By Linda Bland
It isn’t unusual for me to receive a call from a court reporter asking how to upgrade his or her writing to offer realtime writing as a service or how to transition to captioning or CART providing. However, I was very pleased when I received a call from Ms. Tessa Lewin of the U.S. Embassy, asking me if I would be interested in discussing how the Court Reporting at Home Realtime Writing Professional Development Program might train 44 official reporters for the Supreme Court of Jamaica. I immediately responded, “Yes! Absolutely! I would love to develop just this kind of project.” Having previously trained realtime writing court reporters in Zambia and Sierra Leone, Africa, my mind began immediately thinking how this might be accomplished.
Justice Bryan Sykes and his committee had determined that their reporters could benefit from upgrading their skills for realtime writing and speed, as well as other areas. Just the idea of the project was exciting. A great deal of thought and planning had already been developed by Justice Sykes and his committee, comprised of reporters, justices, IT department personnel, etc. By the time I was contacted, the committee had already had established a series of goals. When we met via video conferencing, I made a few more recommendations.
The Chief Justice of the Jamaican Supreme Court was so committed to the project, she allotted time during the workday for all reporters to be able to practice. How generous was that? Each morning, one group of reporters/students would be allowed to practice while other reporters covered court, and each afternoon they reversed roles. Being paid to train — who could refuse that offer?
A few months later, we entered into an agreement, and on Jan. 5, 2015, the project began. I had agreed to seven goals:
I have learned during my many years of training reporters, captioners, and CART providers that all projects have challenges, and this one was no different. It would never have gotten off the ground without the dedication of Ms. Tanya Chung-Daley and Ms. Deline Cunningham, RPR, the court reporters designated as the two individuals who would be trained to be trainers of all future reporters for the court.
Our almost daily meetings, which later evolved into weekly meetings over the Internet, became an exciting, enjoyable part of my day. These ladies, fortunately, are so talented, it mde training them tremendously easier. In addition to handling their daily duties covering court, they had to go home to develop and dictate tests, or modify academics for the Jamaican judiciary, and countless other assignments I heaped upon them. They were working extended hours daily and weekends for months and months. And when I asked for materials back by Friday, I received them on Tuesday or Wednesday instead. My job was to stay ahead of them, to ensure that the next step in the training process was already prepared to prevent anyone from having to wait on any component of the project.
Our first two goals were to determine the reporters’ current speed and accuracy in translation. Imagine how difficult it is to schedule tests for this many reporters who have daily, ongoing court assignments including transcripts. Many of these reporters did not work in the Supreme Court in Kingston, Jamaica, but rather were in the circuit courts in cities all around the country.
Any court administrator knows the difficulty in simply keeping all courts covered. However, covering all the courts and scheduling the reporters for testing purposes was quite a feat. We had to test on three different dates, utilizing three different tests for speed at three different speed levels, as well as for realtime. The tests were graded utilizing NCRA grading guidelines, “What Is an Error?” as well as with a view toward the number of large and small drops the reporters were experiencing, how many of the errors were written correctly in steno but not contained in their dictionary, punctuation, and so on.
We then had a basis from which to work. We knew the speed levels we needed to address and the degree of the reporters’ translation accuracy. Knowing that the reporters and justices would benefit from audio synchronization, our first step was to introduce that feature. However, just as with all of us, some of us know our CAT software better than others, and it appeared some of the reporters required a review of some of the basic Eclipse features before we could introduce audiosync. Therefore, although basic training on the software was not a component of our agreement, I knew it was imperative, so I decided to employ someone who could refresh and walk the reporters through the basics.
Who could train my Jamaican reporters/students? I contacted an old acquaintance who put me in touch with Dineen Squillante, who is a certified Eclipse trainer. After one conversation with Dineen, I knew she was perfect for this project. Dineen developed a checklist for what we felt every reporter needed to know for basic realtime setup and editing, steno dictionary preparation, and so on. Each reporter was asked to fill out the checklist, designating which areas they felt needed additional training. Upon receipt of that information, Dineen developed multiple webinars that she presented to the trainers and that were recorded and provided for the trainers’ use in training the remaining reporters.
After the trainers determined that all the reporters were proficient in the basic features, we turned to dictionary building, conversion, and modifications, working on numbers, punctuation, etc. Dineen said, “Working on this project was one of the most enjoyable assignments of my entire career.”
Developing a literary, jury charge, or testimony test involves a great deal more than one can imagine unless you have served on a committee for the NCRA. Thankfully, we have counting software now that counts by word count as well as syllabic count. However, these software programs are not always 100 percent accurate and often require “tweaking.” Because of that, I felt it was important to teach the trainers how to compose a test, count the words in both word count and syllabic count, and dictate it. There is truly an art to dictating correctly and accurately. It can be the difference between being able to pass a test or fail one. It takes a great deal of practice for most instructors, but fortunately, once again, the trainers adapted to dictation quite easily.
Tanya and Deline, as well as the wonderful IT staffer, Duane Carr, teased me often about learning to “speak Jamaican.” When I would think the test “did not make sense,” I would be educated on certain phrases and how “it is spoken in Jamaican.” And without Duane’s IT expertise, we would never have completed this project.
We placed dictation developed by Tanya and Deline on my company’s student platform for the Jamaican reporters to practice, in addition to providing them access to hundreds of hours of our dictation if they chose to practice that as well. Tanya and Deline reviewed and edited our academics to determine what modifications were required for Jamaican law. We modified those and placed those on the platform as well, allowing their tests to be automatically and immediately graded, designating the errors they made and what the correct answer should have been.
And finally, I wanted the trainers to know how to edit or scope realtime. I called upon Dineen once again to train my trainers in realtime editing. If you haven’t tried realtime editing with your scopist, you have to do this. It saves a tremendous amount of time, and it is so easy. Do not be afraid to learn a new feature of your CAT software.
An awards ceremony was held for the reporters after they learned the realtime theory and writing concepts, and Deline and Tanya demonstrated realtime editing/scoping for all those present. While one wrote, the other edited the transcript simultaneously. If you aren’t familiar with realtime editing/scoping, your scopist may be in a different room, a different city, or even a different state, editing while you are writing the assignment.
In February 2016, my work ended. The materials for the Jamaican Project had been provided for realtime writing theory, speed building, and academics. The trainers and reporters had been trained in basic Eclipse, audiosynch, and realtime scoping. However, as we know, the road to building sufficient speed and accuracy and developing one’s steno dictionary are ongoing projects, and I knew Deline and Tanya to be quite capable of handling anything required by the Jamaican Supreme Court.
Deline stated, “The experience as trainers was a challenging and demanding one; however, with encouragement and assistance from Court Reporting and Captioning at Home, we were able to triumph over all the hurdles.” Tanya added, “Yes, and we are truly grateful for this experience.”
So, “Mon,” I didn’t get a trip to Jamaica, but I made a lot of wonderful Jamaican friends along the way, and we spread realtime writing to yet another part of the world. I am so grateful Court Reporting and Captioning at Home was chosen for this project and grateful also for all the assistance through the State Department, U.S. Embassy, the Jamaican Supreme Court, their IT Department, and of course, all 44 of the Jamaican Official Court Reporters.
My advice to you: Don’t stagnate! Realtime is attainable for anyone who is willing to put forth the effort. Don’t think that you can’t change your style of writing or that you are “too old.” You don’t have to change your entire theory at all. However, in all likelihood, you probably need to add a few realtime writing concepts to your theory. Remember, we all modify our theory somewhat, don’t we? We think of new briefs, or find another way to write our numbers, or a new way to write a “family” of words or contractions. We find new groups of phrases that work well for us.
If you want it, realtime is there for you to master – even from the comfort of your home. It requires taking one realtime concept at a time and mastering it to prevent you from causing hesitation in your writing. Writing realtime well isn’t accomplished in a one-day seminar, or even a week or a month. It can take anywhere from 90 days to a year or longer, depending upon how much work you need to employ to update your theory, how much time you make to practice, and how disciplined you are to completing your training. Every realtime writing concept you incorporate into your writing improves the translation, reduces the amount of time it takes to edit a transcript, and provides you more time to practice. It’s a win-win situation. However, you must take the first step to begin your journey.
Linda Bland, RMR, CPE, is the owner of Court Reporting and Captioning at Home, SSD Enterprises, LLC, Fla. She can be reached at LindaB@courtreportingathome.com.
KDLT NEWS SOUTH DAKOTA
It’s not a keyboard we’re used to seeing.
There’s no letters or numbers.
“We’re running the vowel sounds long and short by these four keys right here and this key is the number bar,” explains Beck.
But for court reporters, this machine is their best friend.
It allows them to type up to 260 words per minute.
The average person can only type up to 50 words per minute on a regular keyboard.
However, there aren’t as many people learning how to use this form of short hand as there used to be.
We definitely have a shortage in the state of South Dakota,” says Second Judicial Circuit official court reporter Jena Skorczewski.
According to the National Court Reporter’s Association, there were 106 court reporting schools in 1996.
In 2016 that number is down to 32.
“We really need to get that younger generation in working as court reporters and think about this now in high school, even in middle school and when they hit that college level,” says Skorczewski.
Because of the shortage many states and counties have switched over to video recording.
However, Chief Justice David Gilbertson of the South Dakota Supreme Court says this position is too important to make the switch.
He says he’s seen too many mistakes happen with video recording.
“In our sister state in North Dakota, they had a murder trial and they couldn’t get a court reporter so they used a machine,” says Chief Justice Gilbertson. “At the end of the trial when they needed a copy for the appeal, there was an 18 minute gap in the recording, they had no way to tell what was said in that crucial 18 minutes and therefore the court was forced to re-try the whole case.”
“Technology in recording, they don’t have the live person there that can hear if a cough covered up a very important word, which could cause a mistrial,” adds Skorczewski.
South Dakota does not have a school that offers a program in court reporting right now.
The closest schools that do are found in Des Moines, Iowa, Anoka Minnesota and Hobart, Indiana.
Skorczewski frequently visits these schools during job fairs, to try to convince graduates to come work here.
STATE-WIDE COURT REPORTER SHORTAGE COULD SOON AFFECT RIO GRANDE VALLEY
A shortage of court reporters across the state could make it difficult for Rio Grande Valley courts to fill these positions in the near future.
“It’s physically difficult, because you sit there all day with your fingers working. It’s also hard to keep up with what everyone is saying. A lot of the times the court reporter absolutely rules in the courtroom,” said Judge Mario Ramirez of the 332nd District Court.
These court reporters play a vital role in America’s judicial process.
“The citizens’ rights are at stake or in jeopardy. Everything has to be done according to the law. What we do when we write everything is that, everybody’s conduct is subject to review, the judge’s conduct, the attorney’s conduct,” said Hidalgo County 332nd District Court Reporter Regina Vasquez.
Vasquez has been in the profession for 16 years and said that although the pay is great, there could be a couple of reasons for the current shortage.
“We don’t have a school that provides this curriculum. We have to go to Corpus or San Antonio or Houston or Dallas and a lot of the times the reporters are staying up there,” Vasquez said.
To become a reporter, students must pass a three-part test where they are required to write at 225 words a minute at a 95 percent accuracy rate.
“A shortage is something that will affect us all in the future,” Ramirez said.
Court reporters aren’t only in the courtroom, they also transcribe school classes for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. There’s also a growing need for stenographers to type closed captioning on televisions nationwide.
During the time I was learning theory I was also following a lot of motivational figures on my social media apps and reading the book “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill, which also added to my determination to keep at it. All I really got from these motivational figures and the book though, was pretty much learning how to change my mindset from a neutral mindset to fully controlled positive mindset. In the neutral mindset I affected by both negative and positive thoughts and more often than not the negative thoughts would overcome the positive, especially when I’m doing something for 8-10 hours and things weren’t catching on. So in the neutral mindset I would begin to stress out and become discouraged because I would constantly be thinking to myself that I wasn’t getting it, this is boring, this is too hard, I’m hungry (when I really wasn’t), and more negative thoughts. But after learning the power of a positive mindset, I just replaced all of those negative thoughts with positive encouraging thoughts and time would fly right by as I would learn a new lesson in a matter of a day or two.
“It [self motivation] sounds simple, but I feel like that’s all a person really needs to succeed with this program. …after learning the power of a positive mindset, I just replaced all of those negative thoughts with positive encouraging thoughts and time would fly right by as I would learn a new lesson in a matter of a day or two.
Congratulations Bobby, Completed Theory in slightly over 5 weeks!
Thanks to your program, I can see the focus, interest, and sense of purpose my daughter has developed in her studies. Before she was introduced to CRAH she was attending a school at which her lessons were seemingly taught by “professional readers” rather than instructors, in spite of the fact that the instructors were referenced as professional “Court Reporters”.
The classes progressed to new theory without reinforcing lessons already taught; while at the same time, extraneous classes were mandated that were peripheral to this field, but nevertheless she had to sit through, and as she phrased it- she felt as though she was “taking up space”. The school required purchase of textbooks that it marketed in its own name, and each term required hundreds of dollars in textbooks that could not be bought second hand since no major store carried them. Finally, unbeknownst to us, her financial aid package was used to subsidize her first 5 credits which created a false sense of security that we could financially handle the remainder of the year before the next trimester. The majority of her peers were having their expenses subsidized through the government; this included not only tuition, but books, software, machine, and living stipend. Those of us who were deemed capable of paying, were left handling the major expenses on our own. Finally, I later learned that the completion rate at this school for this program was only 30%.
My daughter is now progressing beautifully through your program. There are times she repeats chapters until she has mastered the concepts, but because the lessons are so well structured, with each dictation, she sees continual improvement. This reinforcement motivates her to work further; and has increased her self-esteem and the way she perceives herself as a student- and as a person.
She mentioned, for the first time, that she now wants to supplement her studies with university courses in which she can further her academic progress in learning more about the government and how our system of law operates. (I could never so much as get her to listen to the news.)
I’m beginning to sound too much like a political spokesperson, but please believe I am simply a mother; a former teacher, who has always wanted to help my child excel but has never found the right vehicle in which to ensure this. Two years ago I would have given all that I owned to be able to say this with the sincerity with which I am now writing.
Mildred F (New York State)
Thank you for the materials that you sent for the WKT test. It was very helpful. I passed the WKT test and I did it because of the information you sent. I was studying previously with no way of knowing how or what to study for. When you sent the download I began studying and was able to pass the test. I had studied other material as well, but your book provided the knowledge required to pass the test. I would advise any aspiring reporter or reporter to consider CRAH. I wish I had this information a long time ago!
Court Reporting and Captioning at Home is now presented on a new, revolutionary, multimedia training platform containing hundreds of hours of audio and video dictation, and exclusive studio-produced, animated graphic video tutorials…a milestone in realtime education… The multimedia platform, along with the animated graphic tutorials, provides our students the advantage of training faster and easier in a realistic time frame and at an affordable cost.
CRAH students are licensed for life when they purchase the CRAH program, and only licensed CRAH students have lifetime access to all of our superior, state-of-the-art training materials, CAT-software updates, daily support from credentialed court reporters, captioners, and CART providers as well as internship and job placement services.
Because we want our students to have the latest in realtime writing technology, we are proud to include in our program, at a greatly reduced cost to our students, the new BLAZE realtime writer with flip-up, touch screen technology by ProCAT. Scroll up or down, read back, or search with a swipe of your finger, just like an iPhone/iPad. The Blaze also features automatic and user- defined keyboard adjustment. The Blaze sets the standard in advanced realtime writer technology!
Court Reporting and Captioning at Home is the leader in realtime education, and we will continually strive to provide our licensed students with the latest in realtime technology to ensure they continue to be the best realtime court reporters, closed captioners, and CART Providers in the industry.
Linda Bland RMR, RPR, CSR, CPE, President of Court Reporting and Captioning at Home
“The new graphic videos you guys have are so amazing! It takes the program to a whole new level…so great!”
Kimmy Pruitt, CRAH Graduate and Florida FPR
It is so nice, and really appreciated, that you (support dept.) take the time to give such rich responses. It is very supportive, especially when you’re going it alone in your little home office, and taking the long route to competence.
Thank you so much for the words of encouragement. You don’t understand how much that means to me and how far that goes. I’m so glad I’m doing your program. I really love the online platform! This is attainalble!!!!!!!!!
Thank you once again. You really are outstanding!
Thanks very much for the instructions, and please thank Linda for inviting me to view the [New Student Platform] web tutorials. Everyone must be very excited with the results of the videos, because they are exceptionally presented.
The instructions you provided were clear and easy to follow. The Google Chrome download and login went smoothly. The course screen was laid out well, showing the current and completed courses. I liked the ability to click on the course name and view my progress through the individual lessons and then exit the course segment to see the summary and the percentages of completion. The video quality was wonderful viewed in HD or otherwise. And, of course, it was fantastic to see Linda in the videos. Having listened to her voice in the lesson dictations, it was great to have that connection to the videos, making you feel that you are right in the classroom.
In the Introduction, the 4 EZ steps recap helps to clarify what the student needs to do in each lesson. I really liked the detail shown in the proper posture and machine height demonstration, and it went through the steps at a good pace. I can remember how nervous I was when my machine arrived, and it helps to see that visual and to have someone walk you through the correct set-up.
I think my favorite part of the lesson videos is having the key on the keyboard graphic highlighted in a color – blue, green, etc. at the same time as the keyboard key is depressed by the finger. That’s a great feature!
Everything looks so great that there isn’t much to suggest.
The expanded Finger Spelling Alphabet Chart for Lesson 19 is a great addition, and thanks for the attachment. I especially liked hearing additional comments from Linda in some of the videos – for example, her preference for a specific style of a contraction outline in Lesson 18 and the tip on how the CAT software will help with the dollar sign outline in Lesson 20. The best part, though, are the words of encouragement in the videos. They are so wonderful to hear and are just exactly what a student needs.
I thank my lucky stars that I’ve chosen such a great school! “
Congratulations to Leigh Ann D. who passed the RPR while pregnant with her third child! Leigh Ann is working as a freelance court reporter for two court reporting firms, one of which is co-owned by a former Court Reporting and Captioning at Home graduate!
Congratulations to Susan K. for passing the Registered Professional Reporter (RPR) WKT EXAM! Susan is still in training and on her final speed level. Great job, Susan!
Congratulations to Helen S. for passing the Registered Professional Reporter (RPR) WKT Exam! Proud of you, Helen!
Congratulations to CRAH graduate Chris R. who recently passed the National Court Reporters Association Registered Professional Reporter (RPR) Exam! Great job Chris! Chris completed theory in four months while still in high school, and then completed his 225’s. At 18 years old he went from being a court reporting student to a professional court reporter. What an accomplishment! Chris is now employed by a top court reporting firm in Virginia.
Congratulations to Court Reporting and Captioning at Home Graduate Stacy M. After completing her internship, Stacy was offered employment by several large firms, but has chosen to work as an independent contractor, accepting assignments from at least four different firms, and building her own freelance business! Stacy we are so proud of you! You can read Stacy’s complete story on our home page.
Congratulations to CRAH Graduate Kathy S. who passed her Registered Professional Reporter (RPR) examination in her first attempt, and she is also an Illinois Certified Shorthand Reporter (CSR). She is currently employed with one of the largest court reporting firms in Chicago.
Congratulations to CRAH graduate Kimmy B.! Kimmy passed the Florida Professional Reporter (FPR) examination and is working as a professional court reporter with a major firm in the Tampa area.
CRAH graduate Jill M. not only passed the National Court Reporters Association’s Registered Professional Reporter (RPR) examination AND the Texas Certified Shorthand Reporter (CSR) examination, but she has now joined the elite group of National Court Reporters Association Registered Merit Reporters (RMR’s)! Congratulations, Jill!
Congratulations to CRAH Graduate Lisa T. who recently completed her training for CART Providing! She interned for a few weeks and was employed immediately. “Thank you so much for her. She is amazing and so easy to work with,” says her employer. See Lisa’s testimonial on our home page.
Congratulations to Pearl S. who just completed her theory in 4-5 months! Pearl has been declared legally blind, although she has some limited vision, and she has completed theory in 4-5 months. What a tremendous accomplishment! Now it’s on to speed building for Pearl whose goal is to provide CART services for hearing impaired students. We are so proud of you Pearl!
Congratulations to CRAH Graduate Dominique D. who passed the Literary, Jury Charge, and Written Knowledge portions of the National Court Reporters Association Registered Professional Reporter (RPR) Exam! Dominique started the CRAH program while still in high school. This amazing student completed her skills or speed building portion in just 7 months! See more about Dominique in the section below.
Congratulations to CRAH Graduate Amy K. who passed the National Court Reporters Association Registered Professional Reporter (RPR) Exam! Fantastic, Amy! We knew you could do it! Amy was already a Mississippi CSR, but had the desire to continue to improve her skills. She partners with another reporter in her own freelance business and is now an excellent realtime writer, holding both the CSR and RPR credential! What’s next? Amy is now sitting for the RMR examination! Good luck Amy.
Congratulations Evelyn Z. Evelyn completed the Court Reporting and Captioning at Home program and was immediately offered a position with the closed captioning company that was her “top choice for employment!” One of Evelyn’s first captioning assignments was the President’s State of the Union Address for a New York television station! Fantastic! Again, congratulations Evelyn on your accomplishments.
Congratulations to Court Reporting and Captioning at Home Graduate Marcie C. who has completed her training and is now a Telephone Captioner writing business calls, personal calls, and conference calls for the deaf. “The first time I saw my writing in realtime, I actually had tears in my eyes,” Marcie writes! Marcie is “doing exactly what I prayed for 14 years ago.” We are excited and proud for you Marcie.
Congratulations to CRAH Graduate Eve T. who completed her training and is working as an Official Court Reporter. She recently set her goal to pass the National Court Reporters Association WKT, and with Court Reporting and Captioning at Home’s help, passed it on her first attempt! Read Eve’s compelling story regarding how she completed her training with CRAH on our home page. Eve’s next goal…passing the RPR! Congratulations Eve on all you have accomplished!
Congratulations to Court Reporting and Captioning at Home Graduate Karen F. who has just entered into a contract with the New Levis Stadium in San Francisco to caption all events, including her usual 49ers games! Her captions appear on 2700 TV screens! Fantastic, Karen! More recently Karen Stadium Captioned the 2016 Super Bowl!! Wow, congratulations again Karen. Read more about Karen on our home page.