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Classroom audio systems allow every student to hear in California district

Lightspeed’s Redcat Access increases student engagement in Lancaster School District

Since Lancaster School District (Calif.) is a K8 school system, Rebecca Cooksey, director of IT, knows that none of her students have optimal listening skills yet. “Students’ audio processing tracks are not fully developed until they are 15,” Cooksey says. And the 25 percent of Lancaster’s 14,000 students who are ELL face additional challenges in listening to and processing information presented orally by teachers. “It is important for ELL students to hear the way teachers pronounce words, and the nuances in their voice,” Cooksey says.

While some of Lancaster’s classrooms had basic audio systems, after a technology audit, it was discovered many classrooms did not have any tools for amplifying teachers’ voices. “We realized there was great inequity,” Cooksey says. “Some students were getting a better education because they could hear their teacher more clearly, because they happened to be in a room with an audio system.” By June 2014, 420 classrooms in Lancaster will have Lightspeed’s Redcat Access audio technology.

Redcat Access is a simple-to-use, two-piece system that allows all students, regardless of their location in the classroom, to hear their teacher clearly. The lightweight sound panel can be hung on a wall or placed on top of a cabinet. Teachers hang the accompanying wireless microphone around their necks and speak at a normal volume. Because the system is wireless and does not need to be hardwired, teachers can simply open the box, plug in the system, and immediately begin to use the Redcat Access sound panel. Sound is evenly distributed throughout the classroom, and because of the system’s superior speech intelligibility, all students are able to hear the teacher’s voice clearly, improving comprehension.

“We chose Redcat Access because of its ease of use,” Cooksey says. “There was no need for lengthy training or a lengthy pilot because we knew all teachers would know how to use it.” The Lightspeed team conducted a performance demo to show Lancaster administrators how well Redcat Access works, and how easy it was to use. The district’s leaders were pleasantly surprised to see and hear that the quality was just as good as the more expensive, complex audio systems that require installation in classroom ceilings. Redcat Access is also a flexible product that can be easily integrated with other Lightspeed technologies, should Lancaster invest in additional products in the future. The Flexcat pod system, for example, which facilitates small group instruction, works with the Redcat Access microphone and sound panel. Cooksey says teachers are experiencing less exhaustion because of the Redcat Access systems. Because they do not need to strain their voices to be heard, there are fewer cases of sore throats, or teachers feeling a loss of energy at the end of the day. Discipline issues have also decreased due to Redcat Access.

“Our early Redcat adopters have reported a 20 percent decrease in students getting in trouble,” Cooksey says. “When students can hear, they are more engaged and do not mess around in class as much.” Though Redcat Access is a highly reliable system, Lightspeed is always there to support users. “If a product is defective, even if it is out of warranty, Lightspeed will replace it for us,” Cooksey says. Because of these positive results, Lancaster principals have made use of Redcat Access mandatory in all classrooms. “Our principals do daily observances, in part to make sure that teachers are using the system, because of student feedback we have received,” says Cooksey. “Students say they prefer when their teachers use Redcat Access, because no matter where they sit, they can hear.”

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