Nick wrote a great post last week about noise in the classroom. I am going to follow that up this week with some practical applications for audio reinforcement in the classroom. As a teacher I had an audio system in my classroom, and in Utah many of the classrooms have audio systems. One of the downsides of the audio systems is that most teachers either didn’t use the audio system because they thought their voice was “loud enough” or used it incorrectly by cranking the audio up very loud. The audio system should only slightly boost your sound. (The signal to noise ratio Nick referred to: sometimes you need to reduce the noise, ie. students be quieter) It should be slight enough that you barely notice a difference. But to the students in the back of the room, it will make a big difference as the speakers above them put them closer to the sound so they can hear it more clearly.
Next, I want to get into more uses for your audio system than just simple amplification. In order to do this, you need to connect your audio system to your computer. I’m not talking about output of your computer to the audio system (that should already be done!), I’m talking about the out of the audio system to the in of your computer. This allows your voice to get into the computer using your teacher microphone. In most cases that is going to be done by a 1/8″ cable from the out of the audio system to the 1/8″ microphone jack on your computer. If you have a MAC, you DO NOT have a microphone in, you only have a line in. It is possible that this will still work, but if you are having difficulties, you may need to get a USB mic in port to plug it in to. One nice feature of the SMART audio system is that it plugs into your computer USB, so it works great on MAC or PC and is designed to be installed that way in the first place, not as an afterthought feature.
So here are a few ideas on what you can do with the audio plugged into your computer:
Audio Google Searches – Ever notice recently on the Google search page that there is a small microphone on the right side of the search box? Click on that microphone, say what you want to search for, and Google will run the search based on voice recognition. With your teacher mic hooked into your computer it becomes really easy to search in front of the class because the teacher mic will pick you up nice and clear. That will save you time running back to your computer to type or using an on-screen keyboard.
Record Sound into Smart Notebook – The next version of Smart Notebook is going to make it even easier to add teacher (and student) created sound to the Notebook page. You will be able to do so with your microphone on your computer. With the audio system you will be able to use your teacher mic to create sound, or if your students are working collaboratively they can use the student mic for the same purpose.
Record Lectures – Using Smart Recorder, Camtasia, Jing, or any number of other capture softwares, you will be able to record your lecture to post on to a website. The Kahn Academy has made famous the idea of the flipped classroom. Mr. Kahn does a good job teaching the concepts, but the screen he uses is very plain compared to what many teachers I work with use. Now you can use the full capacity of your SMART Board to teach your lesson, and capture it while you teach it with full clarity of sound from your teacher microphone. Keep your recordings short! Don’t record a whole 45 min lecture: your students are more likely to go back to review key concepts than to watch it all the way through again.
Guest Lecturers via VC – You can bring in guest lecturers with a video conference software such as Skype, Instant Messenger, Bridgit, etc. Your audio system makes it easy for you as the teacher to talk to the presenter and the students with the student microphone. This setup also makes it really easy to mute your microphone to reduce echo for your presenter. This makes it even easier to bring in people that ordinarily wouldn’t be able to travel to your classroom, because now they can take only 20 minutes to speak to your class. With Bridgit, you also have the ability for your guest, and students as well, to be able to write on the SMARTBoard.
These are just a few suggestions for using your audio system to get more out of the technology in your classroom. If you have another idea, please leave it in the comments below!