New technology at Mississippi school helps teach through masks

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Students at Starkville High School listen to instructions from their teacher, Shonna Ryals, through overhead loudspeakers.  This technology offers students a learning experience without miscommunication by allowing teachers to teach clearly through masks.  (Tyler B. Jones / The Commercial Dispatch via AP)

Students at Starkville High School listen to instructions from their teacher, Shonna Ryals, through overhead loudspeakers. This technology offers students a learning experience without miscommunication by allowing teachers to teach clearly through masks. (Tyler B. Jones / The Commercial Dispatch via AP)

PA

Starkville High School student Peyton Willoughby was sitting in his Grade 10 English class on September 23, not worried about having trouble hearing his teacher because of new technology being installed in the classroom.

As his teacher discussed poems and literary material, information circulated through loudspeakers throughout the room, giving Willoughby the assurance that he was getting all the materials he needed.

“For me, I really like (this new technology),” Willoughby said. “I think it’s absolutely amazing because the teacher can be standing, vocal, and moving while still maintaining that audibility… it makes teaching so much more engaging and enjoyable.”

The Starkville-Oktibbeha Consolidated School District recently installed audio enhancement electronics, an innovative technology to enhance the learning experience, in 12 classrooms and the SHS library, as well as 12 classrooms at Armstrong Junior High. This technology allows teachers to project themselves clearly through masks, providing all students with a learning environment free from miscommunication.

SOCSD received a $ 100,000 grant from the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund to pay for the technology. The relief fund was established in 2020 to help schools affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The technology works with speakers installed in the ceilings distributed evenly throughout the classroom. A teacher wears a microphone holder around his neck and his voice comes out of the speakers.

SOCSD completed the installation of the technology at the start of this school year, said Leanne Long, director of distance teaching and learning technology, and the teachers underwent training shortly thereafter to know how to properly use the equipment.

“I think all students can learn and all students can hear what is presented, no matter where the teacher is in the room, not only helps in retention of content, but also in managing the classroom teacher, ”Long said.

Besides the speakers, Audio Enhancement also contains a video aspect. The district is installing the cameras this week, which will then allow teachers to either stream live or record themselves using the microphone and camera. The teacher can not only record slide presentations, but also teach the material himself.

Director of Educational Improvement and Innovative Research Brandi Burton said this recording capability will give students who may be virtual due to quarantine the opportunity to engage in learning while like the students in person.

“When we decided to use this software, we found that it was more of an immersive experience for virtual students than just connecting to a Zoom, because you feel like you’re in class with it. you and your peers can not only see your the teacher talking but the screen as well, ”Burton said.

The district discovered the audio enhancement after Superintendent Eddie Peasant and Deputy Superintendent Anna Guntharp attended a conference where the technology was being used in the fall of 2020.

Burton said the administrators of SHS and AJH have decided which classrooms the cameras will be installed in.

“We let them choose the classrooms that they thought would reach the most students and have the most impact,” said Burton. “The two directors had different strategies, but we let them make that decision. What is common between the two schools is that there are several teachers for each English, math, science, social studies – those basic subjects – and special subjects like Spanish.

Students and teachers have responded positively to the technology, Burton said.

Spanish teacher Doug Houston said he appreciated the equipment in his classroom. Teaching a foreign language with a mask can be difficult at times, but with the audio enhancement, he said he didn’t have to worry about students misunderstanding him.

“With wearing masks and teaching a foreign language, they have to be able to hear all the intricacies of the way you pronounce things,” Houston said. “… It really helps because you can hear every word being said. “


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