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Questions from the Classroom

Watch this video for TIPS from a Deaf Student taking classes via video with a remote interpreter.

The purpose of this page is to answer some of the questions that we’ve received from customers regarding VRI services in the classroom.

My class will be distracted if there is an interpreter on the screen.

Yes, that is true for the first few days.  New technology is fascinating to students.  American Sign Language and the work an interpreter does intrigue many people, not just students.  However, students quickly adjust to technology, so expect excitement and possibly some questions about the profession of sign language interpreting.  VCI is more than thrilled to assist you in conversations with your students about our profession and what is required to become a professional interpreter.

How will the interpreter see the smart board, white board, black board, or TV?

Our VRI platform does not allow us to see teaching aids and also see the student at the same time.  For this reason, we request that teachers avoid pointing at a visual aid while using vague words such as “here”, “there”, “this”, etc.  The interpreter will not know where “here” is or what “this” is.  Use specific language while indicating something on a powerpoint, smart board, etc.  Example:  “Notice how the bars on the graph increase by 10 increments every year” or “Who can answer the equation I have on the board ‘what is the square root of 1/25?’.”

How will the interpreter know what I am lecturing about?

Interpreters are a jack-of-all-trades and a master of none, but the interpreter’s background knowledge on a plethora of topics is impressive.  Imagine playing Trivial Pursuit or Jeopardy with an interpreter? The interpreter wins every time. But seriously, back to the topic.  Interpreters work in a lot of situations where a daunting amount of information is exchanged.  A few examples include:  medical, legal, business meetings, employment trainings, seminars, rallys, concerts, educational (K12-college), church, and many more.  The amount of information an interpreter processes in a single day is expansive; however, interpreters are not mind readers and likely not in possession of your text book.  Please keep your interpreter in the loop with a syllabus, access to handouts (via pdf or online blackboard), weekly lesson plan, etc.  We call this prep material.  Prep material sent to is forwarded promptly to your interpreter.

What about YouTube videos or other media that we use in the classroom?
Interpreters love to hate YouTube, DVDs and videos.  The content is undoubtedly fascinating, but the ability to interpret the information while your student simultaneously enjoys the video is a challenge.  Especially if information from any visuals in the video are part of the students required assignment.  The best bet is to allow the interpreter to view the videos the day before the interpretation.
Important to note:
  • VHS do not have captions embedded in them
  • All DVDs have a closed caption/English subtitles option
    • Access this using the DVD (not the TV) remote.  Click the menu button. Click subtitles. Click English.
      • Some DVDs have an actual Closed Caption option.  This is accessible via DVD remote by clicking the menu button.
    • Many educational DVDs now come with open captioning as an option.
  • YouTube and Vimeo often have a closed caption (CC) option.
    • ALERT: Captions are produced via a voice recognition software which often renders inaccurate and at times offensive captions.

What if we have a group discussion or activity?

Lively group discussions are part of an interpreters work.  Interpreters are trained to manage the interpretation in a way that allows the deaf student to actively participate in the activity.  However, there are times when the interpreter’s hands are “tied” (figuratively). Here is how to ensure a productive group discussion or activity with an interpreter present:

  • Ask students to speak one at a time.  When students talk over each other an interpreter has to select which person to interpret for and that is usually the loudest person.
  • Ask students to identify his/herself.  The interpreter cannot see the student’s and it is difficult to differentiate between student voices via computer audio.  Also, if students identify themselves then the student doesn’t have to look away from the interpretation to see who is speaking, thus missing part of what they are saying.

Will the interpreter chit chat with the student while I am teaching?

Professional interpreters are bound by a code of professional conduct established by the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID).  Within the code are tenets that state the interpreter will render the message faithfully; the interpreter will respect the consumer (teacher, deaf student); the interpreter will not provide counsel; the interpreter will keep all communication that takes place in any interpreted setting confidential.  Expect the student and the interpreter to get to know each other.  This is a natural part of engaging with other human beings.  You can rest assured knowing that VCI interpreters keep professional boundaries and are “in” your classroom via video for the purpose of interpreting the information you provide, not to provide entertainment and distraction to the student.  We take professionalism seriously.

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