Narrative in support of eFellows proposal "Why Can't Johnny Hear His Performance Replays?"
(Project Category: Technology Materials - submitted Jan 2011)
Course Description / Student Population Served:
MKTG261: Contemporary Selling in Room 223 / Owen College of Business.
Winter 2011 - Currently am teaching three sections of MKTG261 limited to 24 students each.
Marketing department-wide each year... multiple instructors facilitate teaching a total of approximately 20 sections.
Required course for marketing/business majors... but, open to all... involves hundreds of undergraduates each year.
Requested Technologies Can Benefit Many Faculty:
This proposal asks for enhanced audio technologies (to be discussed) that will be implemented in a classroom used
by many faculty. While we will focus on describing how requested technologies can support selected learning
activities in the MKTG261 Contemporary Selling course (again... these activities could be implemented by many
different faculty members teaching approximately 20 sections of MKTG261 per year to reach several hundred
undergrad students), still... the requested classroom technology items would be freely available to all faculty using
Room 223 for purposes other than MKTG261. So, the installation of enhanced classroom audio technology could
benefit a variety of instructors and facilitate varied teaching activities beyond those outlined in this proposal.
Problem - Poor Quality Audio Has Forced Me to Abandon Important Course Pedagogy:
The current quality of audio capture and replay in Room 223 is deficient. Audio/video replays of student "roleplays"
and formal front-of-class presentations are often unintelligible, or have distracting "background noise." The existing
classroom microphone does not always do a "good-enough" job of capturing audio. And, current ceiling speakers
are poorly located with several "dead spots" in the room where audience members cannot hear audio very well. So,
at times, we are forced to turn up the volume very high so that everyone can decipher "spoken words" within poor
quality audio. As a result, I have received multiple complaints that the volume disturbs surrounding classrooms.
Because of these ongoing audio quality problems in Room 223, I have been forced to remove many audio/video
replay modules from my course pedagogy. (Perhaps other instructors have abandoned replays too?) This means
decreased opportunities for student learning through shared critical reflection on performance replays. This proposal
seeks funding for audio capture and replay technologies that will address current audio deficiencies and provide
increased capabilities for using audio/video replays within our course learning activities (described later).
Solution - Audio Technology Upgrades (detailed listing of requested items and budget provided later):
This proposal requests funding to acquire an advanced microphone technology (i.e., an "array" microphone that
automatically "scans" the room to identify voices and focus on current talkers) along with an improved amplifier
system and additional speakers (needed to fill in "dead spots" in the back of the room where audience members
cannot hear the replays). Improvements in the quality of audio captures and audio/video replays will provide
enhanced opportunities for students to learn through critical reflection, both inside and outside the classroom.
Course learning objectives / concepts / modules center on examining selected aspects of human attempts to
influence others. In particular, attempts to engage in professional face-to-face dialogues. Course modules include
class discussions to help students envision ethical, non-manipulative attempts to influence others, creating and
nurturing professional, mutually-beneficial relationships, and utilizing both verbal and non-verbal forms of
communications to promote exchanges of value. Participants are asked to reflect on how developing these types of
skills might impact their own attempts to bring a positive change in their world. Students receive an opportunity to
practice developing their own skills in promoting products, services, ideas. They also may reflect on how these same
skills can be useful in influencing others in non-profit endeavors, for community activism, and for dealing with
social activities in the workplace, in church and with friends and family. Finally, class members are asked to engage
in critical self-reflection of their own interpersonal interactions during classroom learning dialogues, to reflect on
their participations in simulations and "roleplays," and to review their own formal front-of-class presentations.
Teaching strategies:
Students are asked to practice applying concepts and theories of interpersonal communications through various
front-of-class "roleplays" that simulate "real world" professional dialogues and presentations. Modules include
making short introductory speeches, making "elevator speeches," creating group presentations to summarize
complex textbook concepts, conducting simulated face-to-face selling dialogues, and making formal front-of-class
presentations in which students each introduces his/her own selected topic of influence.
Integration of technologies into course and student-centered learning:
Currently, a videocamera (permanently secured within a rear closet) along with a small microphone (permanently
placed "shin level" at the front wall) are used to capture audio/video clips of various student classroom
presentations. Unfortunately, our audio replays often include unintelligible student presentations / spoken words.
This eFellows proposal requests an improved microphone, an amplifier (that also serves as an "easy to use" central
audio/video input control switcher) and two additional speakers. These technologies will support quality captures
and replays of front-of-class performances. These audio capture and replay technologies also can be used to support
student-centered learning in the following ways:
Quality audio captures and classroom speaker systems allow instructors to play examples
of performances from previous classes to promote additional in-class learning dialogues.
In-class replays of digital audio/ video captures allow instructors to quickly review
selected moments of performances to promote timely critical reflection and discussion
amongst the entire audience.
In-class media replays promote occasions of shared and individual learning (i.e., can
facilitate discussion and solicit feedback providing suggestions for improvement).
Quality media captures allow students to replay/critique their own performances later at a
time and location of their convenience.
Quality media captures allow instructors to take home copies of performances to provide
ample time for critical review, grading and composing feedback to support student learning.
In sum, reflective critical review and learning activities require clear, intelligible audio...
particularly to allow audio to be reviewed at a volume level that will not disturb surrounding classrooms.
Learning goals / outcomes:
• Students receive increased opportunities to view their own performances.
Students receive increased opportunities to engage in critical reviews of their own performances.
Reviewers can pause a replay to reflect on selected moments and suggest ways to improve.
Students receive an opportunity to become aware that recollections of, and beliefs about, their
performances often differ from actual behaviors.
Instructors can help students compare "ideal" theoretical communicative dialogue processes with
actual performances... and can ask audience members to engage in shared critical reflection.
Instructors can take home digital copies of student performances to provide ample time for private
reflection and for composing feedback to share with students regarding their performances.
Provide students with "takeaway" digital content allowing them to review their own "roleplays"
and front-of-class presentation performances at their convenience.
Assessment methods:
• Identify changes in classroom pedagogy that were facilitated by increased quality of audio
captures and replays. (Increased usage of audio/video performance replays.)
Identify added occasions / opportunities for students to review / reflect on performances.
Listening survey - compare perceptions of microphone audio capture quality "before and after"
system upgrades. (Perception of clarity of spoken words while listening to performance replays.)
Listening survey - compare perceptions of audio output quality in the rear of the classroom
"before and after" system upgrades. (Clarity of spoken words heard while listening to replays.)
Count number of complaints received from faculty in surrounding classrooms regarding disturbing
audio volume.
eFellows Proposal "Why Can't Johnny Hear His Performance Replays"
submitted January 2011
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Project Description:
Proposed classroom technology project centers on upgrading audio capture and replay capabilities in Room 223 of
the Owen College of Business. These technologies are needed to support student-focused learning in MKTG261.
The audio CAPTURE quality will be addressed through the use of an innovative technology called an "array"
microphone. (See http://www.acousticmagic.com for descriptions and testimonials regarding "Voice Tracker II
Array Microphone.") This technology is already being successfully utilized in thousands of corporate meeting
rooms and university classrooms across the country. An array microphone automatically "scans" the room to locate
and focus upon the current talker. In addition, this array microphone system also includes technologies designed to
help reduce distracting "background noise" and echo when capturing spoken words.
To improve the audio OUTPUT quality in the classroom, a quality amplifier will be acquired and installed. Since
Room 223 is a special purpose room designed for both audio and video captures, the amplifier needs to support a
variety of audio / video and computer inputs / outputs. In addition, consideration needs to be given to maintaining
support for older legacy "analog" media connections along with newer "digital" media connections. And finally, the
unit needs to facilitate "ease of use" amongst a variety of faculty. In particular, there should be easy-to-select push
buttons on the face of the unit that allow busy and distracted faculty to quickly toggle between various media inputs
and outputs without having to muddle through some menu selection system. Quality amplifiers possessing these
attributes are made by ONKYO (see model TX-SR608 or perhaps alternative HT-RC270). These amps also have
enough modern HDMI media connections to handle future expansions in Room 223 such as DVD recorders, DVR's
and large flat screen TV's. The unit also has a convenient front panel HDMI input for connecting a laptop. Also, the
ONKYO amplifier should supply sufficient "clean" audio power to allow instructors and audiences to better "hear"
spoken words within media replays at a lower level of volume.
Finally, the current ceiling speakers in Room 223 are woefully inadequate. In particular, they are located at the front
of the room, and point directly down to the audience members seated at the front row. This is OK for folks seated at
the front, but the back rows are not being served very well. In particular, there is a large bulkhead across the center
of the room that is blocking the pathway of the sound waves from the ceiling speakers to many audience members.
Therefore, it is often difficult for folks sitting in the rear three rows to decipher "spoken words" in audio replays.
This proposal requests funding for at least two more quality speakers (to be identified later) that will be placed
strategically to address the current audio "dead spots" for audience members seated in the rear half of Room 223.
This proposed eFellows "technology materials project" will involve the acquisition and installation of the following
technologies (along with estimated costs):
Voice Tracker II Array Microphone - (www.acousticmagic.com)
Audio / Video Control Center Amplifier - (ONKYO model TX-SR608 or perhaps HT-RC270)
Two Quality Classroom Speakers - (to be selected / detailed later)
Wiring (connect the microphone to the videocamera / connect speakers to amplifier)
Wall / Ceiling Mounts (mount microphone / mount speakers)
Dissemination of Project Outcomes to University Community
Statement of commitment to comply with conditions of eFellows program:
I am committed to complying with the conditions of eFellows program as outlined in the application forms.
(Willingness to complete project as written... Willingness to file report with Deborah Silverman by May 5, 2011)
(Willingness to attend / participate in eFellows program meetings as appropriate)
(Willingness to disseminate assessments / outcomes of the project to the University Community)
(Willingness to promote the use of technology with other faculty)
Preferred method for dissemination / promotion:
Technovations Forum
eFellows Proposal "Why Can't Johnny Hear His Performance Replays"
submitted January 2011
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Describe your background in utilizing technology in teaching / learning.
What types of tech have you utilized in teaching?
Teaching at university level since 1995.
Standard computing - projection systems to facilitate multi-media presentations
Used videocameras / VCR captures of student "roleplays" and front-of-class presentations
Used instant video replays to review / critique student performance
Wireless hand-held mics / amps to promote audience participation in 300-student "stadium-seating" style classroom
Facilitated computer simulations (MARKSTRAT) to promote realistic "action learning" in strategy courses
Led "Marketing Research" course that focused on use of technology to measure audience perceptions
How can this project benefit other faculty?
We believe that many other faculty at EMU would appreciate becoming aware of this "array microphone."
The special purpose microphone is designed specifically to capture the spoken voice. The array is designed to scan
the room (up to 30 feet) to "find" the current speaker, to "lock in" on the speaker and to provide added emphasis to
that voice. The array mic also attempts to reduce "background noise." The company website contains scores of
testimonials and white papers describing the implementation and positive outcomes of using this microphone in
university settings. The website provides names of high-level university classroom technology administrators...
including one who states that the microphones do a great job of picking up audience questions / discussions far
beyond the instructor's own front-of-the-room lectern position.
So, we believe that many other faculty would find this particular technology to be very useful in capturing their own
classroom activities... either for their own personal review, for classroom replays, for the creation of Podcasts or
perhaps to facilitate live streaming events / distance learning environments.
As for the many users of Room 223... We believe that installation of the array microphone can increase the audio
quality of classroom voice input within video captures of student performances / roleplays. Currently, background
noise from air circulation systems / video projectors can at time be so distracting on some audio/video captures that
the performer's voices are difficult to understand. Similarly, some performers are "low talkers" or are located in a
poor position in the room to be picked up well by the current knee-level stationary microphone. When poor quality
audio is captured in these less than ideal circumstances, then later, faculty are required to dramatically increase the
volume of playback so that audience members can understand the performer's spoken words.
We believe that these problems will be mitigated by the implementation of our requested audio system upgrades. It
is hoped that audio captures and replays will be more intelligible, with less distracting feedback and background
noise. Improvements in the audio system should result in better clarity of spoken words -- leading to lower volume
levels required to "hear" spoken words -- and ultimately, leading to fewer disturbances of surrounding classrooms.
These types of improvements in audio quality should mean that affected faculty can be more flexible and confident
in implementing media captures and replays within their course pedagogy. And, motivated faculty will have
increased capabilities to design innovative learning activities that include the use of multi-media.
Thank you for your consideration.
eFellows Proposal "Why Can't Johnny Hear His Performance Replays"
submitted January 2011
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