Sound is a key component of education. If students can’t hear their instructor well, they’re clearly not going to focus or learn as much. That’s why more and more schools are investing in instructional audio systems, which are high-tech public address systems designed with classrooms, teachers, and all students in mind.
Terri Meier is director of education technology for Rio Rancho Public Schools in New Mexico where all new classrooms are being built with voice amplification systems in place and many existing classrooms are being retrofitted with similar systems. These systems are key for schools in their accessibility efforts and in providing quality instruction overall, she says.
1. Instructional Audio is Vital for Accessibility
First and foremost, having a mic’d teacher connected to properly mounted speakers is vital for ensuring each and every student can hear. About 1 in 5 American teenagers experience some degree of hearing loss, according to the Hearing Loss Association of America (opens in new tab), and Meier says she has noticed a rising number of students with hearing impairments in recent years.
“We are big believers in making sure we have equity in our schools and we have what we need for all students,” she says. Rio Rancho uses Lightspeed (opens in new tab) systems to enhance its classroom audio capabilities.
2. Teachers Don’t Have to Raise Their Voices
While teachers know it's important not to yell at kids, it can be necessary in some classrooms to raise one's voice to regain students’ attention.
"If you’ve ever been in a classroom, [the students are] all talking at once, they're all doing this, that, and the other, and you raise your voice, not yell, but you raise your voice to get them to calm down,” Meier says. However, this can be stressful to teachers and even misinterpreted as yelling by students. Amplification systems do away with these misunderstandings and therefore foster a less stressful classroom environment.
3. Preventing Vocal Strain
As anyone who has ever had to lead students in a classroom knows, teaching is not always easy on one's vocal cords. Having proper audio can ease the strain on teachers’ voices, Meier says. “I remember giving one [sound system] to a teacher once and I said, 'Just try it out,' and she came to me about a week later and she goes, ‘Oh, my gosh, this really helps me. I was going home with strained vocal cords and I didn't know why.'”
Meier does caution that some veteran teachers who are used to projecting as they speak may need to tone it down a bit when they’re mic’d. Some teachers may be tempted to crank the volume nob to 11 to drown out loud students, but Meier says the volume knob should not be used as a substitute for good classroom management.
4. Good Quality Instructional Audio Helps All Students Learn
Even though simply cranking the sound system can be a bad practice, good quality audio can help with classroom management because student behavior incidents tend to go down the better students hear.
“Everyone, adults and kids, if you're talking and they're not engaged and they can't hear you, they're gonna do something else,” Meier says. By providing teachers with quality sound, you take away a barrier that maybe students use as an excuse not to do something.