Students at Oakenwald Elementary School are hearing things a little more clearly.
In late September, the school installed a FrontRow sound system in every classroom.
The microphone and audio system consists of devices which teachers and students wear around their necks as part of a necklace to better project their voices. The sound is projected from speakers located in the classroom.
Oakenwald is the only school in Pembina Trails School Division using the system. It is participating in a study with York University to monitor the effects of the sound system on student learning.
Sydney Stefanson is a hearing-impaired Grade 4 student who requires hearing aids. Stefanson has been able to shut off her hearing aids in class since the new sound system was installed.
Prior to the installation of the FrontRow system, Stefanson used an audio system that transmitted sound directly to her hearing aids. While that helped her hear teachers better, Stefanson said she often had a hard time hearing other students.
"Now with the speakers I can hear what the student says because (we) use the microphones when we talk," she said.
Stefanson’s mother, Kendra Wilson, said not only does the system help Stefanson to better hear sounds in class, it also allows her to blend in with her fellow student.
"There are 190 kids here (at Oakenwald) and she’s the only child with hearing aids. We kind of take it for granted that she’s fine with it but she’s self-conscious about them. This keeps her the same as everyone else in her classroom and doesn’t single her out," Wilson said.
While the system is helping Stefanson hear better, it’s also benefitted other students and teachers at the school.
Mary-Ann Mitchler, a Grade 4 teacher at Oakenwald, said the system has made a noticeable difference in her classroom.
"I have a very active class of 15 boys and five girls, and they’re very busy… I find for myself at the end of the day I’m not as tired, my voice is not sore," she said.
Mitchler added the system gives everyone in the room the same advantage of hearing her lessons as if they’re sitting in the front row.
In addition to helping students hear better, Mitchler said it also gives otherwise quiet children more confidence.
"Not only can the children hear the lessons delivered better, but it gives all the students a voice. Even someone who is…quiet can still have their voice projected. If they’re reading aloud, if they’re performing, whatever it is they’re doing it gives them that extra edge," she said.