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Assistive Listening Technologies and Wi-Fi – How They Work Together

For the more than 360 million people worldwide who suffer moderate to profound hearing loss, venues must create a listening experience that is equal to that available to the general public. It’s not only the right way to accommodate hearing-impaired parishioners, patrons, and customers—it’s the law.

 

Today we’re seeing public demand for listening solutions that extend beyond the traditional assistive listening market. Wi-Fi-based personal listening solutions, while delivering excellent sound quality, are designed for the convenience of the venue—owners and managers no longer need to purchase and maintain devices. Instead, users download an iPhone or Android app to their smartphone and then select the audio channel that corresponds with the video they want to watch in a multi-display setting.

 

While these types of solutions can be used by the general public as well as the hearing impaired, it’s important to note that they were not designed to meet the ADA standards for assistive listening or comparable laws outside of the U.S., which require venues to provide an equivalent listening experience for the hearing impaired. While the audio latency associated with Wi-Fi technology is negligible, it cannot provide an equal experience for people with hearing loss. This limitation combined with the requirement to provide a specific number of assistive listening devices means that Wi-Fi is not an ideal solution for compliance. That said, there are applications where Wi-Fi-based solutions can complement an existing assistive listening system (ALS) that uses RF, IR, or induction loop technologies, giving all patrons or customers the best possible listening experience.

 

How does that work? Let’s take a quick look at the best applications for Wi-Fi based solutions and then discuss when they make a great addition to your assistive listening solution.

 

Applications for Wi-Fi Based Solutions for Personal Listening

Wi-Fi for personal listening is an exciting, emerging area that has a growing list of applications and the potential for many more. We are seeing ListenWiFi being adopted in venues for:

  • Higher education, particularly in student unions, where multiple televisions are available and the student wants to select the audio channel for listening.
  • Corporate fitness centers or lobbies with video walls. Employees or visitors choose the audio channel for the video they want to watch.
  • Museums with multiple video displays throughout the exhibit. Visitors can select the audio channel that corresponds with the video that piques their interest.

 

The Right Listening Options for Any Audience

When you need to provide both hearing and hearing impaired audiences with audio options, adding a Wi-Fi personal listening solution to a venue with an existing ALS can be a cost-effective approach.

 

For example, a theater may offer a movie in multiple languages. As a theater, the venue is required to provide an assistive listening device to any hearing-impaired person. The ALS device provides equal access to the movie audio, but what about translations for the general public? Purchasing transmitters and receivers for the full audience that doesn’t need a device for assistive listening is quite an investment. But adding a Wi-Fi-based solution gives the ability to access different audio channels to anyone with an iPhone or Android device. This cost-effective strategy allows the venue to remain fully compliant and provides options that create exceptional—and equal—experiences for all moviegoers.

 

To learn more about ALS and Wi-Fi solutions and to determine which is appropriate for your venue, please contact us at Sales@listentech.com or by phone at +1.801.233.8992 or 1.800.330.0891 (toll-free in USA & Canada).

Putting Students’ Imaginations to Work with ListenPoint 2.0

Let’s face it. Other than parents, teachers have the greatest influence over children, so it is essential that students hear well in the classroom. That’s why we released ListenPoint 2.0, our latest Soundfield solution—we wanted to make learning limitless.

Can you imagine what the world would be like if Shakespeare had never learned to read? What if Einstein hadn’t had the opportunity to learn calculus? How different would our lives be if Steve Jobs couldn’t hear his kindergarten teacher? Without Jobs, we’d all still be using those crazy brick cell phones from the 1980’s! #lame #nomobileapps #howwouldiplaycandycrushsaga

Students learn best in environments where they can focus on what their teachers are saying. Unfortunately, several factors can get in the way. Some students have trouble focusing because they have hearing loss or are too far away from the teacher. Meanwhile, the classroom itself might have poor acoustics, or the teacher could have a strained voice from talking too loudly or too long.

In today’s classrooms, students have a lot of creative and innovative thinking to do. ListenPoint 2.0 helps them put their imaginations to work. It can also have a positive effect on their grades and test scores.* #bettergradesareawesome #A+ #listenpointisgenius

ListenPoint 2.0 delivers the following key benefits:

  • With mission critical deployments, it is the most advanced, flexible, scalable Soundfield system delivered by a trusted authority in the pro-AV market.
  • It incorporates AV technology and assistive listening systems to create enhanced and enriched learning environments for all students.
  • It is easy to install, operate, maintain, and adds more functionality over time.
  • It couples competitive pricing with advanced features.

We are truly excited to be part of a noble mission—educating students to become extraordinary people.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*The Marrs Report, 2006

Instruction Without Interruption

Lehman College’s Speech and Hearing Center of Bronx, NY, recently received a most remarkable renovation. What was once a small collection of speech therapy rooms and two-way mirrors is now one of the most high-tech speech pathology labs in the U.S. The innovative technology that the college brought on board is having an important impact on instructors, students, and patients.

 

The Speech and Hearing Center’s control room is adorned with multiple monitors, a touch screen control panel, and communication equipment – all part of a complex yet easy-to-use system that facilitates more efficient and effective training of speech pathology students. However, one of the system’s key components keeps a pretty low profile – the wireless Listen LS-04 Advanced Installed FM System.

 

Student therapists in the therapy rooms are equipped with the Listen LR-500 programmable body pack receiver with a pluggable earpiece. Because the equipment is discreetly worn by the student therapists, it does not become a distraction during the session.

 

The whole audiovisual system was designed by AV integrator IVCi LLC, and works like this. The wired therapy rooms are equipped with inconspicuous cameras and low profile plate microphones, which act as the digital “eyes and ears” of the room. These images and sounds are sent to the control station where an instructor monitors the session by watching the screens and listening through headphones. When correction or assistance is needed in the session, the instructor speaks into the microphone at the control station, which is then heard by the student therapist through the LR-500 receiver.

 

Thanks to ingenious design, one instructor can monitor several sessions at once, all from one spot. Before installing their elaborate AV system, which will accommodate up to 14 users, the instructors had to traverse corridors to monitor therapy sessions through two-way mirrors.

 

The instructor entered the room during the sessions to provide correction and feedback – a necessary learning tool and practice that unfortunately can disrupt the momentum.

 

Because Lehman College’s lab specializes in communication problems in children, interruptions cannot be underestimated.

 

One speech pathologist said children may sometimes misinterpret an instructor’s interruption and think that he/she did something wrong, which naturally may embarrass them. The disruptions also have the potential to undermine the credibility of the student therapist in the patient’s eyes, which could embarrass the student therapist and slow the patient’s progress.

 

With the Listen components, instructors can essentially “whisper” into the ear of the student therapist and provide real-time assistance without disrupting the flow of the session by entering the room. Thus, many of the “soft” risks are eliminated.

 

More importantly, having their new AV system means the instructors won’t miss opportunities to help students because they are away watching another session. They can manage all the sessions from one central control station. All of these innovations point to two important achievements for the college: better training for student therapists, and better outcomes for the patients.

Rochester Institute of Technology: Accommodating All Hearing Abilities

The Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) is home to the National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID), the first and largest specialty college of its kind. Since first accepting deaf and hard of hearing students in 1968, NTID continues to provide outstanding technical and professional education programs, while supporting deaf and hard of hearing students with a wide variety of services, from dispensing hearing devices and providing interpreters to assigning note-takers and installing group audio systems.
 
In 1999 NTID identified a gap in access to auditory information for hard of hearing students campus-wide. While assistive listening systems were available in many of the venues, the students and faculty were not aware of their options. In addition, the equipment was prone to breakdown, and was not always compatible with the students’ hearing devices; and the variety of systems around campus only added to the confusion.
 
Chas Johnstone, technology coordinator in the Technology Support Services Department said, “Some venues had FM systems, others had infrared systems. There were also technical problems like interference. For some students, changing frequencies on their devices required swapping out frequency cubes. It really was just a logistical nightmare.”
 
To add to the complexity of serving all hearing abilities, cochlear implants* were becoming more popular among students. Lawrence C. Scott, chair of the Communications Studies and Services Department explained that “the number of students with cochlear implants has skyrocketed.”
 
“The challenge then,” Scott explained, “was to provide ample and equal access to classes, seminars, productions and events to the deaf, hard of hearing, hearing and cochlear implant students and visitors.”
 
Both Johnstone and Scott agreed that the kind of technology needed to handle all these variations simply did not exist in 1999. After deciding to replace the old bulky FM systems with the new Phonak MicroLink system, the only challenge that remained was finding an FM transmitter compatible with both MicroLink’s narrow-band receivers and the many other brands the college dispenses.
 
Thanks to a recent partnership between Phonak and Listen Technologies Corporation – leading manufacturers of hearing devices and wireless audio technology respectively – a best-of-breeds technology solution was born that fit the bill perfectly. It includes the Listen LT-800-216 MHz FM stationary transmitter that can be programmed to work on wide-band or narrow-band frequencies.
 
Now on the RIT campus, 26 venues are outfitted with this new solution. Each system includes two Listen LT-800 FM Transmitters which are connected to the venue’s sound systems. One transmitter is set to a wide-band frequency, and the other transmitter is set to a narrowband frequency, which accommodates hearing devices such as the Phonak MicroLink Receivers.
 
Because these specialized transmitters have a broadcast range of 3000 feet, the solution is suitable for larger venues, such as the 440-seat Panara Theatre and the 8,200-seat Gordon Field House. NTID selected Listen’s LR-400 Display FM Receiver as the standard assistive listening receiver around campus for its durability, ease of use, and high sound quality.
 
What makes this solution as elegant as it is effective is how seamlessly the whole system works. As students with MicroLink receivers (attached to hearing aids) “float” within a couple of feet of MicroLink WallPilot wall plates, the users’ frequencies are automatically synchronized with that of the room’s group system. In addition, the overall “smart” presentation system enables instructors to operate the system without a technician on site. They control the volume for convenience.
 
“Initially logistics were challenging because transmitters would be in close proximity of each other. We were very concerned about interference, like we had experienced with our older systems,” Johnstone said. “With this system though, there was no interference and no problems.”
Scott called it a “zero-maintenance solution” and said, “the cross-platform compatibility really makes all the difference in the usability of the system. There is compatibility with anyone who walks in the door.”
 
Yes, that includes even those with perfect hearing abilities. Because NTID is fertile ground for training and developing with the use of American Sign Language, the college will host a number of events – usually in a theater – with ASL as the floor language.
 
Scott explained that in an ASL conference, silence is appropriate. “To maintain the purity of the language, we issue our Listen LR-400 assistive listening receivers to the hearing,” he said. “It’s like assistive listening in reverse.”
 
Voice interpreters are equipped with a specialized soundproof mask, and speak the interpretation into a microphone. The FM system’s transmitters (installed in the venue) broadcast the interpretation into the theater, where the personal receivers pick up the digital signal. Listeners hear the interpretation through the attached headphones.
 
Whether the technology is used forwards or backwards, NTID is enhancing the experience of their community with their own creative innovation.
 
*Cochlear implants, which are designed for the deaf and severely hard of hearing, bypass damaged parts of the ear and directly stimulate the auditory nerve so the brain can “hear” sound. While it does not restore normal hearing, implants enable people to hear and recognize a va­riety of sounds in their environment, such as warning signals and speech. (For a quick science lesson on cochlear implants, visit www.nidcd.nih.gov.)

Go The Distance

Are your distance learning systems designed with your instructors in mind?
Consider the typical video conferencing classroom. There is one camera trained on the students, usually set on a wide-angle view; lighting of student areas is less than ideal for video; there may be only one microphone to pick up their questions or comments.

Students can generally see the instructor and his or her visuals clearly, but the instructor sees a blur of faces at the far end. It’s almost impossible to tell if individual students are even watching the presentation, let alone if they are interested and engaged. The room may work if it is used strictly for traditional lectures, but it’s problematic if the instructor takes a more interactive approach.

Trends In the Higher Ed Classroom
Two societal trends are affecting teaching today.

1. Information is more and more available. Students can Google almost any fact or formula and find it fast.

2. Attentions spans are lower. Raised on TV, video games, YouTube and other media websites, students today expect a fast-moving presentation, and when they don’t get it they have trouble staying engaged.

In response, many instructors are lecturing less. They ask more questions, devote more time to discussion and are more likely to ask their students to work together in class and to present to each other.

When they do present information, instead of just speaking or writing on a board, these instructors prepare materials in advance, starting with PowerPoint but often adding video clips or simulations.

In some universities, instructors record themselves in advance for a faster, more polished presentation–and some even ask students to watch these recordings as homework so they can use even more class time for discussion and enrichment.  The trend everywhere is toward more succinct presentations with richer video and audio content.

The result can be a class that focuses less on information and more on knowledge, less on facts and formulas and more on thinking and problem solving skills.  If the distance learning classroom does not support these trends, instructors who use it will be increasingly frustrated.

lakehead-universitySix Strategies
Our belief at Conference Technologies is that the distance learning system should maximize the quality of audio and video while creating a natural connection between instructors and students in different locations. Six strategies can help with these goals:

1. Distance learning classrooms need better video, not just so students can see instructors better, but so instructors can see students.

High-definition video can help make student faces sharper and expressions more readable.

Good lighting is crucial whether you’re using an HD?or SD system. Ceiling lights should be bright and angled to provide good detail in faces and avoid dark shadows, especially under the eyes.

The size of the displays can make a difference, especially the instructor’s display.   

2. These classrooms need great sound. Students and instructors must hear each other clearly for good communications to take place.

3. Ancillary equipment must be digital, high resolution and input into the codec in its native format. For example, if you use whiteboards in your classrooms don’t just aim a camera at the board; use a product like the Vaddio Squiggle Board, which sends the written image directly through the conferencing codec in high definition. Make sure you can accept digital video from computers, document cameras and DVD or Blu-ray players.

4. If you can afford it, consider installing individual microphones for students or pairs of students tied into the camera’s controls. With this kind of setup, when a student makes a comment or asks a question, the camera will zoom in automatically and everyone will be able to see his or her facial expressions clearly.

5. A few classroom designers have installed an extra codec and an extra screen in each classroom, dedicated to images of the students. It’s a relatively expensive addition but can do a great deal to promote student-to-student interaction.

6. The integration of a PC client (Cisco Movi, LifeSize Passport/Skype or Polycom CMA Desktop) can facilitate the use of guest speakers and allow students who may be absent due to travel to attend class from a distance.

A very few instructors have begun to use these clients installed on student laptops to allow students at different locations to interact with one another in small groups.

As technology providers, IT or facility managers, we want to support our instructors with the best possible classroom systems.

Today’s technology will support trends toward more interactive teaching and richer, more succinct presentations, but it must be applied thoughtfully for the best results.

Six Classroom Technologies To Seriously Consider

A study published in May by Nobel Prize winning physics professor Carl Wieman suggests that teaching methods using interactive technology can be far more effective than traditional lectures.

Wieman found that students who were taught physics using interactive methods at the University of British Columbia scored about twice as high when tested as those attending traditional lectures on the same material. That was true even if the lectures were delivered by far more experienced teachers.
 
The interactive method he used involved short, small-group discussions, demonstrations, question-answer sessions and electronic quizzes that gave instructors real-time graphic feedback on what students had and had not learned successfully.
 
The study confirms what many teachers know intuitively – but the question remains, what kinds of interactive technology are most effective in the classroom?
 
The experience of Conference Technologies customers suggests that there are six key technologies that you should be using in your school or training program.
 
1. Student Response Systems
An important advantage for Weiman’s instructors was the student response system he used. There are quite a number of these systems on the market, but in essence each gives an instructor the ability to ask a multiple choice or true/false question during class and get immediate feedback on student comprehension. If the percentage who answers correctly is high, it’s time to move on to new material. If it’s low, the instructor can spend more time on the topic. It’s a simple idea, but as the Weiman research shows, it can be extremely powerful.
 
2. Collaborative Learning
Weiman also put an emphasis on small-group discussion during class time. One trend we’re seeing is the use of collaborative learning systems to enhance group activities.
 
For example, we recently installed a system at Middle Tennessee State University using Tidebreak ClassSpot software. With Tidebreak, students working on laptops plugged into the network can each take over a shared machine with a large-screen display, collaborating on documents, opening websites, sharing files or making presentations to the full class.
 
Some of our corporate customers use Microsoft LiveMeeting to share files among group members in training sessions. The nice thing about this setup is that students can work together from different locations in a distance learning environment.
 
Our elementary and high school customers most often choose SMART’s Bridgit software to provide similar capabilities. Bridgit allows students to share screens, voice and video and work on shared documents, whether together in a classroom or across a distance learning connection.
The great power of collaborative systems is engagement. Used thoughtfully, they can help students pay more attention in class and take ownership of the material they are asked to learn.
 
listenpoint-flexroom
3. Voice Lift
University professors have been using wireless mic systems in lecture halls for many years, but research indicates that voice reinforcement can be very valuable in standard classrooms as well. Special Ed teachers began the trend, finding that students with learning disabilities did a lot better in class when teachers used sound systems to moderately increase their voice levels. Further research suggests that almost anyone can benefit, whether children or adults, gifted or learning disabled, when the instructor’s voice is reinforced.
 
Listen, Extron and other manufacturers now offer low-cost classroom solutions based on a pendant microphone with an infrared transmitter and a ceiling speaker with a receiver built in.
 lifesize-video-center
4. Recording & Streaming
More and more educators are adding cameras, microphones and servers to classrooms to stream video to students live or on demand. Several of our corporate clients use the technology to train staff in distant locations. Universities are recording classes for students who can’t be present or who attend but wish to review difficult material. Elementary and high schools webcast classroom sound and video to home-schooled children.
 
Among the more interesting new streaming products is the LifeSize Video Center, which can reduce HD recording and streaming to single-button simplicity; 323link’s Educast, which simplifies audio, video and multimedia webcasts, and the NewTek TriCaster, which is aimed at more production-savvy users, including audio/video production classes.  
 
5.  E-books & Tablet PCs
With the price of e-book readers and some tablets now roughly equal to that of many textbooks, it only makes sense to move written classroom materials to an electronic format.
 
As schools begin to do so, students will use e-readers to access webcasts, input answers into response systems, and collaborate in many ways. At CTI, we’re expecting to begin integrating tablets and e-readers into classroom AV systems within the next two years, and we’re encouraging our customers to begin planning for their use now.
 
6. Unified Classroom Communications
The influx of tablets highlights a trend toward unified technologies that combine collaboration, streaming and other educational applications into single or closely-related systems.
 
For example, the Promethean ActivClassroom, which is very popular in Europe, ties learner response systems and voice reinforcement to interactive whiteboards and an open source library of educational software and activities.
 
AMX has introduced an extremely interesting product in SchoolView, which streamlines and controls multiple technologies including two-way paging, video-on-demand, AV controls, security and surveillance, emergency notification, even school bells in a single system. Because it uses an integrated platform, the cost of design, installation and maintenance can be much lower than with separate systems. Because it’s IP-based, flexibility and scalability are high.
Are traditional teaching methods dead?
 
No, I don’t believe they are or should be. But interactive technology is enhancing what teachers can do and how effective they can be.  There’s much to gain from thoughtful use of these six core technologies.
John Laughlin, CTS, is president and CEO of Conference Technologies, Inc., a provider of audio-visual design, integration, video conferencing, rental solutions, and technical service support, with nine offices throughout the United States. 

How To Create Great AV Learning Spaces

Designing and implementing successful AV facilities requires the collaborative effort of a number of participants with varied interests, backgrounds, skills, and agendas. For the purposes of this discussion, assume that an institution desires to build a new classroom building comprising a variety of learning space types. 

 

Basic Design Team 
 

Typically, a team of participants is assembled to represent the institution’s interests. Most often a project manager is assigned from the facilities and construction department or other administrative support group to organize and lead the process. Next, one or more user group representatives are identified to ensure that the needs and goals of the users are appropriately met. Finally, an architectural firm is hired to undertake the process of designing the building and to prepare the necessary construction documents.

At this point, a number of sub consultants are hired to help the architect design the building appropriately. The most important of these include engineers to design the mechanical HVAC, electrical, and plumbing systems(MEP). Proper planning for these disciplines is essential to designing a building which can accommodate all of these technical sub systems.

Broadly speaking, educational technology for learning spaces requires a similar type of planning process. This is true in particular for audiovisual multimedia technology. These systems can profoundly impact architectural design parameters. 

So what is it exactly that needs to be coordinated, and how should this coordination be orchestrated?

Briefly, presentation technology encompasses the integration of specialized equipment that should be seamlessly and aesthetically integrated within the interior architecture of a building. In order to achieve this, a number of steps must follow, and a planning process must be completed.

 

Statement of Requirements
Role: Facilitation and Needs Analysis
 

The first order of business is to develop a statement of requirements. This information is usually codified in the form of a Program or Concept Design Document. It results from a process of collecting user requirements and refining them until such time as a consensus and formal approval have been arrived at. 

This is usually the most difficult and time-consuming part of the process, as rationalizing the varied and often conflicting needs of different users can be an arduous task. It is helpful to engage an experienced facilitator/analyst to help ferret out, organize, and prioritize user requirements. This expertise can be hired by the architect or the institution.

A statement of requirements typical has three elements:

  1. The identification of the range of capabilities and technologies the facility should accommodate, in each space or space type, over the foreseeable life of the building;
  2. The identification of equipment that should be installed initially, for use on Day 1; and
  3. An estimated cost of initial equipment installation. Often this budget is conceived as a scenario analysis, outlining several alternatives, in terms of high, medium, and low cost options.

Basebuilding Infrastructure Design 
Role: Basebuilding Architectural Designer

Once the AV program has been completed, the architect must develop a detailed, buildable design that is hospitable to the equipment that will be installed. A variety of architectural design priorities must evolve, some of which include:

  • Physical space to accommodate the necessary racks of support equipment;
  • Appropriate electrical power and telecommunications connectivity;
  • Coordination of ceiling elements, including projector(s), audio speakers, and video cameras (as well as lighting, HVAC elements, sprinkler heads, etc.);
  • Coordination of wall and floor elements, such as patch panels, wall and floor boxes, projection screens, etc.;
  • Conduit runs to accommodate low voltage wiring needed to support AV systems;
  • Millwork, such as casework to house equipment and power or network outlets; and
  • Structural Support to accommodate wall- or ceiling-mounted flat-panel displays and projectors.

Few if any architects have this kind of design expertise in house and often hire an AV consultant to guide them in the architectural accommodation of technology.


Technical Systems Design
Role: Systems Designer

Once the building is well under construction, detailed technical systems design and specification must be completed.

This involves completing the following tasks: 

  • Developing a systems design that achieves the utility needed to meet Day 1 requirements and also stay with budget targets established in the needs analysis phase;
  • Identifying equipment items needed, by make and model number (or, in some cases, functional performance);
  • Identifying signal flows, which define technically how the equipment will be integrated; and
  • Installation procedures and technical performance requirements.

Again, not many architects can provide this service directly, and they typically either ask the institution to contract a consultant or hire one themselves. 


Systems Integration
Role: Systems Integrator

After the systems has been designed; the equipment must be procured, installed and tested. In a project of any complexity and scope, it is wise to hire a systems integrator to take responsibility for this work. This contract is often held by the client.
 
The most common approach to integrating audiovisual technology into a building project, as described above, is for either the architect or institution to follow one of two paths: 

  1. To hire an audiovisual consultant to conceive, architect, and design AV systems with the goal of preparing a specification for competitive bid, followed by the participation of a systems integrator; or
  2. To bypass the audiovisual consultant and hire only a systems integrator to conceive, design and install of the systems equipment.

Experience shows that both methods can work wonderfully well, and both can fail miserably.

About the Author
Michael David Leiboff is founder of EdTech Planning Group. He has more than 30 years of experience and has been involved in the planning and implementation of hundreds of advanced technology learning spaces.
 

AV Planning For The Classroom

Planning a new classroom, whether it be a tiered 65 person classroom with fixed seating, a flat floor space with movable furniture to accommodate 35 students, or any other configuration need not be difficult at all, if you can define the appropriate room characteristics

 

This blog serves as a general outline for the range of planning considerations that are the underpinning of a thorough planning process for AV equipped facilities.  

 

Key Purpose Of The Room 

 

Often times, the most vexing questions about which capabilities should be provided have little to do with technology, and revolve around trying to answer the more basic question “How will the room be used?” 

  • How many students must be accommodated?
  • Should the furniture be reconfigurable?
  • Will learning activities be didactic (teacher lectures student); interactive (among students and teacher); or collaborative (students work within small workgroups).
  • One of the key drivers in designing great classrooms is being able to envision how the front of the room should be configured to support instructional activities.

 


Instructor’s Workstation

 blog-instructor-workstation

In most classrooms, some type of furniture is located at the front of the room to support the instructor.  This furniture may include:

 

A instructor’s table, typically used as an instructor’s home base during classroom sessions.  The table may serve as a surface on which to place notes, student handouts, collect assignments, and often a place for an instructor to sit.

 

Podium (lectern), a presentation platform that may have integrated into it, a computer, monitor and keyboard, and/or an AV control panel, document camera DVD, VCR, etc.

It would not be uncommon to provide both a table and a podium in a classroom. The location of this furniture and its fixed or movable characteristics must also be determined.


Teaching Wall 

blog-av-planning-classroom

In many classrooms, the front of the room becomes the focal point for the presentation of various types of visual materials.  Virtually all classrooms have some kind of writing surface at the front of the space, and often times a projection screen as well.  (Keep in mind that the remaining walls of a space should also be considered as presentation surfaces.)
 
The juxtaposition of writing and project surfaces is critical, and requires an understanding of how instructors are likely to teach. 

 

  • How much writing surface is needed?
  • Should writing surfaces be raise/lower?
  • How many projection screens should be installed?
  • What is the requirement for simultaneous viewing of writing and projection surfaces?
  • Should Smart Boards, if used, be installed or portable?

Once consensus about these basic questions is achieved, the needs for presentation technology can be addressed.  Some technologies should be integrated and fixed. Others should be accommodated on a portable basis.  Infrastructure provision for the widest array of devices should be made, even though a portion of the equipment may not be purchased initially.

Display Technology

blog-av-classroom

There are a number of ways to display video images:

  • Front projection typically using a ceiling mounted, electric, roll-down projection screen and one or more projectors, either ceiling mounted, or located at the rear of the room.
  • Rear projection.
  • Flat panel display
  • Smart board technology

The size and location of these displays is critical to the overall design of the orientation and architecture of a room

 


Audio Systems

 blog-av-classroom

Room audio systems include the following elements:


Voice amplification
, of a presenter using either a fixed or lavalier microphone. Ceiling mounted speakers are typically used for voice amplification.

 

Program sound, the amplification of the soundtrack of a video, website, CD or MP3 track, etc.  Front wall mounted speakers are typically used for stereo program sound.

 

Audience participation, microphones utilized by students, typically in larger rooms, to enable the amplification of student’s questions and comments. Audience participation also is used in distance learning applications to allow all participants to be heard at the remote location(s).

Audio sources, can be varied and include:

  • audio tracks from a DVD player
  • computer audio from the web, local or networked programs or media clips
  • portable mp3 players
  • audio and video teleconferences

Audio Recording, may be a requirement.



Video Systems

Flat panel displays or video projectors provide the display mechanism for a variety of different video sources:

Room dedicated personal computer.  In most cases, this would be a desktop computer integrated into the furniture within the room.

  • Portable notebook computer, provided by the instructor
  • DVD player
  • VCR player (Still commonly used)
  • Portable personal video device (Video IPod for example)


Video Origination

blog-av-classroom

There are a variety of motivations to originate video from learning spaces:


  • Distance learning applications.
  • Live webcasting.
  • Distribution to overflow audiences in adjacent rooms.
  • Achieving, for future on-demand download.
  • Production of for-profit commercially distributed content.

These requirements should be identified in order to determine the type, number and quality of video cameras that should be furnished around the room, and to determine the sophistication of the control, monitoring and recording systems that are needed.



Control Systems

 bog-av-classroom

As classroom presentation systems become more complex, the need to control the increasing large number of devices can become overwhelming.  The control system is perhaps the most critical element in achieving a successful (usable) AV capability. 

The following issues should be examined:

  • Where should the controls be located?
  • Should the controls be presenter centric, allow for manipulation by tech support personnel, or both?
  • How complex or simple should the control interface be?  (Touch panel, buttons, etc.)
  • Should controls be fixed or portable?


Multimedia Network

Another overall planning issue, are considerations related to how any given learning space will be integrated with the intra-building or overall campus multimedia network, as both a source and destination.  This can be an important planning issue, as space must be provided for a technical support space, often referred to as a Central Media Head End.

 The planning process is somewhat easier if an institution has developed a set of standards for classroom presentation technology.  However, even if such standards do exist, user group(s) comprised of faculty who will be teaching in the new classrooms should be urged to provide their input, and perhaps even more importantly, kept abreast of the planning process in order to properly set expectations.

Soundfield Benefit Studies – Results Are Stunning

There’s a lot of talk about how to improve grades in the classroom. And with so much pressure on the budget, there’s a great concern that our students might not get the complete education they deserve. I came across a study that was presented at the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association Convention in Orlando, FL on December 9, 1995.

The full text of study can be found at SOUNDFIELD FM AMPLIFICATION: FLORIDA’S IMPROVING CLASSROOM ACOUSTICS PROJECT. The study is credited to Gail Gegg Rosenberg, M.S.,CCC-A, School Board of Sarasota County, Sarasota, FL and Patricia Blake-Rahter, M.S.,CCC-A, University of South Florida, Tampa, FL. It’s part of the famous MARRS study web site

Purpose

The IMPROVING CLASSROOM ACOUSTICS (ICA) special project was designed to determine if students’ listening and learning behaviors improved as a result of an enhanced acoustical environment.

The results of the study are very interesting and summarized below. This study shows that when we invest in technology in classrooms (such as a soundfield amplification system) we can provide our children with a better education. Across North America and now moving worldwide thousands of classrooms are being equipped with these types of systems. Here at Listen, we will be shipping our ListenPoint Soundfield system soon. You can see the user interface for ListenPoint on this recent blog post: The ListenPoint Microphone.

Summary of Results

  • Students in early grade general education amplified classrooms demonstrated significantly greater change in listening and learning behaviors and skills and at a faster rate than their peers in un-amplified classrooms.
  • Younger students showed the greatest improvement in listening and learning behaviors and skills.
  • Students gave a positive evaluation for the use of FM Soundfield amplification. More than 95% of the students agreed that the FM Soundfield system made it easier for them to hear their teacher, helped them listen better, and helped them to hear when their teacher was writing on the board. At least 94% agreed that their teacher’s voice was loud and clear when using the FM system and at least 92% agreed that they wanted to use the FM system in their class again the following year.
  • Classroom teachers unanimously identified a decrease in vocal strain as the foremost benefit from using FM Soundfield amplification.
  • Classroom teachers used the FM Soundfield system an average of 4.18 hours per day.
  • Teachers were in 100% agreement that the FM system enabled their voice to reach all students no matter where they were seated. Teachers also were in 100% agreement that they enjoyed using the FM Soundfield system in their classrooms.
  • Teachers were in at least 92% agreement that they experienced less emotional strain and fatigue during teaching and the need to repeat directions and information decreased when using the FM Soundfield system. They were also in at least 92% agreement that the FM system was easy to use, they felt comfortable using it, and would like to use it in their classroom again the following year.
  • Teachers were in at least 96% agreement that students’ behaviors related to attentiveness, listening, and comprehension seemed to improve when using the FM system.
  • At least 85% of parents agreed that their child would like to continue using the FM Soundfield system in their classroom the following year and at least 83% agreed that their child enjoyed using the system.
  • Parents were in at least 46% agreement that their child’s grades improved when using the FM system and at least 44% agreed that their child’s behavior improved at school when the Fm system was in use.
  • School administrators were in 100% agreement that teachers seemed to enjoy using the FM Soundfield systems.
  • There was at least 92% agreement by school administrators that the FM Soundfield system enhanced class instruction and management.
  • School administrators were in at least 53% agreement that there was a decrease in the number of behavior referrals from amplified classes.
  • FM Soundfield amplification is a cost effective instructional delivery equipment based on a $0.14 daily cost per person for a typical class (1 teacher and 25 students). The cost would decrease to a $0.03 per person daily rate by adding a minimal 5 year longevity factor.
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