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Headset Plugs for iPads and Chromebooks

Changing technologies have given rise to new types of connections for content listening. With audio’s growing role in testing especially, making sure your headset properly plugs into the tablet, computer or other device should be a no-brainer – should be. If you’re needing headsets for Smarter Balanced or PARCC assessments, here are a few simple tips to make sure you make the best choice.

Before we dive in, there’s a working definition that should be clarified so apples to apples can be prepared. Califone refers to a headphone as something that’s used for just listening. By comparison, a headset is a headphone with an attached microphone.

“Students must be provided with headphones so they have the option to clearly listen to the audio in these tests” … Smarter Balanced

Plugging into previous generations of audio technology such as cassette recorders or cardreaders has come a long way in a short period of time. The decades-old standard of quarter-inch monaural plugs (read Learning About Plug Sizes) have given way to smaller and faster connections. Not only have their size and speed changed, but most plugs now are stereo in order to work with mobile devices and computers.  Times have changed since Califone introduced the first USB headset for schools in 2004! A USB plug on a headset seemed not only wildly exotic back then, but limited where it could be used – mostly desktop computers. Not so today when you include notebooks, laptops, Chromebooks and even some tablets.

As different as these hardware types are, they rely for the most part on one of three operating systems – Windows, iOS and Android platforms.  Califone headsets work with all three of these systems. The biggest consideration when buying headsets is making certain their plugs match the intended devices. First confirm the ports on the device itself and then choose the matching headset plug. Some devices for example presently have only a single 3.5mm audio port (such as iPads and iPhones), so a headset with a 3.5mm To Go plug is the only choice. Chromebooks on the other hand have ports for both USB and To Go plug connections, but they can’t accommodate a headset with dual 3.5mm plugs. Because dual 3.5mm plugs proceeded the other two plug choices, laptop and desktop computers accepting this type (MAC or Windows) are older and are less common now.

 iOS – iPad (and iPhone) compatible headsets (need a single 3.5mm To Go plug): Solid-colored Listening First headsets (2800-xxT), Animal-themed Listening First headsets (2810-Txx), Lightweight Stereo headset (3065AVT), Deluxe Multimedia Stereo headset (3066AVT), 4100 headset (4100AVT), Discovery headset (DS-8VT), Titanium headset (HPK-1010T)

 Android – Chromebook compatible headsets use either:

 Windows – compatible headsets: since Microsoft is the oldest and has the most OEM manufacturers of these three, it has the greatest variety of hardware and possible headset connections in the market.

As far as assessment purposes are concerned, both of the national testing coalitions are in general agreement about the growing integration of audio. PARCC (Partnership for Assessments of Readiness for College and Careers) currently requires that “Headphones/earphones/ear buds are only required for English Language Arts/Literacy testing sessions.” Smarter Balanced policy states “The English-language arts assessments contain audio (recorded and/or computer-based read-aloud), and students must be provided with headphones so they have the option to clearly listen to the audio in these tests. Similarly, some students may need the support of text read-aloud by the computer as part of the mathematics assessment. In these cases, students should be provided headphones as well.”

Looking forward, PARCC has announced its intention to further integrate oral responses by stating microphones [headsets] will be required in 2016-2017 for the Speaking and Listening testing session.

iPad and iPhone are trademarks of Apple Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries. Apple is not affiliated with Califone, nor endorses Califone products. Chromebook and Android are trademarks of Google Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries. Google is not affiliated with Califone, nor endorses Califone products. Windows is a trademark of Microsoft Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries. Microsoft is not affiliated with Califone, nor endorses Califone products.

Read about coverage of this blog by Tech & Learning magazine online.

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