Some time ago I was speaking to a tech director who made a very cogent point. He said, “My teachers don’t have time to think about what button to push or control to click. They are focused on communicating their message and connecting with students, not operating technology.”
Although I would like to say that I already knew that about teachers, the point is a good one, something that needs to be front of mind every day. It’s possible that some have forgotten this point, because so many classrooms today are loaded with technology. Maybe the assumption is that teachers are strong users of technology and will just handle whatever is thrown at them. That may be the case for some, but using technology isn’t why teachers teach, and we product developers need to remember that.
So instead of having teachers adapt to technology products, the technology products should work the way that teachers work and meet their evolving needs. This is particularly the case when it comes to audio – an essential element of successful hybrid teaching and learning.
As new technology products come into the classroom to support remote students, what hybrid teaching realities should be handled by those products? Just what should teachers expect?
The freedom to move
Ask a teacher about her style, and at some point, she will mention moving around the classroom, in and among her students. It’s just a fact – teachers move. They don’t sit at their desks or stand at a lectern.
They need tools and tech that keep up with them and don’t make them speak louder or in a particular direction.
Audio products for hybrid learning should let teachers make use of their entire classroom, not be stuck at the front of the room. This makes it easier for them to engage with their in-person students without worrying about remote students missing out. Whether it means quietly standing next to a student who’s stopped listening or using the full space to demonstrate a concept, teachers need to be able to move freely without worrying about hitting a dead zone or stepping out of audio range.
Having full-room audio coverage in a learning space is also helpful when students are working on their own. Teachers should be able to walk over and help in-person students, knowing that if remote students have a question, they’ll be able to hear and respond without rushing back to their computer.
The opportunity to include everyone
Students shape everything that goes on in the classroom. Teachers can testify that the same lesson delivered to different groups of students will often go in very different directions. So an audio solution that only focuses on the teacher just isn’t good enough.
Audio products for hybrid learning need to pick up all voices, no matter how spread out in the room students are or if they’re wearing masks. Whether facing the back of the room, talking quietly into their feet or even sitting on the floor (it happens), students should be able to talk freely without worrying about raising their voices in the direction of a microphone.
When a teacher knows that the audio system will always pick up student voices, it lets him teach how he wants, not let his pedagogy be limited by the technology. Students can have normal conversations with each other, whether they’re at home or in class. Full-room audio coverage helps create the one-classroom feel that schools are striving for during these challenging times – and lets remote students know that they’re really part of things, not passive observers.
The comfort of technology that manages itself
In my talks with educators, many tell me stories of IT staff spread incredibly thin. So for technology in the classroom to work, it needs to be easy and reliable – otherwise it causes more problems than it solves.
And after all, teaching in a hybrid learning classroom is challenging enough. Teachers shouldn’t have to also worry about high-maintenance tech that needs IT expertise to work effectively.
Be wary of audio products that require recalibration from an IT professional every time a teacher changes the arrangement of desks or furniture. Autocalibration is essential for giving teachers the flexibility to adjust their spaces, without worrying about messing up the audio experience of remote students. It’s also worth considering the impact of using student microphones that need to be sanitized every time they’re passed to another student.
Of course, products do still need some management, like making firmware updates or checking that systems are online and working. For these types of issues, it helps to have an easy way for IT to keep classroom audio systems running smoothly without having to run from school to school to get it done. Remote management matters.
The need to not settle
When I’ve talked to our education customers, I’m proud to hear how well our audio products are helping them meet the challenge of these changing times. I think that’s because our team is staying focused on what teachers and students deserve – and making sure our technology products are meeting the needs I mentioned above.
I can’t purport to know what works best in your circumstances. But regardless of what specific products you’re looking to add to your hybrid classrooms, I hope you’ll find solutions that make teaching easier and learning more engaging. This makes the entire hybrid experience better for everyone.
Checklist: 8 audio essentials for classrooms
Does your audio system allow teachers to move around the classroom freely as they teach – and know their voices will be picked up everywhere? This is one of eight must-haves for effective classroom audio. See what else is on the list – download your checklist today (no email address required).
Posted on March 31, 2021