Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Authoring with Sign Smith Studio

Vcom3D. (n.d.) Authoring with sign smith. Available: http://www.vcom3d.com/Studio.htm

Earlier in the blog I posted a write-up about a software program called "Reading Power" for deaf and hard of heairng students. The software I came across today is produced by the same company, Vcom3D. However, the "Reading Power" software focuses mainly on reading development while the software "Sign Smith Studio" can focus on reading or writing, depending on how the teacher, or student, wishes to use it. However, the initial drawback of the Sign Smith program is that it seems to require more knowledge of technology, and possibly more teacher training, than other programs I have reviewed or come across. However, I believe that if a teacher learned the software and was able to use it to its fullest potential it could be a great asset for any deaf and hard of hearing classroom.

Sign Smith allows the user, in this case the teacher or student, to add character animations that sign to any written English in the document. The character will sign whatever is written in the box for the viewer to see. Furthermore, the piece of work can be uploaded to the web for reading by students, with an option (not a must see) to view the signing when needed. In my opinion this provides a wonderful support system for deaf and hard of hearing students when learning to read and write. Students are presented with a support structure for reading words or sentences they do not understand and when using this a student's comprehension will not be impaired.

Some of the key features of the Sign Smith program I find appealing are one can write in English, choose to have it signed in Signed English (word for word) or American Sign Language (different sentence structure), and add facial expressions, body language, eye gaze, and other features key to understanding in ASL to the character doing the signing. A teacher could write stories in English, use the Sign Smith program to add accompanied sign, and have students view it online during centers or some other time throughout the day. This could be used as a reading comprehension activity, a scaffolding activity (because teachers can individualize stories and sign support), or a writing activity. In my mind I see this program being used as a writing activity through the teacher creating sentences in English, but hiding them so the students cannot see the English sentences. Students can view the sentence being signed in American Sign Language and have to write the sentence in English. This activity could then later be checked or discussed and this can assist teachers in identifying individual students' needs in developing writing skills. Furthermore, once the webpage is created teachers can have students complete the activities independently. Teachers could also use this to publish student work online for younger students to read with the supported sign language characters.

This is a program that allows teachers of the deaf and hard of hearing to create literacy experiences that connect English and American Sign Language in an interactive manner for students. Furthermore, it allows the ammount of support a teacher provides to be individualized and scaffolded, along with providing opportunities for students to publish work for others in the school and take ownership of their writing. This program is not free from difficulty or cost by any means, but if it could be afforded and learned, I believe it could provide students with an effective means of being engaged in the reading and writing process. In addition, it is very difficult to find interactive programs created specifically for deaf and hard of hearing students and this is a program that focuses on the meaningful structure of language, not the phonics-- a key aspect of learning to read and write for these students. For further explanation I suggest one view the website above and go through the demo on the site. It does a great job at showing the options availabe to the educator as far as what the program is capable of doing.

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