Clear, intelligible sound as a tool to nurture student talent 

January 23, 2012 

By Dan Ostergren, Au.D. 

Editor’s note: Much has changed since this article was published in January 2012, we have updated it to include other resources on how schools are implementing classroom audio to help students grow.  

Every child is gifted in some way 

If you analyze the word “education,” you find that our English word derives from two Latin roots –  educare, which means to train or mold, and educere or, to lead out. Educere is also the source of the word “educe.” In other words, one of the purposes of education is to bring forth from a student that which is innately in them: their talent and passion in life. 

At its best, education doesn’t simply push information one-way at students. Education should also help bring forth what is best in the individual, so they can grow, fulfill their dreams, and make a valid contribution to themselves and others.  

Don’t overlook these gifts 

One of my favorite stories around an instance where an educator failed to educe in the classroom is the one shared by Sir Ken Robinson, author of the excellent book, The Element. Robinson highlights a certain Liverpool music teacher back in the 1950s who taught future Beatles megastars Paul McCartney and George Harrison, yet never recognized, or encouraged their musical talent in any way. Can you imagine? 

Overcoming audibility barriers 

One of the major barriers to classroom learning is that students may not receive information in an intact way. This is more common than you might believe.  

I have spent my career in educational audiology. I can tell you from professional experience that there typically are many barriers to the audibility of classroom communication. And the connection between a student and their teacher, and a student and their peers, is essential. 

There are some acoustical barriers you probably can’t change: the HVAC system in the room, the noise coming from a nearby band room, or outdoor traffic. You can change the physical structure of a classroom: the architecture and acoustical nature of the room. But you’d probably only change this once. 

Another way that I advocate is to expand the “bubble” of the teacher’s voice and, when appropriate, the student-to-peer voices, in a room. We do this typically by distributing the vocal audio signals electronically, amplifying sound through instructional audio systems, evenly throughout the room, so all students have access to the audibility and intelligibility of what is being communicated.  

Listening + hearing = better education 

I like to think that when teachers and students can properly hear one another — and they take the time to truly listen to one another —  it is possible to bring forth each student’s talent and passion and help nurture the kernel of what they can contribute from their heart. 

So, here’s to all you teachers partnering in educing the talents of all your students through better communication. I know every teacher thinks of the kids they teach as rock stars. Give them that chance. 

Want to

E-book: Improving student learning through clear, intelligible sound 

Video: See how teachers in South Portland, Maine, are using Lightspeed’s classroom audio systems to connect with students.  

Case Study: Learn how classroom audio has helped empower students to be more engaged in their learning  

Video: How Lightspeed overcomes listening barriers