Scanning Pens: Encouraging independence - Education Matters Magazine

Scanning Pens: Encouraging independence

Using clever technology, Scanning Pens is helping students with reading difficulties such as dyslexia to read independently and become more engaged in the classroom.

Reading is a part of everyday life for most people, but for those who have reading difficulties such as dyslexia, activities like reading a textbook or the questions on an exam can pose quite a challenge.

Dyslexia is a leading cause of difficulties in reading, writing and spelling. According to the Australian Dyslexia Association, the condition is estimated to affect around 10% of the Australian population.

“And a further 10% have other reading difficulties too,” adds David Campbell, Head of Business Development at Scanning Pens Australia. “For 80 per cent of people, reading doesn’t pose a significant challenge, but for the remaining 20%, reading is an issue. Students who are identified as struggling with reading can fall behind because they often become disengaged, which can have the flow on effect of leading to behavioural issues at school. The ExamReader and ReaderPen by Scanning Pens are aimed fairly and squarely at students who have reading difficulties, including dyslexia.”

Assisted reading technology isn’t new. There are a variety of technologies and programs available to students with reading difficulties that work in the online space, allowing content to be read to them if they are using a computer or tablet. When it comes to the printed word however, options have traditionally been far more limited.
Scanning Pens helped improve this technology in the UK around a decade ago and it is now available to schools around Australia.

“Our pens convert printed text to speech – whether it be a book, magazine or newspaper. There are not a lot of products that focus on the printed word,” says Mr Campbell.

The pocket-sized portable pens are completely self-contained so don’t require any power source or internet connection. The user can simply scan the line of text, and the pen reads it in a human-like digital voice. These pens are capable of reading any standard font, however won’t read handwriting or text on a computer screen.

The ExamReader pen has been stripped of all additional features so that it can be used in an exam without the risk of cheating. “When it comes to exams, if a student has reading difficulties they might be entitled to a human reader. This means they have to sit the exam in a separate room because it can disturb other students. With the ExamReader, they can be in the same room as other students and read and re-read the exam questions at their own pace,” explains Mr Campbell.

He also reveals that the ExamReader pen has been approved for use in exams by the various examination boards across Australia on a case by case basis.

“These pens are another piece of assisted technology that promote inclusive learning among students with reading difficulties; and we think every school should have one in its toolbox.”

The Reader Pen incorporates in-built Collins English and Primary dictionaries, along with the Oxford Spanish and French dictionaries. In addition to assisting those with reading difficulties, it can also be used by anyone learning English, Spanish or French. Pass the nib over a word and the pen can instantly display the definition and read the word out loud. In addition, the ReaderPen features voice recording functionality and storage capabilities, allowing students to capture lines of text and upload it directly to a PC or Mac.

Scanning Pens offers free 30-day trials of both the ExamReader and ReaderPen to schools across Australia.

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