Category Archives: Distance Learning / Remote Learning

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.

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!

Keeping Kids Focused and Distraction Free for Remote Learning

If you are one of the millions of parents across the country who have had to adapt to supervising your children’s remote learning during the Covid-19 pandemic, we don’t have to tell you that it can be something of a struggle. Not only are you trying to ensure that each of your children is still receiving a quality education and learning everything he or she needs to succeed at grade level and be promoted at the end of the school year, but you are also likely working from home yourself and juggling your own meetings and deadlines along with the kids’ coursework. It’s not an ideal situation for anyone involved, yet the unprecedented events of the past year have put us all into the same boat when it comes to remote learning for our school-age children.

Some of the key issues that parents have had with online learning have revolved around maintaining a distraction-free environment for their kids to be able to concentrate on their lessons. Since kids are not exactly well-known for their ability to sit still at a computer for long periods of time, an online class session through Zoom or Google Meet may overload their ability to focus and cause them to become easily distracted by background noise or lots of activity in their workspace. Younger learners are especially susceptible to losing focus and letting their thoughts wander away from their online lessons. If you’ve got more than one school-age child at home, this problem is compounded, and the number of distractions can be hard for any of the kids- not to mention you- to get anything done in a day.

In a perfect world, you’d live in a house with enough rooms for everyone to have his or her own private workspace, but this is not always feasible. Fortunately, there are a few solutions to help keep kids and parents alike focused on their tasks without having to soundproof every wall in the house! For example, purchasing a headset for each remote student in the house can be an excellent, affordable solution for creating a distraction-free environment without having to make any costly changes to your physical space.

What to Look For in a Remote Learning Headset
When researching affordable headsets that provide your child with excellent sound quality and noise-canceling function, your first step is to determine whether the headset is compatible with your child’s computer, since not all headsets work universally. For instance, if you purchase USB headsets for your kids and it turns out that their computer doesn’t have a USB port, you’ll have to go through the hassle of returning them and purchasing new, compatible ones. It’s best to review all the specs of your child’ computer first so that you can find a compatible headset that gets the job done.

Additionally, while it’s important to find an affordable headset that fits your household budget, it’s also important that you look for the features that are going to give your child the best quality experience possible. Noise-canceling features, such as ear cups that are designed to block out external noise, are your best bet to help your kids stay focused and participating in their classes. Keep in mind that while many quality USB headsets offer noise-canceling features, not all of them do, so it’s critical that you make sure the headset you purchase is effective at blocking out noise.

Over-Ear Cups vs. Earbuds
Since earbuds were designed to fit inside the ear canal of an adult, younger listeners don’t always enjoy the feeling of them, while others are unable to wear them at all! In order to stop this problem before it starts, look for headsets with over-the-ear cups, not earbuds, so you can be sure that they aren’t yanking them out during class. By selecting a traditional headset with noise-canceling ear cups that fit securely over the ear, you can ensure your kids’ comfort throughout the school day, which can lead to better concentration and longer periods of focus.

If your older child or teen prefers earbuds, however, it is possible to find noise-canceling models that still help block background noise and place the focus on what’s on the screen, not what’s going on around the house. Look for special earbuds that fit snugly and securely into the ear canal to ensure the best results.

Volume Control
Blocking out background noise should never been done by cranking the volume all the way up to 11, as this can damage listeners’ hearing. Children especially should not be listening to sounds greater than 82 decibels, or 70 percent of full volume, in order to protect against hearing loss. For this reason, be sure that the headsets you invest in for remote learning come with a built-in volume control. This control helps prevent young children from accidentally turning the volume on their devices up too high- the headset will modulate the volume, delivering it at a safe capacity to the ears. Volume control can be found on both over-the-ear headsets and earbuds.

With any luck, remote learning will be over sooner rather than later, and children will be able to safely return to schools for traditional classroom learning. However, we still may have several months or more until all of our young learners have returned to the classroom full-time. In order to ensure that your student is getting the most out of his or her remote learning experience, USB headsets are an excellent investment for creating and maintaining a distraction-free environment, no matter the size of your child’s workspace. Best of all, even after we’re all finally able to log out of our remote classrooms for the last time and go back to business as usual, these headsets will come in handy for any assignments, educational computer programs, or supplemental videos your kids may need to complete for homework.

2020 was the year we all became homeschool parents overnight. Let 2021 be the year you master the art of remote learning with your student thanks to distraction-reducing USB headsets!

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!

Troubleshooting Tips for your USB Headset

As we head into winter, it’s beginning to look like we won’t be heading back to school or the office anytime soon. With COVID-19 cases skyrocketing as the weather turns cold, many companies and school districts have made the decision to remain online only, with no in-person contact for at least the next several months. If you’re feeling stir-crazy and missing your office space or classroom, trust us- you’re not alone!

However, working or attending classes remotely doesn’t have to mean discomfort or distraction. Even if you’re sharing cramped quarters with a spouse and kids all working and attending school from home, you can still get into the zone with your own work or school commitments thanks to a USB headset that is compatible with your computer. Purchasing a USB headset is a great way to optimize your remote working or learning environment as we continue to adapt to our ‘new normal.’

But what if your new USB headset is having a hard time connecting over Bluetooth, or if you can hear the participants in your online meeting but they can’t hear you (or vice versa)? Like any technology, USB headsets are prone to occasional issues that can cause frustration in an already frustrating situation. Here are some handy tips for you to keep nearby next time your USB headset is giving you a headache. See if these work for you!

Problem: Your Wireless USB Headset Won’t Connect Over Bluetooth
Solution: This is a pretty common problem among wireless USB headsets that use a USB dongle to connect via Bluetooth to your computer or mobile device. Fortunately, there’s a relatively simple fix to re-establish connectivity. Simply “forget” the USB headset and then re-pair it to your device.

You can do this by clicking the Bluetooth symbol, normally located in the top bar menu of your laptop, or going into your System Settings menu and selecting Bluetooth. This will present a menu of Bluetooth-connected devices, including your wireless USB headset, that can be disconnected by clicking on them. In some cases, simply disconnecting and reconnecting will work just fine, but other times it may be necessary to forget the device and pair it once again as a new Bluetooth headset to have your computer recognize it properly.

Problem: You Can Hear Your Fellow Meeting Participants, but They Can’t Hear You
Solution: Whether your USB headset is wired or wireless, occasionally there may be an issue with sound output. If you can hear everything with your USB headset but your fellow meeting or class attendees have indicated that they can’t hear you, try these three quick steps:

  • Check to make sure you are not on mute over Zoom, Google Meet, or whichever videoconferencing platform your organization uses. It may be as simple as a click of a button!
  • Make sure your microphone volume is turned up. Many USB headset models have separate volume controls for headphones and microphone, and it’s possible that one is turned up and the other is turned way down!
  • Check to ensure that either the USB cord for a wired headset or the USB dongle for a wireless headset is plugged into your computer’s USB port and that the fit is secure. It is possible that the USB headset is not connected all the way- or at all!- to your device.

Problem: You are unable to hear anything through your headphones but your mic seems to work just fine.
Solution: Like the troubleshooting tips for a malfunctioning microphone, the solution to this one may be easier than you think! Try these things first:

  • Make sure your headphones are connected securely to your USB port, either with the USB cord of your wired headset or with the wireless USB dongle.
  • Check the volume control for the headphones- is it turned all the way down? Adjust until you can hear sound coming out.
  • Look at the sound settings on your laptop- it’s possible that your USB headset is not selected as the preferred audio output device.

If you’ve gone through these troubleshooting tips and are still experiencing issues, there’s a possibility that you may be having a more serious problem with your hardware. Try using a spare set of headphones to make sure the problem isn’t stemming from the laptop itself, and contact the help desk at your computer’s manufacturer to correct any issues.

It’s also possible that your USB headset may simply be worn out from excessive use and normal wear and tear, or that it may have been exposed to water damage or other injuries. If this is the case, contact the manufacturer for warranty and repair information.

People who have tried a USB headset for remote work, online learning, gaming, and more enjoy the enhanced ability to concentrate in a distraction-free environment, no matter where they are! Once you have purchased a USB headset, it can be quite difficult if not impossible to imagine life without it, which is why any malfunction or issue can be especially disheartening. Because of this, it’s important to take good care of your USB headset to keep it looking and working like new. Here are some safety and storage tips to help you make the most of your USB headset purchase for years to come.

  • If you have a wired USB headset model, make sure to bundle your cord when it is not in use. This will prevent your USB headset from cord damage that can affect its performance. We recommend a loose, figure-8 cord bundle secured with a twist-tie or zip-tie when you are not using your USB headset.
  • For wireless Bluetooth USB headsets that you plan to use on several devices, be sure to disconnect a device before connecting to a new one. Too many devices connected via Bluetooth can cause connectivity issues, especially if all the devices are within a 500-foot range of one another.
  • Be sure not to clean your USB headset with anything other than cleaning products that have been optimized for use with electronics. Alternatively, we find that a damp hand towel or dishcloth with a very small amount of mild dish soap is effective and safe for the exterior of your USB headset. Never submerge the cord or dongle to your USB headset in the water!

By following these tips, we hope your USB headset will continue to make your remote working or online learning experience as pleasant and productive as possible.

Best Chromebook USB Headsets for Schools

The first semester of the school year is in full swing, despite the fact that many students are still participating in remote learning from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The almost even split between children and teens who have returned to in-person learning and those who are still attending classes through Zoom, Google Meet, or another video conferencing platform means that teachers are relying on technology more than ever to effectively teach their classes and help their students understand and engage in their lessons, either in school or remotely.

In both instances, school headphones have become an essential part of the learning experience for students in elementary, middle, or high school. Those who are learning from home need a set that is comfortable enough to be worn all day, with a quality microphone and earphones that will allow them to clearly hear the teacher and respond to questions and in group discussions in a clear, easy-to-understand way. Those who have returned to campus need a set that is durable and can easily be transported to the computer lab and other areas of school without being damaged. Students can enhance their educational experience with school headphones that offer the right blend of affordability and durability, and schools can benefit from these headsets to ensure that students are receiving the important knowledge information conveyed in their lessons regardless of where or how they are participating in classes. Here are our top 6 picks for school headphones that help make distance learning go more smoothly for everyone involved.

Avid AE-55 – Not only does this model offer noise reduction and a cord that is easy to store, but the microphone can also be worn on either ear, making it easier for left-handed people to take notes during class. The Avid AE-55 is designed with comfort in mind and contains ergonomic elements to keep students from straining so that they can pay attention to the class rather than become distracted by their personal comfort.

 

 

 

 

Hamilton Buhl Smart-Trek Deluxe Stereo ST2BKU – Schools that want headsets that are available for multiple uses will love this model. The headset adjusts to fit students of all ages. Its ear cups are soft and comfortable, but they are easy to clean in between uses, helping keep students safe and healthy. The cord is resistant to knots, which is a bonus for students who twist the cords.

 

 

 

 

Cyber Acoustics AC-6012 – With a padded headband and padded earphones, this headset is also a great model that can be worn all day. Yet, it is also durable enough to be used in a classroom setting with multiple students. The surface is easy to clean and sanitize, and the volume control is easy to find and adjust, which is great for a multitude of students.

 

 

 

 

Cyber Acoustics AC-5008 – A classic look meets modern function in this headset. Its traditional round earphones are reminiscent of older models, and also comfortable, durable, and easy to clean. This headset is adjustable with a microphone that can be used on either side. A USB plugin makes it easy to pair with many different computers and other devices, making it a good choice for use in and out of the classroom.

 

 

ThinkWrite TW120 Ultra Ergo – An ergonomic design helps students perform at their best without straining to see or hear. This headset is comfortable and durable. One of its best features is that it was designed specifically to limit exposure to damaging frequencies, which is a benefit for young ears. It is perfect for audio recording, testing and a plethora of other classroom uses.

 

 

 

 

ThinkWrite Ultra Durable 90119 – Made to withstand multiple uses from students of all types, this headset is a must-add to your child’s school supply list. Its microphone cancels out noise, making it perfect for teachers who like to record their lessons, or students who like using voice notes to study for tests. Another feature of this headset is that it was designed for iPads and Chromebooks.

 

 

 

 

One silver lining in this unprecedented and unusual situation that students and teachers face this school year is the availability of affordable, durable school headphones and other technology to help make the circumstances more adaptable. With so many available models, there is a pair of school headphones for every student in any situation. Whether they’re being used for test-taking, homework, distance learning, or other uses, these headsets will conform to sanitation guidelines while also being functional for everyday use. In order to help your student succeed this school year via remote or in-person learning, make sure that he or she is well-equipped with the right school headset to make his or her experience as comfortable as possible.

Mental Health Advantages of Learning Pods

One of the newest trends in education, learning pods have taken schools by storm this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The concept came from Maureen O’Shaughnessy, Ed.D., who published the book Creating Micro-Schools for Colorful Mismatched Kids in 2019. Her idea grew in popularity during the pandemic as a way to create a unique learning environment for students with a more personalized educational structure.
What are Learning Pods?

Learning pods, also known as micro-schools or pandemic pods, are an in-person option for K-12 students to learn in a small group with a teacher or tutor. These learning pods are designed to help students adjust to remote learning with their peers, giving parents the freedom to focus on work. It enhances independent learning while offering the support that students need in an academic environment, providing an effective solution for parents who are unable to help their children learn from home or don’t feel comfortable sending them back to school full-time.

Under the supervision of a parent or a teacher, students follow a curriculum and meet at someone’s home or outdoors for an agreed-upon number of hours per week. Parents can purchase online curriculum modules and order supplemental materials to support learning, such as headphones and wipes explicitly created for the classroom.

Learning Support vs. Self-Directed
There are two different types of learning pods: support and self-directed. Learning support pods are where students stay enrolled in a public, private, or charter school, but come together under parental supervision to learn and do their schoolwork online. It can take place at one person’s house or rotate between houses.

Self-directed pods are more in line with homeschools. A teacher or tutor is hired to meet with a small group of students and is responsible for creating the curriculum following district standards and state regulations. Parents can be the teacher or put together their resources to hire an instructor. Students no longer attend a traditional school, but their parents become fully responsible for their education.

Certain schools are also creating school-run learning pods where selected students can continue their education in a classroom environment with their grade-level. Each cohort is assigned a district staff member who stays with the same students for most of the day, while the school staff continues to work normally.

These learning pods require students to meet in person, which can have several mental health benefits.

Mental Health Benefits
One of the most significant effects of full remote distance-learning is depression from being physically isolated from other students. Social interactions are important for children and adolescents to build their self-esteem, mental health, and social development. Cooperative learning, where students work together, also increases important communication, teamwork, and empathic skills.

Though group projects are still assigned in distance-learning, working together in-person has a different effect on students and how they understand non-verbal language. Specifically, for young children, social play is vital for them to build foundational social skills. Learning pods allow students to be physically part of a community and mingle with other students in a safely controlled group.

Learning pods can also decrease students’ stress and anxiety when it comes to their education. With remote learning, everything is done over the computer, which causes technology fatigue and stress from looking at the screen all day. Technology is also not always reliable, and any technical issues can make students feel anxious about their grades or dynamic with their teacher. They may also feel like they don’t have anyone to turn to for help. When students meet in person, they can talk through academic or technical issues and solve problems together or with their in-person teacher or tutor. This can help lower their stress and anxiety because they know they can ask for help from someone who is physically present and invested in their learning.

With students who struggle academically, learning pods are incredibly beneficial because they can have a more self-directed learning experience. Though students are still expected to learn independently, tutors or teachers can pay more attention to the specific needs of the kids in a smaller group. For those kids who require more help or attention with a particular subject, teachers can meet their needs and keep track of their academic and mental health more closely. Having a structured routine in a physical environment will help students learn better as well. It helps separate their home and school time, allowing them to feel like they aren’t constantly in an academic environment.

The purpose of the learning pod can vary between communities, but the bottom line is supporting your child’s learning in the best possible way during this difficult situation. Connecting kids with other students in-person can have a tremendously positive effect on them as they meet academic goals set by parents and schools. Ultimately, learning pods are a great alternative way to help keep your child on track with their education, encourage their social life, and support their mental health.