If you had a student in your class who was in a wheelchair, would you make sure he had a desk that would accommodate him? I bet not a single person would say no. So, why is it that so many people say no to captioning? Because it's inconvenient? Well, I'm not so sure a lawsuit is all that convenient, so I'd just make sure all of my visual media was accessible to Deaf and Hard of Hearing students, but that's just me!
Did you know that Netflix just got hammered (and sued) for not providing captions for their videos available through online streaming? If Netflix is getting busted and they're in the entertainment business, what makes you think that schools aren't next? Well, really, it's already here, but for some reason there are some teachers who think that providing captioning is optional! Is it in the student's IEP, well then, it's the law!
If your 1960's filmstrip that you show year after year doesn't have captions....umm...I think it's time to update your video library! I can find a visually accessible copy of just about any educational topic out there. Is it the exact same video that you're currently showing? Not always, but many times, yes, it's the same video, just a different version. I can even find online streaming with captions and free lesson plans to go along with it! How about that?
So, all of your big videos are captioned and you just use YouTube for short little clips? Don't get me started on YouTube's beta captioning. It's a joke! Have you seen any of the hundreds of YouTube videos making fun of beta captioning? This is one of my favorites: Taylor Swift Caption Fail. The problem is since my students can't hear, they don't know which captioned words are correct and which aren't. Play it safe and just stay away from beta captioning! That being said, some people will caption their YouTube videos the right way before publishing them. To those people, I say, BRAVO! If you plan on using a YouTube clip, please preview the captions ahead of time. You'd be surprised how many inappropriate words pop up instead of the word actually being said!
Oh, and it drives me nuts when teachers tell my students they can just watch the video at home. Do you think they can miraculously hear better at home and no longer need captions? If they need captioning at school, guess what? They're going to use captions at home (and vice versa for that matter)!
It also doesn't make it better to tell a Deaf or Hard of Hearing student that she won't be tested on the non-captioned video. Then why are you showing it in the first place? So, you're telling me that none of the students need to watch it? Is your video just being used as a <gasp> time filler? What are your intentions? Are you using it to teach or to supplement? If you're using it to teach, I'm sure you could find another way to teach the material (after all, you are the teacher) or at very least, you could find the material in captioned format. If you're using it to supplement, I bet you could still find something else. You want to use the non-captioned video to show what the Grand Canyon looks like? Well then, mute it for everyone and describe to the entire class what they're looking at. Remember, you're the teacher! Teach! Get creative. Here's a shocker - students are actually more engaged when they can discover some of this stuff on their own. Make a project where students have to go to the computer lab and research various topics on the internet. Have them teach each other. I bet they'll get more out of it than just laying in a puddle of their own drool while your VHS tape (poorly recorded off of some educational channel in the 80's) muffles along in the background! Just saying!
So, all of the other "hearing" students in the class get some sort of enrichment by watching this video while my student with hearing loss has to sit there bored out of her skull, trying not to fall asleep? Are you kidding me? As it is, my students get less language opportunities than the average hearing child, so now you're denying them access to language even more! Don't come running to me when you wonder why they don't have perfect grammatically correct sentences on that last paper they had to write!
Whew! This is just as bad as when you tell my student, "Nevermind," "It wasn't important," or "I'll tell you later." Sure, you may be bothered by having to repeat yourself, but think about how bothered my Deaf/Hard of Hearing student is when he doesn't get all of the information! Then he gets a bad grade, doesn't understand what he missed, performs poorly on the test....the list goes on and on and it's a vicious cycle!
So, how does captioning benefit everyone? Well, I'll tell ya!
Captions help all children with word identification, meaning, acquisition, and retention. Pre-readers start to figure out the patterns we use to read. They know words go across the screen from left-to-right which will aid in reading readiness. Captions also help children create a connection between the written and the spoken word.
Got a kid who hates to read and watches too much tv? Turn the captions on! They'll be reading without even knowing it! Reading is a skill that requires practice, and practice in reading captions is practice with authentic text, both fiction and nonfiction. Reading captions motivates viewers to read more and read more often. Doesn't everyone want that for their children?
We all want smart kids we can brag about, right? Research has proven that people who watch media with captions have higher comprehension rates than people who watch the same media without captions. Wouldn't this be, like, the #1 reason why every teacher in America should have captions on everything they show in class?
Captions help children who have difficulty processing speech and auditory components (regardless of whether difficulties are due to hearing loss or cognitive delay) by providing the children with any missing auditory information visually. The portion of our brains that help us fill in the missing gaps when listening to a verbal message is not fully developed until around 15 years of age. As adults, if we don't hear every single word in a message, we can usually piece it together. Kids aren't able to do that! And, ask yourself, what does it hurt to have little words on the screen? The words are too big? Buy a bigger tv! Ha! (Somehow I think with that last comment, I'll hear that the men in the family will suddenly think that they need a bigger tv!)
Captioning shouldn't stop at age 15, though. Students often need additional help learning content-relevant vocabulary in areas such as Biology, History, Literature, etc. and captions allow students to see the term in print and the visual language that corresponds with the new term. Maybe hearing students are trying to learn in a noisy environment, well, if they have captions, they have the ability to access their materials in any environment!
Captions create a rich learning environment - students can hear, see, and experience the meaning of words. The majority of high frequency words can be found in captions, so these words barely need to be taught! Captioning is critical for children who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing and significantly beneficial to those acquiring English as their first or second language. Students who have reading problems, literacy problems, and those learning to read will profit from captions being used on a regular basis.
Do you need more information to convince you of why closed-captioning should be mandated in all classrooms? My Deaf and Hard of Hearing students aren't going away, so start making adjustments to your media library now so that you don't have to do it at the last minute when one of them shows up in your classroom. Make a pledge to only purchase or stream captioned media from now on.
I'll take one foot off of my soapbox, but know that I'll be ready to hop right back on at a moment's notice! Until then, if you need more info on captioning, check out my Closed-Captioning...Explained! page.