Page 32

INDUSTRY POV

Leveraging Wi-Fi In The Classroom It can be invaluable for voice amplification and assistive listening.

By Carrie Keele Listen Technologies

T

he next time that parents and educators are inclined to say “put down that phone” to students, they might want to reconsider. Smartphones and mobile devices can distract students and teachers and interfere with learning, but, when they are used judiciously, these ubiquitous devices can be quite helpful for amplification and assistive listening in the classroom. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates nearly 15 percent of US children between the ages of six and 19 have hearing loss of at least 16dB in one or both ears. (To put that in context, the sound that a pin makes when it drops measures 10dB, whereas rustling leaves measure 20dB.) Even mild hearing loss in only one ear can affect academic performance. The American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA) reports that children who have mild to moderate hearing loss, who do not get help for their hearing loss, might fall one to four grade levels behind their peers. Classrooms, by their nature, are noisy. Students who have “typical” hearing (no clinical evidence of hearing loss or impairment) might struggle to hear educators and their peers over heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems; road noise; the din of computers, projectors and other electronics; and the cacophony generated by people moving about the classroom, turning pages, and rummaging through desks and backpacks. Poor acoustics (think hard surfaces and high ceilings) that enable reverberation, or that ser ve to muffle sounds, also play a role; other factors include accents and the volume at which others speak. Where and how teachers address students matters, too. 32 Sound & Communications May 2019

For instance, a teacher who has his or her back turned to the students as he or she speaks and writes on a smartboard will be more difficult to hear and understand than a teacher who faces his or her students while speaking. Soundfield systems are designed to help students—regardless of where they are seated in a classroom—hear the teacher. The teacher’s voice is transmitted from a microphone to an amplifier and speakers located in different spots around the classroom. The idea is to disperse sound throughout the space, thereby enabling students in the back and on the sides of the classroom to hear as well as those in the front of the classroom. What’s more, teachers do not have to shout in order to be heard. Research proves that amplification in the classroom—whether through soundfield systems or other amplifying technologies—enhances classroom management and diminishes discipline problems because the teacher’s voice reaches ever y student in the classroom. In a summar y of studies conducted by the MARRS (Mainstream Amplification Resource Room Study) Project, participating students reported “the amplified voice helps them pay attention, better understand oral directions…and hear the teacher without straining.” In classrooms that feature amplification, students both with and without hearing loss saw statistically significant gains in reading and language achievement test scores. If a classroom does not have a soundfield system, or if a soundfield system alone is not enough for students who are hard of hearing or struggle with hearing loss, there are assistive-listening technologies that can help. The newest options involve delivering sound directly to each student, creating a personal listening experience. Assistive-listening systems that are Wi-Fi based leverage the power of the cloud and the prevalence of Wi-Fi (a 2017 study reported at least 88 percent of US schools have classroom access to Wi-Fi) and mobile products like smartphones and tablets to stream audio directly to the devices. Audio over Wi-Fi is an affordable, simple solution that allows students to hear their teacher or other classroom audio clearly.

How It Works Schools install an audio-over-Wi-Fi assistive-listening ser ver on their existing wireless network (they do not have to invest in another separate wireless network),

Profile for Sound & Communications

Sound & Communications May 2019, Vol 65 No 5  

AV innovation and application has affected the education experience in more ways than in any other vertical market these days. Each May, So...

Sound & Communications May 2019, Vol 65 No 5  

AV innovation and application has affected the education experience in more ways than in any other vertical market these days. Each May, So...