Hybrid and blended learning environments can be a challenge, especially when some students are in the class and some are learning at the same time at home. How can you ensure the students at home are as engaged as those in the classroom? Can they hear the instructor if she walks around the classroom?
During a recent Tech & Learning Lunch ‘n Learn webinar, Dr. Kecia Ray talked with district leaders about how they use sound technology to make sure all of their students are not just connected, but engaged in lessons. They discussed the importance of sound technology in current learning environments and what new tools can improve the delivery of instruction.
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The sound barrier. Most classrooms in LaGrange Highlands School District 106 in Illinois are hybrid, which means a mix of in-person and remote students. And when classes are synchronous, getting clear sound for the students at home is the biggest challenge, says Ali Beiermeister, Director of Teacher Learning. “Being able to hear one another and have a dialogue is key,” Beiermeister said.
“By having better sound, it’s easier to have students jump in and be able to share their thoughts,” said Mary Kinzel, a middle school science teacher in the district who teaches in a hybrid classroom. When the sound system is high quality and everyone can clearly hear what everyone else is saying, and in real time, remote students can be part of the normal classroom process, and don’t have to wait for mics to be muted or opened in order to share their thoughts. “Anything we can do right now in a hybrid classroom that lets us feel like it's a single classroom setting, we’re trying to encourage,” said Kinzel.
Right tool for the job. Having a wide range of classroom sizes and student populations, it was a challenge to find one tool to service everyone and everything, said Eric Callis, LaGrange Highlands’ director of technology. They first tried giving teachers tablets to walk around the classroom with to record voices, but that didn’t work for everyone. They eventually installed Nureva sound bars, which use a virtual array of microphones for a high-quality sound experience. “After the first-day novelty, the kids don’t even know the system is there,” Callis said. “The system creates the normal classroom environment that we’re interested in supporting.”
Working smarter, not harder. “One of the biggest challenges we have as an IT dept is that we’re being asked to support a wider range of products, so taking on an extra project is not something we’re looking for right now,” said Callis. He talked about installing a product such as the Nureva system (“It only took two screws to hang up”), and how teachers didn’t have to do anything other than select it as a mic source in their software. They were able to use it within an hour of installation. A product such as Nureva is also a very low maintenance solution, said Callis.
Finding a sound solution. “If remote students can’t hear, they can’t participate, so what’s the point of teaching that way?” said Nancy Knowlton, President and CEO of Nureva. She pointed out that video is an optional tool but audio is essential for a classroom teacher. She also discussed how her company focuses on minimizing hassles for educators and IT managers by developing a sound bar that is easy to install (it connects via a USB port), can be managed remotely, and autocalibrates itself. “We know that teachers don’t have the time to focus on tech, so we’re all about doing it for them,” Knowlton said.
Lunch 'n Learn with Tech & Learning
We hope you can join us for this weekly District Leadership Lunch ‘n Learn Roundtable series, hosted by Dr. Kecia Ray, every Wednesday. In this weekly series, districts from across the U.S. share their strategic plans, the challenges they are facing, and the creative solutions they are using to support students and teachers. Register for our upcoming event here.
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