The Digital Agency for International Development

Computers in Schools: Sound solutions

By Chris Wilson on 05 September 2011

Activities with sound are ideal for kids. Preferably lots of sound. Especially when it comes to teaching language, reading and writing.

When you have a classroom full of children with computers, each working at their own pace on speech or language tasks, they need private sound rather than the built-in speakers of their laptops. Otherwise the cacophony would make learning much harder for all of them.

Headphones (or headsets) are the normal solution for language labs in UK schools. But they're not great for use with primary school kids in a dirty, dusty environment. They're extremely fragile, hard to clean, uncomfortable to wear for long periods, and can spread ear infections.

A bluetooth headset would work, and would be nice in theory, but much more expensive, and would need charging often.

The most obvious solution seems to be something that looks like a mobile phone, but attaches to a computer with a cable. They're very hard to find. It seems that everyone wants tiny, delicate, wireless or in-ear headsets. So manufacturers don't bother making the kind of big, clunky, bulletproof handsets I'm thinking of.

First, after long and fruitless searching, I discovered that what I'm looking for is actually called a handset (because you hold it in your hands) and not a headset (that fits over your head).

And then I found them:

USB Handset USB Handset Nokia-like USB Handset Slim grey USB handset

Unfortunately the cheapest I've found so far is £10 ($14) through Maplin, which is about ten times the cost of the cheap, fragile headsets we'd like to replace.

If you know of any others, or a cheaper bulk supplier than Maplin (such as their supplier in China) please let us know!