FM SYSTEM & C-PRINT™ ASSIST
HARD-OF-HEARING STUDENT IN HIGH SCHOOL
by Tina Spadafora
The students in Mr. Daniels’ world history class are annoyed with his co-teacher, Mr. Vinson for not grading a project they did weeks ago. The class leader thinks of a way to show their disapproval and comes to the front of the room to propose her plan to the rest of the students. After addressing the group, the leader turns to Nicole who is sitting in the front row. She confirms that Nicole heard the idea and is in agreement. Nicole has a hearing impairment. Although this disability sometimes limits a student’s participation in the classroom, Nicole is not excluded from the protest being planned, nor is she ever left out of classroom activities. Her inclusion is due, in part, to her classmates’ awareness of her disability and her teachers’ positive attitudes. Equally importantly, she stays involved with the help of two pieces of assistive technology: an assistive listening device and C-Print™ captioning.
Nicole Goldstein is a soft-spoken 14-year-old who has a passion for art. She attends West Windsor-Plainsboro High School South. Even before entering high school, Nicole used a type of assistive listening device called an FM (Frequency Modulated) system. At the beginning of this school year a C-Print™ captionist was provided for the first time. The increased volume of material in the high school curriculum, as well as the progressive nature of Nicole’s hearing loss, necessitated the additional accommodation.
FM System Provides Enhanced Auditory Support
An FM sound system assists people with hearing impairments by bringing important sounds closer to them. The teacher wears a small microphone linked to a transmitter that transmits radio waves to a receiver worn by the person with the hearing impairment. The wireless unit is battery operated, portable, and unobtrusive. When the teacher speaks, an auditory
signal is broadcast to the FM receiver that is connected to Nicole’s hearing aid. FM systems are able to transmit through walls, and depending on the brand, can extend up to 200 feet away. Nicole uses a TX3 transmitter and a MicroLink MLX receiver, both of which are made by Phonak, Inc.
In classrooms such as Nicole’s, where there are two teachers, a daisy chain system is set up with multiple transmitters. For example, Mr. Vinson wears one transmitter while Mr. Daniels has both a transmitter and receiver. Mr. Vinson’s voice is sent to Mr. Daniels’ receiver. In turn, his transmitter passes the sound along the chain to Nicole’s receiver.
Although Nicole has the ability to lip read, with that method alone a lot of information is missed. Lip reading also does not capture the inflection in a speaker’s voice. The FM system is specifically advantageous in these two areas. Another benefit of the FM system is that teachers are free to move around the classroom. It is not essential for them to face the student at all times or stand closeby in order for the student to hear them. FM systems also minimize background noise. Nicole’s school has an open layout which makes reducing background noise crucial.
Setting up an FM system simply requires clipping the microphone to the teacher’s shirt and sliding the transmitter on a belt. Since the device is ready to use in just a matter of seconds, other students, counselors, and guest speakers can also use the technology when needed. In addition, the microphone can be placed near a television to bring the sound closer when watching videos.
C-Print™ Captioning Provides Visual Support
C-Print™ is a specialized computer software program developed at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID) at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT). All dialogue between teachers and students is typed on a laptop computer by a C-Print™ captionist. The C-Print™ system simultaneously displays a written text of what the captionist is typing on a second laptop placed in front of the person with the hearing impairment. This remote communication lets the captionist be present without disrupting the rest of the class. The student receives a hard copy of the transcript afterwards, which serves as class notes. Nicole finds this paper copy very useful in reviewing for tests.
Karla Reens is a paraprofessional assigned to work with Nicole. She is also a C-Print™ captionist. Captionists are trained to use an abbreviation system. According to Ms. Reens, the captionist types a single letter or a short combination of letters, and the software translates that input so that the full word appears on the display. For example, when she wants to type ‘judge,’ she simply types ‘jj.’ Likewise, the word ‘are’ appears when she types the letter ‘r.’ Reducing the number of keystrokes increases the captionist’s typing speed. The result is a transcript that is more detailed than notes taken by a student notetaker. Although comprehensive, a C-Print™ document is not a word for word account like a courtroom transcript.
Nicole finds the C-Print™ captioning to be most effective in her language arts, world history, oceanography and meteorology, and health courses. In addition to notes on specific subject matter, descriptions of assignments, due dates, and requirements are included in the C-Print™ notes and aid in her organization.
Classroom Accommodations are Minimal
When this technology is incorporated in a general education classroom, the adjustments a teacher needs to make to accommodate a student with a hearing impairment are minor. Speaking clearly and restating or summarizing students’ comments if they are hard to hear or disorganized, are two strategies that Ms. Reens recommends. Another suggestion is to have students move to Nicole, rather than having her move to them, for group work. Finally, preferential seating benefits Nicole because she gathers additional information from visual cues and facial expressions.
The school’s speech therapist, Dusti Weinstein, commented, "With this technology Nicole isn’t denied information." Her statement is true in more than one sense. First Nicole doesn’t miss information needed for academic success. Secondly, and just as importantly for a teenager, is that without this information she would most likely be excluded. The technology gives her the opportunity to participate in classroom activities, including protests. The FM system and C- Print™ captioning, added to lip reading, provide Nicole with a full high school experience.
What is C-Print™?
Developed at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID) at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), C-Print™ is a support service for students who are deaf and hard of hearing. Some students prefer a printed text of lectures to the services of sign language interpreters and/or peer note-takers. A trained C-Print™ captionist types the teacher’s lecture and student comments into a laptop computer. The captionist relies on an abbreviation system to reduce keystrokes and to condense text. This typed information is simultaneously displayed on a laptop computer (or alternatively a television monitor) which faces the student who is deaf or hard-of-hearing. This same text then becomes available to the student for studying and review purposes either in electronic or printed form.
New Developments: C-Print™ Pro
In the past, C-Print™ relied on external software applications. Now, with the development of C-Print™ Pro, the service is self-contained, with noticeable improvements in real-time service. There are two editions of C-Print™ Pro. The Standard Edition works with the C-Print™ abbreviation system, allows for two-way communication, and has built-in student note-taking capabilities. The captionist and the student can select their individual preferences regarding font color, type and size. A second edition, which will be released soon, will have automatic speech recognition and will require the captionist to speak into a small mask.
For C-Print™ Pro information, contact:
Northeast Technical Assistance Center (NETAC)
National Technical Institute for the Deaf
Rochester Institute of Technology
For information about C-Print™ captionist training, contact:
Center for Collegiate Deaf Education at Bergen Community College
Mid-Atlantic Postsecondary Center for Deaf & Hard of Hearing
at Camden County College
(856)227-7200 ext. 4
Tina Spadafora is a graduate student in the M.A.T. program in the Department of Special Education at The College of New Jersey.
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