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Audio system improves communication and learning in Washington district

Lightspeed’s REDCAT enabling more effective teaching and collaboration in Edmonds Public Schools

When Kim Mathey, manager of instructional technology at Edmonds Public Schools (Lynnwood, Wash.), was approached by the district audiologist about the need for classroom sound systems for their 20,000 students, she was initially skeptical. “In 2004, we passed our first technology levy in a while,” she says. “I was focused on using that money for projectors, laptops and document cameras to enhance visual learning. I did not think audio systems were as necessary.”

After researching the topic, Mathey was surprised to learn young students are still developing their audio processing skills; even a cold can temporarily hinder a student’s ability to hear. With that in mind, she decided to find a solution that would distribute sound evenly, increasing student participation and listening comprehension. After testing a few options, Mathey selected Lightspeed’s REDCAT in December 2009. REDCAT is a compact, all-in-one sound panel that allows teachers to speak at a normal volume into an accompanying wireless microphone. No matter where a student sits, they can hear with exceptional clarity. A second microphone also allows students to speak and be heard. Because it is all-in-one, teachers can remove the REDCAT panel from its box and immediately begin using it, with no complex installation process. There is no feedback and there are no dead zones, as the microphone and the panel are perfectly tuned.

“We had a one-hour orientation on the benefits and care of the system for the teacher users,” Mathey says. “Then they were ready to go.” The results were immediately positive. A survey was given to teachers and students after they used REDCAT for six months to inquire about its effectiveness. Teachers observed that students were more willing to speak in class, as they could speak naturally into the microphone and be heard. “Many teachers say that they now cannot imagine teaching without REDCAT,” Mathey says. “They reported they were less exhausted at the end of the day because they no longer needed to strain their voices.” Students followed directions more closely, teachers also reported in the survey, because they could hear the teacher from anywhere in the room. “Students reported it was easier to pay attention to their teacher, even when other students were talking around them,” Mathey says. “If teachers start their class without turning on their microphone, a student prompts them to do so.”

The REDCAT systems are highly reliable, but support from Lightspeed is always available should the need arise. “Whenever we do have an issue, our Lightspeed representative will visit our schools almost immediately,” Mathey says. “He will help our teachers adjust the panel and microphone volumes, or recommend where REDCAT should be placed in a classroom.” Lightspeed also provides online tutorials and resources for REDCAT troubleshooting. Since Edmonds has 1,000 classrooms, it was important to Mathey to partner with a vendor that prioritizes customer service. “The warranty is excellent and broken parts are replaced quickly,” she said. “They even provided us with some spare parts so we do not have an entire REDCAT system down if one part is out for replacement.” The success of REDCAT in her district has led Mathey to believe every classroom should have a quality sound system. As new school buildings are constructed in her district, a REDCAT is added to each classroom. “REDCAT allows students to hear better so they can learn better,” Mathew says.

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