Due to the reopening of districts and schools across the country, many schools are trying to meet the immediate need for hybrid learning in the classroom by quickly installing residential classroom speaker systems that do not meet the mass notification and life safety requirements. By installing inadequate “residential” systems they are putting the lives of our students and teachers at risk.
As schools and districts rush to “reopen” during the pandemic, one immediate goal is to provide classrooms with audio and wireless microphones for the teachers so students in class or attending remotely can clearly hear the teacher’s lessons. Some of these schools are even installing basic classroom speaker systems, portable audio systems, and sound bars. However, these residential-grade systems are inadequate and do not meet any mass notification and life safety requirements required by the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA). The district and the school can be liable should the classroom system audio not shut off in these safety events.
Accommodating all the COVID protocols, with the teachers and students wearing masks in class and still trying to accommodate “hybrid learning” for students at home is a difficult task. Administrators are responsible for finding essential tools for instructors while simultaneously ensuring campus safety in case of any emergency.
First and foremost, the school and district needs to ensure that all classroom audio systems meet their criteria, and that the system can integrate with the schools’ mass notification emergency system. The typical systems sold at retail outlets, however, are residential systems and not intended for commercial use. Even though these systems will provide the basic audio requirements, they lack the override feature to shut off classroom sound systems and give priority to the emergency broadcast to keep everyone safe. These protocols are required by NFPA and the fire marshal.
The alternative is a professional, commercial grade wireless classroom audio amplification system. These wireless classroom microphone systems help save teachers’ voices even if they are wearing masks, while keeping both in-class and remote students more effectively engaged and focused to improve academic performance. Just as important, the system is also ready for integration with a mass notification emergency system.
This is essential for immediate, effective, campus-wide communication to mitigate active shooter events. In such an event, the system shuts off classroom sound systems and gives priority to the emergency broadcast in order to keep students, staff, and faculty safe. This can be lifesaving when it cuts through noisy in-class and outside noise intrusion to focus everyone’s attention immediately on the emergency response.
With so much at stake, schools and districts must assure the system meets all of the mass notification criteria. Unknowingly installing a residential audio system for the classrooms can create significant risk.
Now, with the increase in “hybrid” classrooms, where students in class are simultaneously taught with others attending on Zoom, Skype, or Google Meet, hybrid classroom systems are extremely important. Such wireless microphone systems can help to save teachers’ voices even if they are wearing masks, while keeping students more effectively engaged and focused to improve academic performance.
Recently, researchers for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advised that schools can reopen safely, as long as mitigation measures are in place including the wearing of face masks, preventing crowding, increased social distance in classrooms, improved ventilation, and testing to identify and isolate coronavirus cases.
With our classroom speaker systems, even when mask wearing is necessary for safety, students in-class and online can hear the teacher with greater clarity. Just as important, questions from online students can be heard through speakers mounted in the classroom. This aids student comprehension and attention, making for a more seamless learning environment.
In addition to maintaining safety, the challenges of concurrently teaching both in-class and online students are significant. Left unaddressed, teachers may struggle and students are even more likely to lose focus or become distracted.
Teachers with online students are also essentially tethered to their computer to remain in front of the microphone. This means that the teachers cannot be heard by remote students when at a whiteboard or chalkboard.
Keeping remote students focused is another challenge. Students that work remotely are exposed to more distractions, which impacts academic performance. In the comfort of the home, online students are more likely to send texts, answer emails, log onto social media, play video games or listen to music while taking an online course, compared to a teacher-supervised class.
Furthermore, if a student at home is engaged and asks a question or responds to the teacher, the students in class may not be able to hear anything but the teacher’s answer. This can lead to confusion and make a classroom group discussion much more difficult.
Fortunately, many of these challenges can be resolved by implementing classroom mic systems. Such systems have been successfully used in classrooms for many years, but have even more advantages for hybrid classrooms.
One such classroom sound system provides wireless amplification of the teacher’s voice to the students’ ears, both in class or at home. The wireless audio amplification system can simultaneously control two infrared wireless microphones and comes with a wall-mounted infrared receiver/amplifier/mixer, chargers and speakers.
The teacher simply wears a wireless pendant microphone like a necklace. The teacher’s voice is amplified so it reaches all students through four speakers in the room. The teacher’s voice is also transmitted to the students learning remotely, ensuring that all students are taught evenly.
With the hybrid classroom system, students can engage and focus more on the teacher and the lesson being taught without the obstacle of not being able to clearly hear what the teacher said. If a student is on an application like Zoom, Google Meet and Skype, the four speakers allow the class to hear the question clearly.
With campus safety top of mind and any COVID-19 mitigation strategies needing to be implemented as soon as possible to re-open schools, any equipment added should ideally be easy to install. That is why it is important that wireless classroom audio systems be quickly installed.
At OWI we can install these classroom sound systems at a reasonable cost, due to a secure, plug-and-play design and labor-saving, infrared wireless technology. Unlike freestanding or rack-mounted systems that can be tampered with, the classroom audio system’s console is wall mounted in a secure, lockable enclosure where it will not take up closet space and there is no tangle of wires.
With the focus on keeping schools safe during the pandemic as well as during active shooter events, giving educators tools they need is critical. In this regard, hybrid speaker systems can help educators save their voices while wearing masks and fully engage with in-class and online students. Critically, it can also give immediate priority and amplification to emergency broadcasts. This capability will not only help to improve academic performance but also campus safety.