A Great Theory Needs: What StarTran Has
A theory should be self-teaching. The job of a classroom coach is to drill, test, and challenge students on what they have learned from the textbook, to motivate them forward to the next lesson, and help them with individual problems.
There is a supportive "teacher" in every part of the StarTran Theory Program. Since StarTran Basic and Advanced Theory textbooks have clear, complete, and understandable instruction and explanation, instructors don't have to spoon-feed information. If a student has been absent, teachers don't have to take class time reexplaining or reassigning. StarTran audiotapes reiterate many of the important principles, text notes, and tips. StarTran's 800-plus interactive Computer Tutor Lessons are coordinated with nearly every section of Basic and Advanced Theory, and its instant feedback really ensures writing accuracy.
Because StarTran Theory is designed to teach everything necessary to be a realtime writer, many self-motivated students have even launched their own careers from home with StarTran. They've taken to heart that the goal is to learn the skill and the material to become the professional realtime writers they want to be, not just to "get through." They transfer to court reporting schools confident and competent speedbuilding students.
I also believe that important writing skills should not be saved for after theory. Anything and everything will come up in speedbuilding dictation classes. Students need to know how to write it all. If they don't, they will hesitate and drop or they will make up a way to do it that may take time and effort later to change. Students may need to transfer schools before they get vital information. They may have instructors who don't know the same theory or maybe don't know machine shorthand at all. Waiting until after theory to introduce aspects of writing such as brief forms, multistroke words, verbatim punctuation, conflict resolution, and identifying speakers can have disastrous effects on student morale and progress. Nobody wants to drop speed in order to integrate something new into their writing. Saving the "hard" stuff for later only makes it harder.
StarTran students are ready and eager for speedbuilding unencumbered by gaps in their writing knowledge, and they don't take any longer than students with less comprehensive theories.
BRIEFS. StarTran is a very "shorthand" theory with lots of brief forms. Special emphasis is given to writing derivatives of basic briefs, especially if they are unusual in their form or pronunciation, as it is the variations of root words that often cause confusion. Each of the 40 Lessons of StarTran has about an equal number of brief forms which are reinforced in later lessons. StarTran briefs are easier to remember because they conform to the theory principles as much as possible and are introduced in "families" of similar words.
It is well known that some students have an affinity for briefing, and some do better writing out. StarTran gives both types of students a chance to succeed. Starting with Lesson 12, students are encouraged to choose an acceptable alternate outline from the Reference Volume for any briefs they can't relate to.
MULTISTROKE WORDS. A selection of multistroke words are practiced in every lesson starting with Lesson 12. Outline choices, from most telescoped to fully written out, are presented for consideration. Students can write dense literary material by Lesson 32 (of 40).
PUNCTUATION. If punctuation is not inserted at a slow controlled speed, it will not find its way in at a high speed. Starting with basic end punctuation, StarTran students learn to write all punctuation marks as they go through the Lessons, including strokes for capping and compounding, writing all time, money, and other number forms, quotes and dashes. Punctuation rules and proper use in court and depo transcripts are explained with lots of examples and are always correctly shown on practice material. Use of punctuation is reinforced on the StarTran Lesson Tapes through a unique method of soto voce punctuation dictation that really trains learners to automatically correctly insert punctuation marks.
[Samples of dictation on tapes]
PHRASING. One-stroke phrasing is the secret weapon for writing fast. Phrasing is the easiest component of realtime writing to reinforce and learn automatically because every sentence contains these common little words. However, if students have to stop and wonder if this or that phrase "is okay," the purpose of phrasing is defeated. In StarTran a selective and limited number of "Phrase Elements" are combined in just about every way possible throughout the lessons to ensure that students are adept at writing one-stroke phrases. The very few exceptions are singled out for practice as conflicts to be written out in separate strokes.
CONFLICT RESOLUTION. The technique of teaching conflict resolution small groups of homonyms en masse is counterproductive. If the "normal" word and the "exceptions" are associated in the brain by sound, there will always be an extra second needed sort out which is which and which outline goes with what. Of course this is much better than not discussing homonyms and problem words at all. In StarTran there is a Conflict Resolution section at the end of every Lesson which presents nonconforming outlines for conflict words according to context and meaning. These words are reinforced in the practice material throughout the textbooks and tapes. This way students have the double benefit of learning the meanings of words that often cause transcription errors and automatically resolving conflicts in their writing by the time they are finished with theory.
TRANSCRIPT WRITING. It is good for theory students to understand the parts of a trial or deposition and get they're fingers wet identifying speakers, inserting blurbs, setting up witnesses, etc., in the comfortable and controlled atmosphere of theory. StarTran Advanced Theory is devoted to the writing of court and depo proceedings. Students get a taste of what's to come for a more seamless transition to speedbuilding, and they learn the outlines and methods to use that are compatible with their own theory. Every example in the text is appropriately formatted like a real transcript. The Advanced Theory Lesson Tapes employ "different voices" method of dictation for more realistic, more interesting dictation.
PRACTICE? Students don't already know how to practice. Practice, practice, practice! Right. But if you watch how most students do it, they are easily distracted, not checking notes, stopping at every uncertainty, using bad stroking technique -- in other words, not improving their writing and probably reinforcing mistakes. They don't necessarily know how to memorize either or how to be a good students and get the most out of their classes. StarTran educates court reporting students in the art of efficient learning in several different ways:
THE SEVEN STEPS TO SUCCESS. Multimodality learning stimulates the most senses, makes the most connections, and creates the strongest impression on the learning mind. In Lesson 1 StarTran students are given seven explicit steps to follow to assimilate the material in each of the following 39 Lessons. These steps are based on the proven method of preview, reading, memorizing, stroking from paper, stroking from audio, testing, and reviewing. Different centers of the brain are stimulated by each step, focusing on the individual skills that come into play when writing. Following the Seven Steps gives students control of their own practice and relieves teachers of the chore of assigning homework for every Lesson. And the Seven Steps really work.
"PRACTICE HABITS." Reporting students need inspiration and guidance. A short essay at the beginning of each Lesson imparts to students practical tips and information on fingering technique, organization of practice, studentship, testing, transcription, attitude, and much more. With Practice Habits teachers appreciate that they are directly supported and corroborated by another expert source, and students are grateful for the valuable food for thought and action all through Theory and after.
[See Basic Table of Contents for a list of topics]
[See Advanced Table of Contents for a list of topics]
STARTRAN LESSON TAPES: A droning word-for-word reading from a textbook makes a boring tape. Students are encouraged, reminded, and advised by a real court reporting teacher all through the 40 StarTran Lesson Tapes. The variety of delivery, format, and application material in the presentation of each small section of tape is calculated to maximize reinforcement of textbook material so that students don't have to devise their own methods of making it stick.
TESTING. Tests should be designed to be passed, not to be challenges. Success breeds success. StarTran students are "overprepared" for the Test at the end of the Lesson Tape because the previous portion pushes them beyond the comfort zone in spots. If they have mastered the practice portion of the tape, students expect to pass the slightly slower Test. In this way confidence is strengthened and the "habit of failing" doesn't jinx a student's progress.
CAT DICTIONARY. There is no reason students should have to start with square one or "starter" dictionaries when it comes to realtime translation. A highly functional realtime translating dictionary takes many years to develop. With it's free 86,000-entry CAT dictionary, students can walk right into any realtime job directly out of school knowing that their writing will translate nearly one hundred percent.