In the middle of 2012 I received an email from AlexJones in Sydney, introducing himself as the Co-Founder and Brand Ambassador of Ai-Media saying that hiscolleague was in the UK and was keen to meet todiscuss live captioning in schools. A trial had been run inVictoria, leading to its growing adoption in other Australian states and they were looking to undertake asimilar evaluation in the UK context. Intriguing! Ai-Media is a social enterprise, founded in Australia in2003 by Alex Jones and Tony Abrahams, its CEO. Their mission statement is
‘The End of Disability: whileimpairment is a fact of life, disability is not’
. Ai-Live is anonline captioning platform they have developed wherebyaccurate, real-time speech-to-text is made available toindividuals or groups of pupils. The teacher’s voice isrelayed to a remote captioner who ‘re-speaks’ the lessoncontent, including appropriate punctuation, into speechrecognition software trained to their voice. The onlyclassroom equipment required is a mobile phone or small microphone for the teacher, and an internet-enabled device (such as a laptop or iPad) on which thepupil(s) can read the captions. Alternatively, the captionscan be displayed on the interactive whiteboard,providing access to the whole class: in effect, providingsubtitles for the lesson. A transcript of the content isavailable following the lesson which can be used for revision, post-tutoring or to allow families to help withhomework. Although I was familiar with electronic notetakers in FEand palantypists at conferences, I knew nothing aboutremote captioning for schools at that time. However,Tony’s initial explanation anddemonstration made it clear that there was huge potentialfor the system both to supportdeaf learners and to create amore inclusive learningenvironment for a range of students. As we know, deaf learners benefit from visualcues, reinforcement of technical language and goodmodels of natural spoken andformal written English, so Ibecame really excited aboutthe prospect of thistechnology to improve their access the curriculum.It was attractive for manyreasons. It reduces the need for note-takers in class andprovides an accurate record of what has been said. Thetranscripts can be edited to remove irrelevant content,and help deepen a pupil’s understanding of lessoncontent. The teacher has control and can ask for ‘captions off’ when they are working with individuals. Thebooking system is simple and captioners need only bebooked for relevant lessons, for example where newlanguage and concepts are being introduced. Thesystem is easy to administer and requires no moresetting up or management than working with a pupil’spersonal FM system, and is equally compatible withother classroom technology.There were more meetings, with various organisationsbecoming involved. Two things were clear: schools andservices were keen to trial the service, and funding wasneeded to run a pilot scheme in the UK. In March 2013, I was invited to visit Ai-Media offices inSydney and to see Ai-Live in action in Melbourne. Thiswas a great opportunity to see behind the scenes andappreciate the ongoing research and development of Ai-Live, the commitment and interest of captioners indelivering the best service possible and the range of expertise involved. I met with the University of Melbourne research team who had evaluated the pilot;staff of the Victoria Deaf Education Institute who hadmanaged the technical aspects, and saw live captioningin action at a mainstream secondary school with aresource base supporting 28 deaf learners. Seeing thedifferent ways the captioning was being used bystudents in class was really useful; it was clear that it
See what you say!
Stevie Mayhookhas been looking at an online live remote captioning system from Australia which instantly translates the words of the teacher into text on the student’slaptop or iPad