[techtalk] HARDWARE - Headsets to Help Online Learning

HANNING Darci * SLO Darci.HANNING at slo.oregon.gov
Tue Nov 24 15:35:43 PST 2020

Greetings and welcome to this week’s issue of Tech-Talk!

hat to look for in buying a headset...


 This Week's Topic: HARDWARE

1. ARTICLE & VIDEO ... Headsets to Help Online Learning
2. COMMUNICATING ... Where Have Our Manners Gone?
3. LEADERSHIP ... Keep your eyes on the ...?
·     Dec 2: Creating and Maintaining Social Media Accounts (Basic & Intermediate)
·     Dec 9: Creative Waysto Use Tech-Talk With Patrons and Students (For Staff of Tech-Talk Subscribing Libraries & Schools)
·     Dec 16: Video Editing! (You asked for it!)

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HARDWARE - Headsets to Help Online Learning

Charles, a Tech-Talk member through the Southwest Florida Library Network (SWFLN) recently asked us about computer headsets ... where to get them and what to look for. Although we have written about purchasing a headset before, this topic is currently very relevant due to the increase in online meetings and virtual learning so we thought we'd revisit it.

A majority of you, our readers, either regularly participate in Zoom (or other meeting platforms), teach students virtually, or are online learners. That means a computer headset has become a much-needed piece of equipment.


Why should you consider using a headset in any type of online session?

·     Wearing a headset can increase focus as the sound is coming into both ears, and background noise is reduced. It almost feels cozier -- like you could be in the same room as the speaker/teacher.

·     The microphone attachment allows you to be heard better by other participants on the call because the microphone is closer to your mouth than a computer speaker – and will pick up less background noise for those listening.

·     A noise-cancelling headset is designed to drown out background sounds (see more on noise-cancellation below).

In addition to using a headset for online calls or learning, it can be used to listen to music or videos on your computer without bothering others in the same room.

Features to Consider in a Headset

·     Noise-cancelling -- Do you work in an environment with lots of background interference? Upgrading to a set with this feature may be important.
·     Connection -- Make sure it is compatible with your device(s). A USB connection may work with a laptop, but not with your tablet or phone.
·     Comfort -- Should it be lightweight over-the-head, over-the-ear features or earbuds? This is a personal preference.
·     Controls -- Look for convenient volume and mute options.
·     Wired or wireless? Wired keeps you tethered to your device, but wireless versions do need to be charged or have working batteries.

A Few Headset Options Selected for Online Meetings/Learning

To help you start thinking about options, we took a look at basic headsets with microphones in three pricing categories that work well for online meetings.

Logitech H151 Stereo Headset

$19.99 and up at Amazon, Staples, Walmart

·     Rotating, noise-canceling microphone
·     Corded with standard 3.5mm jack connectivity to work with your computer, tablet or smartphone
·     Adjustable headband with foam ear cups for a comfortable fit
·     Full, noise-canceling stereo sound for easy listening
·     Features in-line controls to adjust the microphone volume and mute it to suit the environment


Plantronics Blackwire 3225 Black USB-A Wired Over-Ear Headphones

From $59.99 on Amazon

·     Rotating, noise-cancelling microphone
·     Connects to PC via USB cord
·     Lightweight sling headband
·     Improved performance in a noisy environment
·     Inline answer/end, volume control, and mute

Jabra Elite 45h On-Ear Wireless Headphones

From $84.99 at Amazon

·     Noise-canceling 2-microphone technology
·     Connect wirelessly via Bluetooth or directly using the USB cable to any PC or smartphone
·     Compact, foldable and lightweight design
·     Battery life up to 50 hours
[Jabra Elite]

What Does Noise-Cancellation Mean?

Many headsets and earphones say that they reduce background sounds, but there's a difference between passive and active noise-cancellation.

Passive acts like an earplug by putting a barrier between your ear and the outside world, essentially soundproofing. Like if you cover your ears when a loud siren goes off nearby. The materials/padding of the headphones blocks out some sound waves, especially those at higher frequencies.


However, active noise-cancellation (ANC) technology samples the surrounding noise in a room, and then produces an inverse wave that essentially cancels out the sound. This type of active noise-cancellation is most effective on lower frequencies of sustained sound, like a motor or airplane engine.

You would think that active noise-cancellation headsets (which are a bit more expensive) would be the best bet for eliminating unwanted sounds around you. However, if you're looking to reduce human voices and other higher-frequency sounds… a less expensive set of passive headphones may work just as well to reduce the sounds of people chatting in the same room.

Now, there's a difference in what you hear through your headphones and what people on the other end of the call hear.

It's not the earphones, but what the microphone is picking up. For example, have you ever called a help desk and there is so much chatter around them in a call center that you can't hear quite right? Well, a noise-cancellation headset with a noise-cancelling microphone can help minimize a situation when you share a space with others, or even in a home office if a television is playing in the next room.


Communications: Talking
Where Have Our Manners Gone?

Have you noticed there seems to be a degree of laziness in the use of the simple word "Please"?

Of course, we could blame it on the comfort level we have with some people. One person told me that they didn't need to say please or thank you to their spouse because it was implied. Really?

What about texting? Since it has morphed conversations into little snippets (minus the pleasantries), is it an excuse to eliminate this courtesy?

Perhaps we're getting used to talking to AI (artificial intelligence) assistants without the use of manners… "Alexa, turn off the light." Or "Siri, what is the temperature today?"
Are we just being lazy, disrespectful ... or downright rude?

For example, how do these requests make you feel?

"Come to my office at 3 pm."

"Turn off the lights in the building when you leave."

"It's the end of the quarter, have those figures to me by tomorrow morning."

No matter where you add "please" ... in the beginning, end or middle of your request ... it softens the request and shows appreciation.

"Please, come to my office at 3 pm."

"Turn off the lights in the building when you leave, please."

“It's the end of the quarter, please have those figures to me by tomorrow morning.”

Whether you call it good manners or etiquette, adding the "magic word" shows respect, costs you nothing and most likely will have a better chance of achieving your intended outcome.


Keep your eyes on the ...?

It's easy to get distracted, right? You have fires to put out and deadlines to meet. You've set your goals -- for the organization, a project ... even the day. But things come up. Your attention gets pulled this way and that.

So, where should you keep your eyes? Some people say "on the ball," others say "on the goal."


In our illustration above (whether it's golf, tennis or baseball) ... I'm asking you, in a work situation ... is it better to concentrate on what you're doing (eyes on the ball) or keep your attention on where you're going (the hole)?

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Darci Hanning, MLIS (she/her/hers)
Public Library Consultant / CE Coordinator
Continuing Education Resources: https://libguides.osl.state.or.us/conted
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