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Morris Area Elementary School teacher Muriel Eggebraaten and a student both use microphones to improve sound quality in her 5th grade classroom. Three of the sound amplification systems are in use in MAES classrooms this year.

Sound system helps students improve hearing, learning

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By Tom Larson

Sun Tribune

There may be many reasons that children fail to reach their learning peak in the classroom. In a few Morris Area Elementary School classes, an inability to hear a teacher or a classmate won't be one of them.

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This year, three MAES teachers are using a sound amplification system designed for use in classrooms. The system is unobtrusive and subtle, but its clarity is obvious.

Principal Brad Korn saw the system during a technology conference last year and liked it. When the elementary school was being planned, officials looked into wiring all the classrooms but found it cost prohibitive. The portable units were a perfect alternative.

"The research is pretty solid that it's good for kids, and it's more effective with younger kids," Korn said.

Some children deal with recurring ear infections and others have hearing difficulties that the amplification system overcomes, he said.

"It's almost like surround sound," Korn said. "Even the kids are saying they like it. It's good for everybody."

The system comes with the amplification unit that is about the size of a radio. The teacher wears a neck microphone and the students can use a wireless hand-held microphone. There is an earpiece if students need them.

The system costs about $1,200 and donations from the Morris Area Public School Foundation helped the district buy three of them.

Teacher Muriel Eggebraaten uses one of the systems in her 5th grade class said teachers benefit, too.

"I have 28 kids in class and that's a large number that have to hear and I don't have the strongest voice in the first place," she said. "This is a real asset."

Because the system and components are small most students aren't intimidated by it, Eggebraaten said.

"It's easy to make accommodations for students without feeling singled out," she said. "The students have commented to me, especially when first using it, that they like it."

As funding allows, the district will add systems to more classrooms, Korn said.

"Seeing it in action and how it improved kids' ability to hear, it's really impressive," he said. "If it improves kids' ability to listen and learn, that's what we want."

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