Monday, February 13, 2012

CART Problem Solving: Handling Slides in Remote Work

CART Problem Solving Series

Sitting Apart
Handling Slides
Classroom Videos
Superscript and Subscript
Schlepping Gear
Late Hours
Expensive Machines
Communicating Sans Steno
Cash Flow
Test Nerves
Speech Recognition, Part I
Speech Recognition, Part II
Speech Recognition, Part III
Speech Recognition, Part IV

CART PROBLEM: A remote CART class involves many detailed PowerPoint slides.

I'm currently providing CART for a medical student in his second year of medical school. The school is located outside of the US, so he wasn't able to find an onsite CART provider, though he does have two onsite ASL interpreters there to help with his lab and clinical classes. Fortunately the classroom has an excellent AV system with wired broadband internet access; they record videos of all lectures for the students to use while studying, so I'm able to get crystal clear audio, direct from the professor's microphone. This alone cuts down on a lot of the issues I usually have to contend with when providing remote CART. But, of course, since I'm not in the room, I can't just look to the front of the class to see the explanatory slides used to accompany each lecture. The school is very good about providing me with those slides -- sometimes in PowerPoint format, sometimes in PDF -- at least a few days before each class, so I can use them to prep my dictionary with all the difficult medical terminology ahead of time. Even so, it can sometimes be difficult to follow the lecture without the images and diagrams being referred to, and occasionally it's difficult to make out what a professor's saying, especially if they have a non-standard accent, unless I'm able to see the word written down in front of me.

This is what I did to compensate for not being able to see the slides as they're projected to the students in the actual classroom:

* I downloaded a program called Autohotkey.

* I already owned a Vpedal from my days as a transcriptionist, so all I had to do was write a very simple Autohotkey script containing the following two entries:

Joy2::Send {Click}{PgDn}
Joy1::Send {PgUp}

That made it so that, whenever I ran Autohotkey, my foot pedal would send a mouseclick and then a pagedown command to whatever was located under the mouse cursor.

* I set up a second monitor (you can see it in my home office photo) next to my laptop, and I always make sure to position the mouse cursor somewhere in the real estate controlled by the second monitor before every class.

* The beauty of this setup is that my proprietary steno software can be set to "top window"; it takes focus from any other window as soon as I start writing. But with a click of my foot pedal, the mouse cursor refocuses the window to the slide, presses page down (which advances one slide in both Adobe Reader and PowerPoint, so it doesn't matter which format the slides are in), and then my steno software is free to take the focus back a second later. If I want to scroll up, I just need to scroll down one page to get focus, and then I can use the pedal's other button to send the "page up" command as many times as I like.

* When the class is over, I turn off Autohotkey, and the pedal automatically turns back into a controller for Winamp, the audio software I use in my transcription work. It couldn't be easier! Ever since setting this up, I've had no fear of anatomical diagrams or dense, fast-paced pharmacology lectures. Having the slides for reference has increased my accuracy and confidence enormously. The foot pedal allows my hands to stay on the keyboard, so I'm able to keep writing throughout, never missing a beat. It's been absolutely invaluable, and I recommend it to any remote providers who are lucky enough to get lecture slides before each class. The extra monitor and foot pedal are a small price to pay for the convenience of being able to navigate through the lecture with a tap of your toe.

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