Feedback from Jo-Anne, parent/educator, Ontario

You asked for some feedback.  Here are a few observations:

It’s one thing to accept the challenges of dyslexia in general.  It’s another to have to sit in math class with your hand up all the time – not because you can’t do math- but because you are unsure of the phrasing of the questions.  For our son, waiting for help was like a constant reminder of his helplessness and disability.  Now that he uses the c-pen, he can work independently and if he does need the teacher in math class, it will be for math – just like everyone else in the room.

We have a few children who badly need a quiet place to work.  But without the ability to read well, these students cannot ever be sent out of the teacher’s eye.  Now that we have c-pens, they can leave the room or go to the library… and there will be no excuse not to get their work done.

You’d think students would be hesitant to publicly use the c-pen?  Not in our experience.  In younger grades, peers go home asking their parents to get them one – it’s techy and cool.  In older grades, there is no way to hide your struggles.  We’ve found the c-pen to be embraced by older students as something they can use to help them be more independent.

Do parents worry the c-pen will become addictive and keep students from learning to read?  From our experience, the c-pen is one of the stepping stones to reading.  Once a child experiences the joys of ‘knowing what something says’ they become more open to trying to read.  The c-pen enables persistence to pay off for the child who is trying to make sense of the printed word.

Formerly, challenged high school students taking the grade 10 literacy test would all need scribes.  This year a few students opted for the c-pen instead and took the test “like every one else”.

At a recent teacher’s conference, we took our pen to our lunch sharing session.  In no time people around the table were whisking it off to show colleagues around the room what it does.  I’m sure the c-pen will continue to develop, but alreadyit offers a good solution to a wide population in a number of settings.

The C-Pen Reader Packs A Lot of Features in a Small Package

When I came across the C-Pen Reader at the FETC conference this past year, I knew that I had to request a review unit to test it out. After contacting the company, they approved my request and C-Pen Reader provided me a C-Pen Reader for the review. The opinions reflected in this blog are my own. I have been in the field of assistive technology for over 25 years and over these years have looked at a number of portable hand held reading solutions that promised to make the reading process easy and quick from scanning to reading text. 

The first time you pick up the C-Pen Reader you will be amazed by it size and weight (1.7 oz.) and a bright OLED 256 x 64 display. The C-Pen Reader packs a lot of technology into a rather small package making it easy to pack in your backpack or brief case. The C-Pen Reader comes with a Quick Start Guide which gets you up and running quickly. In the box you will find the C-Pen, a USB to Micro USB cable (for charging and transfring files), ear buds, and a protective carrying case. The C-Pen Reader was already charged right out of the box and so I jumped in and turned it on. Pressing the Power button started up the C-Pen Reader and now I was ready to scan some text. Gliding the C-Pen Reader across a line of text, you will begin to experience just how fast the text is scanned into the device. Within seconds the line of text was being read with highlighting by the C-Pen Reader using a high quality American English text to speech engine. Using the navigation buttons-students could go back and have the text re-read as they see fit. There are lots of ways to customize the reading experience by jumping into the Menu system to control the speed (Slow, Medium, & Fast) and volume. The C-Pen Reader has an 3.5 mm audio jack which enables students to plug in their ear buds so that they can use the C-Pen Reader in a classroom, discreetly. One C-Pen Reader of the problems that I often found using handheld scanning pens was that the scanning algorithms and the optical character recognition engines were rather poor which often resulted in devices speaking gibberish. This was not the case with the C-Pen Reader-the scanning was fast and accurate making it a pleasant reading experience. As long as you have a steady hand you will find the accuracy to be excellent. The C-Pen Reader can be set up for Right or Left handed scanning making it easier to customize the scanning direction resulting in a better experience. The C-Pen Reader also has a built-in dictionary (Collins 10th Edition) support allowing students to scan and look up words they are unfamiliar with. 

 

The C-Pen Reader has a number of other features that allow students to use the device as a voice recorder for creating voice notes in a MP3 file format that can be listened to and managed on the scanning pen. The C-Pen Reader comes with 1 GB of storage so there is plenty of room to store audio and voice notes. This feature can come in handy for students who need to record their ideas or lectures and then transfer them to their computer. When the C-Pen Reader is plugged into a Mac or PC it mounts as a drive, making it easy to transfer audio and text files. 

Students may also find using the C-Pen Reader useful as a means to scan text from articles and books directly into a word processor. By plugging the C-Pen Reader into a computer, you can put it into a keyboard mode which inputs any text you scan directly to the application that is open. Students will find this a great feature when they need to do research or to place the text into a word processor with Text-To-Speech capabilities. Teachers can also use this feature to pre-scan text into a File on the C-Pen Reader device that the student can open when they need access to the text in the classroom.

The C-Pen Reader packs a lot of features into a small package that students will find easy to navigate. For students that have been diagnosed with dyslexia or a reading disability the C-Pen Reader offers a great portable reading solution. The C-Pen Reader offers students a way to access text in a small discreet package that can be easily used in the classroom. I would see this an ideal solution for students who need to access tests, worksheets, and short reading passages. The C-Pen Reader gives students the opportunity to access text independently in the classroom with a light and powerful tool. In future releases I would like to be able to change the size of the font that is displayed on the C-Pen Reader and for classroom use it wold be great if teachers could manage a set of these devices that would enable them to easily pre-load text into a classrooms set of C-Pen Readers.

By Brian Friedlander

Source:

http://assistivetek.blogspot.co.uk/

 

Jack Liu, SPS AT Specialist, Somerville MA

Somerville Public Schools (SPS) in Massachusetts, USA, currently serves over 1000 students with special needs across its ten schools grades K-12. Many of our students with special needs include learners with reading and specific learning disabilities, which affect their access to instructional texts. Our district currently employs several assistive technology (AT) tools and devices to accommodate these learning challenges.

When I saw the C-Pen in action at ATIA, I knew it would be an amazing fit for some of our struggling readers who have extensive difficulty decoding words but no problem comprehending text read to them by another person. While there are many alternative options of AT to provide optical character recognition (OCR) scanning and text-to-speech (TTS), some of our learners needed something simpler to use, lighter weight, easier to access, doesn’t necessarily take away their opportunity to learn reading, and something that would provide immediate audio feedback. The C-Pen Reader looks like a highlighter marker and doesn’t stand out as much as a tablet or laptop computer. Its headset also provides a discrete means for the students to listen to the audio feedback without distracting other students during class lectures and independent reading time. The C-Pen Reader was additionally helpful for one of our students who is enrolled in a bilingual classroom program as it can scan and read aloud multiple languages. As versatile and user friendly as the C-Pen is, we also recognize that it is not a cure-all, and each learner should be exposed to multiple means of representation and engagement according to the principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL).

For this pilot trial, I identified two school teams that each serviced one struggling reader between two SPS grade K-8 schools. One student participant was part of a bilingual school program and struggled with reading both English and in his mother tongue. The student participants did not have any visual impairments or physical limitations that would inhibit their ability to track sentences during reading and restrict their ability to hold a writing utensil. Before the trial started, I introduced the C-Pen Reader and Exam Reader pen to each team and trained them on how to utilize it in the classroom environment. The teachers were responsible for identifying incidental opportunities across the school day to observe the students using the C-Pens and collecting data on student usage. The student participants were encouraged to use the C-Pens across the school day whether they were being observed or not, whenever applicable, to increase their familiarity with the smartpen.

Data collection was divided into three phases, which included a “No AT Baseline” phase, “C-Pen Familiarizing” phase, and “C-Pen Reading Comprehension Scoring” phase. Data in the first phase was mostly collected prior to the C-Pen trial during each student’s initial AT evaluation period to demonstrate what they were capable of without the use of any assistive technology. The second phase measured whether the students were able to complete a reading task with the C-Pen Reader and how independent they were with using the smartpen. Once the students demonstrated relative familiarity with the C-Pen Reader, they moved onto the third phase to measure independence rate, reading task completion rate, and reading comprehension scoring for each task (or, data point).

The overall conclusion is that both student participants were able to develop independence to successfully use the C-Pen Reader to scan and read class material. Each student participant was able to demonstrate positive growth towards meeting an IEP benchmark objective on accessing the reading curriculum. By the third phase, each student was able to
maintain a 100% independence rate and task completion rate, with gradually improving scores in reading comprehension. The data shows that the C-Pen is an appropriate AT device to support both student participants’ access to instructional reading materials and learning process.

Here are some comments made by the teachers who either worked directly with the student participants on using the C-Pen or have seen the positive changes in their general motivation to learn and become active participants in school:

“(Student) seems more interested in participating more actively when working independently.”
- ELA Teacher

“(ELA Teacher) showed me the electronic highlighter for reading that (Student) is trying out when I came to pick him up for OT today. The excitement on his face was so wonderful to see. His enthusiasm carried over to our session; he was so focused and seemed to have so much more energy for tasks he usually dreads… When I praised him, he kept saying things like, “I’m getting better with everything- with reading, with jumping, writing… everything!”
- OT Teacher

During Ciencias class, he told me, “(The C-Pen) was there when I needed it!”
- Science Teacher

“He likes it! He is trying it with single words (ounce, pound), sentences and paragraphs and is answering questions.”
- Resource Room Teacher

“He was proud that he could find the words in sentences that needed correction.”
- Resource Room Teacher

“(Student) enjoys using the pen. It has given him access, and a sense of control and confidence in developing his reading ability.”
- Resource Room Teacher

Ms.Otto, Special Education Teacher from Chambers County Schools, Valley, AL

Ms.Otto, Special Education Teacher provided the following feedback, Feb 2017

Thank you so much for the trial use of the Reader Pen.

The Reader Pen was a very helpful tool for a student on my case load who has very low reading skills.

This student has assistive technology services in their IEP that states that textbooks will be provided through alternate read aloud versions (CD, online, etc.). This sounds good in the best-case scenario but in reality, some of the books are old and do not have read aloud versions. There also goes for many classroom, homework, and assessment documents that do not have read aloud versions. Without available technology at hand the general education and special education teachers must provide these services via other means such as reading to the student, providing a peer helper to read, or make recordings. This also adds the loss of instructional time element involved in developing these services.

I have been working with this student in the Resource Room to get caught up on history assignments (there is a lot of it) and I have to read everything in order to assure understanding and comprehension of material; often stopping to define unfamiliar words or to repeat text. If I need to assist other students, then the work for this student stops until I return because this student cannot complete the assignment without auditory assistance. The performance in the general education classroom also mirrors this scenario thus resulting in a significant negative impact on his academic performance.

When the Reader Pen was brought to me to try with a student I immediately knew who needed it the most. I introduced the Reader Pen to this student and went over the package directions to assure proper use.

After a few minutes of practice time the student was ready to begin the assignment.

Using the headphone jack, the student used the pen to scan text in the textbook and worksheet, listen to the playback, and was able to answer the questions independently. This was the first time this student had actually given me a solid answer to a question and the first time the work was completed without assistance.

The following day the student returned to my room requesting to use the pen and went straight to work without the need to be instructed.

I thought the pen was an absolutely wonderful way to complete work independently. It is small and inconspicuous which reduces negative attention and with using the headphones reduces student generated distractions for other students.

No matter what text media is presented the Reader Pen would be a tool the student could use for any assignment especially when given assignments that do not have auditory capabilities. The Reader Pen allows this student will be able to function independently which significantly levels the learning field.

OT's with Apps & Technology Review

The C-Pen Reader Pen is a new scanning pen developed by Scanning Pens LTD now available in the US. A recent purchase of the pen found it easy to use, fast and accurate. Trial on a variety of font sizes from dense 10 point textbook print to newspaper ads to worksheet print at 12-15 point found it accurate with all print trial. A light turns on when scanning assisting with guiding the user with text being scanned. Placement for starting and stopping a scan captured all of the print without missed words or letters. Only when I tried to scan very fast with less control did inaccuracies result. I was also able to scan line after line quite quickly, resulting in it reading one line at a time in succession. Controls on the pen also allows the user to move the cursor to prior lines of text to review and use text to speech to read additional lines of scanned text.

The C-Pen Reader Pen comes with a micro USB charging cord, earbuds and a case. It is small, making it easily portable for use in a variety of environments. Although targeted for individuals with sight, it can be used on text that has been highlighted (worked on yellow, pink and orange highlighted text accurately using highlighting pens) by individuals with low vision.

My initial trials found this pen to be highly accurate scanning and reading medical (OT textbook) and news correctly with text to speech output. Fast and easy to use, I would again consider recommending use of this new model C-Pen Reading pen for spot reading for individuals with decoding challenges.

PAT ENRIGHT, LEARNING SUPPORT TEACHER/PRINCIPAL FROM OOLA NATIONAL SCHOOL

Completed by Pat Enright

Learning Support Teacher 2016/2017 -  Supporting Jack who has severe Dyslexia and other cognitive processing difficulties.

Our school is located in a village about 30 km from Limerick City. It is a Primary School in a rural setting with mixed enrolment of about 100 pupils ranging in age from 4 to 12. Yrs.

We were delighted to get the Reader Pen in June as it helped Jack with end of year assessments when he became familiar with its use. It enabled Jack to understand what text the assessment presented for answering.

Once Jack became familiar with the C Pen his confidence grew as he was enabled to hear the question read back to him by the C pen. His esteem heightened as this was a new step in his independent answering. Without the device, Jack would not have been able to read the text in the questions on his own.

The pen was easy to use once charged with simple menus for ease of operation. The protection case is a great storage facility as is the whole packaging box to store the charging device. The female voice is clear and concise but the text has to be accurately scanned for best results. Size wise it is good for a pupil’s hand but a tad too small if operated by an adult. It is light in weight which again is advantageous for a pupil.

Jack uses the C pen mainly to read and decipher difficult text. His third week back at school and he has begun to the Dictionary facility. A big advantage is the volume control which can be reduced if he is doing some independent work in a group situation.

Less teacher contact time has resulted as Jack manages more on his own to work independently. As he faces his final year in Primary School he is facing more word problems in Maths and I’m sure this will benefit him greatly in his understanding of the problems.

The C pen has been of benefit in the school office as paragraphs of text do not have to be cut and pasted and copied to reduce the amount of text. Now Jack uses the pen to read the marked paragraphs with the salient points.

Other pupils are keen to use the C pen as they see Jack working independently and they are only too eager to use the device to help with their Literacy issues.

I consider the C pen to be an innovative device with great facilities and easy to use. So far it has helped mainly Jack and also some other learners to become independent and so open up the great world of learning to them.

It is a wonderful learning tool with many pupils eager to use it to assist with Literacy and Numeracy.

Heather Minton, Head of Learning Support from Beau Soleil, Switzerland


Beau Soleil is an International boarding school situated in the Swiss Alps. The school has a French section and the students are working towards the French Baccalaureate (lessons taught in French) and an International Section in which the students are working towards IGCSE and International Baccalaureate exams (lessons taught in English). The age range is from 12 to 18 years old and there are 240 students in the school, the majority of whom are boarders. The school attracts mainly attracts students whose mother tongue is not English.

I first saw Reader Pens at the ECIS conference in Nice where I was given a demonstration of the pen. My initial reaction was how the students would be able to use it discretely in class and also its use in exam situations.

We ordered a number of pens over the year after trialling a couple. Students were very positive about the pens and found them very easy to use. Initially I found them a bit fiddly, trying to move my way around the different options, but the students soon showed me what to do! One student was so delighted with the pen that he purchased his own.

One feature I found very useful was that I was able to go back and look at which words the students had ‘read’ using the pen. I was then able to use these words to practise their reading at another time.

We used one of the reader pens for an IGCSE maths exam in place of a human reader. It saved us time and money in that we did not have to use a member of staff to sit with the student to read the occasional word that came up. We are planning to use the pens more frequently in exam situations this year and are hoping that the IB board will recognise them so we can use them for the IB exams [The C-Pen Exam Reader is now approved for use in IB exams, please contact us for more information if required]. This would have a big impact on our staffing. As the exam pens are orange they are easily recognised in exam situations.

Students were allocated a pen and asked to sign a paper to say what condition it was in and that they would pay to replace it if they broke it. In fact, the pens were returned at the end of the year in excellent condition.

Staff have found the pens to be useful and do not disrupt the class. Students like to use them when doing independent study when there is no one around to help them.

An improvement for me would be to do similar pens in French and Spanish [The C-Pen Exam Reader now (Sept 2016) supports English, French, Italian, Spanish & German, The C-Pen Reader currently (Sept 2016) supports English & Spanish.].

I would definitely recommend reader pens to other colleagues.

Gillian Sams, Head of Learning Support (Senior School) from Tanglin Trust School, Singapore provided the following feedback about the C-Pen Exam Reader & C-Pen Reader:

Describe your school:

TTS has more than 90 years’ experience of providing British based education to the international community in Singapore, we provide a unique learning environment for children from Nursery right through to Sixth Form (3-18 years).

Did you have the opportunity to trial the pen before purchase?

Yes, we trialled the C610E Exam Reader and C610R Reader Pen scanner with students from Y7-13 before purchasing some exam pens.

If you did trial the pen what was the main reason for going ahead with an order?

The C610E Exam Reader pen was superior to another model of exam pen that we trialled.

Have the students expressed any comments or thoughts on the Exam Reader/Reader?

The reading pens have been a big hit with our dyslexic students. They love the discrete nature of them and the increased independence that they offer.

Within the classroom environment have teaching and support staff noticed any positive outcomes for the students?

Teachers and learning support assistants have been very enthusiastic about the introduction of the reading pens. They like the fact that the students can use headphones and work independently.

In what capacity is the pen mainly being used for?

The pens are being used to access text in class. They are also being used for internal tests in KS3. Next year, we intend to use the reading pens for mock examinations and if they are successful, where permissible, for external examinations.

How would you describe your students’ emotional well-being and independence in relation to the Exam Reader/Reader pen?

For students who have specific difficulties decoding text, the exam pens have been invaluable in raising their self-esteem, as the pens have allowed them to understand the subject content independently. They have not been useful for those students who do not understand the meaning of the written word.

Has the pen had any direct business/financial impacts on the school? I.E. staffing, time management etc?

The reading pens have made the logistics of staffing internal tests easier. Before the introduction of the reading pens, support staff were pulled out of class to act as readers.

Would you recommend the pen to other colleagues?

Yes, I already have! The junior school learning support team is conducting its own trial.

Any other comments you would like to add?

One of our sixth formers has persuaded her parents to buy her a pen. She feels that it will be an invaluable tool for university!