Joining classroom discussion

Karli Dettman
Ai-Live is new technology for Australian classrooms. It helps Deaf and hearing impaired students. Everything spoken in class appears on a computer screen. The Shadow Minister for Disabilities wants a trial of the technology in Australian schools. Senator Mitch Fifield says it will help students get the most out of their education. Experienced teacher Leonie Jackson came up with the idea for Ai-Live five years ago. A trial at a high school was very successful. Student work improved. The technology is not expensive.
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Karli Dettman on 23/05/2011
A boy reading a book in a school classroom, leaning his head on his arm, with his teacher also reading in the background.

Ai-Live can help students to participate in mainstream school classrooms

New Australian technology allows Deaf and hearing impaired students to effectively participate in mainstream school classrooms. Ai-Live delivers the text of classroom conversations within seconds to a computer screen.

Shadow Minister for Disabilities, Senator Mitch Fifield, recently called for a national trial of Ai-Live in schools. It has been proven to deliver transformational results to students who use it, says Senator Fifield.

(Ai-Live) can help give Deaf students the opportunity to participate fully in their classroom and perform to the best of their ability, Senator Fifield says. Ai-Live has the potential to help students across Australia to experience their classroom in an entirely new way and get the most out of their education.

The idea

Experienced teacher Leonie Jackson came up with the idea for Ai-Live. She was good friends with Alex Jones, the co-founder of Ai Media. Ai-Media provides captions for Australian television broadcasts.

Leonie asked Alex if there was a way to deliver live captioning in classrooms back in 2006. Leonie had worked as a teacher and deputy principal in Australian schools for 18 years. But she found it difficult and frustrating to teach Deaf students English in Auslan (Australian Sign Language). English and Auslan are two different languages. They have different grammar, structure and meaning. Leonie had learned Auslan when she was a student at Griffith University. She is now the head of education access at Ai-Media.

Difficult experience

Alex Jones is a Deaf American who moved to Sydney about 15 years ago. His first language was American Sign Language. He attended Deaf schools in Washington DC. But in his final years of study he attended a mainstream school.

Alex says he found the high school experience difficult. For example, it was difficult to read and understand Shakespeare's stories. It was hard work for the interpreter to translate old English into sign language. Alex says real-time captions in class would have helped him a great deal.

An early trial of Ai-Live was held at a private school in Sydney's western suburbs. During the trial, the work of Deaf and hearing impaired students improved dramatically. In the past year, Ai-Media has received 250 requests to set up AI-Live at schools. The technology has also been awarded on the ABC program The New Inventors.

How does Ai-Live work?

The Ai-Live technology is not expensive. It is competitive when compared with the cost of on-site interpreters or note-takers. Teachers wear a lapel microphone. Audio of classroom discussion is delivered to a remote captioner. They re-speak the discussion with punctuation into voice recognition software. The system then delivers the text transcript to the student's computer. Captioners can be trained in six-to-eight weeks.

The Ai-Live system can also be used outside the classroom. For example, it can be used for business meetings and conferences.

Alex and Leoni are now lobbying governments around Australia to fund Ai-Live technology. The pair believe accessible education is very important for Deaf and hearing impaired people. Some state and territory education departments have already committed in principle to a national pilot of Ai-Live in high schools.


Do you think Ai-Live technology would be useful in the classroom or workplace? Let us know in the comments section below.

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