Technology for learning American Sign Language (ASL) in the classroom

First-hand experience

A Zoom screen split to two.
On the left side is
Tony Slate, an ASL teacher at Fort Bend Christian Academy, Houston, US.  Tony is in black-framed glasses, a dark blue shirt, and a white facial beard.
On the right side is
Derek Frank, an ASL expert at SignAll Technologies, a native ASL speaker. Derek is in a black short-sleeved, button-up shirt. 

Derek: I am currently recording, the first question I am curious about your Houston ASL classes - how many classes do you have, which levels of ASL 1, 2, 3, and how many students [do you have] in total?

Tony: There are three classes of ASL 1, two classes of ASL 2, one class of ASL 3, oneclass of ASL 4, and one class of ASL 5. All together, it’s around 90 studentsthat take ASL classes of all levels. It is good for a small private school

Derek: Does each class have 20-30 students on average?

Tony: No. A benefit of a small private school is small classes. My class is from 10 to 22 students maximum.

Derek: Nice, okay! Do you use the SignAll system yourself?

Tony: Yes, I do! And I like it. The students also like it. It is really neat, and Isee future potential with the system.

Derek: Do you feel like the system impacts your teaching, and does it help students performbetter?

Tony: For students who feel shy or awkward, interaction with the system makes feel more confident. They and others feel fascinated with it because the system contains games. It is very helpful because when it detects their signs, the students think, “Cool! I know this! I know this!”

I allow my advanced students to test the system and provide feedback on it. Theyshared that they liked it. Sometimes, they find signs that they did not know.They find it interesting. I presume because of local variations of signs. ASL 1and ASL 2 students love it!

Derek: Would you say that students are motivated and want to use the system?

Tony: Yes! There is a queue to use the system in some classes – it is fully booked long in advance. Seeing this, I had to establish a time limit on the Lab's usage.

Derek: Good. Do you feel like SignAll can fit into your teaching style, such ashomework and the grading system?

Tony: We are working on experimenting with it. Me and my co-teacher are updating ourgrading system to include SignAll’s results. I require students to use thesystem. When they are finished with it, they fill a form about their progress andgive it to me. I would like to have a teacher’s dashboard to see what the studentsdo. I know the system has it, but I want it to include more of what studentsthink when practice. [Editor: the SignAll Lab’s dashboard is upgraded and willbe launched in one of the next system’s updates.]

Derek: Was the system easy to use? Was the technical support from us good for you? Forexample, if the camera setting is not in a right place, do you feel like it’seasy to fix?

Tony: Well, it hasn’t happened and everything has been perfect so far. I am notworried about it. It feels like it is  easyto set up. Max  (the account manager) taughtme how to fix possible breaks, but everything is and was good.

Derek: Would you say students have improved their signing while using the SignAllsystem?

Tony: It is still too early to assess -- we only had it for 2 months before COVID-19impacted. Still, I am confident. I see the improvement; however, some more timeis needed.

Derek: When did you get the system?

Tony: Thesystem was set up in January 14. During the 3rd and 4thweeks of February, the school had to perform some missionary work outside ofthe school. When everyone came back, COVID-19 broke out.

Derek:I see. I am curious about any challenges. Did you face any hardships when usingthis system?

Tony: Facial expressions. I know the system can detect eyebrows, but other facial expressions are yet to be implemented. [editor: SignAll Lab's data includes and can detect a range of facial expressions. Currently, lessons that focus on non-verbal parts of signing are under development]

Derek: Sure, in the future. The last question is what is your overall experience withthe system? Would you recommend other teachers to use the system?

Tony: Yes! I always recommend it to other teachers. I even posted on Facebook. Ispread the word that colleagues have to get the system and test it. Many seemedinterested. I had two people coming to my school to test it. They liked SignAll.I support it!

Derek: Good. Thank you, I appreciate it. Do you have any final statement or anythingbefore we wrap up the interview?

Tony: I am really happy with the opportunity to use the system. Secondly, I really want more control from the teacher’s perspective like a dashboard in which I can adjust different vocabulary categories [editor: the dashboard function is ready and will be implemented in the next release]. Maybe revise the categories and extend the vocabulary. 

Derek: I understand. We are working on modifying the system to improve it.

Tony: Yes, I know. I am not complaining. This is just my suggestion.

Derek: Thank you so much for your enthusiasm to use the system and thank you for yoursupport!

Tony: Thank you! 
Want to know more about the AI-enhanced ASL learning solution SignAll Learn Lab? Or maybe you are interested in  SignAll Chat - a unique automated translation system between ASL and English?

We are happy to know about you. Drop a line to hello@signall.us

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