Anne Wujcik — Friday, March 22, 2013
I spent some time this weekend at the ASCD Conference which was here in Chicago. It wasn’t one of the city’s prettier weekends, cold and blustery, but that didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the nearly 11,000 educators in attendance. This is a very well-run meeting, with more than 40 concurrent sessions running in every time slot not dedicated to a keynote or Exhibit Hall time. Featured speakers included Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, Charlotte Danielson, Michael Fullan, Andy Hargreaves and Maya Angelou. There were the expected sessions on the Common Core Standards and assessment, but the ASCD crowd is as interested in social-emotional learning, civic education, multiple intelligences and project-based learning. ASCD promotes a whole child approach to education, an effort to change the conversation about education from a focus on narrowly defined academic achievement to one that promotes the long term development and success of children.
Lightspeed Technologies introduced a new product at ASCD, the FLEXCAT classroom audio system. Lightspeed markets classroom audio solutions, designed to deliver optimum speech intelligibility, overcome classroom noise and provide crystal clear sound to all students regardless of where they are in the classroom. FLEXCAT responds to a different need, designed to support small group and differentiated instruction. It consists of headset for the teacher and a tabletop speaker/mic for each student group. The tabletop speakers/mic are battery operated and wireless. A base station stores and charges all components. The teacher can still communicate clearly with the whole class, but is also able to deliver instruction to one group, redirect groups that are off task and listen in on any group at any time. Groups can also use the unit to communicate with the rest of the class.
There was a teacher from one of the pilot schools working in the Lightspeed booth and her enthusiasm was contagious. She said she knows more about her students and the ways they think this year than ever before. Listening in as a group works on a project, she is able to learn how each student approaches a problem and capture their thinking. Since she can listen in from her desk, she is able to take better notes, making formative assessment easier and more accurate.
This is one of those simple, elegant solutions that really helps teachers better manage group instruction. It’s clear that Lightspeed listened carefully to what teachers said they needed and worked collaboratively to create a solution that works.
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