From courtroom to classroom

By David Kenney

Stenographing, the art of verbatim dictation is currently revolutionizing education for students with learning disabilities.

Following on the heels of stenography, real time reporting enables a wide diversity of students to watch and understand spoken lectures in real time. The process involves a lecture being aired to a listening station where it is transcribed back onto a computer or projection screen word-for-word using computer-aided transcription software.

"It just opens up the world for [students with disabilities]," said Shirley Carroll, Northern Alberta Institute of Technology Legal and Real Time Reporting Program Chair. "There’s no limit to the ways it can be used."

Real time reporting is an improvement on closed captioning technology, in which spoken lectures scroll slowly across a screen two lines at a time. Currently, though only taught at NAIT and Langara Community College in Canada, the improved communication technology is used by students at Mount Royal College, Bow Valley College and the University of Calgary. While hearing impaired, English as a second language or deaf students can benefit, all types of students can reap the rewards of real time reporting, said Sandra German, Manager of Realtime Communications for Thibodeau’s Centre for Hearing Health and Communication.

"It’s fascinating technology," said German. "I try to explain to people what it’s like but until they see it they really don’t grasp it until they see these huge words coming up in a split second, everything spelled correctly–everybody loves it."

German said students who learn through real time show an increase in both academic performance and self-esteem due to the ability to gain a fuller understanding of spoken materials. Beyond educational institutions, real time reporting is used in areas such as medical appointments, theatrical events, and church services.

German and Carroll agree the biggest challenge with real time reporting is raising public awareness of its existence and availability. Regardless, German loves the possibilities real time reporting presents.

"When you’ve given people a communication link that they’ve never had before, students who were barely passing because they never got the conversation," she said. "Now they’re graduates with honours. That’s so rewarding because [real time] enables that to happen."

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