SOESD / Learning Matters / Newsletter Archive / February/March 2006 / Technology Improves Communication
Technology Improves Communication
As students move from the elementary to the secondary level in school, often communication from school to home diminishes. This happens, in part, because students (instead of the schools) are expected to share information with their families regarding school activities and assignments. In the Program for Deaf/Hard of Hearing (PDHH), two systems using advances in technology are helping to bridge the communication gap between the school and home. One is the Video Relay System, and the other is the Typewell program.
The Typewell program is a system similar to real time captioning. A trained transcriber listens to what is being said in the classroom and transcribes the spoken words into print form on a laptop. The printed version then shows up on a student laptop. The student does not usually see word-for-word print, but a summary of the information presented. The student is able to follow lecture and discussion in classes via reading the information on the laptop. The transcriber later edits the notes and provides the student with a printed copy of what happened in the class. This printed copy is used in a couple of ways: the student takes it home to study and to share with the family; or the student brings it to the PDHH resource room and reviews it with the teacher. Having this printed copy enables the family and resource teacher to follow what is being covered in the mainstream classes. Jennifer Crumley, one of the students at Crater High School using Typewell, says, “Before I had Typewell, I couldn’t pass my classes, but now I can!”
The Video Relay System (VRS) is another communication system that allows students and staff at one site to contact people at other sites even if they are not able to hear on the telephone. A person communicating in sign language can either call directly to another VRS and sign to the recipient or can call a signing relay operator who will voice for them to the recipient. This system now allows signing students to call home and talk with their families, allows students from one classroom to communicate with another classroom, and allows PDHH staff to communicate with parents, colleagues, and others as needed. The images are much clearer than those in some V-Tel systems and the communication is direct and timely. Roger Goth, student teacher at Crater High School, uses the VRS to communicate with others on a regular basis. He states, “VRS is more smooth and natural communication [than the TDD, which is a typed form of communication]”. Many families with deaf members now have a VRS system in their homes, too.
These two advances in technology, the Video Relay System and the Typewell program, have helped to bridge the communication gap between home and school for the program for Deaf/Hard of Hearing students and staff in southern Oregon.