Be nice to kids! Acoustically !

Class rooms are school equivalents of open spaces, at best. Recently I have been introduced to a conferencing solution reshuffled voice lift for class rooms. With the USP being that student in the back of the classes would actually be able to understand things that were said by the teacher. Great this is called a PA, this is what I do. I am happy to design such systems for any school in the known world… Just a tiny little detail here: is it always the appropriate solution?

Why not start with good room acoustics first then? This has been pretty well documented so far: about half of the pupils in most of the classrooms today can’t really understand a word of what is being said by the teacher, because of poor room acoustics. So, why would you pile up kids in classrooms for most of their best days of childhood, ask them to remain quiet and attentive AND get them to do so in an acoustically challenging environment for about half of them.

Do you think simple, elegant &  affordable solutions exist?

Talk to a specialist.

Adequate acoustic treatment, a profitable investment for your open space?

Questions, phones, emails, notifications, pop-ups, messages, 6 different potentialities to be interrupted daily. At 20 minutes on average for a return to concentration, two hours lost.

In open space, add a minimum of 6 interruptions generated by unrelated noises, 2 more useless hours, a total of 4 hours of productivity per day soaring. These figures are freely accessible, please check for yourself.

Or contact a professional …

Why silence or near silence is a must, not an ANC system

Sometimes active noise cancelling may help, a little, because they can reduce background noise, just like that help a bit with sound engines reduction in airplanes. But these mostly work by detecting cycles of sound. So, by design they will work better with aviation engine sounds that are inherent cyclic, but not so much with conversation noises or other essentially non linear noises. Also, for this to work you need to know precisely the location of the sound, so while it is fine at the entrance of the ear canal, anywhere else forget it, trajectories are too unpredictable to be cancelled at all. You may very well in fact end up with more noise. Besides, adding sound and music in order to dissimulate noise, globally is a very bad idea. If a human needs a peaceful and silent environment to enjoy himself or be performant, then this is what he needs. Not another fancy ANC system and not one more headset. Period. Do you want to convince yourself of that? Go to a palace, anywhere in the world, it is not cultural, intuitively, unconsciously, if someone can afford it he will go for a quiet sound environment.

Why are better soundscapes desirable?

Let’s go back to the bush for a second. Back then, you were immersed in an ultra peaceful 360° soundscape. Most of the noises around were soothing sounds: wind in the leaves of high trees, a river nearby, small streams or friendly grass eating animals munching in the near vicinity, relax and safe in the knowledge that since you had some mouthfuls of berries not long ago they were not in the immediate danger of you hitting them with a large rock. You got the idea, your soundscapes back then were quiet and mostly harmless, most of the time. This by the way is possibly the exact reason why almost any self aid, religious or self development book at hand will suggest, recommend or even urge you to save time for walks in the forest as much as you possibly can.