Join Date: Dec 2000
| | New tool helping some break a sound barrier
Source: Monday, April 30, 2001, from the Philadelphia Inquirer
New tool helping some break a sound barrier
By Kristen A. Graham
INQUIRER SUBURBAN STAFF
Last year, Willemara Thompson received a grade report full of D's and F's and a dire prediction that she just wasn't college material.
Thompson wasn't a poor student. She simply couldn't hear what her professors were saying.
Now, the human-services major from Pennsgrove sails through Camden
County College with A's and B's, thanks to new technology that allows students with hearing loss to function fully in conventional classrooms.
"I used to fail tests because a teacher would turn around and say something important with his back to me, so I missed it," said Thompson, who uses the technology in each of her four classes this semester. "Now I get everything, down to when somebody walks into a room, somebody tells a joke."
C-Print, a computer-aided speech-to-print transcription system, was developed in the late 1990s at the National Institute for the Deaf.
Camden County College became one of the first C-Print users in 1997 and is the only South Jersey site that offers C-Print training.
The technology, said Josie Durkow, director of the Mid-Atlantic Post Secondary Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, which is based at the college, offers students who relied on lip-reading or note takers the chance for a fuller classroom experience.
After students streamed into Mark Luccioni's U.S. history class, wondering whether they would have a quiz on the Second Great Awakening, Dorothea Clark walked in, wheeling two laptop computers and setting them up in her usual corner. When Luccioni began lecturing on Mormonism and abolitionism - no quiz - Clark, a C-Print captionist, started typing with lightning speed, her words appearing simultaneously on her screen and the student screen in front of her.
Minutes later, Patricia Gulnac, a 27-year-old education major from Manahawkin, Ocean County, entered the classroom, late because of car trouble. Gulnac, who has some hearing, sat down, opened her notebook, and began writing furiously while listening to Luccioni and glancing at her screen every few moments.
Gulnac said she had used other techniques in class but especially liked C-Print for the concise, supplemental notes that Clark e-mails to her after every class.
"I had a note taker for one of my classes, and I felt a little lost during class," Gulnac said. "Now, when I get my C-Print notes, they reinforce everything I heard in the lecture."
Clark, whose C-Print training took about one week plus 40 to 50 hours of learning vocabulary, does not type every word a professor says and relies on preprogrammed shortcuts to keep up. She generates about seven pages of notes for every class hour.
About 10 Camden County College students use C-Print, Durkow said, and all decide which assistive techniques they would like to use in class. Clark is one of five captionists who work at the college.
For Pat Heiser, a health-information-management major from Hi-Nella, college was at best intimidating until C-Print made classes intelligible.
"I have so much motivation to come to class. It's a full experience now," Heiser, 39, said. "I can participate, and I'm relaxed, because I have the screen to look at."
C-Print's predecessor, computer-assisted real-time transcription, required a trained stenographer who typed every word a professor said and generated much denser notes.
Plus, Durkow said, "for your average college student, just reading a textbook is enough to do. They don't need 20 pages of notes on top of that."
Clark, who is also an American Sign Language interpreter, said the technology was a welcome way to give people who might otherwise struggle the opportunity to be normal college students.
"This puts me into the background and gives the students independence," Clark said. "That's the most important thing."