VIEWpath Blend—Portable Audio and Video for Blended Learning

VIEWpath Blend—Portable Audio and Video for Blended Learning

Today’s educators are facing new demands brought to schools by COVID-19. They are tasked with delivering clear instruction to students inside and outside the classroom, likely while wearing a mask. With VIEWpath Blend, a combined classroom audio and video solution from Audio Enhancement, teachers have a tool to manage these challenges.

VIEWpath Blend combines the BEAM and EduCamPTZ (Pan Tilt Zoom) camera for the ultimate portable audio and video system. This combined solution uses the BEAM to deliver crystal-clear audio, giving all students the opportunity to hear what’s being taught, even when teachers are speaking through a mask; and the EduCamPTZ, allowing educators to record both audio and video content for students participating in remote or blended learning.

This portable system, when integrated with the installed headend server, has all the features of VIEWpath® (Video Interactive Education Window) in one simple-to-use package.

What’s included?

EduCamPTZ—A classroom camera designed to allow educators to easily broadcast and capture lessons for remote learning. Delivery options include:

  • • Downloaded files to store on USB drives
  • • Embed codes to add recordings to a Learning Management System (LMS)
  • • Livestream for times when students are learning inside and outside the classroom

BEAM—An all-in-one audio system designed to work seamlessly with our award-winning classroom audio microphones. BEAM product highlights:

  • • Integrated amplifier and receiver for teacher voice amplification
  • • Portable speaker system can move between multiple classrooms
  • • Bluetooth® capabilities for high-quality multimedia sound

XD Teacher Microphone—Wireless microphone that uses an accurate mic and DECT technology to transmit a teacher’s voice clearly. Some features we love:

  • • Lightweight microphone is easy to wear
  • • Teachers can speak in their natural voice, with or without a mask
  • • Decreased strain on teachers’ voices and energy levels

VIEWpath Blend was designed for today’s educators as they face new challenges. A portable, combined audio and video system, VIEWpath Blend is an ideal solution to help educators manage teaching through a mask while instructing in-person and remote students.

Teacher Masks and the Need for Audio Enhancement

Teacher Masks and the Need for Audio Enhancement

These are unusual times. As students and teachers return to schools, wearing masks may become the next normal. Ensuring every student receives proper volume and clarity of instruction and can understand what is being taught can already be a challenge with the normal background noise of a classroom environment. With teachers needing to speak from behind a mask, classroom audio solutions become an essential tool in student education.

How does wearing a mask affect classroom communication?

We conducted research to understand how wearing a mask would affect communication in the classroom. The study was conducted with a video camera and type 1 real time analyzer/sound level meter positioned 25 feet from the speaker to capture what a student sitting furthest from the teacher would hear. The results show there is a significant difference in the quality of the teacher’s voice when he or she wears a mask.  From a student listener’s perspective, masks interfere with the teacher’s ability to communicate effectively.

The figures below represent the same sentence spoken by a teacher. Figure 1 shows the sentence spoken with no mask or microphone. Figure 2 shows the sentence spoken through a mask, still with no microphone. Figure 3 represents the sentence spoken through a mask while using a Teacher Microphone. The colors within each data block represent the levels measured at 1/3 octave frequency bands—green illustrates normal conversational level; yellow represents a quieter speech level at risk of being lost in background noise; and blue shows audio that is mostly lost in background noise.

This research demonstrates that using a microphone has a substantial impact on the clarity of teacher communication from a student listener’s perspective. Without sound enhancement, much of what a teacher says may get lost in the normal background noise of a classroom. This indicates that Classroom Audio greatly reinforces a student’s ability to clearly understand what is being taught.

An ELL Student’s Experience with Classroom Audio

An ELL Student’s Experience with Classroom Audio

Classroom Audio Systems have obvious benefits for students with a hearing impairment, but there are benefits for many other student groups as well. From students with ADHD to specific learning disabilities, from English language learners to typical students, classroom audio promotes learning for all students, in every classroom.

We recently talked with Jimy Erekson, one of our sales representatives, about his experience growing up as an ELL student. He offers valuable insights and a unique perspective into the experience and challenges present when a student is learning a second language and new content at the same time.

An Active ELL Student

Jimy Erekson was an active student. He was adopted when he was five and spoke only Spanish. When he began attending an English-speaking school, Jimy didn’t understand what was being said. He found it easy to get distracted and focus on other things that he could understand. Jimy’s teachers worked with him as well as they could, but it was hard to keep a student engaged with a language he didn’t understand.

Jimy sometimes had an interpreter that would help him in class, giving Jimy an opportunity to learn the content in his native language. This helped, but sometimes even the interpreter couldn’t hear and understand what the teacher was saying. When the teacher spoke quickly, was far away, or was facing the board, Jimy’s interpreter did their best to quickly figure out what the teacher said, translate it, and move on before missing anything else. The challenge was considerable.

Learning to speak, write, and understand a second language created an extra challenge for Jimy. He couldn’t only focus on the content but had to give extra attention to learning the words as well. He remembers watching friends excel and learn quickly. He felt the disadvantage he was fighting through and could see himself falling behind his friends’ learning. He had to work harder to catch up. It was hard to feel like he couldn’t keep up with the other students in his classes.

The year things started to change

School continued to be a struggle and discouraging until Jimy’s fourth grade year when Jimy’s teacher wore a microphone. Suddenly, he was able to hear clearly. He could tell the difference between words like “tree” and “three” that had previously sounded the same. He could hear what his teacher said, even when their back was turned so they could write on the board. Jimy’s interpreter was able to decipher what the teacher was saying and confidently interpret for Jimy.

Jimy’s ability to take the English he heard and connect it to the Spanish he confidently spoke grew that year. He began to build confidence as a student and feel he could overcome the disadvantage he’d experienced. This was the year he started picking up more content and became more engaged and less distracted at school.

An unexpected bonus came during the story times that Jimy’s fourth grade teacher enjoyed holding. During story time, students had the opportunity to use a handheld microphone to read aloud. Jimy previously avoided speaking in front of the class because he felt self-conscious about his broken English. When he heard other students working hard to decipher and decode the words, he realized he wasn’t the only one who didn’t have a perfect knowledge. He learned it was okay to make a mistake with a word and be corrected. This helped Jimy have courage to speak more English, and when he spoke more, his learning accelerated.

When Jimy grew up and started his own family, he took a job selling Classroom Audio Systems for Audio Enhancement because he knew for himself the difference it could make for students. He had experienced the enhanced learning environment an audio system can create, and he wanted to help other students receive the same benefits he found when he was in school.

Jimy enjoys working in areas that have a significant number of English language learners. His background offers a unique perspective that can help school leaders understand what their ELL students are experiencing. Jimy is able to advocate for these students and help school districts understand the long-term benefits and growth ELL students gain when given the opportunity to hear clearly what their teacher is saying, year after year.

Classroom Audio—A Student’s Perception

Classroom Audio—A Student’s Perception

Studies about the effectiveness of classroom audio systems have been conducted for decades. Research demonstrating the benefits of classroom audio is abundant, accessible, and probably not new to many educators. But do classroom audio systems really make that much of a difference in real-world application? What effect can a system have on the way a student perceives their teacher?

Meet Lizzie

Let me introduce you to Lizzie, my daughter, who is now in seventh grade. Lizzie received an ADHD diagnosis when she was in second grade. She was diagnosed with a learning disability and a significant executive function delay in sixth. She has a hard time reading people and shows signs of anxiety. And school has always been a challenge for her.

Starting at the end of third grade, Lizzie often came home upset because her teacher “yelled at the class” that day. I was surprised by this as I had met her teacher, and she didn’t seem like the yelling type. I would ask clarifying questions, and she would assure me the teacher had yelled. I was concerned but not alarmed, as Lizzie’s understanding of events was not always accurate. This pattern continued through fourth grade.  

No More Yelling

I gained a new understanding of the situation Lizzie’s fifth grade year—that year she never complained about the teacher yelling at the class. Her teacher was nice, like the other teachers that she identified as “yellers,” but Lizzie never came home upset about the teacher yelling. A few months into the school year, I learned about classroom audio systems. Then the lightbulb went off, and I asked my daughter if her teacher wore a microphone.

“Yes, she does.”

Did Mrs. _______ wear a microphone?

“No, she didn’t.”

How about the teacher from the year before?

“No, she didn’t wear a microphone either.”

Lizzie’s Perception

In sixth grade, we were back to stories of the teacher yelling at the class. Once again, when I met the teacher, I couldn’t picture him yelling at the class. But I could picture him raising his voice to speak over a room full of excited students. In Lizzie’s eyes, he was yelling. In Lizzie’s eyes, all her teachers who didn’t wear microphones yelled at the class.

The teachers I know are kind and love their students. They wouldn’t yell at their class in anger, yet that is exactly how my daughter interpreted their “teacher voice.” To her, the class was getting yelled at most days, except for the year her teacher used her teacher microphone. For my daughter, who is sensitive to loud noises and has a hard time focusing, the use of classroom audio completely changed her perception of her teacher and what happened daily in class.

Integrating Audio Systems in Modern Classrooms

Integrating Audio Systems in Modern Classrooms

Classroom audio systems offer many benefits to schools. They have been shown to positively affect student achievement and engagement, as well as reduce fatigue and vocal strain for teachers. Some might argue that audio systems don’t offer the same benefits in today’s classrooms where traditional seating is shifting to flexible seating and teachers don’t just lecture at the front of the room. How does classroom audio fit into new learning environments? How can teachers use today’s technology in conjunction with classroom audio to enhance the learning experience?

Changes in Modern Classrooms

Teachers used to spend much of their day sharing information with their class at the front of the room, but teaching methods are changing. Teachers act as facilitators of learning, talking to the class as a whole, visiting with small groups, or working with individual students. More class time is dedicated to students working on their own or in small groups, and students spend more time in front of the class presenting what they’ve learned during research and projects. With the classroom environment changed so much, how do microphones fit into the mix?

Some of these changes make it even more important for teachers to have a microphone and audio system. As teachers move around the classroom and as student seating varies, teachers can’t face all the students all the time. With a classroom audio system, students can hear the teacher, even if facing away from them. When teachers need to talk to the class during or after small group work, having their voice distributed throughout the classroom makes it easier for everyone to hear a call to attention. And when students are sharing their work with the class, they can use the teacher microphone or a separate handheld microphone to make sure everyone can hear them.

Innovative Technology

The advancement of technology in today’s classrooms provides additional options when using classroom audio systems. With a computer and classroom microphone, teachers can use lecture capture—software that allows the teacher to capture a desktop recording along with their voice from the microphone. Then, they can share the lesson with students who are sick, away for extra-curricular activities, or hospital homebound, helping students keep up with classroom work.

Schools can integrate interactive displays with their classroom audio systems. These displays offer striking visuals, but their sound is not always clear, nor does it always carry well. With audio system integration, sound from presentations and videos can be distributed throughout the classroom, making multimedia more enjoyable for everyone.

Today’s classroom setups and teaching methods are always evolving, but classroom audio systems still offer many benefits for teachers and students. As teachers use them to enhance their own voice or the voices of their students, lessons can be more engaging and understandable for everyone in the room. As technology is integrated, teachers can take advantage of options like lecture capture software to help absent students keep up. With the increase of multimedia use in classrooms, audio systems can also optimize that audio to make it more engaging for everyone. 

Employee Spotlight: Patrick Sobak, Territory Sales Representative

Employee Spotlight: Patrick Sobak, Territory Sales Rep

Patrick Sobak spent 13 years working as an educator and with educators before he came to Audio Enhancement. His experience in education helps him understand many of the challenges that today’s teachers face. Patrick values education and knows the importance of making it as effective as possible.

Patrick grew up watching and admiring the difference his mom made as a teacher. When he went to college, Patrick got a job working with children and discovered he loved working with kids. That was when he knew he wanted to follow in his mother’s footsteps and become a teacher, too.

Joys and Challenges of Teaching

Patrick taught math, science, and social studies to fifth and sixth graders for six years in South Carolina. When asked what his favorite part of teaching was, he had a hard time choosing. He loved the students, especially his 5th and 6th graders. He loved getting to know a new group of students each year and watching them grow and learn. He loved that each day was different with different opportunities.

 Of course, every job has its challenges. The demanding schedule and lack of time were the hardest things for Patrick. He often felt like he worked two jobs—teaching the students during the school day, then grading papers, talking to parents, and prepping lessons in the afternoon and evening. Patrick also felt they lacked time to fully cover standards and still discuss certain subjects at a deeper level. Experiencing this struggle helped him understand how important it is to ease the burden on teachers and make classrooms as efficient as possible.

Working With Educators

When Patrick left teaching, he did so to work with educators on a different level—with education software. He enjoyed the opportunity to help school districts get software that would serve their needs and then help teachers implement it. When it was time for Patrick to move away from the software industry, he chose to sell Audio Enhancement products because, “I’d heard many great things about Audio Enhancement and the products speak for themselves.”

Because Patrick has been in the shoes of teachers, he understands how helpful it is to lighten their load. Teachers have a taxing job with very little downtime—any chance to make their lives and jobs easier is valuable. One product he feels can help significantly is a classroom audio system. They help relieve stress on teachers’ voices because the teachers don’t have to talk so loudly all day. Additionally, the system offers benefits in improving student behavior, which also eases teacher stress.

We are grateful to have dedicated employees like Patrick Sobak, who care about educators and the challenges they face.

5 Ways to Encourage Student Voice

Lineup of students representing student voice

5 Ways to Encourage Student Voice

Young people possess a unique perspective on the world that can enlighten adults. These students are the “customers” of our schools and possess insight into the support they need for healthy development. We give students a voice in school when we listen to their ideas and provide opportunities for them to enact change in their education. When we support student voice, it strengthens students’ confidence and helps them discover their unique skills.

How then do we involve students more in their education and help them become active contributors to their own learning? We found five different ideas.

Student debates and classroom discussions

An organized debate or classroom discussion opens up opportunities for students to share their perspective and ideas with their peers and teacher. For quieter students, brainstorming sessions offer a low-pressure way to get involved. Providing a student microphone can give those students more courage to speak up and give their input.

Incorporate student surveys and feedback

Specifically asking students for their input on their educational experience shows them that we value their opinions. They can give feedback on how the school is functioning overall or even just about their experience with the latest unit in their classroom. Some students desire more involvement and could conduct a study and assessment of the school. With their unique perspective, students’ findings provide valuable insight into schoolwide processes and policies.

Student participation in meetings that apply to them

Educators can involve students in meetings that pertain to them. Rather than talking about a student in an IEP, including that student and talking TO them can help them invest more in their education. Students can lead parent conferences, setting their own goals and discussing areas where they’d like to improve. Students can also participate in education conferences—some even present at these conferences!

Provide opportunities for creative expression

Students may take a more active role in their education when given the option for creative expression in their schoolwork. They can choose to present their efforts through art, essays, or presentations. Additionally, project-based learning and genius hour provide opportunities for students to direct their own learning and explore their own interests.  

Nurture student leadership

We easily spot leaders in the outgoing, outspoken kids, but students demonstrate leadership in other ways. Some students excel at teaching and mentoring other students. Others volunteer in their school and community. All forms of leadership deserve recognition and add value to a school community.

“When schools give students the agency and the tools to speak out, the effects can resonate across students’ lives.” –Leah Shafer

Students are not just future problem-solvers. They can make their schools, communities, and world better today. They just need the opportunity to speak up and have their voices heard.

5 Behavior Management Tips for the Classroom

Students working in a classroom

5 Behavior Management Tips for the Classroom

Students misbehaving can interrupt learning and frustrate teachers, yet it occurs daily. Teachers react to bad behavior in different ways, using different disciplinary actions, directing attention elsewhere, or even ignoring the behavior. Whatever the reaction, the question remains, “How can I manage misbehavior in my classroom?” You can find dozens of tips for effective classroom management, but we wanted to share five general strategies:

  • Assume the best: Assume students want to learn and participate. Assume they want to be there. Assume they want to learn good behavior and take advantage of opportunities to teach such behavior. “Assuming the best is an underlying orientation that enables us to treat both our students and ourselves with respect and dignity.” Eventually, student behavior begins to reflect positive assumptions from their teachers.
  • Teach students how to better manage themselves: When students become self-regulated learners, they are more likely to stay focused and less likely to provide distractions for other students. Taking time to teach skills like listening and focusing can help students become more disciplined and self-regulated.
  • Provide a safe, structured classroom:A structured classroom often translates to a safe classroom, one where students can enjoy themselves and focus on learning.” Start on day one with clear rules and expectations. Set expectations high but keep goals attainable. Hold students accountable for their actions and be sure to hold yourself to the same standard.
  • Provide effective consequences: To increase the effectiveness of consequences, it may help to wait until emotions have settled, and you’ve had time to think of a creative consequence. Be sure to follow-up with the consequence, but do it privately and with empathy.
  • Offer all students equal opportunity to learn: If students aren’t able to hear what’s being taught, they can become disengaged and distracted. Installing Classroom Audio Systems and reducing environmental noise gives all students the opportunity to hear and learn. 

We’d like to hear from you. Have you tried any of these techniques? What’s a strategy you’ve found works well in your classroom?

Spotlight School—South Lake Elementary

Spotlight School—South Lake Elementary

At Audio Enhancement, we value our relationships with educators. We also strive to develop solutions that can resolve challenges that schools face on a daily basis. That is why we’re thrilled to hear of success stories like South Lake Elementary School in Florida.

South Lake Elementary serves students in Brevard County Public Schools. After closing its doors in 2013, the school district recently renovated it. In August 2018, the school reopened as a choice school focused on Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math (STEAM). Part of that renovation included installation of Audio Enhancement’s EPIC System™, an intercom, paging, and bells system, and Classroom Audio Systems.

Jennifer Brockwell, South Lake’s principal, has worked in education for 15 years. Her experience in education, especially as an administrator, has shown her some of the major difficulties educators face when managing their school’s communication systems. Changing bell schedules generally requires a work order or is a complicated process. Staff often resort to walking messages to classrooms when the paging system isn’t working properly. In emergency situations, communication can break down and precious time can be lost.  

EPIC System

In an attempt to minimize or eliminate these difficulties, Ms. Brockwell decided to order EPIC System. Her hopes included a user-friendly program that would give her control over bell schedules and the ability to make changes as needed. Her reaction after only four months of using EPIC System? “The system indeed far exceeded my expectations. It’s extremely user friendly and non-intimidating.” Teachers also appreciate the system, reporting, “I love how we can change the bells. The paging system sounds clear.”

An additional benefit she found is the ability to prerecord messages. Whether for assisting with the Pledge of Allegiance on a busy morning or covering a drill when Ms. Brockwell is unavailable, an audio file is ready to play. These recordings ensure the school can run smoothly, even in her absence.

EPIC System also includes the benefit of SAFE System™. Emergency situations require quick and effective communication, and with SAFE System, school adminstration can receive immediate notifications. As Ms. Brockwell explains, “When it comes to safety, minutes count.”

Classroom Audio

In addition to EPIC System, South Lake installed Classroom Audio Systems. Teachers shared that all the students can hear them, and they don’t have to speak as loudly. “I like that all of my students can hear me with no problem. They seem to pay attention more and respond well when I use the microphone. I really like it!” One teacher pointed out how it helped when calling for cleanup and getting students to hear during lineup when the noise level is higher.

Teachers also noticed that some students participate and speak up more when using the Mic360™ in conjunction with the classroom system. One teacher said, “It has benefited my students that have difficulty projecting their voice. I have a student that is more willing to participate in classroom discussions, utilizing the [Mic360], because she will not be asked to repeat herself or to speak up.”

Audio Enhancement wants to enhance education and ease the difficulties educators face, whether it’s with schoolwide communication or classroom audio systems.  We are grateful to partner with schools like South Lake Elementary in accomplishing that goal for their faculty, staff, and students.

People Over Products—A 40-Year Passion

People Over Products—A 40-Year Passion

From the start of Audio Enhancement, the focus has been on people, not products. Claudia Anderson founded the company as a result of her focus on helping her two hard-of-hearing sons succeed in school. She pioneered the concept of sound amplification in the classroom which enhanced learning for students in schools across the country. Today, her son and the company’s CEO, Jeff Anderson, continues to run the company centered on people and how Audio Enhancement can help them. Continue reading “People Over Products—A 40-Year Passion”