Flexcat Pods by Lightspeed Technologies
Speak Up! Speakers for Cooperative Learning
Schools have long endorsed the use of cooperative learning strategies in the classroom. However, many teachers hesitate to use it as monitoring all the conversations going on at one time is impossible. Lightspeed Technologies has a new product on the market that makes great strides in helping to solve this problem. Flexcat, a classroom microphone/speaker system is game-changer. The system comes with:
Classroom Speaker (not pictured) - It is placed in the back of the classroom and broadcasts sound throughout the room.
- Four individual pods - Each pod is placed in the center of each cooperative learning group and doubles as both a speaker and a microphone.
- Teacher lanyard - It comes with a microphone and earpiece, allowing the teacher to both hear and speak to individual groups through the pods.
- Remote Control - Allows the teacher to manage all of the equipment. Teachers can also download the Lightspeed app on their smartphone and use it as the remote if they prefer.
- Storage device - All pieces (except for the classroom speaker) are stored and charged in this device.
Here’s how this revolutionary system works. First teachers install and plug in the classroom speaker. Next, teachers place the lanyard around their neck and put the attached earpiece in their ear. The four pods should be placed in the center of each cooperative learning group. (if you have more than four learning groups, you can purchase additional pods). All of the components are interconnected via Bluetooth and come automatically synced with one another. Using the remote, teachers can turn the individual pod microphones on and off allowing the teacher to listen to individual groups via the earpiece attached to the lanyard. Additionally, teachers can use the remote to activate the microphone on their lanyard and the speaker on each individual pod so when teachers see a need for redirection or positive comments, teachers can speak to each group individually rather than disrupting the entire class. The remote can also connect a specific pod with the classroom speaker allowing individual student voices to be amplified for the entire class.
This system has a plethora of benefits. First, a teacher wearing the lanyard with the microphone can amplify her voice through the classroom speaker located in the back of the classroom. Second, teachers can listen to each group’s conversations without being physically near them. Essentially, you can do the impossible—be in two places at one time. Now, the one child who needs your proximity to help them focus does not have to be the center of your attention as your ears can be in an entirely different place altogether. Plus, your students will never know when you are listening in, thereby giving you the benefit of hearing authentic interactions.
Another amazing benefit is that the combination of the classroom speaker and the pods allow that quiet, shy child to be heard clearly throughout the room. This is also a perfect system for students with hearing loss as EVERY person in the room can have their voice amplified. So often, children with hearing loss are only able to hear the teacher through an FM system or a classroom speaker while the children in the classroom are not heard as clearly. This system helps to correct this problem.
One problem I found with the system is that the pods picked up quite a bit of ambient noise making it difficult to hear conversations, especially in my teeny, tiny classroom. This can be easily solved by asking the child who is speaking to hold the pod in their lap or on the desk in front of them. This minor correction keeps the speaker’s voice front and center while still keeping the pod “in the group” so contributing speakers can still be heard.
Be warned, the system comes with a hefty price tag, $2700. Educational institutions can purchase the Flexcat for a reduced rate of $2185. However, having this technology in my classroom gave me an educational advantage that I could not have with any other product on the market. The benefits were outstanding despite the price tag!