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Making talks and lectures more accessible to ALL your listeners ... Live, free, real-time transcription that works!

02/09/2020
por Joe Houghton
Idioma: EN

I got a lovely email from Andrée earlier today, thanking me for the talk I delivered last night to Ilkley Camera Club in Yorkshire on Long Exposure via Zoom (sure - what else would I be doing on a Friday evening?). Andrée said:

I am profoundly deaf, relying on hearing aids and lipreading, and I was worried I might not be able to make sense of our Zoom club nights. I have a lot of difficulty hearing well on 'normal' club nights, especially when the lights are switched low and I can't lipread. With some judicial juggling of the screen size (screenshot relative to the speaker view), I found I was able to follow you very well and I picked up most of what you said, I think. Certainly much more than I am usually able to get face to face. You speak clearly anyway and the visuals and explanatory text obviously help a lot. These Zoom sessions are a new experience for me and I'm delighted to say I am really enjoying them and getting a lot from them. 

I’d never really considered that any of the people listening to my camera club talks might have difficulties hearing - a bit dense of me really given the slightly older demographic of many camera clubs, but this goes to the heart of why I’m writing this piece - “I’d never really considered…”. In the immortal words of Homer Simpson - “Doh!!!!

Jennifer Lynch, a friend of mine who won the 2020 John Kelly Award for Universal Design for Learning in Further and Higher Education, recently introduced me to the concepts of UDL (Universal Design for Learning), and it’s made me re-examine all my deliveries in the light of my previous (incorrect) assumptions that all my listeners/students are “fully equipped” - whether this is physically, mentally or in terms of equipment. I confess to having previously given little time or thought to making alternatives available to help students facing challenges, but this is not something I feel should continue, especially in the post-Covid blended learning space we are in now - like it or not.

Andrée’s lovely email got me thinking - a few synapses fired connecting UDL to this, and I remembered taking a look at a new tool I’d come across some time ago…

My last post was about the new features that Microsoft had introduced in its dictation services for Word, and these have been further improved this week for online 365 customers, with the addition of transcription - although I haven’t been able to make it work as yet so perhaps it’s early days there...

But there’s another player in this space too which now offering really useful and usable tools for real-time transcription. And as a university lecturer, corporate trainer and presenter of camera club talks, all three of my presenting personas could benefit from this functionality. Maybe you could too?

Otter.ai is a company whose product offers real-time transcription and does it REALLY well. The real power and interest for me as an educator comes in with real-time transcription - and this is available even with the free plan - setup instructions here.

So, with a little bit of setting up, you can have Otter listen as you are on say, a Zoom call, and it will transcribe everything that is said in its own window. And here’s the good bit - you can share that window via a share link with your class or the call participants so that they can have the transcription window open at the same time as the Zoom one, and see the transcription in real-time.

I can imagine that this could be great for deaf or hard-of-hearing people, but it will I think, also be very useful for many of my international students for whom English is not a first language. Having the ability to see an accurate transcription of the discussion should be very useful for immediate comprehension, and hopefully add a level of accessibility to my classes which perhaps has been absent previously. Jen will be happy that I’m adding some UDL principles to my delivery too!

Do you have any other tips or tech which we should all know about in terms of making talks and lectures more accessible - if so please do share links, ideas and comments for everyone below.

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