As the Chief Technology Officer for a small, rural school district nestled in the hills of Appalachia, it is critically important that any recommendation I make to replace an aging system or network component be deliberate and strategic to ensure the optimal utilization of finite financial resources. Some of the schools in the district I serve were constructed 60+ years ago. When systems such as school intercoms begin to far outreach end-of-life status, it is extremely important to cast a vision for how a school intercom system can be upgraded with forward-facing purpose.
We always like to begin such a process by examining all the solution market leaders and by reaching out to colleagues across the nation to inquire about solutions they have researched and adopted. An important step in the process is to “dream the big dream” as it pertains to exploring the functionality the new solution might offer that could eliminate other costs and integrate systems for high-impact, cross-functional support of the school and the people who teach and learn within.
Much has changed in the school intercom market since the introduction of the traditional solutions. School safety must now be woven into each decision we make and every solution we deploy. School intercom systems can now serve as an important, integrated security tool that puts the power where it belongs, in the hands of the teachers in the building.
In addition, scientific research has proven the correlation to students’ ability to hear their teachers clearly, especially during the early years when they are first learning letter sounds, and becoming phonetically astute. Consequently, intercom/communication solutions should include a classroom audio component that allows teachers to speak in normal voice level while providing instruction. In doing so, a teacher can better clarify letter sounds, focus on enunciation and pronunciation, and preserve the integrity of their own voice function throughout their busy day of teaching.
New School Intercom System: Staying Connected with Teachers
In Greeneville City School District, we just recently replaced the second of eight old intercom systems with a state-of-the-art solution called Audio Enhancement EPIC. This deployment includes a complete “rip and replace” for our district. The new speakers are clear and crisp, which allows us to meet the traditional needs of office-to-classroom communication needs, and the system provides many integrated tools and resources that are proving to be transformational.
For example, by incorporating the Classroom Audio component of the system into our latest install, teachers are reporting extremely positive feedback. At Tusculum View Elementary School, teachers enter classrooms each morning and immediately place a small, comfortable device around their necks. Once powered on, the device affords the teacher a seamless way to signal the front office of a classroom emergency simply by pushing a button. A discreet visual indicator in each classroom keeps the teacher apprised of actions being taken without the need to contact or be contacted by the front office.
The device also serves as a microphone, and by projecting the teacher’s voice via strategically placed speakers, the focus is on voice clarification more than on voice amplification. Teachers report increases in student attention and listening, and they say that they leave school each day with less fatigue and less tired vocal cords. And when teachers speak in a normal voice, students lower their own voices in kind, making for lower classroom noise levels.
School administrators and front office personnel are now able to easily create and manage zones such as “Kindergarten Classrooms” or “Third Grade Hall” to eliminate disrupting the instructional day with unnecessary or irrelevant announcements and notifications, which have shown to lead to the loss of significant learning time. Teachers and office personnel can also seamlessly converse with no need to push buttons or utilize classroom telephones during the day. High-quality sound and music can be streamed to zones and/or the entire school as students arrive and depart each day.
With two EPIC systems fully installed and deployed, our district will now focus on replacing at least one system per year as part of capital budget planning. Because we invested in the upfront work and research, we now have a replicable school communication system that we believe will serve our schools for many years to come.