How to choose a Jackbox for your classroom listening center

How to choose a jackbox for the classroom listening center

Classroom listening centers generally combine three components: a media player, a jackbox (or hub) to distribute audio signals, and headphones.

You no doubt know about media players and headphones.

The distribution center is less well known. The hub links multiple headphones to a media player so multiple students can listen at the same time. The listening center hub can be an infrared transmitter, headphone jacks built into a media player, or a junction box.

A jackbox is a separate component that includes multiple outputs for headphones or other audio connections. They are typically configured for 4, 6, 8, or 10 students, with 6-8 student jackboxes being the most popular.

Jackboxes are often packaged with headphones and media players in classroom listening centers.

Jackboxes can be purchased individually.

You can also buy a jackbox in kits that include headphones and carrying cases.

To help you choose the right jackbox for your classroom listening center, consider the following 4 questions:

1. When should you buy a jackbox or jackbox kit?

You should get a jackbox when you want:

Create a listening center with a separately purchased media cassette player.

Expand a listening center because the number of students in your classroom exceeds the number of headphone jacks on your current player or jackbox.

Add individual volume controls to an existing listening center.

2. How many jackboxes do you need?

It’s not just about counting your students.

Many educators have settled on groups of 6-8 students as the most effective group size for studying.

In some cases, especially for teaching younger children, even smaller groups are desirable.

So, once you’ve determined the desired size of your groups, identify jackboxes with the appropriate number of stations.

Now you can count the students and divide by the number of stations to arrive at the correct number of jackboxes.

One final note: “chaining” jackboxes can be an inexpensive way to expand listening centers without buying additional media players, but be aware that linking them in this way will reduce the number of available connectors.

3. Should you get a stereo or mono jackbox?

A monaural (or mono) signal consists of a single audio track split between the two headphone speakers so that each speaker sounds exactly the same. Mono jackboxes are usually less expensive than stereo jackboxes and are usually compatible with older media such as cassette tapes.

Stereo sound, on the other hand, not only improves the sound of music, but also allows playback of lessons where different instructions may come from different speakers, as in some language learning apps.

It’s important to make sure you’re using a mono jackbox with mono headphones. A mono signal can only come through a speaker when used with stereo headphones.

Note: Some headphones can be switched between mono and stereo sources, but others may need to be connected to compatible jackboxes to work properly in the classroom listening center.

4. Need individual volume controls?

Students have different needs, and often what is too loud for one may be too quiet for another. For this reason, each student should have individual volume controls to set personally comfortable volume levels.

Some classroom listening center headphones have volume controls built into the cables or earcups. If this is the case, you may be able to choose a slightly cheaper jackbox without volume controls.

If the headphones in your classroom listening center don’t include volume controls, jackboxes with individual volume buttons are a simple and less expensive solution than replacing all of your headphones.

In conclusion: Jackboxes are cost-effective components in classroom listening centers

Hopefully this article has demystified the jackbox for you.

Plugins are a useful tool for many classrooms, especially if you already have part of a listening center (such as headphones and a media player) and simply want to add stations for more students.

If you want to save money by buying additional headphones along with your jackbox, AudioLink offers a full selection of jackboxes and headphone kits, many of which also include storage racks and carrying cases.

AudioLink also offers a full line of classroom learning centers that include booboxes, cassette players, and other media players.

If you still have questions about jackboxes or other classroom audio-visual equipment, call (407-757-3326) or email AudioLink’s expertly trained staff for more solid advice!

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