Supporting equitable learning with instructional audio
January 31, 2022
The following article was contributed by Laurie Roberts, Educational Technology Coordinator at West Contra Costa Unified School District.
The more students can hear, the more they can learn. For maximum impact, however, the teacher’s voice must be highly intelligible to every student. When the pandemic and face masks presented a new barrier to clear, intelligible sound, West Contra Costa Unified saw it as an opportunity to implement instructional audio in schools across the district.
Here’s what prompted our decision to invest in instructional audio — and the benefits it is providing our students and teachers.
A long time coming
For me, the implementation of instructional audio was a long time coming.
I have always been a strong advocate of instructional audio and have seen its impact both personally and professionally.
My son has an auditory processing disorder, and the instructional audio system his elementary school uses has been very helpful. I also have a niece who is hard of hearing, and instructional audio has proven beneficial for her as well.
When the pandemic and masks started impacting instruction, our district felt this was the perfect time to invest in instructional audio and roll it out to every school. We surveyed teachers to gauge their interest and brought a system around for them to try out in the classroom. Those who tested the instructional audio systems were immediately impressed and ready to implement the systems in their classroom that day.
The positive feedback from teachers prompted the decision to purchase Lightspeed’s Redcat instructional audio system. Implementation was simple, and little to no training was required for users — teachers just put the microphone lanyard on, and they’re ready to go.
In addition to using the systems to support instruction, our teachers are getting creative and using them to facilitate other activities with their students, like yoga. Librarians and elementary prep teachers are using it to support learners as well — it is a great tool for engagement.
Benefits of instructional audio
The goal of instructional audio is to enable every child in a classroom to clearly hear all the speech components of a teacher’s voice — no matter where students are seated relative to the teacher’s position in the room. Instructional audio isn’t about making voices louder, but clearer — which is important for all students, but especially for young readers and English learners.
Studies over the past four decades have underscored the crucial link between being able to hear clearly and learning, revealing additional benefits:
  • Students’ attention and on-task time improve.
  • Class interaction and participation increases.
  • Classroom stress is lowered and there are fewer behavior problems.
  • Teacher absenteeism due to voice and throat illness is almost eliminated.
  • Academic test scores improve.
  • English learners experience over 30 percent improvement in word/sentence recognition.
Implementing instructional audio has set our district up to meet the varying needs of teachers and students, ensuring they are set up for success from the start. While we implemented instructional audio to meet the immediate challenges our students and staff faced due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we will see benefits long after, ensuring that our students are set up for long term success and our schools are utilizing the best tools to support learning.
Laurie Roberts is Coordinator of Educational Technology for the West Contra Costa USD, where she’s been employed for the past 25 years as a classroom teacher, a project assistant, and a teacher on special assignment. She is a wife and mom of two humans and a dog named Kitty. Her passions include anti-racist educational work, reading books, cooking (and eating), and petting all the dogs.
Laurie Roberts, Educational Technology Coordinator at West Contra Costa Unified School District.
Contact Us
© 2022 Association of California School Administrators