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March 2, 2003

Hi-tech classroom a dramatic improvement for deaf

From: South Australia Advertiser, Australia - 02 Mar 2003

By Education Reporter NHADA GOODFELLOW

HIS big brown eyes sparkle, a smile lights up his face and laughter fills the air.

Born profoundly deaf, 13-year-old Tim Cornell had a cochlear implant five years ago but until this year was shy, introverted and mostly silent.

Now, thanks to ground-breaking technology in his Torrens Valley Christian School classroom, he is a bubbly teenager with his sights set on movie stardom.

"He had been making pretty average-to-good progress but just this year it seems he's much more communicative, much more involved in the class and much more social," principal Andrew Mackenzie said yesterday.

"For a long time he was in a world of his own but now he's much more engaged socially."

Mr Mackenzie credits a $3000 infra-red sound field system installed in Tim's Year 7 classroom this year with the transformation.

The school is the first in Australia with the new technology, which involves the teacher wearing a special microphone to amplify her voice. For Tim, it means he can discard the "embarrassing" FM receiver he used to wear to boost the teacher's voice, and can now hear without any static interference.

"I can hear more clearly and it's very easy to do work now," Tim said. "With the sound field system, it's a lot different and I don't feel embarrassed any more and I just feel happier.

"I can work and hear the teacher at the same time."

Teacher Suzanne Piovesan said the sound field had other benefits. It held all students' attention better and helped students with attention or learning disorders. It also improved behavioural management.

Mr Mackenzie said the system was "invaluable" and he "would really seriously recommend it to all schools, for all children. We'll be looking at putting it in a couple of other rooms".

Tim says the new technology has made his favourite subject, drama, a lot more fun.

"I know what I'm doing now," the aspiring movie actor said.

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