At Home with Tech

Figure out which consumer tech you need, the right gear to buy and how to use your new gadgets.

Tag: school

A Tale of Three Headsets to Get through Fifth Grade

If you’re concerned about getting the right headset for virtual learning that will help protect your child’s hearing, you’re not alone. Here are the results of my shopping journey to date.

It’s not like my son has never worn a headset before. But over the past year of Zooms and virtual learning, our fifth grader has seemingly had one fused to his head. (Haven’t we all?)

And I’ve been concerned about the level of audio streaming into his ears. Is it too loud? What about the risk of long-term hearing loss?

So I’ve wanted him to wear a headset with volume-limiting capabilities. And I’ve got to tell you, strangely, there’s not a lot of choices out there.

POWMEE is for Younger Kids
I originally landed on a pair of POWMEE P10 Kids Headphones with a built-in microphone on the cord.

The POWMEE worked well, and they were only ten bucks. But the headphones were a little tight on his head. Four months later, they gave out. That may not seem like a long time, but I imagine the designers didn’t assume so many hours of daily use and cable twisting by little hands.

When I realized the POWMEE were small, I immediately initiated a new search to find a bigger headset designed for tween/teen heads.

Even fewer options with volume limiting capabilities exist for that age group. I suppose the idea is a real buzzkill from a marketing perspective.

PuroGamer Barely Got out of the Box
I finally landed on the PuroGamer Volume Limited Gaming Headset, which is targeted for teens. I bought it for $29.99 on Amazon, although it’s now gone up in price.

I got it and threw the box in the back of the closet. I knew the PuroGamer could be called to action at any time.

And the day came when boy my walked into my home office to see me. He had a stricken look on his face. Had Old Yeller gone to the doggy pasture in the clouds? (Actually we have a cat.) Nope. His POWMEE had died.

When I instantly pulled out the replacement, his shock and instant glee were priceless. (I felt like a hero.) And off he scampered with his PuroGamer.

But I didn’t have much time to take my parental victory lap.

The PuroGamer lasted about 2 weeks before the sound in one ear started to fizzle. (The USB connector gave out shortly after that.)

The cable was seemingly the culprit. It couldn’t handle all of the bending and ‘action’ a child will likely offer. Perhaps a gaming teenager wouldn’t give the PuroGamer cable the same workout?

Maybe the fault was mine getting the PuroGamer for a ten year old. Or perhaps I’m just making excuses, and the PuroGamer should be more durable.

Either way, it was back to the drawing board.

Time for an Adult Headset
I eventually decided my mistake had been limiting my search to headsets designed just for kids and teens. It was time to look for adult headsets.

Yes, shopping in the adult aisle is inevitably going to cost more. But I’ve already crossed that line for his sneakers and summer sandals. (He’s growing up fast!)

And unfortunately, technology for kids is often marred with inferior gear that won’t hold up. Yes, it may be cheaper, but you get what you pay for.

I’m certainly seeing that now.

Go with What You Know
As I puzzled over how to attack this new shopping challenge, I took a look at what I had fused to my own skull throughout much of my work day.

I was wearing a Plantronics (Poly) Blackwire C5210T single-ear headset.

My Blackwire headset had been great. It was comfortable, and sported two interface options. (3.5mm and USB connectors)

Like father, like son?

Another Blackwire
So I Googled the Blackwire headset and looked at the specs. And guess what?

Yes, it’s got built-in hearing protection. I didn’t even know!
(The SoundGuard DIGTAL technology protects against sound levels over 118 dBA, and Time-Weighted Average prevents average daily noise exposure from exceeding 85 dBA.)

There’s also a dual-ear design that would be perfect for my son.

Before I made my decision, I called my boy over to try on my headset. Within seconds, I saw that big smile.

Research complete.
Click.

If at First You don’t Succeed
Yes… this headset purchase was expensive. But sometimes you’ve got pay for what you really need. (And by the way, I purposely avoided going down a Bluetooth headset rabbit hole.)

It’s been almost a month, and my boy’s Blackwire headset has been holding up. (Fingers crossed.)

No, I’m not especially excited that it’s taken three headsets to get him through fifth grade, but if that’s the biggest technical glitch through this year of virtual learning, I’ll take it!

More importantly, I’m trying to do what I can to protect his hearing.

My Child Brought Home One of his School Teachers

I’ve just realized that student book bags don’t need to carry so much anymore thanks to learning websites out there that are assigned as homework.

I’ve just realized that student book bags don’t need to carry so much anymore thanks to learning websites out there that are assigned as homework.

There’s an early scene in 2009’s “Star Trek” movie that shows the boy Spock in school. While sitting in one of several dozen sub-floor pods, he’s rabidly bombarded with math and philosophy questions enveloped by a 360-degree virtual reality screen and cool computerized voice.
(A nifty homage to a similar scene from 1986’s “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home”)

It’s a complete teaching and testing system without a teacher in sight.
A fantastic, sci-fi view on the future of our educational process…

Or is it?

Hello, Cyber School Teacher
My son has been experiencing kindergarten for the last few months. One day a few weeks back, I came home and found my son and wife at the dining room table looking intently at my wife’s MacBook Pro.
(It was like he had suddenly learned to read, found my blog and realized he’s a topic of this ongoing conversation!)

I walked closer and heard a new voice coming from the laptop. It was talking to my boy:

“What significant contribution to bioengineering was made on the Loonkerian outpost of Klendth?“

“The Universal Atmospheric Element Compensator.”

“Correct!”

…Okay, those are lines from the “Star Trek IV” scene between the adult Spock and the Vulcan computer.

What was actually happening was a word recognition quiz for my human boy from a website called Reading Eggs. It’s a subscription-based tool that teaches kids to read for $59/year.

I thought it was simply a new resource my wife had found and was trying out. But it wasn’t. In fact, our boy had brought the entire idea of it home, because he uses the website at school.

Huh.

Computer-Based Learning
In fact, his teacher had recommended that the students spend time with Reading Eggs at home.
(Part of their early homework regiment)

I know there are plenty of learning apps out there for kids, and we’ve used a number of them on our iPad over the past couple of years with our five year old. So computer-based teaching is certainly not new to us.

And of course I’m generally aware that computers have been completely integrated into all grade levels for many years.

But this was the first moment where I witnessed it up close and personal.
And in my home.

Of course, why wouldn’t the school suggest we use a good learning website, along with books, flashcards and sound charts that still involve letters and words on paper?

But I still stood there, trying to integrate this experience as a baby-boomer parent whose tech contact in grade school was limited to first-generation calculators and analog mimeo copy machines that created exam sheets reeking of alcohol-like ink no kid could resist from sniffing.

How Do You Feel?
I wasn’t upset. And I certainly shouldn’t have been surprised.
Maybe I just needed to have my little ‘Aha’ moment.

And acknowledge how ‘fascinating’ it all was… the similarity this scene had to the Vulcan learning process expressed in both “Star Trek” flicks.

I just had to recognize the presence of computers already so close to the center of my son’s formal education process.

And how do I really feel about all of this?
(pause)

To quote another line from “Star Trek IV”…

I feel fine.

%d bloggers like this: