Category Archives: Classroom Technology

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.

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!

 

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.

Technology and Equipment Designed for the Return to In-Person Learning

With three different COVID-19 vaccines available to adults nationwide, it looks like we may finally be nearing the end of the pandemic in America. This news is especially welcome to parents of school-age children, many of whom have been overseeing their kids’ remote learning since mid-March 2020, when the coronavirus caused all in-person learning for most K-12 schools to grind to a halt.

While a number of school districts in the nation have since reopened for in-person learning in a limited capacity for the 2020-2021 school year, not all parents have opted into a return to the classroom just yet, and many American students are still learning via Zoom or Google Hangouts rather than in a traditional class setting. However, things are looking like they will be back on track to some level of normalcy for the 2021-2022 school year, and educators everywhere are already planning the best ways to ensure that their students’ transition back to in-person school is both as safe and as smooth as possible.

Part of this planning process includes putting the right tools into the hands of teachers and school administrators. Not only does access to improved technology and equipment help teachers ensure classroom safety by allowing for each student to have their own materials, but it also will go a long way in helping them use the upcoming school year to close the learning gap that experts say has occurred from the shift to remote learning during COVID-19. Here is some of the top classroom technology to help students and teachers return to school this year.

Classroom Sets of Headphones

While children’s education experts agree that the use of headphones can have numerous positive benefits to a child’s learning process, new safety measures that have been put in place by school districts to limit contact between students mean that these headphones can no longer be used at a communal table or listening center. By providing teachers with a class set of headphones, each student will have access to their own pair for use with computer programs, educational videos, or learning labs, giving them a distraction-free way to concentrate on their lessons. 

Of course, the type of classroom headphones that each teacher needs can vary by grade. Younger students who will primarily use headphones to listen to stories or watch educational videos may benefit from headphones designed for comfort and durability. Brands like AVID Products, Califone, Cyber Acoustics, HamiltonBuhl, and ThinkWrite are all optimized for use by school-age children and have been designed accordingly, with adjustable headbands to fit virtually any age, rugged cords to withstand normal wear and tear, and over-the-ear or on-ear cups for sound isolation. 

Older students, meanwhile, may be using their headphones for hands-on instruction via a computer program that requires voice response. In this case, a USB headset with a microphone may be the ideal choice for both practicality and ease of use. Look for headsets with noise-canceling features to help minimize distractions and keep students focused on the task at hand.

Equipment Carts

In a perfect world, each student at school would have access to a Chromebook or tablet on which to complete assignments, take quizzes, and use interactive software as part of their in-class learning experience. However, not many public school budgets can handle the expense of several hundred laptops or tablets. 

Thanks to equipment carts like these, your school can do the next best thing: safely share a limited number of electronics among all classrooms! After each classroom use, the teacher simply needs to sanitize the Chromebooks or tablets with specially-designed electronic wipes, then load them onto the cart for the next class. This way, every student in the school gets a turn to interact with learning technology on a regular basis.

Best of all, equipment carts significantly lower the risk of cross-contamination among different learning bubbles within the school. Most schools that have returned to in-person learning have found great success by grouping small numbers of students into “cohorts,” which are smaller than traditional class sizes and remain together throughout the day. The ability to move equipment from classroom to classroom via a cart, rather than having multiple cohorts of students moving into and out of a computer lab all day, help to cut down on the risk of schoolwide infection, allowing schools to remain open.

Webcams and Document Cameras

Of course, even as we return to in-person learning for our young students, it is imperative that each school retains a plan for pivoting back to remote learning at a moment’s notice in case of an outbreak or a spike in case numbers in the school district. For this reason, we’re including webcams and document cameras on this list. 

At the start of the pandemic, most teachers found themselves unequipped for teaching students over Zoom or Google Hangouts and had to scramble quickly to design a curriculum that could be effectively absorbed without the benefits of in-person instruction. Needless to say, this led to a fair amount of chaos, confusion, and frustration for students, parents, and teachers alike as school districts struggled to navigate this enormous challenge. 

One year later, we’ve learned a lot about best practices for remote instruction, and it’s no surprise that much of it comes down to having the right technology for the job. Teachers at school districts that have invested in webcams and document cameras find it significantly easier to teach lessons as if their students were in person, as this equipment allows them to interact more naturally with students and show examples more easily. A document camera is the next best thing to a smartboard in a classroom when it comes to showing students how to solve a complex math problem or work with words on the week’s spelling list. Best of all, it allows teachers to share documents, such as worksheets or study aids, with their off-site students. 

Meanwhile, webcams allow teachers to maintain eye contact with their students in a way that feels more natural for everyone. Not only does this create a more interactive, engaging environment, but it also enables teachers to get their lesson across more effectively through the advantages of a built-in microphone and other available features to improve resolution at any connectivity speed. 

By supplying your faculty with the right equipment to overcome the new obstacles in education that this pandemic has thrown at us, you can ensure that your students are receiving the best possible education regardless of the twists and turns the upcoming school year may take. Sooner or later, perhaps in the not-too-distant future, we will find ourselves back to the way we were before the pandemic; however, the improvements your school makes to its technology and equipment now will continue to serve your students and teachers well into the future.

Make Distance Learning Less Challenging by Using Quality Headphones

Go ahead, ask any parent- what’s one of the biggest challenges you’ve had to face this past year? 

Overwhelmingly, the answer will likely have something to do with juggling their own work-from-home schedule with the responsibilities associated with their children’s homeschooling due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

We’ve just passed the one-year anniversary of the day that life as we know it was turned upside-down, and it’s been a turbulent ride for many of us who had to navigate the tricky, frustrating waters of working from home while supervising the education of our school-aged children attending school via Zoom. Parents, teachers, and children alike have had a tough time adapting to the challenges posed by distance learning, and it’s safe to say that we’ll never forget 2020 for as long as we live.

Now as more people receive the COVID-19 vaccine and state-by-state case totals trend downward, we’re finally beginning to see a day in the not-too-distant future where the pandemic will come to a close and life will return to normal. Indeed, many school districts have already pivoted back to in-person learning on at least a part-time basis, and the outlook is good for a full return to pre-pandemic school schedules for the 2021-2022 school year. However, we’re not out of the woods yet, and a number of classrooms are still relying on distance learning for at least a fraction of their students. 

As seasoned distance learning experts thanks to the past year’s events, we can say we’ve learned a lot about how to make our kids’ school experience as successful and productive as possible even when they can’t be in person with their teachers and classmates. We’re a lot more experienced with distance learning than we were just one year ago, and we know what it takes to create a distraction-free learning environment that benefits everyone at home. 

One word: headsets.

That’s right- headsets, perhaps the single most important piece of equipment, other than a laptop, that can make all the difference in your child’s distance learning experience. Regardless of the size of your home or the number of kids all participating in distance learning at once in your household, parents can rest assured that the headsets they purchased are allowing their young learners to concentrate on the lesson at hand without becoming distracted by background noise. In essence, a quality set of headphones amounts to a private, secluded learning space for every member of your family!

Headsets aren’t just advantageous for the young students using them, either: for parents who are trying to focus on their own online meetings for work, or who simply need some peace and quiet to get their own tasks done, headsets can significantly reduce noise and distraction. Imagine not having to hear your child’s noisy class discussions in the background while you are trying to finish a critical report or give a presentation to a client. A good set of quality headphones can make this dream a reality, making working from home and supervising distance learning a little more bearable!

Headsets with microphones attached can also come in quite handy for students participating in classroom discussions, as they can help pick up your child’s voice without also picking up every other noise in the background. For kids with younger siblings or pets who are prone to getting noisy, this can save them from unwelcome distraction and embarrassment. When kids are able to rest assured that their classmates won’t hear every little thing going on around them, they can present to the class with confidence when called upon by the teacher.

But how can you be sure you are purchasing the right set of headphones for your child? After all, there are numerous makes and models of headsets on the market at a variety of price points. Selecting the right set of headphones that fits not only your budget but your child’s distance learning needs comes down to the following factors:

Quality: It’s entirely possible to find a headset that meets your price guidelines but also offers a lot in the way of quality and performance. Look for well-known brand names of school headphones that have a reputation for quality. It’s always helpful to read consumer reviews to find out what other parents have to say about the quality of the headsets they purchased for their students.

Durability: Let’s face it- kids are rough on electronics, especially if they are younger elementary school-age students. Even if you don’t pay a lot for a headset, you’d probably like it to last a while before it gets broken by a careless drop to the floor or a frayed cord. Look for headsets with a reputation for durability to ensure that they can stand up to typical use and abuse. We recommend headphones designed for school use since the manufacturers keep durability in mind when designing headsets for children.

Affordability: It’s not necessary for quality headsets to cost a lot, and you shouldn’t have to pay a fortune for each child in your household to have his or her own set of headphones. You can find great headsets at virtually any price point that fits your budget. Select the price range you’re comfortable with prior to making your purchase, and stick with it- you’re sure to find great bargains for some surprisingly high-quality headsets!

The pandemic isn’t going to last forever, but there’s every indication that distance learning will continue to be part of students’ regular lives from now on. Schools have begun reverting to remote learning schedules in the event of snow or other severe weather. Bad news, kids- we may have seen the last snow day ever! 

Since it seems highly probable that teachers will continue to incorporate remote learning experiences into their students’ curriculum on at least a limited basis, having a quality headset is something that will benefit your child long after things get back to normal. By investing in a set of headphones for your student.

What Makes an Award-Winning Headset?

If you’ve had any previous experience with headsets, you already know that they’re not all created equal in terms of quality, durability,  and affordability. But what does it take for a headset to transcend “good” to become “multi-award winning?” Just ask AVID, the makers of the AE-55 headset model that just took top honors at the Tech & Learning ISTE Best Of Show 2020 awards and Tech & Learning’s 2021 Best Remote Learning Tools.

Meet the AE-55 Headset: Available in a variety of colors and with a choice between a TRRS or USB 2.0 plug, the AVID AE-55 checks all the boxes for quality, performance, and price. Starting from $17.99 for a USB headset and just $10.95 for the TRRS plug model the AE-55 headsets are designed expressly for student use, keeping comfort and durability in mind. 

Equipped with a bi-directional microphone that rotates 270 degrees, the AE-55 allows for an ambidextrous noise-reducing experience. A chew-resistant 6-foot cord with a Velcro tie emphasizes safety, durability, and convenient storage. Easy-to-clean removable leatherette earpads optimize comfort while also allowing for essential sanitation and protection against germs and viruses needed in today’s school environment. 

Best of all, the AE-55 is an affordable solution for educators looking for bulk TRRS or USB headsets for use in classrooms, libraries, computer labs, and more. School administrators can provide their students with award-winning performance and durability without breaking the bank and staying well within the school’s budget

About the Tech & Learning ISTE Best of Show Awards

Since 1980, Tech & Learning magazine has been a leading resource for educational professionals looking for ways to innovate in teaching and learning through the use of technology. 

Tech & Learning delivers the highest quality content and essential resources to manage, train, and teach technology, and its extensive marketing services division provides partners with unique, targeted, and highly valued products. An expert team of editors and an advisory board of top industry experts give subscribers an inside look at timely issues, hot trends, new products, and innovative strategies that support the work of K-12 educators and administrators. 

The Tech & Learning Best of Show awards are presented each year by ISTE (International Society for Technology Education), a global organization of educators who are passionate about the use of technology to transform teaching and learning. Billed as “the world’s most dynamic edtech community,” ISTE inspires the practice of teachers and school administrators across the globe, offering evidence-based professional learning, virtual coaching, and year-round academies to help educators learn and apply effective strategies for the transformational use of technology.

Each year, ISTE members are invited to attend a conference featuring keynote speakers, vendor demonstrations, and of course, the Tech & Learning Best of Show awards. Due to the pandemic, this year’s ISTE convention was held virtually in November 2020, and the AE-55 was one of only two models of headset that grabbed the prestigious Best of Show honors.  

How did the AE-55 Win Best of Show?

According to Tech & Learning’s Best of Show judges, “The AVID AE-55 Headset has been reimagined and reengineered for the needs of 2020. They come with a headphone jack model or a USB model for different uses according to the device they are connected to.” In other words, the AE-55’s versatility, affordable price point, and design features made it the most attractive option for both in-person and remote learning needs for students. Their compatibility with virtually any electronic device allows them to nimbly shift from laptop to tablet to desktop computer with ease. In a world where “pivot” has become the buzzword of the year, the ability to shift gears is just as valuable for headsets as it is for businesses!

About the Tech & Learning 2021 Best Remote Learning Tools

As schools pivoted from in-person to remote and blended learning this past year, technology solutions were key to delivering quality, continuous learning. To celebrate the work of technology providers who stepped up to support this effort, Tech & Learning launched “The Best Tools for Remote & Blended Learning,” a new offering in its legacy Awards of Excellence program. 

Judges deemed these products as standouts for helping students, parents, and teachers succeed in these new learning environments. Eligible products included hardware, software, curriculum, security/safety solutions, PD, student information systems, and more. Categories included: Best Remote/Blended Learning Tools for Primary Grades; Best Remote/Blended Learning Tools for Secondary Grades; Best Remote/Blended Learning Tools for Higher Education.

“Despite the many challenges schools have had to face this past year, technology continues to be one of the key drivers for innovation,” says Tech & Learning Group Publisher Christine Weiser. “The winning products recognized here have supported continuous instruction throughout the pandemic, and we expect this momentum to continue into next year and beyond. Congratulations to all of our winners.”

As schools across the nation transition back to in-person learning, educators need to make sure their classrooms are equipped with cutting-edge technology that makes a bigger impact on the learning process. Now that students of all ages are more comfortable with various computer programs and video conferencing platforms, it’s possible that we will continue to see some elements of remote learning in the future of education, whether it’s in person or at a distance! By equipping students with the right headsets for the job, teachers can ensure that each child is getting the most out of a lesson, in a distraction-free environment.

If you are only able to make one purchase for your students this school year, let the AVID AE-55 be your choice! Purchasing AVID AE-55 TRRS or USB headsets for every classroom in your school is one way to ensure that students have access to multi-award-winning technology every day of the school year!

Great Gadgets for Remote Teaching and Presenting

Congratulations, teachers- you’ve made it through an entire semester of remote instruction! This is a huge accomplishment, particularly if you teach an elementary school grade full of energetic little students who find it hard to sit still in front of a computer screen for any length of time. No matter who your students are, or what subjects you teach, there’s no doubt that you deserve a huge round of applause (or, honestly, a medal of honor) for the seriously daunting undertaking of remote teaching.

Think about it- in just a few short months, you and your fellow educators have been tasked with restructuring your entire class curriculum and lesson plans to fit a fully-remote school day, sometimes for students as young as 4 years old! If that’s not a major accomplishment, we don’t know what is. We hope you look back on 2020 as the year you rose to meet each challenge head-on, adapting to best suit the needs of your students and parents. As far as we’re concerned, you’re heroes!

Unfortunately, though, we’re not out of the woods just yet. While we can now see some definite light at the end of this tunnel, it could be months before school resembles anything like the “normal” we remember. Though many school districts have plans in the works to safely welcome their students back in person safely within the next couple of months, the odds are good that we’re still going to have to rely on remote learning, at least part-time, for the foreseeable future. With teachers across the country anticipating more of the same for the second semester of the school year, now’s a good time to take a look at some helpful devices that can make remote teaching and presenting go a lot more smoothly in 2021.

Here are some of our favorite gadgets geared toward making remote teaching more streamlined and efficient, not to mention cutting down on some of the most common headaches teachers are experiencing:

auto-tracking cameraJigabot Camera Bundle – $995
Wouldn’t it be great if you could hire a camera person to follow you around your classroom during a remote lesson? Imagine being able to efficiently utilize all of your teaching materials as if you were standing in front of a live class. Thanks to Jigabot, this dream can be a reality!

The Jigabot auto-tracking robot camera helps teachers take a futuristic approach to presenting remote lessons to their students by taking the camera operation work off their plates, leaving them free to conduct class as usual. This adaptive, versatile camera robot works with just about any mobile device, as well as every streaming service, to smoothly and seamlessly follow you around your classroom wherever you go. Your students will always see you in the frame as you conduct your remote lessons- no need to worry if you are presenting the wrong portion of your smartboard!

Thanks to its smooth, responsive motors, Jigabot works whether your preferred camera is mirrorless, a camcorder, or a cinema camera tethered with cables. Pros use Jigabot to get the perfect shot every time, and now you can too!

web camQOMO HD Webcam with Built-In Microphone and Mount – $79
Need a different point of view than the one your built-in laptop webcam will allow? Say hello to the QOMO HD webcam. This high-definition camera with built-in microphone enables you to stream and record clearly for lessons, grade-level meetings, parent-teacher conferences, and more. Equipped with a sharp 1080p camera and dual mic, this 4K webcam captures audio and video much better than a standard laptop webcam. A USB connection allows for high-quality, plug and play image and video capturing with no drivers required.

The QOMO HD webcam is also easy to clip on, adjust, and move around, making for a highly user-friendly experience. Despite its small size, the QOMO HD webcam is able to deliver high-quality real-time images and video, making it a remote teaching powerhouse!

QOMO QPC22 ScannerCam 22USB Document Camera and Webcam – $235
Being able to scan documents to send to your students via Canvas or Google Classroom is an essential part of remote teaching. However, most people don’t have access to a document scanner at their house. What if you are trying to send an assigned reading or quiz and you currently aren’t anywhere near a scanner? Don’t worry- it’s the QPC22 ScannerCam to the rescue!

Document scanning is just one of the QPC22 ScannerCam’s impressive features- this affordable and ultra-portable gadget doubles as a webcam, making it ideal for transporting and presenting from home or school. Portable and lightweight enough to carry in your computer bag, set up the QPC22 ScannerCam anywhere to easily zoom, rotate, and flip captured images using your connected computer. Not bad for a device that only takes up as much desk space as a coffee mug!

ThinkWrite TW220 Ultra Durable Pro USB Headset- $34.99
One of the worst parts of working remotely is having to deal with so much background noise that you find it hard to concentrate on the task at hand! With this noise-canceling USB headset in your corner, however, every place in your house is a distraction-free zone!

The ThinkWrite TW220 Ultra Durable Pro USB Headset was exclusively designed by ThinkWrite Technologies to provide sustained comfort, superior sound, and signature durability. Ergonomically-designed soft contour 100%-contact ear cushions, improved sonic quality, and ThinkWrite’s unique ear cup swivel technology allow ears to remain protected from the stress of compression, the distraction of background noise, and strain of damaging frequencies over longer listening periods, while 40mm drivers deliver exceptional sound quality.

For recording lessons, the optimally-positioned flip-down omni-directional microphone boom will provide unparalleled sound quality for all students following along at home.

Remote teaching may not be a thing of the past just yet, but with these devices in your classroom, you can greatly improve not only your experience but that of your students! In order to prepare yourself for whatever the second semester of the school year holds, invest in these gadgets now- you won’t be sorry!