Based on gains in student achievement and teacher effectiveness many school districts across the country now include audio reinforcing technology in every classroom. Most of us can relate to conferences in large hotel rooms where the presenter fumbles with a wireless microphone questioning “Can you hear me now?” until someone in the back of the room acknowledges the volume is satisfactory. We have all been frustrated when a member of the audience states a question that no one hears and the presenter answers without repeating it. As adults we ask for presenters to speak up, adjust equipment or repeat the question because we are there for a purpose and the information is important to us.
Though the audience in a school classroom knows the information is just as important, the confidence and skill set needed to speak up and ask the teacher to do anything different is not likely to exist. If there is background noise, if the teacher speaks in low tones, speaks while facing the board, has an accent or talks fast, or if some children are hearing impaired; it is possible some students will not receive the information. Unlike adults, it is unlikely the child will complain they
cannot hear or make a request for the teacher to repeat information they did not hear.
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Over the past few months, many Duncanville ISD students and staff have expressed their excitement about the new technology being implemented in classrooms across the district. Currently, about 85% of all eligible classrooms are fully equipped with the district’s standard equipment. The remaining 15% are scheduled for installations during the 3rd implementation phase beginning in April.
Hyman Elementary staff members have reported that they have seen a major difference in how students are learning since the arrival of our district’s technology classroom ecosystem. “My students think it is the coolest thing ever!” says Hyman teacher Claudia Galvan. “It has increased engagement in my classroom as well as participation from students who were previously reluctant to share their thinking.”
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One Bibb middle school is piloting a program that would bring overhead cameras to every classroom. It might look like an ordinary middle school classroom, but there’s something looming up above.
“It’s not like a Big Brother thing. I felt that way initially, but not anymore,” Ballard-Hudson Sixth grade English teacher Maya Boston said. She’s talking about the new camera and audio enhancement system that’s now a part of her regular day.
“It’s a great tool to monitor growth of students and develop teachers,” Boston said.
All a teacher has to do is push the record button on their microphone and then, instantly, a video starts recording of their lesson, a discipline problem, or an emergency situation.
“Teachers give me access if I request it, so I can assist them by looking in and seeing some things they may not be seeing because their backs are turned as they’re delivering instructions,” Principal Eclan David said. He said along with the cameras the audio amplifiers make sure each student can hear the teacher.
“I don’t have to use my teacher voice anymore. I can simply talk in a comfortable tone, and all I have to do is press this button, and now my voice is amplified and everyone can hear me at the same decibel,” Boston said.
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I have recently gained a new appreciation for classroom sound amplification. What do I mean by this? I am talking about having the teacher and classroom wired for sound so that every student in the class can hear the teacher clearly wherever the teacher goes in the class. Even a simple microphone and a speaker will improve student learning, comprehension, and behavior. It also helps the teacher remain calm and in control.
For some of you, wiring a classroom for sound amplification may seem like overkill — or even unnecessary — because of the “teacher voice” that teachers develop over the years. I was one of those teachers that thought I did not need my voice amplified until I moved to a classroom that was wired for sound, albeit old infrared technology, but it works. Since I began using the sound system in my daily instruction, I have seen a change in the student behavior and in my behavior, and I am now a firm believer in enhancing a teacher’s voice.
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Gary Shattuck thought he knew a bad idea when he heard one. In 2011, Shattuck, the director of technology and media services for Newton County Schools in Covington, Georgia, put microphones on some of his teachers to see if amplifying their voices improved instruction. It did, and it created a bigger impact than he or his colleagues had ever imagined. But when a partner of the 23-school district suggested Newton raise the bar on its experiment by adding video cameras to classrooms, Shattuck’s first reaction was “No way”—teacher concerns ranged from privacy and vanity issues to worries about being disciplined for every misstep.
With less than a month left in the school year, Shattuck agreed to a small pilot. The results surprised him. Teachers—who had been given total control over what to record and whom to share the videos with—were amazed by the differences in their classes, mentioning specifically how discipline changed for the positive.
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RENO, NV– In 2010, Wooster High School in Reno implemented a new audio enhancement system designed to help hard of hearing and deaf students by placing speakers in all the classrooms. The system cost $126,000 and was funded by state bonds.
Teachers also wear an egg-shaped microphone around their necks to broadcast their lessons.
“The first thing I thought that was the weirdest thing I have ever seen,” said Chad Coley, math teacher, Wooster High School. “After the first or second period I was so glad I had this thing because my voice isn’t tired and it has just helped immensely.”
Kyl Garrick is deaf and the audible enhancement system can still give him signals to help in his studies.
“For example if I am working and I am paying attention to my work at the table and the teacher starts talking or something, the kids will look up but I won’t notice it,” said Garrick. “But, if I hear with the audio enhancement then I can look up and notice the language access from the interpreter.”
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…The 200,000-square-foot building boasts a two-story fitness facility with 14 basketball hoops, an auditorium with a full cable rigging system and an infrared audio enhancement system for teachers that automatically hooks up to speakers in the classroom.
One of the hardest parts of the process was convincing teachers of the vision, according to Hart, who said it took “hard conversations and leaps of faith” to get to opening day.
The design choices aren’t just aesthetic, according to Canyons spokesman Jeff Haney. He noted that 50 percent of the school’s students are from low-income homes.
“For them to walk into this school and know that we’ve invested in their education — that’s important,” Haney said.
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Noisy classes don’t usually make the news, but in this case, they have. Western Heights Middle School in Hagerstown, Maryland received a grant from Audio Enhancement. With the new classroom audio systems in place, the students could hear their teachers better. Additionally, the classrooms next to the lunchroom were able to overcome the distracting noises because the systems improved their learning environment. Watch how the Audio Enhancement systems made a difference in this Maryland school.
…In April, Superintendent Gary Mathews reviewed survey data from the 24 teachers and 2,762 students learning and teaching in the audio-enhanced classrooms. Of the students surveyed, 90% reported that “it is easier to hear my teacher when he/she uses the audio sound system.” 85% respoanded yes when asked if “my teacher’s voice is loud and clear with the system.” 76% responded yes when asked if the sound system “helped them listen better.” 88% responded yes to the question, “When my teacher is writing on the board [with back turned], can you hear him/her with the sound system?” Finally, when students were asked if they “liked having my teacher use the sound system in our classroom,” 78% responded yes. Of Newton’s teachers, 90% responded yes to “Do students focus on instruction well?” Prior to audio-enhancement, only 21% said yes. 95% said that students “understand instruction better” using audio enhancement compared to only 22% who thought so prior to audio enhancement. When asked “Do students stay on task more often with few reminders using audio enhancement,” 96% responded yes. When asked “Are students more engaged in classroom discussions,” 83% of our teachers said yes since the introduction of audio enhancement. Prior to audio-enhanced classrooms, a mere 8% said yes.
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Ron Clark, co-Founder of the Ron Clark Academy located in Atlanta, GA has released his new book, “The End of Molasses Classes: Getting Our Kids Unstuck– 101 Extraordinary Solutions for Parents and Teachers”. The book serves as guidance for parents who want more for their children, teachers who need strategies for helping students achieve success, and communities who hope to improve education of our next generation. This book is available in stores beginning July 26, 2011. We are proud supporters of the Ron Clark Academy. The revenue from book sales will help support RCA’s educator training program and scholarships for Ron Clark Academy students. To purchase Ron Clark’s latest book, visit his website or purchase on Amazon.com.