Sunday, July 26, 2015

Close Captioning Tools Support Literacy

Guest Post by Jacob Gutnicki 

All too often the benefits of close captioning in instruction are largely ignored. Many people believe that this only benefits students who are hard of hearing, deaf, or have a language deficit. 

This could not be further from the truth. Close captioning can also help students with various cognitive disabilities, English Language Learners, developing readers, as well as all learners. Furthermore, presenting information in multiple ways can help address the diverse needs of learners in the classroom and engage students on multiple levels. For example, close captioning can be used as a study aid, can expose students to public speaking, and can be used to teach students various writing genres. Additionally, the use of captioned or subtitled media can be a great tool for teachers looking to differentiate classroom instruction. This is because many struggling readers avoid text, and have minimal exposure to print. To this end, close captioning can provide students with additional exposure to print when they watch a video at home and at school.

Subsequently, students who are learning English can use captioned media to help improve their vocabulary acquisition, listening comprehension, and word recognition and decoding skills. Similarly, struggling readers will benefit from seeing and hearing unfamiliar words, which in turn will help improve their understanding of the material and important vocabulary words.

Until recently this kind of endeavor would have been costly, as you would have had to purchase dedicated software that supported close captioning. However, as more companies begin to support Universal for Design Learning (UDL) guidelines, software that was previously only available as a standalone application are now integrated into commonly used software applications including software provided to users at no charge.  For instance, You Tube provides close captioning tools as part of its video editing tools free of charge. With this in mind, I will briefly discuss the process involved with developing a video with close captioning.

First, you must decide what kind of video to produce. You can develop a video that showcases a short skit, a song, an interview, a poem, a live event, as well as other options. Once you decide what type of video to create planning a storyboard will be crucial. A storyboard typically contains a number of drawings along with directional notes that form your visual script. In essence the storyboard depicts various actions or events.

Naturally storyboarding is not meant for all kinds of videos. While it will work well with skits and a short story, it will not prove as useful for an interview, live event, or a scripted lecture. If you are recording a live event, you will need a plan to determine which live shots will be recorded which in turn would shape the final video in the post-editing phase of your work. Furthermore, you will decide which shots to present on the final video, whether a voice over is needed to clarify your content, and whether additional footage may be needed. In an interview, you will need to spend significant time developing questions that will be asked during the interview. You may consider sharing the proposed questions with the interviewee; especially if they typically are not interviewed for video. After the interview is captured, you may decide to edit some of the material so that the recorded interview will flow better. Finally, a scripted video lecture is much like a scripted movie or TV show. However, in this case there is usually only 1 principal actor or actress presenting the material. In both of these cases the quality of the video will depend on the script and how well the presenter is familiar with the script.

After you have written your script or interview questions, it is time to record your video. It is always a good idea to try not rushing through your video and to pause as needed so that it will be easier to edit the work later on. You should also check the following items before recording a video; the lighting in the room and how the sound is being captured. More specifically, you will need to examine if the outdoor or indoor lighting is negatively impacting the video subject. You may also want to make sure that the room is free of clutter. For this reason a neutral background is recommended.

It is also recommended that the subject being videoed should always be in the center of the video and not to the side. This is because video subjects who are in the center are not accidentally cropped when the video is transferred to a different viewing format.  If you are recording 2 people, try placing them in a virtual tic-tac toe board thereby assuring that a video subject is not on the outer edge of a video. Likewise, video recordings should avoid the use of the zoom and the use of a tripod is also highly recommended.

Additionally, you should make sure that your video recording device captures sound effectively and that the video subject knows how to project their voice adequately. You also want to make sure that there are no distracting noises interfering with your video recording. For example, some lighting fixtures and ceiling fans make distracting noises that are more noticeable when it is captured on video. Therefore, it is a good idea to test your equipment before you record your video. If your subject is unable to project their voice adequately, you may want to invest in a wireless microphone clip tie, which will improve the audio quality of your presentation. Once this is done, it is time to make your video. I will typically record my video using Quick Time. However, any video recording software should be fine.

After you complete recording your video it is time to edit your work. On a basic level you will want to remove unwanted video. In Quick Time you can trim the video and split the clip. However, Quick Time does not offer any other editing features. For this reason, I usually use iMovie to edit videos. iMovie is included with every Mac laptop as well as  the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch. Windows Movie Maker is bundled with computers running Windows 7 and 8. Both programs offer various editing and publishing features including the ability to publish directly to You Tube. You may also to decide to re-record certain parts of your video if you are not satisfied with the results.  Additionally, you may decide to add transitions to your video and background pictures to your presentation.

After you edit and export your video to the desktop the video is almost ready for close captioning. However, before this is done, you will need to upload your video to You Tube. If you already have a Google account, log on to You Tube using your Google account. If not, you will first need to create a Google account.

Creating a Google account is easy. Point your browser to and click on the Sign In button. On the next screen, you will be able to sign in or follow the on screen prompts to create a Google account. Please note part of the process will require to you type a series of letters and numbers known as verification text. It is important to type this correctly. After this is done use the apps tab to enter You Tube or go to

Once this is done, your web browser should be on the You Tube site. On the upper right hand side there is an upload button. Use that button to upload your video. Once your video is uploaded you can play back the video or press the CC (close captioning) button to add close captioning. In this area you can add close captioning by clicking on Add New Subtitles or CC.  After this is done, You Tube will ask you which language you want to use. Following this action, you will have one of three choices to choose from; upload a file, transcribe and set timings, and create new subtitles or CC. I typically choose the transcribe option by pasting my script into the dialog box. After this is done, You Tube will use its built in tools to analyze the text you uploaded and sync it with your speaking component. About 15 minutes later your close captioning will be ready to view. You can then edit the text further if there are any text errors or problems with the timing.

If you choose the create new subtitles or CC option, You Tube will analyze your audio and add the sub titles by itself. However, you should be warned that this solution is not ideal as its audio analysis may not be 100 percent accurate.  The uploading option assumes you are using close captioning software outside of You Tube. Another words if you are planning to use You Tube for your Close Captioning needs, the uploading option is not relevant. With this in mind, I suggest using the transcribe option as its accuracy is almost perfect. Once this is done, you should preview the added close captioning and determine if you are happy with the result. If you are, share it via the Internet and social media. If you are not sure if it is ready for primetime you can share it privately with a colleague or phone a friend for feedback. Naturally, this can be a time consuming process. However, I am sure you will be pleased with the completed product and your students will certainly benefit from your video aimed to support their learning endeavors.


Jacob Gutnicki has worked in the field of Instructional Technology for the past 13 years and in the field of education for the past 20 years. During this time he was recognized in the 2008 National Profile Report as an effective practice in Instructional Technology, has authored 158 award winning grants. He developed the Laptop Institute and specialized Technology Workshop Series, coordinated District Wide contests, (i.e. MST Fair, Web Quest, and Technology Festival), developed Instructional Manuals that integrate technology into the curriculum, and received the Chancellor's Excellence in Leadership Award.

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