Maybe it’s because I’ve been so up to my ears in helping with the Circle of Learning Fast ForWord Conference recently that I’ve become so intuned to sound everywhere. My very favourite place (Ted Talks) has posted a video from Julian Treasure who does research on “sound” and how it affects us in four ways: physiological, psychological, cognition, and behaviour. This is the science of psychoacoustics making it possible to predict the effects of sound on human behaviour. Consider that constant background noise of jack hammers or traffic horns and sirens and how it affects your physiological and psychological wellbeing. Match this with sounds from nature (bird songs, ocean waves), which provide a more soothing environment. What about the sounds or melodies used by businesses to sell their products? Treasure states that productivity decreases by 66% for individuals working in open plan offices versus those who work in quiet places. He suggests the use of headphones and mp3 music (specific types) as a way to counter the effects of constant noise.
So what happens in those classrooms where some of our students who struggle with phonological awareness and phoneme identification, thus resulting in difficulties in reading? How do we support all of our learners in environments of high noise or during activities when noise increases? Interestingly, Treasure noted that silent rooms do little to increase productivity either. Given this, maybe we should be allowing our students during study and work times to listen to their mp3 players or ipods as a way to maintain focus.