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What Chromebook Case Option is Right For Me?

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

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

Briefcases and Carrying Cases

NUTKASE BALLISTIC NYLON FOLIO

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

Pros:

– Slim, compact profile allows for ease and convenience.

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

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

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

Cons:

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

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

Gumdrop Cases*

Gumdrop DropTech Case

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

Pros: 

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

Cons:

  • No variety of color or style options are available.

 

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

Hard Cases (Shells)

Max Case* Extreme Shell

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

Pros: 

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

Cons:

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

How Headphones in the Classroom Support Independent Learning

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

Minimize Background Noise

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

Optimal Learning Environment

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

Practical Applications

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

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

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

Facilitates Relaxation 

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

No Hearing Issues

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

Maximizes Focus

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

Make Easy Accommodations 

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

Make Learning Fun

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

Affordability 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

School Headphones: The MVPs of 2020

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

But…How Loud is Too Loud?

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

Toddlers

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

Preschoolers and Kindergartners

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

Elementary School Students

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

What Else Can I Do?

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Creating a Clean and Healthy Classroom this Fall

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

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

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

Hamilton-Buhl HygenX Sanitary Headphone Covers- from $16.95

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

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

Hygenx Disposable Microphone Covers– from $16.99

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

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

Classroom Disinfectant Wipes Jumbo 4-Pack- $149.99

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Education Recovery With the CARES Act and Title 1 Funding

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

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

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

Title 1 Schools and the CARES Act

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

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

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

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

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

What the CARES Act Means for Title 1 Schools

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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!