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A two-way audio system gives teachers the opportunity to listen in on multiple small group discussions simultaneously

With Lightspeed’s FLEXCAT, all students at Fremont County District 6 have a chance to be heard

At Fremont County School District 6 in Pavillion, Wyo., the diverse population, including a large number of Native American students, poses occasional communication challenges. “Some of these students have cultural and language barriers,” says Diana Clapp, superintendent. “Instructionally, that presents issues in delivering the best education possible to each student.”

Beyond addressing the needs of students with special requirements, Clapp wanted to find a product that would blend into classroom instruction, help students gain the confidence to speak in class, and help teachers assess students’ skills and knowledge. District buildings were already outfitted with sound systems by Lightspeed. Because of the quality of the sound system and reputation of the company, Clapp contacted Lightspeed for a solution to classroom communication issues.

In the 2012-2013 school year, Fremont County 6 piloted FLEXCAT, a lightweight, two-way speaker system that allows teachers to listen in on all small group discussions. 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 which group of students to communicate with. Background noise is eliminated and teachers and students can clearly hear and be heard.

“I have never seen anything that does what FLEXCAT does,” Clapp says. “The speakers are simple and wireless. The students fully engage in their work and the equipment does not become a distraction.” FLEXCAT can be used beyond the classroom. Clapp appreciates using the system during professional development sessions. Teachers can be seated at tables for discussion, and the session leader can monitor and comment on conversations through the headset.

Ryan Sennett, a teacher at Wind River High School in Clapp’s district, says FLEXCAT allows him to be a better facilitator in the classroom. “If one group mentions an excellent point that perhaps another group has not, I can suggest the first group send a representative to the other group,” he says. “This allows the students to take ownership of their thoughts. There’s no need for me to take over, especially when it may be only a select few who need to hear an idea.” As a facilitation tool, FLEXCAT helps Sennett assess which groups need his help. “FLEXCAT allows me to stay out of the conversation when I should and redirect when I have to,” he says. “It helps students express their own ideas instead of searching for what they think I want to hear.”

With FLEXCAT, the needs of quiet students who may be afraid to express their thoughts in front of a large group are addressed. “Not only can I praise the student through the individual audio boxes, but FLEXCAT has the option of amplifying his or her thoughts through the overhead speaker so all can hear,” Sennett says. Team teaching is made easier through FLEXCAT, adds Sennett. One teacher can take on the academic coach role with an individual, and the other can facilitate small group discussion with the other students.

According to Sennett, this is more valuable than simple team-lecturing. Sennett describes the ability to be in more places at once as one of FLEXCAT’s biggest benefits. “If one group is getting off task, I can direct their attention to different ideas without disturbing other groups,” he says. “At the same time, I can be assisting another group.”

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