Category Archives: Education Technology

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

 

The Perfect Combination of Doc and Web Cam for Virtual Learning

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

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

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

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

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

Webcams

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

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

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

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

Features:

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

 

QOMO WebCam 004- from $69 

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

Features:

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

 

 

 

 

Adesso CyberTrack H6- from $89.99 

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

Features:

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

 

 

 

 

Doc Cams

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

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

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

QOMO QPC22 ScannerCam- from $209 

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

Features:

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

 

 

 

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

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

Features:

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

 

 

 

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

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!

Join our LIVE Webinar 3/11/21, Navigating Today’s Learning Environments- Solutions for In-Class, Remote, and Blended Learning

Attention, all educators and school administrators of K-12 students who are in need of more comprehensive solutions for the challenges posed by remote learning: Encore Data Products invites you to a LIVE webinar focusing on the changing landscape of education due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, how to prepare schools, classrooms, and individual students’ home learning environments to maximize success and minimize frustration in our “new normal.”

Join us on Thursday, March 11 at 12:30 PM PST for a 60-minute webinar hosted by Sabrina Manno, Marketing & Business Development Manager of Encore Data Products, and Melissa Sopata, National Accounts Manager at HamiltonBuhl. This informative free presentation is dedicated to helping school faculty and staff across the nation stay prepared for keeping kids learning and engaged in their classes, regardless of the pivots we may be required to continue to make in the foreseeable future.

Our presentation, “Navigating Today’s Learning Environments- Solutions for In-Class, Remote, and Blended Learning,” is free to attend, and contains invaluable information geared toward helping educators successfully and efficiently plan for in-class, remote, and blended learning environments. Over the course of the hour-long interactive webinar, attendees can expect to gain a number of takeaways, insights, and tips to help them maintain safe, healthy, and successful learning environments for their students. Some of our scheduled topics include:

* Maintaining clean surfaces and supplies in an in-person learning environment
* Obtaining PPE for students and faculty
* Best practices for social distancing while learning
* Adapting communication for in-person, remote, and blended learning scenarios
* Maintaining student engagement through remote learning
* Independent learning
* And more!

Using a real-time question & answer format, attendees will have an opportunity to dialogue with industry peers, as well as review best practices and share their own innovative solutions for maintaining safety, engagement, and student success across all three types of learning environments. This is your chance to interact with other educators and school administrators and see what is working for them (and what’s not!) and using that crowd-sourced wisdom to increase the efficiency of your own school’s processes and create a more stable learning environment that benefits students and teachers alike.

Additionally, during the webinar, industry insiders will be reviewing some of the latest ed tech tools and accessories that may prove to be the right solutions for certain issues teachers face in today’s education landscape. Take a look at some of the innovations that can help you overcome the technical obstacles you may have faced this school year with remote instruction, and learn about some of the exciting technology that exists to help make both the teaching and learning processes more streamlined and efficient when students can’t attend in person, as well as leading a discussion about how to overcome ongoing challenges with both in-person and remote learning.

This free, informative 60-minute webinar is also your chance to win a UV sterilizer! All registered webinar attendees will be entered into a giveaway drawing, with one lucky winner receiving a HygenX V-Ray Portable UV Sterilizer courtesy of HamiltonBuhl. A must-have from Hamilton-Buhl’s HygenX line of sanitary products, the V-Ray mobile UV sterilizer easily, quickly and safely sterilizes and decontaminates all objects and surfaces with UV-C light that kills 99.9% of bacteria. The V-Ray can be used to safely sterilize everyday items, used and shared, in classrooms, offices and homes.

The V-Ray works by emitting UV-C rays from a handheld wand, sterilizing items that are difficult or impossible to wash. These powerful rays are extremely harmful to germs, and can sterilize a variety of object sizes and shapes.

Designed for easy portability, the V-Ray features a rechargeable battery, making it easily portable, lightweight, and cordless for maximum convenience. The V-Ray can be used to sterilize anywhere and anything in a classroom, home or office, including large toys, keyboards, headsets, touchscreens, and more.

An excellent choice as ultraviolet sanitizer, the HygenX V-Ray allows for hands-free ease of use, safety and peace of mind to ensure every shared item, every object and every spot in any room is clean and sterilized!

Sign up today for a more confident remote teaching experience tomorrow!
If the events of 2020 and the unprecedented challenges presented in the 2020-2021 school year have left you feeling uncertain about what lies ahead, you’re not alone! Teachers across the country and around the world are experiencing the same emotions and meeting the same obstacles as you are. Our webinar is your chance to interact with other educators who have been facing the same challenges and frustrations, and to share with one another the solutions you have found, as well as to learn more about the technology that can help you overcome these obstacles more simply and efficiently.

While there is a light at the end of this tunnel, experts agree that it may be a while before the school environment returns to its pre-pandemic state. We may be living with the after-effects of the COVID-19 pandemic for years to come, and it is possible that it will become necessary to pivot back to remote or blended learning off and on for the foreseeable future. Being prepared and staying informed will help you to remain confident as educators so that you can do what you love- teach kids! Register for our March 11 webinar today to secure your space.

ALL attendees will be entered into a Webinar Giveaway! One luck attendee will win a HygenX Vray Portable UV Sterilizer from HamiltonBuhl. That’s a prize value of $219!

Don’t miss this informative and interactive webinar — your time spent will be well worth the ideas and contacts you come away with.

WHEN: Thursday,March 11th at 12:30 PM PST / 3:30 PM EST

WHERE: GoToMeeting – link to be emailed upon completion of registration.

HOW: Click here to Register

HOSTED BY: Sabrina Manno, Marketing & Business Dev Manager, Encore Data Products & Melissa Sopata, National Accounts Manager, HamiltonBuhl

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.