This roughly described what soundfield technology does - technology that has been incorporated in Clarendon School since last September and is scheduled to be incorporated into several classrooms in Huber Street School next September.
"We purchased the first unit from a small grant supplied by the Secaucus Education Foundation," said Sydell Persky, Clarendon School's Speech and Language Specialist.
A soundfield is created by using infrared light waves to transmitter audio signals. This consists of a small teacher transmitter with lapel microphone, a receiver, a two-channel amplifier, and four small speakers. When used correctly, the equipment amplifies the teacher's voice and projects it out into all appropriate areas of the classroom via the speakers so that students at any point in a classroom can hear at the same volume.
In Clarendon School, the speakers are hidden in the ceiling.
The device was originally developed as an aide to children who suffer minimal hearing loss, but soon became a tool that allowed teachers to reach students in classrooms without needing to talk loudly or shout. Students' inability to hear teachers has numerous causes, and not all of them medical.
"A student in the back of the classroom may miss something because a teacher's back is turned or because her voice might not be loud enough," Persky said.
Grass being cut outside the classroom, traffic noise on the street, a radio being played nearby can all reduce a student's ability to hear.
Persky said she has witnessed the numerous distractions that affect students' ability to hear.
"Sometimes they hear things going on in other classrooms or a pencil dropping on the floor," she said. "If a student is distracted, the child might miss valuable information. This device cuts down on the distraction and allows the student to focus on the teacher."
National studies on the soundfield system show that the amplification of a teacher's voice so that it is projected clearly throughout the classroom helps reduce distractions caused by other noises.
Persky said the system allows teachers' voices to reach each student at the same level.
"It doesn't matter if the student is sitting up front or in the back of the classroom," Persky said. "All students with this device have the front row advantage."
Persky said she and others from the Secaucus school district traveled to other school districts to observe various different soundfield devises in operation. Each unit had features, and the one was selected for Secaucus that seemed the most flexible.
"Not only do the students hear better," Persky said. "But the unit reduces stress on the teachers, who do not have to constantly raise their voices to be heard."
Clarendon School currently has six units, two of which are hand-held units, with Huber Street School slated to get an equal number for next September.
Anna Clark, one of the teachers using it over the last year, said she loved the unit.
"I don't have to shout to be heard," she said.
Persky said that students can use the handheld units in order to allow themselves to be heard as well, not just by the teacher, but other students, increasing classroom participation. The units are being used in pre-k, first and second grades.
Principal Ralph Merlo said this was one of the technologies that most impressed him.
"It will help all of our students," he said.
Board of Education Member Tom Troyer - a former teacher - was so impressed with a demonstration of the units that he wanted to expand the program to Huber Street School.
"That's why I was so upset about needing to make cuts in this year's budget," he said. "I thought we wouldn't be able to expand the program."