DSS replaces most human note-takers with technology

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Work-study budget cuts force an alternative way to assist disabled students with class notes.

By Michael Peters

mpeters28@alamo.edu

In years past, note-takers were available through disability support services to assist students who need help taking notes in their classes.

DSS hired note-takers as part-time workers to take notes for students eligible to receive the service, student services assistant Delia De Luna said.

Now creativity and technology have replaced them.

As the college has reduced the number of temporary workers because of budget cuts in the last few years, note-takers took the brunt of cuts in the DSS workforce.

With the reduction of note-takers, DSS has had to find creative ways to help students while students have taken the initiative in finding technology to help them assemble notes from class.

“We can’t do everything for them, but we do what we can,” De Luna said.

One way in which DSS continues to help students is finding students willing to volunteer to take notes in individual classes for a classmate with a disability.

De Luna says classmates have been accommodating.

“In all these years, there have only been one or two times I haven’t been able to find a classmate to take notes and at that point the instructor says ‘let me see what I can do,’” De Luna said.

De Luna does what she can to accommodate volunteer note-takers, such as providing carbon paper to make it easier to produce a copy.

She said students have been finding creative ways to take notes in their classes.

“Anyone can record so our students have been doing that and using iPads to take pictures of board notes,” De Luna said.

Students often pick up on new technology.

“It’s amazing what they bring to our attention,” she said.

One such piece of technology is Livescribe’s Smartpen.

De Luna says she heard about the smart pen through a DSS student.

“We learn from them as well,” she said.

Smart pens record everything the student writes down or hears. The device can record while the student writes down the notes they are hearing from the instructor. The recorded notes and audio are automatically sent to the student’s online Evernote account for access. Students can then have the notes read back to them.

When there are no volunteer note-takers available, DSS collaborates with professors and department chairs to help the students.

“Instructors have been very accommodating with providing materials,” De Luna said.

Professors are asked to provide class notes and PowerPoint presentations for students.

De Luna says that DSS students are encouraged to take advantage of the computer labs, professors and all the technology available to help them.

For more information, call DSS at 210-486-0020.

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