Desk chairs squeak. Radiators rattle. Vents hum. Classrooms are noisy--and it's only getting worse. Many "open concept" schools don't even have walls to contain noise between rooms. It's no wonder research shows that kids not seated in the front row miss 30 to 50 percent of what their teachers say.
Other factors can put kids even further behind. Maybe our student sits in the back, speaks English as a second language, has ear infections, or struggles with attention deficits.
As moms who understand hearing issues - Susan's child hears with cochlear implants, and Beth is a speech pathologist - we knew this was a huge problem being overlooked every day.
When we learned about the benefits of classroom audio systems, we realized every classroom in our community needed the technology.
So we partnered with Lincoln Public Schools in Nebraska on a pilot project called Hear to Learn. After convincing our superintendent and raising the needed funds from our community, we installed 139 classroom audio systems in every room of five elementary schools.
After two months with the systems, here's what our teachers are saying:
1. Children hear instruction no matter where they sit.
Because the audio system's flat panel speaker projects the teacher's voice evenly across the classroom, every desk becomes a good place for students to hear and learn. Teachers are able to quickly get a student's attention from across the room and don't have to repeat themselves when giving instructions.
2. No more "teacher voice".
When teachers raise their voices to be heard, it often results in vocal-strain related absences or just plain old exhaustion at the end of the day. When they wear the small infrared microphone around their neck, teachers can speak normally (or even whisper) and still be heard throughout the room.
3. Students pay better attention and stay on task.
Students listen and engage more readily when they can hear. Teachers report fewer off task behaviors resulting in easier classroom management, increased instructional time and better academic outcomes for students.
4. Students learn more from each other.
With more emphasis on reciprocal teaching (student-to-student), hearing each other is critical. With the student handheld microphone, even the quietest child can be heard. Teachers tell us children love the microphones and wait patiently to use them.
5. Maximizing tools like videos and music.
Using multimedia not only helps keep children engaged, but it's an important part of today's reading curriculum. Our teachers are able to hook up their laptops or personal electronic devices wirelessly to the speaker, and their voices are still being heard clearly over the music or video.
We started the Hear to Learn project because we knew that it was vital for children to hear their teachers and each other. Thanks to our passionate supporters in the community, we were able to make a difference, and you can too. How can you help children in your hometown hear to learn?
For more information on Hear to Learn, watch the short video below and follow Hear to Learn on Facebook.