Two-way audio system enables teachers to check in on multiple student groups simultaneously

With Lightspeed's FLEXCAT, students in Escambia County Schools are more attentive and engaged
By: | Issue: February, 2015 | Case Study
January 15, 2015

The 37,000 students in Escambia County Schools in northwest FloridaÑlike all students todayÑare constantly bombarded with multiple types of digital media in their lives. Getting them to focus on the important messages in the classroom when they are used to so many distractions can be a challenge.

“My experience has been that many children cannot filter the different types of noises and focus their attention on a singular voice,” says Marcia Nowlin, the district’s Title I director.

Therefore, amplification for the teacher’s voice is crucial; the district already had sound systems installed in classrooms where there were students with hearing loss.

“All of the students in those classroomsÑnot just those with hearing lossÑbecame more attentive, and in some instances, had higher test scores,” says Nowlin. “We felt that the amplification had been a factor.” With that in mind, Lightspeed’s FLEXCAT was piloted in Escambia County last year in two elementary classrooms at a Title I and a magnet school.

FLEXCAT is a lightweight, two-way speaker system that enables teachers to listen in and contribute to all small group discussions in their classroom. A small speaker is placed with each group of students; what the students are saying is beamed back to the teacher’s headset. Using a remote, the teacher can select with which group of students to communicate. Background noise is eliminated, and both teachers and students can clearly hear and be heard.

Implementation was simple, according to Nowlin. “Lightspeed was able to answer our questions and lead teacher training,” she says. “And our tech team members were easily able to install the systems themselves.”

The request to purchase FLEXCAT units is one of the rare times Nowlin has not seen any stakeholder pushback. “Our teachers and administrators are thrilled to have the system in their classrooms,” she says. “My office is at the top of the call list for every vendor who has something cool they want to sell. In the case of FLEXCAT, the vendor has been responsive, good to work with and the product is great.”

Student response to the pilot was also very positive. “When I delivered the permanent FLEXCAT to one of the pilot classrooms at the end of the trial, students were so excited,” says Nowlin.” They saw the speaker system and quickly got into groups without direction from the teacher.”

FLEXCAT also allows teachers to speak with a small group from across the room, and to amplify a student’s comments so the entire class can hear his or her thoughts.

”This is a different approach to instruction that we believe is both engaging and conducive to learning,” says Nowlin. “Teachers can work with one group and check in on another. They can ask leading questions and correct misconceptions privately, without embarrassing a group of students or disturbing other groups.”

FLEXCAT is lightweight and easily stored and charged, says Nowlin. It can be quickly moved around the room for different group configurations, as well as loaned from one classroom to another.This past summer, FLEXCAT was installed in 36 pre-K classrooms.

“One of the most important lessons in pre-K is language development, and we believe FLEXCAT can help facilitate that for our students,” says Nowlin.

Centers can be differentiated with FLEXCAT, Nowlin says. For example, the system can play music from an iPod at one station, students can work directly with an adult at another, and a teacher can read a story from across the room to several other groups simultaneously.

“I am excited to see how FLEXCAT will change learning in these classrooms,” says Nowlin. “I’m confident it will.”

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