Tech Talk: Sound Advice

Maybe the troublemakers in the back row just can't hear.

Today's students live in a fast-paced world full of interactive media, both video and audio. Students will perform better when they accurately hear the spoken word. According to a report in The Journal of the American Medical Association, nearly 15 percent of children age 6 to 19 have some degree of hearing loss in one or both ears. Put that together with modern-day noise in the classroom and it's clear that speech intelligibility is an important factor in the learning process. Even kids with normal hearing can miss as much as one-third of what is being said.

Shouldn't we assume that a high-quality learning environment is one that creates a positive and efficient sound connection between the learner and the information being disseminated? The more clearly and accurately students hear the information, the more likely they will learn to their highest potential.

The move from the use of classroom television monitors to classroom video/data projectors dramatically improved the image size and clarity of data and video images being displayed in the classroom, but didn't improve the ability of students to hear. Once that jump is made from glass to projection, it is essential to have an equally upgraded classroom sound system separate from the projector. The classroom sound system can have either ceiling-mounted or wall-mounted speakers, a classroom sound amplifier and all the connection points necessary for the computer, DVD, VCR and any other audiovisual source.

The second issue is a teacher voice-amplification system. Several are on the market, and the wireless infrared (IR) has more advantages than disadvantages. With IR, teachers can go from room to room and even down the hall with their microphones. This eliminates changing channels, like more expensive UHF systems and less expensive VHS systems. There is no interference between rooms, and the systems are scalable.

Studies have shown:

  • Teacher absenteeism declines with sound field amplification. Teachers' complaints and sick leave for voice, jaw or throat problems decrease dramatically for teachers who use sound field amplification systems in their classrooms compared with teachers who do not.

  • Student attentiveness and student behavior improves in audio-enhanced classrooms. The use of a wireless microphone by the teacher and loudspeakers placed appropriately in the ceiling reduces student fatigue, increases on-task student behavior, improves classroom management and decreases teacher vocal fatigue.

  • Students listen and follow directions better. Teachers support the use of sound field amplification because they feel free to move about the classroom, and they do not have to repeat instructions as often.

Day is senior analyst at KBD Planning Group, Young Harris, Ga., a firm specialized in educational facilities and technology planning. He can be reached at [email protected]. www.kbdplanning.com

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