By Jody Converse, ASL Educator at Brainerd High School in Brainerd, Minnesota
About SignAll Lab
SignAll Lab is an interactive workstation for learning and practicing American Sign Language (ASL). It supplements our classes, giving students countless hours of independent study to sign and receive immediate feedback from the computer.
The lab allows my students to learn, practice, and test themselves on a wide variety of signs. Its uniqueness is in providing immediate feedback on the accuracy of their signing, while matching the words we’re already learning in class. SignAll Lab is a novel tech solution in which students can learn at their own pace in entertaining ways, through interactive activities and gamified content. There are a wide range of lesson types and activities to enhance the students’ expressive and receptive skills: fingerspelling, numbers, signs, quizzes, and games.
|Name of tool||SignAll Learn|
|Primary purpose/use of tool||Practicing ASL with an interactive computer lab that provides immediate feedback on signing. The content is produced by native ASL signers.|
|Ease of use||Very easy – The system is multifaceted and sophisticated, but once adjusted by the company, it is easy to navigate and use. The company provides excellent tech support and ongoing assistance and training.|
Here are a few advantages of the SignAll system that I noticed immediately:
- Students are inspired! Right after the lab was installed, I noticed a significant “spark” in the students’ excitement. They were more motivated to learn and practice ASL. Now, students come into my classroom as quickly as they can to sign up for their time with the lab.
- Students find the system motivating and engaging. I love seeing their faces when they reach a new personal record in their scores.
Some students struggled with getting the system to recognize their signs at first and asked me for help. I watched them produce the sign and told them which sign parameter was incorrect. Once the parameter error was fixed, the SignAll lab started recognizing the change and showing the star, indicating a correct production. Shy students sign in a very small area, not using the whole ‘signing space’ to make large and expressive movements. The system does not always catch these signs.
SignAll Lab has also made improvements to my workflow in several ways.
- Trackability: The lab’s features allow me to easily track the quality and quantity of each student’s practice.
- Time-saving: Searching for class materials and resources for practice was very time-consuming prior to the installation of SignAll Lab. Now the system allows me to focus on the strategic development of the course and incorporating more aspects of Deaf culture into my lessons.
- Automatic Differentiation: Students are able to work at their own pace and skill level to improve no matter where they are in their language learning journey.
The combination of software and hardware was provided by the company. At the beginning, the company’s representative assembled the system, fine-tuned the software and calibrated the first users. It was easy to calibrate additional users. We were taught how to do this by the company and they also provide easy-to-follow, step-by-step instructions for this process. Calibrating each user individually helps to improve the sign-recognition accuracy of the program. Individual calibration also helps the system to adapt to each student’s signing style. Since Sign languages are spatial, calibration for each user is essential so the system knows and can identify the exact location of each users’ body parts. Facial features are particularly important in sign languages because of how much information they can convey.
The lab requires the registration of each user, which lets me track their progress. The registration process is very simple for each student. The initial installation and registration was conducted by SignAll. They entered in each student’s name and their email address, as well as right or left hand dominance.
The SignAll team provides good customer support and the lab has been easy to use with few issues. There were no hidden costs associated with using the lab; we simply made a small deposit to cover the security of the hardware.
How it works
A user selects their level (ASL 1 or ASL 2), the lesson, and if they want to learn or practice fingerspelling, numbers, or vocabulary.
Each unit has three parts: learn, practice, and quiz.
Students can also practice receptive fingerspelling skills. They watch a native signer fingerspell words and then must guess the words. This can be adjusted for different speeds depending on the level of the student. This feature is imperative so that students can challenge themselves without getting frustrated and giving up on learning. The flexibility of being able to match each student with their skill level is a huge benefit for the students and me as the instructor.
The system offers games that allow students to practice and memorize fingerspelling and vocabulary. Students love this option because it allows them to add gamification to learning.
“I always have a lot of stress while studying for tests. Playing the games on SignAll Lab is super helpful, but also super relaxing! I don’t feel like I’m pushing myself to cram information into my head.” – Samantha Mrazek, ASL student.
As the teacher, I have access to all the students’ accounts. I can track the amount of time they practiced and their progress. If I forget to check the lab, SignAll sends me weekly reports, where the data is collected all in one place. They are organized by student name, are visual, and include the analytics I need to track my students’ progress.
I hope as this company continues to improve, they will be focusing on facial grammar recognition and additional vocabulary.
The few times the system has crashed, I sent an email to the SignAll company and they had the system back up and running within minutes. On occasion, the SignAll lab accepts a sign that is produced with an incorrect sign parameter and in that situation, I email the company and it is usually fixed within the week.
A socially-responsible company and collaborator
SignAll Technologies began as a project to help a Deaf colleague and eventually spun off into its own company. SignAll is a socially-responsible and customer-centric company. What demonstrated this to me personally was that they quickly created and launched an online ASL video library as a response to the school closings across the country earlier this year. After registration, students and teachers can access this video library from anywhere on any mobile device.
I also am able to provide SignAll with suggestions for vocabulary, as well as any signs that seem problematic. They always are improving and incorporating suggestions from the feedback I provide. Being able to work with a company not only as a customer, but a collaborator is huge for me. They truly value feedback from their ASL Teachers!
Overall, the lab adds excitement into my classroom, and provides a one-on-one learning opportunity that is impossible for me to provide alone in my large classes.