones will give the best sound quality, with both filtering out background noise while delivering sound directly into the ear canal for optimized sound. 

Wired or Wireless

All three styles are available in both wired or wireless options, with the right headphone depending on the student. Wired headphones plugin directly to the computer to get their power supply, meaning no one has to worry about batteries or charging, but they also prevent movement—only allowing the student to travel as far as the cord will let them. Wireless headphones allow total freedom of movement; however, students need to make sure they charge their headphones after each use or keep track of the battery life if the headphone uses disposable batteries.

Price

Headphone prices can vary greatly, with some models costing hundreds of dollars. While the adage of “you get what you pay for” is often true, many companies offer affordable headset options well under the $50 dollar mark that are perfect for students and will last for years. Most people will see when examining specs that cheaper headphone options offer many of the same benefits as more expensive models or a minuscule difference. 

Top Picks

  • AVID Education AE-75 Deluxe Over-Ear Classroom Computer Stereo Headset TRRS Plug

    AVID AE-75

    These are our number one pick for a reason, they’re one of the best models on the market—no matter what price point. The ear-cup is well padded and the head strap adjustable to ensure maximum comfort while the over-ear style allows for excellent noise cancelation. The microphone is in the one-inch sweet spot, meaning students can speak clearly with their instructor and peers, while also facilitating pin-pointed accuracy to cancel out background noises. Finally, the universal functionality means this set will work across almost all devices, platforms, and applications.

 

  • AVID AE-55 Black and Silver Headset TRRS Plug

    AVID AE-55

    Slightly less deluxe than the AE-75, these headphones are an excellent budget option. Offering Avid’s superb sound and mic quality, this model is perfect for those looking for a durable and dependable headphone system. The bidirectional boom rotation facilitates clear sound quality while the braided rope and padded ear cups allow students to comfortably wear them all day long.

 

  • HamiltonBuhl Smart-Trek Deluxe Stereo Headset with In-Line Volume Control And 3.5mm TRRS Plug

    HAMILTONBUHL SMART-TREK

    Much like the Avid AE-55, these headphones are great for those on a budget. Durable and versatile, these headphones are compatible with most educational technologies as well as offering a rugged, comfortable design that’s more than capable of standing up to the normal wear-and-tear that students commonly put their supplies through. While not quite as padded as the AE-75, these HamiltonBuhl’s ear cups are comfortable while the adjustable head strap ensures students receive the right fit.

 

 

  • Andrea Communications WNC-2100 Wireless Noise-Canceling Bluetooth® Mono Headset

    ANDREA COMMUNICATIONS WNC-2100

    These Bluetooth headphones mean no more cords, but they also come at a steeper price. The 12-hour battery life means high school students will be connected throughout the day while the semi-rigid boom ensures mics will stay put. What really pushes these headphones over the edge is the sturdy carrying case, meaning no more damaged headphones. 

 

 

 

  • HamiltonBuhl WSP2BKDeluxe USB Multimedia Headset

    HAMILTONBUHL WSP2BK

    Unlike the rest of the headsets on this list, this headset connects through a USB port that’s both PC and Mac compatible. The ear cups are soft and comfortable while the steel-reinforced mic features in-line volume control. Easy portability makes this a great option for remote use while the anti-lice bag means they can be used in school as well.

 

 

Choosing the right headphones for your student is an important decision, and with a plethora of options on the market, it can seem like an endless number of choices. When you select headphones, make sure you have your student’s comfort in mind while looking for excellent sound and mic quality. Remember, the right headphones save money in the long run.

What Are the Best Listening Levels For Toddlers, Kindergartners, and Elementary School Students?

Parents, we’re not going to beat around the bush. Sometimes you just need a break from hearing “Baby Shark” on repeat…and that’s OK! 

Or maybe you’re looking forward to a nice quiet dinner with your spouse, thanks to a little help from your friend the iPad keeping your little one occupied with a nice episode of Peppa Pig while you engage in the first adult conversation you’ve had all day. 

Even parents of older kids know that having to overhear your child’s Fortnite battles can wear a little thin, especially if you live in a small space!

What we’re saying is, if you are the parent of a toddler, kindergartner, or elementary school student, we’re not telling you anything you don’t already know when we say that a set of good headphones for your child can sometimes be worth its weight in gold, if that’s what’s keeping them happy, occupied and engaged while you take a little time to focus on other tasks.

School Headphones: The MVPs of 2020

Beyond their amazing capabilities of providing you with a little peace and quiet while your kids enjoy a little screen time, headphones were a surprise lifesaver for parents and students everywhere when the COVID-19 pandemic forced schools to pivot to remote learning. Suddenly, school headphones weren’t just a nice-to-have accessory for kids’ leisure time; they were an integral part of a student’s school day- and a means to preserve the sanity of parents trying to keep multiple kids on-task, focused, and free of distractions during class time.

But…How Loud is Too Loud?

However, the sudden necessity for school headphones had a bit of a downside for some parents who feared that the volume levels could harm their little ones’ delicate ears. After all, what’s to stop a toddler or preschooler from cranking the sound up to 11 the second Mom or Dad aren’t watching, unintentionally blasting their ears and potentially damaging their hearing? Even older kids need to exercise caution when it comes to listening to music, TV shows, or video games through a set of headphones. For those of us who can’t help but worry a bit about our kids’ hearing getting permanently damaged through prolonged or repeated use of headphones, here’s a guide to the preferred listening levels for toddlers, kindergartners, and elementary school students, as agreed upon by pediatric health professionals.

Toddlers

Since toddlers are defined as a child between the ages of 1 and 4, a big part of the danger from headphones is that they can’t always tell you if noise is too loud. Because of this, it’s essential that parents take safety precautions to ensure their kids’ hearing is protected when using headphones. One of the best ways to do this is to purchase volume-limiting headphones. Since many models of school headphones are equipped with a built-in volume-limiting control, these are a good bet for parents looking for maximum protection for their young children. One word of caution, however: volume-limiting headphones are designed to go no higher than 85 A-weighted decibels (dbA), while the recommended “safe zone” for toddlers is no higher than 60 dbA, so you should still monitor your child to make sure they aren’t turning it up to full blast.

Preschoolers and Kindergartners

For kids ages 4 to 6, volume-limiting headphones can be a huge help to ensure that they are still within the recommended levels for safety. Because the inner ear of a child is more sensitive to noise than that of an adult, younger children are more susceptible to sustaining noise-related damage that could potentially have a permanent effect on their hearing. Doctors recommend keeping the volume to about 82 decibels for a preschooler or kindergartner’s 8-hour school day. Just to put this number into perspective, the top volume on an iPhone is about 102 decibels, which means a safe level for a small child is approximately 70 percent of a device’s full volume.

Elementary School Students

Older kids’ inner ears are not nearly as sensitive as those of a toddler or preschooler, but the potential for damage and hearing loss are still a concern. A study of 8-to-12-year-old children in 2015 revealed that over 50% of kids listen to music daily, as do over 67% of teens. Since older kids are more likely to use headphones or earbuds on a more regular basis, it is important to make sure they are not listening at levels that can lead to hearing loss. One good way to test this is to ask them something while they’re listening to their music, game, or show, says James F. Battey, Jr. M.D., Ph.D., former director of the NIDCD. “If a parent is an arm’s length away, a child wearing headphones should still be able to hear when asked a question,” he said in a December 2016 article in the New York Times. Sure, this test may get you a few eye-rolls, but at least you’ll know their hearing is not at risk!

What Else Can I Do?

  • Aside from purchasing volume-limiting school headphones, here are some steps you can take to ensure your children’s hearing is being protected.
  • Schedule Listening Breaks- Insist on short 10-15 minute breaks between listening periods so your kid’s inner ear can have a rest. 
  • Invest in Noise-Canceling Headphones- Rather than let your kids use earbuds, which puts the sound that much closer to the inner ear, purchase a set of noise-canceling headphones, which can lessen the need for higher volumes by blocking out background noise for a quieter listening experience.
  • Keep an Eye on Them- This sounds ridiculously simple, but the best way to make sure your kids aren’t turning the volume up too loud is to supervise them while they’re using their headphones. If you can hear what they’re listening to through their headphones, you know it’s too loud! Of course, it’s not always feasible to watch them every time, so headphones with a set volume limit provide an extra layer of protection.

 

By following these tips you can make sure your kids protect their hearing and avoid issues down the road. Listen responsibly!

 

The Hottest Education Technology Conferences for 2021 and 2022 (and How You Can Attend)

Calling all educators! The 2021-2022 education conference season is heating up, with special events dedicated to a wide variety of topics and featuring presenters and keynote speakers from nearly every area of the industry. 

What makes this an extra-special year for attending conferences? For one thing, you just may have the option to do so from home in your pajamas! After pivoting to virtual-only conferences in 2020, many events scheduled for this year have opted to either retain their online formats completely or to offer a choice between in-person attendance and logging in remotely. 

Whether you can’t wait to get back to a real live face-to-face conference with your education industry peers or you’ve developed a strong preference for attending virtual events, you’re sure to find something for you in the 2021-2022 education conference lineup.

Here are just a few of the hottest conferences to attend this year, along with their details.

Fall CUE (Computer-Using Educators) 2021 Conference- October 23-24, 2021- Stockton, CA

Hosted by the Teachers College of San Joaquin in conjunction with the San Joaquin County Office of Education, the Fall CUE Conference welcomes educators who aim to employ technology in many areas of their teaching. This is the first year that the annual conference will be held at the Teachers College in Stockton, CA, and it will be an in-person event with a virtual-only or hybrid option- a first for this organization that prides itself on incorporating technology into various aspects of education.

According to the event website, “Fall CUE 2021 will bring together the brightest edtech minds in education to share best practices, innovation, and engaging sessions with actionable takeaways you may immediately put to practice in your classroom, school, or district!” This is a can’t-miss conference for teachers or school administrators who want to take their classroom tech game to the next level. Admission is $299 for an all-access pass for both in-person and virtual events, with lunch provided both days, and $129 for a virtual-only pass to attend.

Can’t make it to the fall session? Good news- Spring CUE is just months away, from March 17-19, 2022, in Palm Springs, CA. 

FETC (Future of Educational Technology Conference)- January 25-28, 2022- Orlando, FL

What’s the future of technology in education? Discover what the landscape of teaching and learning will look like in just a few short years at this year’s FETC in Orlando. 

For 41 years, FETC has been providing the essential guidance necessary to help educators thrive amid ever-changing technology. As the world of education continues to evolve, it’s absolutely critical for teachers and administrators to have the latest, most up-to-date technology and equipment available. FETC is committed to helping educators keep up with the times by understanding and using these latest advances to help their students achieve their learning goals. 

“We’re ready to welcome you back safely!” boasts the FETC website, which offers three different tiers of attendance passes to the in-person-only event, along with an additional flat rate of $190 per workshop for those who opt for the Daily or Basic passes instead of Premium access. Daily passes are $315, Basic passes range from $340-490, depending how far in advance they’re purchased, and Premium passes, which include unlimited access to workshops, range from $860-1010. It’s not exactly the most cost-effective conference, but fear not- FETC’s website even has a printable, customizable “justification letter” to help you make your case for attending the conference to your boss. They’ve really thought of everything!

2022 TCEA (Texas Computer Education Association) Convention & Expo- February 7-10, 2022- Dallas, TX

The annual TCEA conference is an excellent resource for educators looking to better engage their students through technology while maintaining a focus on solid teaching. Back in person for the organization’s 42nd year, the convention and exposition focuses its annual event on connecting educators with innovative teaching strategies and techniques, as well as with each other.

While registration for the TCEA Convention & Expo does not open until September 23, 2021, you’ll definitely want to register early on to take advantage of “early bird” rates. Admission ranges from $59 for an exhibit hall-only pass to $339 for an all-access pass to all four days of the convention, with pricing scheduled to increase on November 20. All registration fees include a one-year TCEA membership to help further your pursuit of better teaching through technology.

 

ISTELive 2022- June 26-29, 2022- New Orleans, LA

Looking to incorporate a little fun into your convention experience? Start planning your trip to the Big Easy next summer for ISTELive 2022! ISTE (the International Society for Technology in Education) is one of the most popular and well-attended conferences for educators looking to accelerate transformational processes in their schools.

ISTELive provides an interactive experience where educators from across the globe can participate in an exchange of ideas with some of the top thought leaders in education technology, as well as musicians, authors, and other creative innovators. Together during this three-day conference, teachers and school administrators can get new insights on how to move the needle in their own classrooms when it comes to incorporating technology into their lessons.

ISTELive 2021 just wrapped up, so there’s not much info about registration for next year’s event just yet. Keep checking back at the website for registration and attendance details.

For those in the education industry who are intent on staying up to date with the latest best practices for technology in the classroom, these conferences are an ideal opportunity. Not only do conventions like these put educators front and center for all the latest information on new equipment, teaching strategies, and more, but they also provide an outstanding opportunity to network with fellow technology-minded teachers around the world. 

Encore Data Products is proud to participate in numerous education conferences this year, where we will be showcasing our quality line of school headphones, along with our other most innovative learning products and equipment designed to enhance the learning experience. If you’re attending one of the conventions below, stop by the Encore display in the expo hall and let us know how our education technology equipment has made a difference in your classroom.

Creating a Clean and Healthy Classroom this Fall

As summer vacation begins to wind to a close, parents, students, and teachers alike are setting their sights on a school year that looks much more like the ones we all used to remember. After a fun-filled summer of gathering once more with our friends and loved ones, not to mention the return of playdates, summer camp, and Fourth of July fireworks in the park, we’re all excited to welcome the 2021-22 school year and get our students back on track for a year of in-person learning.

However, we’re not completely out of the woods yet. Due to the rise of COVID-19 variants, lagging vaccination rates in some parts of the country, and the fact that the vaccine still has yet to be cleared for kids under 12, it is still absolutely essential to approach the upcoming school year with an abundance of caution. For educators, this means ensuring that their school buildings and individual classrooms continue to adhere to the rigorous cleaning and sanitizing practices put in place during the 2020-2021 school year. For some districts, this may mean continuing to require masks for unvaccinated students and teachers, along with maintaining last year’s social distancing protocols. However your school district chooses to approach it, it is critical that we ensure our students’ safety and protection while they are in class. 

Here are some of the top supplies and equipment that have been helping to keep schools protected against COVID-19 outbreaks and keep students learning in their classrooms.

Hamilton-Buhl HygenX Sanitary Headphone Covers- from $16.95

For schools in districts with limited budgets, the necessity that COVID-19 has placed on educators to avoid communal use of supplies and equipment has created a bit of a problem. How can teachers affordably and safely ensure that each student is protected without the ability to buy an entire class set of some supplies? These headphone covers are an ideal solution for schools without the available budget to purchase a pair of disposable headphones or earbuds for every student in every grade. 

HygenX covers come in unique and convenient “tissue box” style packaging for easy storage and distribution. Hypoallergenic material and weave design give you full sound quality, comfort and protection. By simply stretching these hygienic covers over the ear cups of any standard size classroom headsets, your students are ready to confidently and safely share with the rest of the class. Maintaining proper hygiene is more important now than ever and these covers are an easy way to keep your students safer and cleaner in shared environments. Not only do these covers help teachers effectively adhere to COVID-19 safety guidelines now, but they can also provide excellent protection against the spread of other viruses, bacteria, and head lice.

Hygenx Disposable Microphone Covers– from $16.99

OK, now you’ve got your hygienic headphone covers, but what are you supposed to do to keep the rest of your headsets clean and germ-free? A perfect companion for disposable headphone covers, these covers are made to fit over standard USB headset microphones, protecting students from accidental exposure to germs. Made with hypoallergenic, latex-free black polyester with a special weave design, the HygenX disposable, sanitary gooseneck microphone covers are individually wrapped for ultimate protection and safety, are simple to use, and can be changed quickly for multiple users of headsets in a short period of time. Simply place the cover over the microphone, tighten with the Velcro tab, and you’re all set, ensuring cleanliness and peace of mind! 

Disposable microphone covers for headsets take germ protection to the next level, keeping the microphone sanitized and free of germs for communal use. 

Classroom Disinfectant Wipes Jumbo 4-Pack- $149.99

Disinfecting wipes can safely and effectively disinfect and sanitize shared surfaces, such as tables and desks, as well as equipment and school supplies that may be used by multiple students each day, making them quite possibly the single most important thing for schools to be equipped with this school year. Made with a non-toxic, hospital-grade disinfectant that is proven to kill 99.9% of bacteria, flu virus (A2/Japan), H1N1, staph, MRSA, E.Coli, salmonella, HIV-1, and more, these wipes can quickly and safely disinfect all hard surfaces of your classroom, leaving your learning environment safe and sanitary for your students, and restoring peace of mind to parents who have been apprehensive about having their kids return to school in person. 

Highly effective against germs, yet safe for use on all surfaces and free from benzyl-alcohol, citrus, bleach, and phenol. Classroom Disinfectant Wipes are EPA registered in all 50 states.

Hamilton-Buhl HygenX V-Ray Portable UV Sterilizer- From $189.90

Unfortunately, not all classroom surfaces can be effectively sanitized and cleaned with disinfectant wipes. This handheld UV sterilizer tool has become extremely popular with teachers and school administrators looking to eliminate viruses and bacteria from anywhere they may hide in the classroom. 

The cordless and portable sterilizing wand emits UV-C light that quickly and safely sterilizes and decontaminates all objects and surfaces in a classroom setting, including stuffed animals, electronics, and other hard-to-clean surfaces. .The V-Ray can be used to safely sterilize everyday items that are used and shared in classrooms, offices, and homes, helping eliminate the expense and waste associated with disposable sanitizing wipes. 

An excellent choice of UVsanitizer, the HygenX V-Ray allows for hands-free ease of use, safety, and peace of mind to ensure every shared item is clean and sterilized!

As we prepare to welcome our students back to a school year that feels much more like the way we remember it, it’s important to remember that it is still our duty to protect children, teachers, and staff by maintaining careful sanitation practices. Even when COVID-19 is no longer a risk we must keep top-of-mind in the future, keeping classroom equipment and surfaces clean and free of germs is still crucial for the continued health and safety of students and teachers.

By using these tools and equipment in your school, you’ll be able to start the year off with confidence that you are bringing the best, safest in-person learning experience to your students each day!

Education Recovery With the CARES Act and Title 1 Funding

The year 2020 will likely be remembered for one significant event- the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting fallout that caused the world to change completely almost overnight. Some of the creative workarounds and pivots we were forced to devise in order to continue the various systems and processes that make up our society turned out to be even more beneficial to us than the way we did things before and are likely to become part of our everyday lives even after the pandemic has officially ended. Food and grocery delivery services, online shopping, and mobile banking, for example- all things that previously existed but soared in popularity amid the pandemic- are now the preferred method for tackling ordinary household chores.

In person learning, however, does not seem to be in danger of being replaced by its online counterpart. While remote learning was a necessary pivot for K-12 schools across America for nearly all of 2020 into 2021, the educational model was less than successful for numerous students, who experienced what experts are referring to as a “learning loss gap”- a backslide that could potentially set their educational goals back for an entire school year or more. Because of this, teachers and school administrators are hard at work planning various interventions, including, in some cases, mandatory summer school, to help students most at risk of retention catch up to their pre-pandemic learning levels. 

Among the most at-risk groups for experiencing this learning loss are students from Title 1 schools. “Title 1,” which refers to Title 1, Part A of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, better known today as ESSA, is a program that provides financial assistance to local schools and educational agencies with high percentages of children from low-income families through allocation of various types of grants. Title 1 exists to help schools in underserved communities receive the necessary funding to provide educational intervention services to students who are at risk of failing to meet state academic standards for their grade level. 

Title 1 Schools and the CARES Act

More than ever, Title 1 schools are in need of funding to help bridge the technology and resource gap in the wake of COVID-19. The pandemic shined a spotlight on the disparity between schools in affluent areas and Title 1 schools in terms of technology and equipment necessary for remote learning. Students from wealthy school districts had far less trouble obtaining laptops or tablets in order to attend school from home, not to mention a reliable internet connection to attend class sessions and complete online homework and projects. Low-income students from Title 1 schools, on the other hand, found it much more difficult to attend school remotely due to lack of the basic technological requirements.

However, thanks to funding from the $30.75 billion Education Stabilization Fund included in the $2.3 trillion CARES Act passed in April 2020, Title 1 schools received one-time funding to help facilitate remote learning and keep at-risk students learning amid the COVID-19 crisis.

Intended to provide initial relief to the states and districts facing the toughest education challenges due to the coronavirus, the Education Stabilization Fund was divided into three parts:

  • The $13.5 billion Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund, which is allocated to states based on the number of students in poverty. States are required to allocate 90 percent of this funding to districts, including charter schools, based on Title 1, Part A of ESSA. Districts have flexibility over how and which Title 1 schools are funded, while states have the flexibility to decide how and where to target the remaining 10 percent of funding not allocated to Title 1 schools. This one-time funding equates to approximately 80 percent of annual funding for the most recent year of Title 1, Part A.
  • The $3 billion Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund, which was allocated to states based on a combination of school-age population and poverty rates. Governors of these states were granted broad discretion over how these funds are used to best support K-12 schools.
  • The $14.25 billion Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund, which was granted directly to higher-learning institutions for support with emergency financial aid for students. Approximately $1 billion of this fund is earmarked for historically Black colleges and universities, as well as minority-serving institutions.

In addition to the CARES Act, congressional COVID funding passed in April 2021 has reserved an additional $123 billion for K-12 schools to be distributed through Title 1, with the focus on helping schools in underserved communities reopen safely, as well as helping students catch up on the learning they may have missed during the pandemic.

What the CARES Act Means for Title 1 Schools

Because such a large percentage of education funding from the CARES Act is targeted toward helping Title 1 schools, it is expected to make a significant impact on these schools’ ability to bridge the learning loss gap for at-risk students. A large portion of this funding is anticipated to be used toward technology and equipment to support students’ learning process.

This raises the question: what is the most effective and impactful use of funds for each Title 1 school, and how can these schools get the most out of their allocation? Many schools are looking into low-cost, high-impact technology solutions that benefit the highest possible number of students. 

School headsets and earbuds, for example, help block out unwanted noise and distractions, allowing students to focus on the lessons at hand. Affordable headsets such as the award-winning AVID AE-55 TRRS headset are highly beneficial to students in

ELL/ESL programs, since they provide the quality mic sensitivity necessary for language-learning software at an affordable price. The AE-55 also carries the benefit of meeting state testing requirements to leverage usability.

AVID’s AE-1M earbuds with inline mic serve as another affordable school headphone option that facilitates quality microphone sensitivity when student response is required.

For younger learners, the disposable AE-215 earbuds are an ideal low-cost solution, featuring rubber tips to provide greater comfort and fit for small ears. Each of these headset and earbud options can make a large impact on learning and information retention, for a relatively low price.

As schools continue to navigate education in a post-COVID society, it is imperative that they have the technology and equipment necessary to reach the most at-risk students and intervene before any further learning is lost. Only then can we have the essential tools we need to help all our children succeed. 

 

Kids Headphones & Safe Listening This Summer

Summer has arrived and that means summer travel, kids spending time at the pool, beach, or lake, and listening to tunes or playing games on a smartphone or tablet with headphones. Have you ever wondered if the headphones you’re buying your kids are safe for their little ears? With a recent study out about kid’s headphones and potential hearing loss, it’s reassuring to know that JLab’s JBuddies kids headphones ensure the volume only goes to safe levels and are safe for your toddler, preschooler, tween or teen. Tested and approved, JLab provides a volume regulator in the headphones to ensure your kids never listen past 85 decibels, which is the limit set by the National Institute for Safety and Health back in 1998, according to the New York Times.

Some brands however, market their headphones as being safe for listening but are turning out to exceed 85db; which at full volume, could cause damage in only a few short minutes. Researchers offer advice that even with a regulator it’s still important to provide supervision to your kids listening habits, and to try and maintain their volume at about 60% (nytimes.com).

Back in 2017, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) published a study for hearing loss among adults based on noise inducing causes and the vital signs of damage. According to the CDC, “Nearly one in four adults (24%) had audiometric notches, suggesting a high prevalence of noise-induced hearing loss.” Essentially, noise-induced hearing loss is more common than we even realize, often unrecognizable among adults. The damage happens over time and can start at an early age. This is why safe listening habits need to be practiced early with young kids.

“If a parent is an arm’s length away, a child wearing headphones should still be able to hear when asked a question.” (nytimes.com)

The Wirecutter, an association of The New York Times, hosted the thorough study with about 30 kids on the panel and chose our JBuddies Studio Headphones as the best corded big kid headphones.

The Wirecutter’s Lauren Dragan and Brent Butterworth noted that “despite claims that kids headphones limit volume to 85 decibels (the level the World Health Organization considers “safer”), up to one-third of the kids headphones we tested exceeded that level when measured with pink noise, allowing higher volumes—sometimes much higher,” the article noted. (thewirecutter.com)

To read the full in-depth article on the testing process and the headphone results check it out on The Wirecutter, or read more about safety on The New York Times.

References:

The New York Times: Children’s Headphones May Carry Risk of Hearing Loss

The Wirecutter: The Best Kids Headphones 

CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention): Vital Signs: Noise-Induced Hearing Loss Among Adults – United States 2011-2012

 

Closing the “Learning Loss” Gap

The COVID-19 pandemic changed nearly every aspect of ordinary life almost overnight. Everything we once took for granted — watching our children’s soccer games, grocery shopping, and having friends over for dinner– suddenly became fraught with concern over our health and the well-being of our loved ones. Life as we knew it ground to a sudden, frightening halt as new regulations and restrictions were put in place to help minimize the spread of the novel Coronavirus. The resulting closures of restaurants, stores, and offices across the country and around the world continue to affect our economy as we work to rebuild from the events of 2020.

Perhaps one of the most seismic disruptions to our society was the closure of schools due to the pandemic. Students from pre-kindergarten through college were suddenly unable to gather in school buildings for traditional classroom instruction and instead had to quickly pivot to remote learning over Zoom or other video conferencing apps.

This provided a new series of challenges and roadblocks that teachers, parents, and students alike faced as they worked to navigate the uncharted waters of distance learning. For some schools, the mere act of ensuring that each student had access to a reliable internet connection and a laptop or tablet was the most daunting obstacle. Other school districts struggled with maintaining adequate attendance, mitigating issues with technical difficulties, and ensuring that students were effectively learning at a distance when teachers could not physically be there to check their work in real-time.

Parents of school-age children faced their own set of challenges with remote learning. Many parents, who were also working from home due to the pandemic, found themselves having to monitor their children’s school sessions while also trying to attend their own online meetings and do their own work. In a nutshell, remote learning was largely an unpleasant experience for everyone involved, especially in the early days of the pandemic in Spring 2020.

After taking the summer to re-evaluate their remote learning strategies and address the pain points that had arisen over the initial weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic, school districts nationwide were able to fine-tune their remote programming, provide training to teachers on basic usage of equipment and technology, and outfit students in need with Chromebooks, tablets, and school headphones that could be used to optimize their remote learning environment at home. A number of districts even offered payment assistance to families without reliable Wi-Fi in their homes, to better ensure that students would have fewer technical difficulties to overcome in a typical school day. Remote learning, while still not perfect, has come a long way since March 2020, and can now be seen as a viable solution in the future for days when children cannot attend school in person due to inclement weather or other concerns.

But what about the children who struggled the most with online learning? Students who had been placed on IEPs, in addition to ELL/ESL students, were statistically most at risk for losing much of what they had learned prior to the onset of the pandemic. This “learning loss gap,” as it is called, measures how much students may have regressed as a result of being unable to attend school in person.

For school administrators and faculty across the nation, the learning loss gap was always accepted as a foregone conclusion from the start of the pandemic. “One of the things we realize is that no matter how good a job we do, there’s going to be a regression and there’s going to be learning loss,” Mark Secaur, the deputy superintendent of the Hewlett-Woodmere Public Schools in Woodmere, New York, told EducationWeek. “And a lot of the work we’ve done is to try to identify the gaps that will be caused by this and try to mitigate them.”

Closing the Learning Loss Gap in 2021

With the advent of COVID-19 vaccines for people ages 12 and up, and vaccine approval for children under 12 on the horizon, the future is looking much brighter for the 2021-22 school year. 

School administrators are planning to use the coming school year and the apparent normalcy that is anticipated to return with it to help close the learning loss gap and bring students back up to pre-pandemic reading and math levels.

For many districts, this means starting the school year early by offering summer school programs at no cost to parents. The Baltimore City School System has taken this one step further, making summer school attendance mandatory for all students in the district who are currently failing in their studies. According to the Baltimore Sun, the mandate has caused some controversy but is still believed by the district to be the best possible way to provide outreach and intervention to the students who need it most.  

Other districts that are offering summer school programs on a voluntary or mandatory basis plan to make the best use of available technology to help close the learning loss gap. Specialized learning technology for ELL students allows them to progress and practice at their own individual paces by digitally tracking progress, strengths, and weaknesses to create a customized learning experience. 

Students who have access to high-quality school headsets, such as the AE-55 model from AVID, are able to utilize this technology and work through their custom language lessons free from distraction or background noise. Available with both USB and TRRS plugs to accommodate any device, the AE-55 is a top choice for educators for use with listening centers, ELL language learning labs, and more.

Thanks to the dedication and diligence of our teachers and school administrators, as well as the availability of cutting-edge educational technology, school districts nationwide are hopeful that we will be able to effectively close the learning loss gap caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The road ahead is not going to be an easy one, but our schools are committed to seeing that our students gain back what they’ve lost over the past 18 months and emerge even stronger than before.

The Perfect Combination of Doc and Web Cam for Virtual Learning

Whether you’re a teacher, a student, or a parent, the 2020-2021 school year will be forever remembered as the year of the “pivot.” Who could have ever seen this coming? In an instant, the educational model we have relied on to teach our elementary, middle, and high school students, not to mention all of the young adults at higher education institutions, was turned upside down by the events of the COVID-19 pandemic, forcing educators and school administrators everywhere to reimagine the American classroom. 

However, every cloud has a silver lining, and in this case, it was the rapid acceleration of the use of technology both to teach and to learn in the remote school setting dictated by the pandemic. Unable to walk between rows of desks in a traditional classroom, checking over the shoulders of students to ensure that they were grasping the key concepts of each lesson, teachers found themselves in need of a way to keep school every bit as engaging, interactive, and effective from a distance as it is in person. Fortunately, certain pieces of technology already in existence helped teachers and students achieve the level of interaction necessary for a productive school day- and it’s expected that this technology will continue to help educators connect with their distance learners both during the rest of the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. 

Armed with the ideal combination of document cameras and webcams, teachers can still interact with remote learners as if they were right there in front of them! By allowing students to see their teacher’s face and what they are teaching them at the same time, doc cams and webcams are bridging the gap between in-person and remote learning as we edge closer to being able to bring back the traditional five-day school week for kids across America.

Doc Cams vs. Webcams– What’s the Difference?

While we’re all familiar with webcams, thanks to the endless stream of Zoom meetings we’ve participated in this past year, document cameras, or doc cams, may be a little less familiar to those not in the education industry. Here’s a little side-by-side comparison of what each of these cameras does to enhance the remote learning experience for students and teachers alike.

Webcams

While many desktop monitors and laptop computers now come equipped with webcams for video chats and more, older monitors, like those that may still be in use in classrooms across America, do not always have a built-in webcam to use for virtual classes. 

Even if your school computer is equipped with a webcam, these built-in models rarely offer the same level of quality, flexibility, and versatility as an external model like our picks below. Fortunately, there’s no need to upend the school budget with all-new monitors or laptops for school staff, thanks to these affordable yet highly effective webcams that are compatible with nearly all models of computer.

HamiltonBuhl® SuperFlix 720p HD Webcam with Gooseneck Stand- from $35 

With its non-slip base and built-in microphone, the SuperFlix offers a simple solution for teachers in need of a quality webcam at an affordable price. 

Features:

  • Internal microphone with excellent voice pick-up capabilities and clear recording production
  •  5 million pixel registration
  • 30mm to infinity focal range
  • Easy plug-and-play setup
  • Supports both Mac and PC
  • 1x IR LED light: Infrared light for shooting at night and in low light areas
  • Bendable arm for optimal positioning
  • Shutter button for easy still-image capture

 

QOMO WebCam 004- from $69 

This affordable high-definition webcam allows you to stream live classes, record future class content, and more! Easy to clip on and adjust, the WebCam 004 offers a lot of bang for its buck

Features:

  •  USB connection- no drivers required!
  •  Professional quality 1080p camera lens
  •  Built-in dual mic
  •  Tripod adapter on base fits the optional tripod

 

 

 

 

Adesso CyberTrack H6- from $89.99 

Looking for an ultra-high resolution desktop webcam that fits both your price range and your remote teaching needs? Meet the CyberTrack H6! Starting at just $89.99, this 4K ultra-high resolution camera allows you to be heard loud and clear as you livestream or record lessons for your remote students.

Features:

  • 120-degree view angle
  • Integrated wide-angle microphone
  • Broad Instant Messenger compatibility

 

 

 

 

Doc Cams

Less widely-known than webcams, but just as important for remote learning, doc cams, or document cameras, are an absolute necessity for the visual learners in your audience! While webcams capture the auditory part of your lessons, complete with voice inflections, facial expressions, and more, doc cams help provide an integrated classroom experience by showing students everything their teacher is writing on the virtual blackboard. 

Remember those overhead projectors we had at school as kids? Doc cams are a high-tech version of that concept, beaming lessons into remote students’ homes all over the country and helping them follow along with math problems, spelling and grammar lessons, and a variety of other practical applications. 

Here are some of our favorite doc cams- and the price is right, too!

QOMO QPC22 ScannerCam- from $209 

Affordable, high-quality, and ultra-portable, the versatile ScannerCam triples as a document camera, scanner, and webcam all in one! Its perfect balance between quality and portability allows teachers to easily transport their ScannerCam for presentations and lessons wherever they are.

Features:

  • USB connection for high-quality image and video capturing
  • Low energy consumption LEDs provide illumination in any condition
  • High definition 8 MP camera
  • Built-in mic
  • Lightweight and portable

 

 

 

QOMO QPC20 F1 Ultra Portable Scanner and Document Camera- from $199 

Slightly larger but every bit as powerful, the QPC20 F1 offers everything the QPC22 ScannerCam does, at a lower price!

Features:

  •  USB connection for high-quality image and video capturing
  •  Low energy consumption LEDs provide illumination in any condition
  •  High definition 8 MP camera
  •  Built-in mic
  •  Lightweight and portable

 

 

 

Though this school year looks unlike anything we’ve ever had to experience before, there’s still a way for teachers to reach their students through effective, interactive lessons. Thanks to webcams and document cameras, as well as headsets for the students to learn in a distraction-free environment, the school experience can still be just as stimulating from a distance as it is in person.