Technology Boosts Classroom Participation

Students at Ben Milam Elementary are speaking up in the classroom thanks to new technology.  It may look like they're making presentations or singing karaoke, but using a microphone in class is now a regular practice.

Kindergarten, First and Second Grade teachers in 12 classrooms now wear microphones around their necks, projecting their voices through new ceiling speakers.  Students also use a hand-held microphone to answer questions and read out loud.  

Ben Milam Principal Jesse Thomas said the technology keeps kids involved.  He said, "If you've got a kid that's reading out loud in a group and then you've got another kid across the room, well, anyone whose spent time in a classroom knows if you can't hear that kid across the room you just start doing something else you get distracted.  That's no longer a problem".

The system has only been in place for about six weeks, but teachers say they've already seen a difference.  First Grade teacher Alyssa Newcomb said, "They remind me to put it on in the morning.  I think its easier for them to hear from anywhere in the classroom".

Patricia Robinson also teaches first grade.  She said, "It brings out the kids that are really shy, they love getting on there and hearing their voice projected.  They will do reading for us and things they normally wouldn't do because they think its fun".

Principal Thompson said when they realized the could not immediately upgrade every classroom, they decided to start young.  "It's so important for those auditory learners at that young age to be grasping those concepts so they can branch out and become diverse learners".  

Ben Milam is the first school in the Wichita falls ISD to use the microphones at a cost of about $1200 per system, but Thomas says they stayed under budget.

"We got a discount from the company, we had our Parent Teacher Association helping out and then of course we used some of our title funds that were earmarked for technology in the classroom".

Principal Thomas plans to have the system in every room by the end of next year, an addition of nearly 20 more units.  Right now the program is funded by individual schools.  There are plans to incorporate the School Board, and possibly asking them to pay for some of the upgrades, as well as apply for grants.  

Jack Lamson, Newschannel 6