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.
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.