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Collection: Video and Captioning

purple arrow (1137 bytes) CC School Project Final Report

Mardi Loeterman
CPBˇWGBH National Center for Accessible Media
WGBH Educational Foundation

Ronald R. Kelly, Vincent J. Samar & Ila Parasnis
National Technical Institute for the Deaf
Rochester Institute of Technology

Funding for the CC School Project was provided by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs, Grant #H026R10009

Table of Contents





Videotape Stimulus Materials
Language Assessment
Captioning Sessions
Instructional Treatment
Data Analysis Approaches

Impact on English Language Skills
Observations of the TRIPOD Staff
Student Perceptions of the Project
Student Ratings of the ASL Stories





A partnership was developed between three organizations which provided expertise in three distinct, but complementary areas: technology, research, and educational innovation.

The WGBH Educational Foundation in Boston has designed and refined state-of-the-art captioning software systems and has undertaken several research projects involving captioning and literacy over the past 20 years. The project director was Mardi Loeterman, who is director of research at the CPBˇWGBH National Center for Accessible Media (NCAM). Dan Glisson, WGBH's director of access technology development, developed the captioning workstation and provided training and technical support to TRIPOD staff.

The National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID) at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) contributed the research design and analysis effort, which was headed by Ronald R. Kelly and included Vincent Samar, Ila Parasnis, Susan Fischer, Gerald Berent and Paula Brown.

TRIPOD, a private, non-profit program for deaf children and their families operating within the Burbank Public Schools in California, runs a unique and successful "co-enrollment" program that takes a learner-centered approach to the education of deaf children. TRIPOD's elementary program takes place within the George Washington Elementary School in Burbank, where hearing and deaf children are instructed in the same classroom throughout the day by team teachers (a regular teacher and a teacher of the deaf) who use both signed and spoken language. The students' hearing losses range from severe to profound.

TRIPOD involved several members of its staff in this project. Its executive director, Carl Kirchner, provided overall direction; its education director, Cynthia Murphy, integrated the captioning activity into the educational program and developed protocols for the instructional component of the project and for collecting data at the school. The school's audiologist, Michelle Raffin, served as computer specialist. An aide, Jenny Winters, was hired with project funds to supervise the captioning activities (Ms. Winters is deaf and a native signer). Two language tutors, a different one in each academic year, provided instructional feedback to the students on their caption stories. The students' classroom teachers were not involved in any practical aspects of the project.



The CC School Project began with the premise that personal captioning might improve deaf students' English writing skills and fluency. Professional caption writers at WGBH had long observed improvement of their own English language skills--grammar, vocabulary and punctuation--over time, seemingly as a result of writing captions. The English language difficulty of learners who are deaf is well documented. Could caption-writing influence their English language skills?

Caption writing combines several important elements for students: a unique writing environment; an interactive technology where the student is in control; multi-sensory inputs, including moving pictures, text and sound (depending on the video chosen and the student's ability to hear); and in the case of this project, a bilingual language learning environment.

TRIPOD already had a strong writing program when they were approached for this project. All of the participating students had at least basic keyboarding skills and experience with computers. The project provided the students with an opportunity and a reason to write three times per week beyond any writing assigned by their classroom teachers. The caption-writing session was 45 minutes long; students had no choice but to write during this time. The strength of the stimulus materials gave the students something compelling to write about.

Traditionally, captioning involves presenting the audio or action of a video or television program into text. TRIPOD suggested an alternative approach for its students, that caption writing involve both languages used in school--sign and English. Krashen (1985) has observed that children tend to acquire both first and second language incidentally, without formal instruction, by exposure to "comprehensible input" and by focusing on the meaning of language rather than on its form. Krashen also states that language programs must be highly motivating and non-evaluative, engaging children in captivating activities that require them to use language for communicative purposes without causing them to be consciously preoccupied with the language learning enterprise per se. The caption writing activities of this project involved the focus on content and meaning rather than form. Incidental language learning could occur as the result of sustained captioning activities with related instructional tutoring support.

Interactive technology would permit the manipulation of English and sign in ways that have become available only since the advent of multimedia. Precedence for the use of technology in this way came from Hanson and Padden (1990). They developed interactive video software that permitted children to select from five options: watching an ASL story; reading an English story; writing answers to questions about a story; writing a story; and captioning an ASL story. Generally, the active options (i.e., answering questions, writing a story, and captioning a story) most effectively engaged children's interest. Hanson and Padden document that "the students were quite intent on interacting with the computer; the more interaction the better." Hanson and Padden's demonstration of the interest value of interactive computer-assisted learning tasks for deaf children indicates that interactive video technology combined with bilingual language tasks offers promise for effective English language instruction with the deaf student population.

There were several reasons it made sense for the CC School Project to incorporate ASL video into the students' captioning activities. TRIPOD students were seldom exposed to native users of ASL, so its staff welcomed a steady supply of ASL stories (41 in all) as an alternative way of presenting stories. The use of ASL video provided a multi-sensory language learning environment, so that students could draw upon their competence in sign to understand the meaning of the story and assist in their production of English.

Regarding the use of a multimedia workstation, there has been increasing evidence to suggest that interactive student participation with technology can dramatically improve language and academic skills, compared with passive student participation (Bennett, 1987; Brady, 1990; Naiman, 1988). Video captioning requires interactive participation and provides a captivating way for deaf children to manipulate language and to practice expressive thinking skills. The captioning process is high-tech, challenging, and game-like, and generates excitement and interest in the students to use it. Hence, interactive video technology combined with bilingual language tasks offer the potential to provide effective incidental English-language instruction for deaf children.



The four primary goals of the CC School Project were:

  1. to bring together a team of practicing educators, technologists, researchers and language experts to collaboratively develop and implement a practical, interactive, personal captioning environment for deaf children in elementary school to support their school-based language experiences;

  2. to determine the feasibility of integrating personal captioning technology into a typical school environment;

  3. to conduct and document with appropriate research and evaluation methodologies whether the bilingual personal captioning experiences involving American Sign Language (ASL) to English have any potential impact on the English writing skills of deaf children; and

  4. to provide a long-term experience with ASL-to-English captioning over two academic years to enhance the probability of observing significant effects of the instructional research treatment.



The personal captioning system was developed by WGBH. A basic workstation consists of a personal computer, two VCRs (one for playback and one for record), and a character generator that allows text to be superimposed onto video. Other necessary equipment are a PC monitor, color video monitor, and printer.

The process of creating captions involves watching a videotape, creating text, and combining that text with the video. Students watch videotape material on the color monitor using a VCR with search functions. They compose text on the computer while watching, pausing, and searching the videotape. When they have finished creating the text, they combine it with the video by playing the videotape and pressing a button on the computer keyboard to display the text line by line (the text scrolls up two or three lines at a time). The text and video are routed through the character generator, which sends them to the record VCR. The result is a captioned videotape (note: captions are not placed on the original videotape, only on the videotape copy).

The personal captioning software used was QuickCaption SchoolTM, developed at WGBH. It is a simple DOS-based word processing system that is a custom revision of WPK (Word Processing for Kids). WGBH selected WPK because of its simplicity and appeal to young children. It displays text in large letters and it has no editing functions which could potentially confuse or distract young children. This system uses no mouse and has only cursor movement and one caption location. For the project, WGBH contracted with WPK's developer to modify the software so that a single keystroke could communicate with the character generator, converting computer text into video captions.

Three captioning workstations were set up in the computer lab at George Washington Elementary School. A week was spent setting up the equipment and training TRIPOD staff in the hardware configuration, using the captioning software, using DOS, copying files onto floppy disks, trouble-shooting technical problems, and setting up systems for accurate record-keeping of floppy disks, captioned videotapes, caption text print-outs, etc. Technical support was available from WGBH by telephone throughout the project.



Project staff established a two-year pilot evaluation schedule for all 17 deaf students 8-12 years of age enrolled in the TRIPOD program at the time. The students were all prelingually deaf, their hearing loss ranged from moderate to profound, and reading comprehension scores* recorded at the outset of the intervention ranged from 1.1 to 7.5 (three students scored 5 or higher). The mean was 2.7 for the eight- and nine-year-olds (n=11) and 3.2 for the 10-12 year olds (n=7); the median was 1.9 and 2.4 for each respective group. The two-year schedule enabled each of the 17 student participants to caption one ASL videotaped story per week for a total of 36 weeks that bridged two academic school years. Simultaneously, the students were provided with task-specific instructional feedback each week for each of their captioned stories.

The students took part in an additional writing task each week in their classrooms and along with their hearing classmates. They watched silent videos (with no soundtrack or sign language) and wrote narratives based on the stories. These stories were to be compared with the captioned stories and may have given us a chance to see any transference of caption writing to a more general type of writing. Unfortunately, the data is incomplete so could not be included in the data analyses.

We attempted early in the project to have an experimental and a control group. At the time of project implementation, it was necessary to include every child in the age range of 8-12 at TRIPOD. We were unable to interest another school in making the time commitment necessary to conduct a weekly control study given the potential for few benefits to those students. Therefore, we were unable to gauge the progress of the students who captioned ASL stories with a comparable group of students who did not caption the stories.

Videotape Stimulus Materials
Forty highly imaginative, allegorical tales made up the pool of stimulus stories (41 were actually produced; one was used at the outset for training). These tales were selected from Greek folklore and from the Hindu and Buddhist folklore of India (Panchatantra and Jatak Katha) which are included in Aesop's Fables (for example, "The Lion and the Mouse"). These stories are intrinsically interesting to children, having well defined story lines and satisfying resolutions. Using stories from the same classic genre maintained strong thematic and structural similarities across stimulus materials, thereby controlling their general conceptual and language difficulty. Every story has two characters and requires the use of quotation marks in written English. The stories were translated into ASL, signed by Patrick Graybill, an accomplished, well-known ASL signer and a professional deaf actor, and recorded on videotape at NTID (the stories averaged 1.5 to 2 minutes). See Appendix A for a list of the stories and synopses.

Language Assessment
ASL skills were assessed at the start of the project by a one-on-one interview procedure. An adult native ASL signer casually conversed with each child, varying his level of language expression until the child seemed comfortable with the communication. The interviewer and another ASL signer rated videotapes of each child's interview for expressive and receptive ASL competence. These ratings indicated that all but one of the children were skilled signers at the outset of this project.

English language knowledge was assessed with the Test of Syntactic Abilities (TSA) Screening Test of Quigley, Steinkamp, Power and Jones (1978), and the English Language Principles and Parameters Survey (ELPPS) of Berent and Samar (1991). The TSA surveys knowledge of traditional specific English grammatical structures. The ELPPS surveys knowledge of fundamental principles of universal grammar and English language parameter settings as specified in the Government and Binding (GB) framework of Chomsky (1981). These two tests were administered at the beginning and at the end of this 18-month project.

Captioning Sessions
Once each week, students were scheduled for a 45-minute session in the computer writing lab to caption an ASL story into English. During this session, three students worked simultaneously at separate workstations under the supervision of a writing lab aide, who was a native signer. Each student would watch a story at least twice, once without interruption before beginning captioning and again as part of the captioning process. The stories were randomized so that each student captioned them in a different order and in any given week, no two students captioned the same story.
The amount of help or instruction that the aide provided was limited to answering questions about captioning mechanics and providing students with necessary vocabulary help in both ASL and English. The aide recorded each child's requested words in a composition book maintained for each child's work on the project. A child was given no help on the syntax or composition of captions, or any other language instruction in this session. The children were encouraged to review their own work and make self-corrections.

The TRIPOD staff did not pre-teach vocabulary or story comprehension. They encouraged the students to work independently, providing them with tools in the lab to solve language problems on their own: a dictionary and a written reminder in large print posted above the workstations to: "1) Mark your sentences. 2) Find the quotations. Punctuate them. 3) Check verb tenses in all sentences. 4) Make sure each sentence has a subject."

Instructional Treatment
Each child received instructional feedback each week on that week's caption story. This 40-minute session occurred between one and five days after the weekly captioning session. At that time, TRIPOD's language tutor would give each of two students a print-out of his or her story and supervise their self-correction of the stories. The tutor would focus each student on selected semantic, punctuation or syntactic errors; for example, absence of quotation marks, inconsistent tenses on verbs or the absence of obligatory sentential subjects. When a student's story demonstrated a lack of understanding, the tutor and/or student would retell the story and the session would focus on meaning.

Feedback was also presented to the students in the form of a chart tracking their weekly progress. The chart noted for each student total number of words in the story, percentage of sentences punctuated correctly, number of correct verb tenses and the inclusion of sentential subjects.

Data Analysis Approaches
The captioned texts were analyzed with two general approaches: (1) syntactic word category counts and (2) selected error analyses. Each word within each of the 36 captioned texts for every individual student was classified into one of 20 predefined syntactic word classes. Five syntactic word classes were content word classes and 15 were grammatical function word classes. Table 1 (Appendix B) lists these content words and grammatical function words along with examples for each.

Qualitative interviews were conducted to obtain overall impressions from the educators involved in the project and to identify insights that could not be revealed in the student performance data. Five TRIPOD staff members--the executive director, education director, audiologist/computer specialist, language tutor, and media aide (the latter through an interpreter)--were interviewed one month before the end of the treatment period. In separate interviews on the same day which lasted 45 minutes to an hour, the TRIPOD staff were asked about: their role in the project; their initial expectations of personal captioning for the students and how those expectations changed over time; their perceptions of the strengths and weaknesses of the project overall; and their suggestions for implementation of personal captioning in the future. The interviews were recorded on audiotape and transcribed. Statements were divided into themes about language learning with personal captioning; the ASL story videotapes; instructional aspects of the project; technical aspects of the project; integration of caption writing into the TRIPOD program; and TRIPOD's participation in the research effort.

Fifteen of the participating students at TRIPOD were interviewed following the treatment period (two of the original 17 students were unavailable). In individuals session lasting approximately 30 minutes, the interviewer elicited evaluative comments regarding each student's experiences with the captioning activities, probing for elaborations on, for example: the students' understanding, familiarity and enjoyment of the stories; the media lab environment and students' feelings about leaving class to participate in the captioning activity; general feelings about writing in school; value of having an aide in the lab; value of working in a separate session with the language tutor; overall enjoyment or boredom with the captioning activity. The interviewer spoke and signed in English. An interpreter was available to sign ASL, an option that was offered to each student; the interpreter also translated from sign to English for the benefit of the interviewer as well as the tape recorder. The interviews were recorded on audiotape and full transcripts were made. Themes were identified and categorized into four topical areas: ASL tapes, English writing, the workstation and laboratory environment and overall perceptions.

Separate from the above, 22 students from TRIPOD, including both those who were involved in the project as well as others who attended TRIPOD's summer school, rated the 41 ASL stories produced by the project. Two classes-a second/third-grade class and a third/fourth-grade class-viewed the stories over four days, ten stories per day. Partial counterbalancing was achieved by giving the tapes in 1-2-3-4 order to one class and 2-1-4-3 to the other. The students were asked to rate each story on a five-point scale on how much they liked it. The experimenter explained the use of the rating scale each day. She printed the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 on the board along with five simple line drawings of faces from (1) frowning to (5) smiling and the following text:

Don't like Don't like it Was so-so Like it Like it
it at all very much





Impact on English Language Skills

The results of this study show that the participating students demonstrated increases in fluency of writing throughout the duration of the project and that they made substantial improvements in their knowledge of the structural properties of English. However, it is not possible at present to accurately ascertain how much of the increases are due to the instructional treatment of personal captioning and how much is attributable to other educational and developmental variables because we did not have a control group that systematically produced weekly writing samples. Thus, there is a need to follow up with studies designed to disentangle these effects.

Regarding the potential for this captioning technology to impact on the development of students' English language skills, we have several data-based observations. The subjective observation of the Education Director of TRIPOD is that both fluency and clarity of expression increased considerably for the students who participated in the project. Evidence from the student performance data supports the observation that there was an increase in fluency. See Appendix D for a short series of writing samples from three students which show an increase in fluency and improvement in syntactic structures and comprehensibility of text.

The total number of words utilized in the student-generated captions increased from year 1 to year 2 (see Figure 1, Appendix C) and the difference was statistically significant using a paired t(17) = -4.24, p < .0002. Regarding the growth of grammatical knowledge, Figure 2 (Appendix C) shows an increase in the ratio of function words to content words over the duration of this project. This overall increase from the first year implementation phase to the second year was also statistically significant, t(17) = -5.45, p < .0001.

Generally, an increase in the number of function words relative to content words suggests growth of grammatical knowledge because the role of function words is to provide syntactic structure to sentences and more function words are required as more complex structures are attempted by students. This should, in turn, contribute to clarity. Several categories of function words increased in frequency between year 1 and year 2 including copulas, articles, pronouns, coordinating conjunctions, auxiliary and modal verbs, wh-words, subordinating conjunctions, and expletives (all significance testing was by means of paired t(17) with all p values < .05). A few categories of function words did not increase in relative frequency from year 1 to year 2, including prepositions and the use of "to" with an infinitive verb. This indicates that not all function word categories showed the same magnitude of growth in frequency of occurrence over the course of the project. (See Figures 3-6, Appendix C.)

With regard to content words, nouns, adjectives, and lexical verbs made up the bulk of usage in the captions generated, and they show a relative decrease (all significance testing was by means of paired t(17) with all p values < .05) consistent with the major increase in use of function words. The remaining content word categories (i.e., gerunds and participles) increased slightly in usage (both p values < .05 for the paired t(17) tests). These particular content words tend to appear in more complex grammatical expressions. Thus, their selective increase tends to confirm the impression that students were attempting more complex grammatical structures as the project progressed. (See Figures 7-9, Appendix C.)

In terms of grammatical errors, accuracy in the use of verb morphology improved dramatically from 59.6% correct in year 1 to 69.0% correct in year 2. There were very low errors throughout the study with no changes occurring for noun morphology, the obligatory use of subjects in sentences, and the use of words in appropriate syntactic categories. No educationally significant improvements were seen for these syntactic categories.

There is suggestive evidence from some post-tests comparison-group analyses on two English language knowledge tests. Figure 10 (Appendix C) shows the ELPPS test performance of the CC School children at the end of the project along with a comparison group of sixteen children, matched on age and level of hearing loss, who did not participate in the CC School Project. The performance of the two groups is quite similar, with the exception of scores on the subcategorization portion of the ELPPS*. Generally, there is no reliable statistical evidence that these two groups differ in their knowledge of the fundamental grammatical principles of English syntax associated with the subtheories of the Principles and Parameters framework of Chomsky (1981). Figure 11 (Appendix C) shows an analogous comparison between these two groups on the TSA Screening Test. In this case, the CC School group is significantly (p=.002 by a sign test) and uniformly superior in performance, indicating superior knowledge of the traditional structures of English grammar.

These data suggest that the CC School project influenced the language knowledge of these children above and beyond the normal influence of developmental maturation and general exposure to English language environments. These data are additionally interesting because they suggest that while the CC School environment might not have influenced the expression of deaf children's core, universal knowledge of grammatical principles, it might have specifically helped to improve these children's knowledge of the learned details of English language processes.

Observations of the TRIPOD Staff
See Appendix E for fuller excerpts of the transcripts from which these observations and quotes are drawn.

The TRIPOD staff were positive about the project overall because it integrated well with the other language activities and fit into TRIPOD's implementation of writing theory. The captioning activity reinforced other language activities taking place at TRIPOD, including a summer writing clinic, regular English language lessons in the integrated classroom, and speech (which often focuses on grammar and vocabulary along with oral language skills). The CC School captioning activities gave the children yet another situation to use what they were learning elsewhere, and staff saw transference of classroom lessons to the students' caption writing. As Carl Kirchner, TRIPOD's executive director, put it, "The captioning activity may have been the final thing for some kids to push them over the edge" [toward better writing skills]. CC School's strengths lay, according to the staff, with: writing on a computer, using video as a writing stimulus, using ASL as a bridge to English, one-on-one attention for the students, and the requirement of writing on a regular basis.

The children found the process of writing captions to ASL stories, according to all the staff interviewed, "fascinating" and "motivating." They identified several aspects of the process that appeared to be motivating: using a computer to write, watching the ASL stories, a developed proficiency in operating the equipment on one's own, and putting one's own text on the video to create TV captions. Both Cindy Murphy and Michelle Raffin (TRIPOD's education director and its audiologist and computer specialist, respectively) noted that it was empowering when the children learned to use all the equipment in the workstation without assistance. However, the excitement of the project tapered off for some students over time. By the end of the 36 weeks, several children clearly were bored with the activity, according to staff observations as well as the students' own statements (see next section for more on the students' perceptions). Staff noted that interest might have been maintained had the videotapes been more varied; however, the research design required that the storyteller, visual background and type of story remain constant.

All the staff were positive about the "strong dose of ASL" provided by the videotapes. Many teachers lack the fluency and storytelling skills that Patrick Graybill provided on the tapes and the staff welcomed the tapes as a complement to other communication methods used at the school. They said the ASL stories were enriching and provided a topic for writing, especially for those students who have trouble sitting down with a blank piece of paper. With regard to students who had limited language skills, Michelle Raffin pointed out, "It [the process] worked quite successfully with the kids that ... didn't have a lot of experience with sign, didn't necessarily have a lot of language, period." At the same time, students with better language skills eventually appeared constrained by having to write to the ASL stories every week and would have liked more variety.

As for improvement in the students' writing, staff had several observations. Above all, they noticed that the students' stories across the board became more fluent and more elaborate over time. This was a strong observation that was later corroborated by the results of the data analysis. Cid Owens, the language tutor, said, "Students who were only writing a few lines are now writing the whole story. The sentence structure might not be that great, but at least I can see every part of the story on paper." Cindy Murphy commented:

"I expected an increase in fluency but I didn't expect it to be so soon and so pronounced. That is really important because unless we have the children producing writing, we can't improve their writing. If we have them holding back and editing all the time before they even put anything down on paper, then we don't have anything to improve. Now [with CC School] they just write, they don't have any choice."

Ms. Murphy also noted, "things that stand in the way of fluency are fear of correction, fear of not being right." With the captioned stories, children made their own corrections. Jenny Winters, the media aide, noted that the children "wanted to read their story again and look for the mistakes they had made." Michelle Raffin offered, "I have been amazed at the kids' ability to self-correct now." Carl Kirchner observed that the self-correction skills transferred to other writing tasks: "I've seen a better receptivity or willingness to make modifications."

Staff members commented that the absence of direct instruction during the caption-writing session contributed to greater independence in writing and thinking in English. Cindy Murphy stated, "Children learn writing by putting their thoughts together and picking up their pencil, starting with the typewriter and going at it. The more you have another person in the way, the less it's going to work." From Cid Owens, "Students will tend to get as much help as they can, and I think it was good for them to be able to think of it on their own and try to figure it out."

Story structure was another strong observation. It was "the biggest thing that we saw that was missing [in the students at the beginning]," according to Cindy Murphy. She added:

"We never had worked with a child watching a whole story and then trying to write the story. We didn't realize that there's a lot of pieces of language--meta-language--that are involved in writing a story. You have to have a sense of the sequence of the story, what events happened and what were the key events and how did they chain together. The older children knew that, but the bottom two-thirds didn't have any idea. They thought that if you just told the beginning and the end, that everybody would understand what went on in the middle. We realized that our children couldn't retell orally or in sign.... We had to work with them in the tutoring sessions to have them retell the story in sign and then understand that the story needed all those parts before it made sense. Then when they went to write it, their writing became fuller and they started to understand the whole story."

Part of the language tutor's role was to focus on specific grammatical structures, word choices and punctuation in individual students' stories. She noticed that when certain grammatical structures or writing principles were discussed in class, they would show up in the caption writing. In addition to noting transference of this type for punctuation rules, she noted verb forms, such as the "-ing" ending, and plurals. This observation is partially supported by the data analyses: verb morphology is one category in which usage became more correct over time; however, no statistically significant improvement is evident in the use of noun morphology. Ms. Owens also commented that often she would work with a particular student on an aspect of his or her writing, which would then show up in its correct form in the next captioned story.

Several of the staff observed that new English vocabulary seemed to be retained very well. Ms. Owens noticed that she did not have to reteach the words that had been entered on the students' word lists. Cindy Murphy commented that "The children were asking for the word and had immediate use for the word, so maybe that vocabulary will stick more." There was also a sense that the children became more aware that a sign or English word might have multiple meanings and that they would have to pay more attention to word choices in their writing. Carl Kirchner said, "It has developed a little more sophistication on the child's part of looking at words that they would use to express a sign."

This project was the first time at TRIPOD that students had been asked to think about meaning in two languages. Several staff members assert that the ASL-to-English captioning activity increased the students' awareness of the differences between ASL and English. Cindy Murphy noted, "The setup forced them to look for some way [to learn] more English vocabulary and more idioms to express what they were seeing, because they were very motivated by the story itself." Cid Owens related an anecdote:

"There's one sign--backpack--where [Patrick Graybill] made a box and then put it on his back. Some [students] wrote 'backpack' and others wrote 'box with a lid on their back.' I said, 'Put that together and what do you think it is?' They said 'backpack.' I said, 'Well, you didn't write that.' And they responded, 'The videotape didn't say that.'"

All the staff noticed an improvement in the use of punctuation, specifically sentence boundaries marked with capital letters and periods, and quotation marks. At the beginning, many of the stories were full of run-on sentences pieced together with "and... and... and" or "so... so... so..." Carl Kirchner commented:

"It has helped begin to delineate the fact that you just don't put words down on paper and let them all run together.... A story has timeframes and there are natural pauses as you sign. The kids began to look at that and say, 'Oh, gee, if I recognize that fact, then English has definite pauses to it, too.' And the pauses come in through the periods, question marks, exclamation points, the commas, or whatever."

Finally, all of the staff pointed out weaknesses of the project that had to do with scheduling. First, it was less than ideal that the children had to be pulled from their classes to do the captioning. For some, it only served to accentuate the differences between the deaf students and their hearing peers. In addition, when the students were ambivalent about being there, the staff would see less effort put into writing and editing than the students were capable of. Second, 45 minutes was too long for many students to concentrate on writing; a fatigue factor set in for some of the younger students. And third, the students became habituated to the process over 36 weeks. Cindy Murphy suggested remedying these issues by conducting the captioning activities during TRIPOD's summer writing clinic and breaking the writing sessions into shorter blocks of time. She suggested separate 20- to 30-minute sessions, for transcribing (or glossing), editing, and transferring the captions to the video. Carl Kirchner suggested placing a captioning workstation in the classroom and encouraging students to use it during free time. He also suggested pairing deaf and hearing students together on bilingual captioning activities, which would benefit both students and encourage interaction (see the excerpt in Appendix E for more of Mr. Kirchner's thoughts on this technology in the integrated classroom).

Student Perceptions of the Project
Students offered feedback on several aspects of the project, including the ASL stories, the captioning activity, writing in general, and scheduling of the activity. A few of the students remembered the stories vividly, reciting them for the interviewer. Some found the stories boring, although many said they really liked the stories: watching the ASL stories appeared to be the highlight of the project for many. One student said, "I loved all the stories.... The man would sign very clear. He would sign like a monkey or a bear or a wolf or a bird, everything, an elephant, whatever." Another student said, "They were all boring." A third said, "The first time I was excited, then later on I got bored."

The students were more familiar with some of the stories than expected. They also requested more variety in the stories, the signer and the background. Several of the students said they would have preferred less familiar stories and more complex stories. One student offered, "I learned some signs from him [Patrick Graybill]. They were simple words. I want to know big words because usually people say big words but they never sign."

A large number of students said that while some of the signs were unfamiliar, they developed strategies for learning them. In response to the question, "What happened if you didn't understand the man signing?" this comment was typical, "I would rewind it and then I would try to understand it again." Students seemed to enjoy the challenge of improving their sign vocabulary. One student said, "Sometimes new signs have different kinds of signs and sometimes I don't understand. So reverse [the videotape]. I still don't understand, so reverse again. So, I keep on studying it, and then I understand it." In fact, the ability to control the video and review as necessary appeared to be a positive factor for the students: some favorably compared this feature of the CC School environment with another activity in the classroom in which they would watch a silent videotape twice straight through and write a narrative from it.

Several students echoed the concerns of the TRIPOD staff on having to leave class twice each week. This comment was typical, "Sometimes I was taken from my favorite class [art or physical education]. Most of the time, it takes my free time." Most of the students had something to say about the writing environment, the fact that three students worked in parallel. Most liked having their friends or classmates in the room, but a few complained that their labmates would bother them and that they would have preferred to work alone.

The students were divided about their general enjoyment of writing. Regardless, several commented that they preferred writing on the computer to using paper and pencil. "I like typing more than writing" was a common comment. Several students reported that they did not like having to spend so much time correcting their work; they wanted to come into the lab, write their stories and leave. Some found any number of aspects of the process boring. This comment was typical, "It was boring typing, it took a long time typing." It is likely that the activity would have been less boring if the videotapes had been more varied in content and style. Some students even expressed interest in creating their own stories on video. Several students (including some who found the process boring) remembered specific words, grammatical rules or punctuation rules that they learned or improved through the intervention. One student said, "I kept trying and I learned more and more and I became better with my English."

Student Ratings of the ASL Stories
Children's mean ratings for each story were tabulated separately for each sex, for children with prior exposure to the series vs. those for whom they were new, and for each classroom. Paired t-tests on the mean ratings showed that there were no significant differences between males and females (t<1; df=40) and between those who saw the stories before and those for whom the stories were new (t=1.56; df=40; p>10). There was a significant difference for grade level (t=9.06; df=40; p<.0001). Table 1 (Appendix F) shows the mean ratings for each story by each class and Figure 1 (Appendix F) shows for each class the distribution of the ratings values for the stories.

In general, the younger children liked the stories much more than the older children. Twenty-nine out of the 41 stories received 4 or better mean ratings by the children in the second-grade class. These children did not use the lower ends of the rating scale (1 or 2). In contrast, the older children used the entire scale, with 12 out of the 41 stories receiving mean ratings of less than 3 (numbers 1, 6, 13, 15, 20, 21, 24, 28, 31, 36, 39, 40; please refer to Appendix A for titles and synopses). Four of these stories also received a rating of less than 4 by the younger children, suggesting that these four stories may have less appeal than the others, regardless of age (numbers 3, 6, 15, 28). Only five stories received mean ratings of 4 or greater by the older children (numbers 2, 10, 23, 25, 27). These five also received mean ratings of 4 or more by the younger children, suggesting that these stories are appealing regardless of age.

These results suggest that the stories used in the project seem to have an age-specific appeal.




It can be strongly stated that it is realistic to integrate personal captioning technology and related learning activities of CC School into a normal school environment. It is encouraging that school personnel regarded CC School as functionally contributing to an existing educational program and accepted it enthusiastically. The captioning environment fit well into TRIPOD's educational program, in which writing is a high priority. It is not possible to know how effective the approach might be in a program where students generally have less exposure to written English.

The model of pulling children out of class in order to participate in the project was particularly sticky for TRIPOD, given that their children are integrated throughout the day with hearing peers. A school for the deaf or more traditional mainstream program might have more flexibility scheduling students into a CC School-type captioning activity, since those children's curriculum is generally more independent from that of hearing students.

It was TRIPOD's choice that the CC School activity be bilingual, with children watching ASL stories and translating them into English. Results of the project indicate that this type of bilingual activity may be especially effective for students who need to improve language skills in both sign and English and who are enrolled in a program that employs a variety of communication modes. However, the bilingual captioning approach does raise questions: What strategies do students use in translating from ASL to English? How does translating from ASL help to produce better English? What do students attend to when watching a videotape that has both ASL and corresponding English captions? What is the relative value to students' learning of the process of translating from one language to another and the creation of an end product in which they manually put their captions on the video for an audience?

At the same time, it must be pointed out that bilingual captioning is not the only use for the CC School environment. Video stimulus materials can be infinitely varied, including commercially available tapes in sign, English or non-verbal, and tapes produced by students or school staff themselves. As Cindy Murphy pointed out, middle school students who used the CC School workstations during the summer of 1992 wanted to produce their own video for captioning. If students were to create narratives, conduct interviews or produce other types of original video, they could communicate on the tape in whichever mode or modes they are most comfortable; nevertheless, the captioning would always be in English.

Some of the parameters of the project that were designed strictly for research purposes could be more flexibly implemented in a non-research environment. School staff members would have greater flexibility about the content of the videotapes and the scheduling of the activity. TRIPOD rotated students from three classrooms into the captioning lab; one classroom at a time would be more manageable for a school the size of TRIPOD. The ideal length of a series of captioning activities would be less than the 36 weeks required by this project's research design; 10 to 15 weeks would be more reasonable for the students as well as the staff.

In sum, we learned of many common sense reasons for applying personal captioning activities in learning environments for deaf students:

As with all initial studies, the first effort often lays the foundation for further examination of relevant variables and processes. We have observed several English language variables which appeared to change in positive directions as concomitants of sustained personal captioning activity. Other variables appear to be indifferent to the project treatment. Further studies will help to define the specific educational benefits of personal captioning for English language instruction in relation to normal maturational and educational environmental variables.



Results of the project were published in Technology and Disability (Kelly et al, 1994). In addition, project staff and members of the research team presented on the project at six separate conferences or conventions (usually at the expense of WGBH and NTID and not the project). These presentations reached educators of deaf students, educators of other students with disabilities, educational researchers, linguists, and others interested in technology in special education. The presentations were:

NTID, 1992 Loeterman, M., Kelly, R. R., Samar, V. J., Murphy, C., Berent, G., Parasnis, I., Brown, P., Fischer, S., & Glisson, D.
CC School: Personal captioning as a means to improving written English. Presentation at the National Symposium on Educational Applications of Technology for Deaf Students, May 28-30, 1992, National Technical Institute for the Deaf at Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, New York.

Laval Univ. Samar, V. J., Kelly, R. R., Loeterman, M., Kirchner, C., Berent,
1992 G., Parasnis, I., Fischer, S., Brown, P., & Murphy, C. The CC School Project interim report. Paper presented at the XV International Congress of Linguists, August 9-14, 1992 at Laval University, Canada.

CEC-TAM Loeterman, M., Goldberg, L., Kelly, R. R., Samar, V. J. &
1993 Parasnis, I. CC School: Personal Captioning as a Means to Improve Written English. Presentation at the Council for Exceptional Children, Technology and Media Division Meeting, January 21-23, 1993, Hartford, Connecticut.

CSUN, 1993 Goldberg, L., Loeterman, M., Kelly, R. R., Samar, V. J., Kirchner, C., Berent, G. P., Brown, P., Fischer, S., Parasnis, I. CC School: Personal captioning as a means to improve written English of deaf students. Presentation at the 1993 Conference on Technology and Persons with Disabilities, March 1993, in Los Angeles, California.

CAID, 1993 Samar, V. J., Loeterman, M., Kelly, R. R., Kirchner, C., Berent, G. P., Parasnis, I., Fischer, S., Brown, P., & Murphy, C.
CC School: Personal captioning as a means to improve written English. 1993 Convention of American Instructors of the Deaf Meeting, June, 1993 in Baltimore, MD.

AERA, 1994 Loeterman, M., Kelly, R. R., Samar, V. J., Parasnis, I., & Berent, G. P. Personal captioning for students with language-related learning needs. Paper presented in Symposium session entitled Designing Technology and Technology-Supported Learning Environments to Enhance the Literacy Development of Exceptional Students, at the 1994 Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, April 4-8, 1994 in New Orleans, LA.

The impact of this first study in personal captioning has been significant. A followup project, funded by the U.S. Department of Education (Grant #H180E30021), the Personal Captioning Demonstration and Evaluation Project for Students with Language-Related Learning Needs, is now underway at WGBH and NTID. Several new applications of personal captioning are being implemented in three schools and programs for students who are deaf and hard of hearing and three for students who are learning disabled. A separate project, Access Through Captioning: An Improved Captioning System for Students Who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing, has been undertaken by CAST (the Center for Applied Special Technology in Peabody, Massachusetts, with WGBH as consultant and subcontractor) to develop a better captioning workstation for both students and teachers (U.S. DoEd Grant #H180J30036).

In addition, WGBH has received many inquiries for personal captioning software and information about the project; notably, the Center for Children and Technology is incorporating personal captioning into a multimedia project with the Lexington School for the Deaf in Queens, New York.
Activities undertaken during the CC School Project and afterward have resulted in two products: QuickCaption School captioning software and a set of 41 stories in American Sign Language. QuickCaption School is currently available for license by WGBH. Eighteen schools and districts have ordered the software. The video stories will be packaged for distribution to schools for the deaf and other interested parties, and will be made available at cost.



During the past three years, since the CC School Project began, many individuals have offered suggestions for applying personal captioning technology to populations and in ways beyond those studied in the CC School Project. Some of these ideas for using captioning with deaf and learning disabled students have been incorporated into the Personal Captioning Project. Cindy Murphy suggests that caption writing be explored with two other populations, deaf adults and hearing, bilingual students.

While the captioning treatment was on hiatus during the summer of 1992, three deaf adults explored TRIPOD's captioning workstations and captioned the Patrick Graybill fables. Cindy Murphy describes their experience:

"They were just very excited about what they saw, what they did know and what they didn't know. But they are more conscious of those things. They were saying, 'I know this idiom in deaf--in ASL--but I don't know, there must be an idiom for it in English.' I think for adults it's a completely different experience. Also, people who are deaf who are trying to learn language are very motivated."

Bilingual students of spoken languages are the fastest growing group of captioned television viewers. As reported in a study by Neuman and Koskinen (1990) and elsewhere, teachers and students find that the opportunity to listen and read English simultaneously is a great assistance in acquiring vocabulary and improving comprehension. It would be valuable to explore the potential benefits of personal captioning with this population, whether the video stimulus is in the student's native language or in English. It would also be worthwhile to investigate the cognitive and linguistic process of comprehending a narrative in one language and expressing oneself in another (or listening in one language and reading simultaneously in another).

* Stanford Achievement Test (regular version).
* Subcategorization knowledge refers to syntactic knowledge about some categories of words, especially verbs and adjectives. For example, some verbs are transitive and must be followed by an appropriate object. While one can say, "I ran to school today," fluent users of English would not say, "I brought to school today." Correct grammatical usage of a word depends on the user's knowledge of the subcategorization properties of that word. And that knowledge must be learned through experience, interacting with other speakers of the language and with print. It is not part of the universal knowledge of language that children are born with.


CC School Project: Personal Captioning Technology Applied to the Language Learning Environment of Deaf Children

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This material was developed by the National Center to Improve Practice (NCIP), located at Education Development Center, Inc. in Newton, Massachusetts.  NCIP was funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs from October 1, 1992 - September 30, 1998, Grant #H180N20013.  Permission is granted to copy and disseminate this information.  If you do so, please cite NCIP.   Contents do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Department of Education, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by NCIP, EDC, or the U.S. Government.  This site was last updated in September 1998. 

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