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Mar 19, 2008

Dick Campbell posted this NYTimes article about classroom sound reinforcement systems to the NCAC listserve:

This school year, Wyoming Elementary has equipped every kindergarten through third-grade classroom with the amplification system, technology that was once reserved for large lecture halls or to aid students with hearing or learning disabilities. In an era of chronic ear infections, widespread iPod use and rampant attention-deficit disorders, school officials have embraced the microphones for mainstream classrooms, pointing to research suggesting that all children learn better when they hear instruction loud and clear.

Yes, it’s true that kids lean better when they can actually hear and understand the instructional material. But using a sound-amplification system is more of a band-aid than a solution. Proper acoustical design is much more effective and relatively inexpensive if considered during the classroom design/renovation process:

“I’m appalled. This is the triumph of marketing over science,” said David Lubman, a fellow of the Acoustical Society who lives in California. “In most cases, they’re putting it in as a substitute for good acoustics. In other words, instead of cutting down the noise, they’re blasting over the noise, so the net result is more noise.”

Some really smart people wrote an ANSI standard that specifies best-practices so you can get it right the first time.


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