assistive tech

Gerry Kennedy IT Consultancy - Review of Readerpen

Reading is difficult for many students. Only 61% of Australian students achieve the National Proficiency Standard in reading literacy. Also, 15-20% of Australia’s population has a language-based learning disability. Over 2 million Australians have dyslexia. A shocking 44% of adults lack the literacy skills required to cope with the demands of modern life and handle the electronic device proliferation that comes with it. How do we change these statistics? What can be done to help people participate in the community with confidence, dignity, self-reliance, and self-respect? How do we get them more involved in education, training, and the workplace?

 

The support for students exist in most schools, starting with early intervention, reading schemes, the teaching of phonics, promotion of reading and software to help them cope with the complexities of the English language. To name but a few options, software such as Word Shark 5, Clicker 7 ANZ  Earobics, and The Reading Doctor, are worthwhile programs for younger students. There is a significant number of apps for iOS and Android devices and Smartphones – ranging from mature, well designed and pedagogically based software, to simple apps – each varying worth and quality.

C-Pen ReaderPen

 The C-Pen ReaderPen is a technological breakthrough for anyone learning English, Spanish, or French. It is an enabling and empowering inclusive device for people who suffer from reading difficulties such as dyslexia. The C-Pen ReaderPen is a portable, pocket-sized device that reads text aloud with an English, Spanish, or French human-like digital voice. It increases reading fluency and promotes reading as an enjoyable and achievable pastime.

The internal dictionaries put the power of the Collins English Dictionary (30th Anniversary Edition Tenth edition) or Oxford French and Spanish Dictionaries in users’ hands. The new version boasts the inclusion of the Oxford Primary Dictionary, an excellent addition to an already impressive AT device. It is a matter of charging the pen (with a micro USB cable – supplied); then the user turns on the pen; changes any settings to accommodate him or her (if required), and then passes the nib across a word and the ReaderPen instantly displays the definition. It then reads it aloud in a male or female voice (in one of four languages).

Using inbuilt, powerful, and accurate OCR - (Optical Character Recognition) software – the C-Pen ReaderPen or C-Pen Exam Reader can be deployed as a portable scanner for capturing printed text (6.5 points up to 22 point in height), and then uploaded instantly to a PC running MS Windows, MAC OS, or a Chromebook.

The Reading Pen’s features make it an ideal solution to capture essential information quickly and effortlessly for: students, teachers, school support staff, teacher assistants, Speech and Language Pathologists, Occupational Therapists, parents, and professionals to capture essential information quickly and effortlessly. The user scans the text, and it is then ready for adding to a text file; a note taking App, a Word Processor, a spreadsheet, or an MS PowerPoint presentation. The pen is a handy tool, as it is a practical and portable assistive technology solution.

The requirement is a steady hand and the visual ability to ‘track’ the text. A simple solution for a person with a degenerative condition, old age, or debilitating physical condition, is to place a ‘see-through’ plastic ruler beneath the targeted text. The pen can glide above the ruler, and so the user can operate the device independently. It might take some patience and practice, but the outcomes are positive. The C-Pen provides users with a new level of independence, self-reliance, and attainment.


The C-Pen ExamReader

 

The C-Pen Exam Reader Pen is a technological breakthrough for people wishing to read the following: English, Spanish, French, Italian, and German; with more to come. The C-Pen Exam Reader Pen is a portable, pocket-sized device that reads text aloud with a human-like digital voice.

The Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) approved The C-Pen Exam Reader for use in exams. For information on exam boards that allow the use of this device in exams, see www.examreader.com. This means students who have reading difficulties, such as dyslexia, can independently take exams knowing that they can read the questions, helping reveal their potential. No special provisions (apart from the C-Pen Exam Reader) or access arrangements are therefore required; this makes it a great alternative to “human readers”.

The C-Pen models are half the size of other portable pen scanners on the market and, at 50g, are half the weight. They are light, sit in the user’s left or right hand comfortably, and easy to use. Previous models from other competitors were chunky, and felt cumbersome and alien.

As well as promoting independent reading, the C-Pen ReaderPen is:

·       Ideal for students with dyslexia, reading difficulties or those who have ESL (English as a Second Language)

·       Suitable for students studying LOTE (Languages Other Than English)

·       Suitable for hearing words and lines of text read aloud using the pen’s speaker or via a preferred headset

·       Designed to allow students to study and research with their peers, or in exams with headphones plugged into their C-Pen ExamReader

·       Ideal for use in prisons and adolescent training and supervision centres, where a significant population are illiterate or have learning and/or mental health difficulties

·       Available in a class pack of ten

Features of the Pens 

OCR Engine 

The ReaderPen contains a high accuracy OCR (Optical Character Recognition) that enables users to capture, and save quotes, sentences, whole paragraphs, or sections of a document, menu, or recipe – and other text of interest – instantly. Scanned words are sent as a text file format. This plain text format is easily transferred to a computer (MAC OS, Chromebooks, MS Windows, or Linux/Ubuntu).

 It is convenient if the student or researcher requires particular passages of text. It might be a case of capturing quotes from a book, or a novel. Saving passages and paragraphs, or entire pages of content is quick and easy. Users need only use the ReaderPen to scan a word, a few items, or full pages. Formally, users would require a hand-held scanner, desktop scanner, or printer-scanner. Now they have the ReaderPen to perform a secondary task.

 

Text-to-Speech Facilities

People of all ages and abilities can use the ReaderPen to read printed text for them. The ReaderPen features high quality naturally speaking American, Australia, or British English; Spanish, and French voices. Users of all ages can use it to listen to pronunciations, or to help them read with confidence and accuracy. The voices are human quality but have consistent intonation, making them ideal for exams.

This auditory learning capability boosts self-confidence, enhances self-esteem, and improves results in classrooms or training areas. It also aids in comprehension, especially when deploying the dictionary option. The ReaderPen assists in preparing for, and studying for, exams. There is no need for intervention, or for a person performing the difficult role of a “human reader”. Users can improve performance, comprehension and reading acumen from the numerous benefits in using text-to-speech.

A real and sustainable benefit is realised when capturing scanned text and having it read aloud. The ReaderPen voices the content while the user visually follows the text in the book, novel, or user guide. Multi-sensory learning ensures more effective retention of content matter. It is easier than people think.

A few minutes with the ReaderPen and people are convinced. A teacher and trusted colleague in Tasmania – with years of experience teaching in Independent Secondary (High) School English and skils – was dubious, as he had previously used other pen technologies. On using the ReaderPen for the first time, he exclaimed in an email to me, “It’s just magic. It is so much better than I considered. I’ve bought a set of ten!”.

Dictionary 

If a user is not sure about a word, the C-Pen Reader Pen contains four high-quality electronic dictionaries. The user needs only to capture the word and it is defined in the default or user-preference dictionary, then voiced with appropriate meaning. It is an instant experience. Most importantly and critically, the ReaderPen remembers the words that a user has looked up. The C-Pen Reader Pen’s memory keeps the history available for the user. The student, educator, support staff, trainee, or adult user can go back at any time and evaluate progress and performance, then create a list of the new or challenging words that they have defined. These newly defined words potentially create a spelling test or list of words to be studied, learned – or avoided!

The Reader Pen has 8GB memory; with 1GB dedicated as a “pen” or “thumb” USB drive. The C-Pen Exam Reader has no additional memory or link to the Internet, so is safe in exam conditions or in places where it could be compromised; e.g. prisons, or use on security sensitive documents.

 

Voice Memos  

Aside from everything else that the ReaderPen can do, it also features a microphone (and speaker and headphones connector) allowing users to record audio. Thus, a user can create a voice memo. The audio files are saved in the device so they can be retrieved and listened to any time. Users can also upload the audio files to their computer, Notebook, laptop, tablet, Chromebook, MacBook, Mac Air, or other computing device. It is convenient and is the third advantage of the ReaderPen. It saves having to invest in a DAR (Digital Audio Recorder). The text captured, with accompanying ideas, are all stored on the one, discrete small, and lightweight device. In addition, everything is voiced.

 

USB Drive

 Now, a fourth benefit! The Reader also doubles as a USB drive. 1GB user space is available. It is sufficient to store a backup of relevant or critical documents, study notes (e.g. from Sonocent Audio Note Taker or the new NTEhub Note taker), user guides, examinable notes, audio tracks, and other favoured documents and files. The user connects the ReaderPen to a USB port on their MAC, MS Windows, Chromebook, or Linux computer. It appears as a USB drive, and performs as a USB stick does.

Interfaces

The C-Pen ReaderPen uses a standard micro USB connector for charging and connecting to computers, and a standard 3.5 mm connector for favourite headphones, or users can avail themselves of the set included in the box. Users can use bud-style earphones or over-ear models to cancel noise to be able to concentrate on their reading. These are ideal for children who have ASD (Autism) or ADHD. It can be discrete and used in a classroom, library, and study area, pod, or transport system.

 

Compact

 The C-Pen ReaderPen is small, portable and lightweight making it easy to carry with a user anywhere when they are studying, researching, reading for pleasure, swatting for exams; or reading books, or comics late at night in bed, quietly reading their favourite Hunger Game or Harry Potter novel. Adults can catch up on their preferred magazine, journal, work papers, research documents, speech, newspaper, or book; and not disturb their partner.

C-Pen ReaderPen Specifications:

 

•         Screen                                                                                OLED 256*64

•         CPU                                                                                    600MHz

•         Memory                                                                              8GB (OS 3G, User 1GB)

•         USB                                                                                    USB 2.0 High speed / Micro USB

•         Earphone                                                                           3.5mm jack

•         Battery                                                                                1,200mAh

•         Scan Font Size Range                                                    6.5 - 22 pt (about)

•         Electronic Dictionaries                                                    Collin English 30th Anniversary Dictionary10th Edition (156,120 words)

•         Diccionario Oxford Pocket                                             Para estudiantes de ingles 4th edition

•         Oxford Spanish Dictionary                                             4th edition

•         Oxford-Hachette French Dictionary                             4th edition

•         Dictionnaire Oxford                                                         Poche pour apprendre l’anglais

•         Extracted Content                                                            Extracted text saved as a .txt file (i.e. plain text without any formatting)

•         File System                                                                       FAT\FAT32\NTFS

•         Menu Languages                                                             English

•         Certifications                                                                     CE; RoHS; FCC

•         Size                                                                                     Dimensions: 135 x 33 x 19mm; 5.3 x 1.3 x 0.7 inches. Weight: 50g or 1.7 oz

Package Contents:

 

•             C610R ReaderPen (white casing with light blue text display on a black background)

•             Carry Case

•             An Instruction Manual of 29 pages

•             White 3.5 mm ear bud style headphones

•             USB Cable (standard USB to Micro USB connectors

 

 

  1. Warranty:          Products warranted against defects for one year from date of purchase.

  2. Support:            Free support is available.

  3. Trial:                 Scanning Pens Australia offers schools a free 30-day trial.

Additional Information

An obligation free 30-day trial is available to all Australian Schools, Colleges, Universities, and TAFE colleges.

Trials are also available to all libraries, NDIS providers, aged care facilities, and corporate organisations that are considering using the ReadingPen in their training or workplace settings.

Dictionaries

 

•        Collins English Dictionary (30th Anniversary Edition Tenth Edition)

•        Oxford Primary Dictionary (OPD)

•        French Dictionary (Cordial)

•        Spanish Dictionary (Larousse)

 

All dictionaries work by selecting a word in the Pen’s window and clicking on it using the “OK” button. The Oxford Primary Dictionary was added to provide young users and students with a choice of the comprehensive Collins Dictionary or the Concise Oxford Dictionary.

 

The C-Pens will also accommodate adults who are:

•        Learning English

•        Have ESL (English as a Second Language)

•        Prisoners and adolescent offenders - who often have poor literacy and reading skills

•        Apprentices (who frequently have compromised reading skills)

•        People recovering from ABI (Acquired Brain Injury) or strokes

•        Users with degenerative diseases – including MS (Muscular Dystrophy) or mild Dementia

 

New releases for the middle of 2019 include:

 

•        Australian, Scottish, and Irish accents

•        Set Up Wizard

•        Auto Read feature

•        Talking menu (ideal for people with vision loss or visually impaired or more elderly citizens losing their sight) 

 

Every state and Territory Exam Board has evaluated the C-Pen Exam Reader in Australia. It has been approved for use under Special Provisions on a case-by-case basis. These Boards includes:

 

•    Victoria (VCAA)

•    Queensland (QCAA)

•    NSW (NESA)

•    SA & NT (SACE)

•    Tasmania (TASC)

•    ACT (BSSS)

•    Western Australia (SCSA)

 

The Reading Pen currently reads English, French, Spanish, Italian and German, so it is an ideal tool in Secondary Schools in LOTE (Languages Other Than English). In the middle on 2019 Scanning Pens will be adding some additional languages including:

 

·       Swedish

·       Danish

·       Norwegian

·       Dutch

·       Portuguese

·       Chinese

·       Russian – a total of 12 languages to the Exam Reader.

 

Dealers in Australia

 

Contacts

 

Address: Scanning Pens Pty Ltd, c/o SPELD NSW, L1, 52 O’Connell Street, Parramatta, NSW 2150, Australia

Telephone: +61 2 8320 7161
Fax: +44 20 7976 4911

 Live Help: This is located in the bottom right corner on all of their web site pages (if a member of staff is available)

•       Other dealers include Spectronics in Queensland; East-West Online; and all SPELD centres in all states including Queensland SPELD. Velvet Systems and Adaptions Australia and Mac & PC Doctor.

 

Overview

The C-Pen Reader Pen is a portable, hand-held assistive/inclusive technology that helps users with dyslexia or other literacy difficulties, mainly when reading printed hard-copy text. The C-Pen is designed for non-readers and people of all ages with dyslexia and for people who struggle with certain genres of text. Users may include:  

 

·       Young children

·       Students with a learning disability or difficulty

·       Users with dyslexia or other reading difficulties

·       People learning a language (English, French and Spanish – with six new languages to be introduced in mid-2019)

·       Poor or struggling readers of all ages and abilities

·       People with ESL (English as a Second Language) needs

·       LOTE (Languages Other Than English) users who speak or want to learn English, Spanish, or French

·       Prisoners (using the C-Pen Exam Reader)

·       People with ABI (Acquired Brain Injury) or others recovering from a stroke

·       People with degenerative conditions (using a see-through plastic ruler as a guide for the path of the Pen)

·       Tutors and educators and parents assisting students who can’t read or struggle with homework tasks 

 

Many people now rely on portable technologies to read text from news sources, TV channel guides, Wikipedia, social activity sites such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn and online Google Docs, PDF files and game sites. They can have the text read aloud using programs such as free Text-to-Speech programs such as Claro Website Reader and even have graphics or text in photos voiced using programs such as Ghotit Real Writer and Reader.

 

Handy free programs such as MyStudyBar contains two free programs that will voice text from most computer websites (Balabolka and ATbar) as well as writing and creation programs, including Google Docs, MS Word 365, Apache OpenOffice Writer, NeoOffice for MAC OS, Libre Office and PDF documents.

 

Electronic Text

 It is okay if the text is ‘electronic’ and is displayed on a computer, notebook, laptop, tablet, Smartphone, or another portable electronic device. Electronic text is the preferred option for struggling students and trainees. When a school, training college, TAFE, or University provides the text in an industry standard MS Word document format, students and trainees are included. They can convert it into plain text (.txt), PDF (Portable Document Format), ODB (Apache OpenOffice), HTML (Hypertext Markup Language), RTF (Rich Text Format – which can cause files with media in them to be quite large. Files, though, can be opened on all platforms including MS Windows, MAC OS and Linux/Ubuntu programs). The documents can be opened and “saved as” in a format that the user requires or is confident in using. Appropriate text-handling programs such as word processors or different versions are therefore an option.

 

Hard Copy Text

When students and workers receive hard copy documents, flyers, user manuals, instructions, or other hard copy printed media, they can stumble and struggle to read some or all of the text. Even in social situations, adults find difficulty with ballot papers, menus, racing guides, shopping lists, and printed material that they might have to research, memorise, or study.

Using the C-Pen Reader Pen is liberating and stress-free. It is such an elegant and simple device. Used either in a person’s left or right hand, it scans across the text with text ranging from 6.5 - 22 point in size (Note: 72 points is one inch high).

Thus, text can be voiced aloud from novels, books, magazines, user manuals, user guides, menus, pamphlets, council notices, bank statements, brochures, handouts, labels, and other hard copy media and documents. The user can elect to use the earphones provided or rely on the inbuilt speaker on the pen.

 People deal with text every day, whether it is at school, in work training, in the workplace, or even when shopping or going to a restaurant. The portable and lightweight C-Pen Reader Pen overcomes the barrier of not being able to read. It empowers non-readers, struggling readers, or people who have English (or French, or Spanish) as their second language to access text for a whole variety of purposes.

 The independence of finally being able to read instructions, the newspaper, or the words in a poem, or from a magic trick without having to ask another person (wife, husband, partner, teacher, school support person, trainer, sibling, friend, colleague, coach, tutor) for assistance - for the first time!   

 As an adult, it is embarrassing and frustrating not being able to read. The inability to read is uncomfortable, debilitating, and restrictive. Non-readers are compromised and feel the need to create diversions in public to disguise their disability or difficulty in so many ways. This restriction causes people to shy away from social gatherings, to avoid promotion and to disengage with activities where literacy skills are required.

 It is socially acceptable to discretely listen to the text, and pause for definitions of words to be read aloud (from four different user-selectable dictionaries).

The C-Pen Reader Pen and C-Pen Exam Reader provide that level of independence. Users can access printed text at any time and in any lighting conditions. Individual words can be selected, voiced, and defined.

The C-Pen has an integrated Collins English Dictionary [30th Anniversary Tenth Edition] dictionary. There is a 4th Edition Spanish dictionary [Larousse], a French Dictionary [Cordial] built-in and now includes the Oxford Primary Dictionary [OPD]. The Oxford dictionary accommodates younger students or users who require clear definitions, and is an empowering and inclusive addition to this exciting product. This new dictionary assists adults who need more accessible meanings of words.

The C-Pen Reader Pen and C-Pen Exam Reader display text in three lines in bright blue text on a black background. Users can adjust the brightness at any time to suit the user’s environment, visual, or cognitive needs.

 

Features

 

The C-Pen ReaderPen has some features that other pens do not offer. It has a bright clear OLED display using light blue on a black background that provides excellent readability and contrast. It displays in a resolution of 256 x 64 pixels. The small monochrome interface has its own menu.

It is navigated using the physical buttons next to the small screen. The Menu button displays first. It calls up the context menu on the display that is next to the Power On/Off and Back Button, (i.e. that powers the device and, when in a sub-section of the menu, it returns the user to the previous options). Underneath these two buttons, there is a larger round button (the OK switch), surrounded by a circular controller (Up, Down, Left and Right). When the user is in the Dictionary sub-section, they press either the left or right for 1-second to return to the previous scan. It is limited to the recent 100 scans. Also, the C-Pen Reader Pen has a microphone and a speaker, as well as a scan trigger, and a transparent scanning window positioned at the tip of the device.

The interface allows users to choose the Text Reader (the user selects this option to scan the paragraph that they require from their document, newspaper, journal, or study guide). Immediately after the C-Pen model has scanned one line, it will automatically read aloud the text.

The user will automatically see the meaning of a word in the display window when using one of the four in-built Dictionaries, after the user has scanned a word. It provides the option in User Settings for one of four dictionaries. It offers the Collins 10th Edition Dictionary and the Oxford Spanish, English, and a Spanish Dictionary.

Scan to File – the user may elect to either continue scanning in the existing file, or create a new one. After scanning one or more pages, the files can be sent to a computer by using the packaged Micro USB cable. This feature is liberating for people who may have dysgraphia and find writing difficult, painful, or frustrating. “Dysgraphia is a transcription disability, meaning that it is a writing disorder associated with impaired handwriting, orthographic coding, and finger sequencing (the movement of muscles required to write).” Some teachers persist in forcing some students to hand write. Parents have not had their sons or daughters tested for this debilitating condition. Scanning can be most useful in this instance. [Source: Wikipedia]

The recorder is a voice recorder that allows the user to play any previous recordings or music files that they have stored and transferred to the C-Pen Reader Pen (Note: Not available in the C-Pen Exam Reader). The user can also change the Recorder settings to access and select:

 

•        The File Format  

•        The Volume Setting

•        The Loop Mode

•        The Sound Quality

•        The Settings (change between Left or Right Handed use)

•        To adjust the Brightness

•        To change the Time and Date

•        To view the System Information

•        To perform a Software Upgrade

•        To enable the Auto Shut Down option

•        Furthermore, the user can return the C-Pen ReaderPen or ExamReader to the Default Factory Settings

 

After the person has scanned the required text, they can change the Listen Settings, accessed by clicking the Menu option. The user can choose between from the Adding Mode (Append or Replace) or the Reading Settings (Speed and Volume). The C-Pen Reader Pen will struggle with larger fonts than 22 points high, especially if the text is white on coloured background media (the size range is between 6.5 – 22 point). Trial and error will realise its potential and capabilities for the student, especially if they have Meares Irlen Syndrome. Also, the C-Pen cannot read mathematical formulae.

 

Additional Resources

Scanning Pens Articles

A Review of The C-Pen Reader Pen – published in June 2017 (Note: It has more detail in the practical use and descriptions in how to operate the C-Pen so it is still valid to share and read).

 

YouTube Clips

·   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xxHq1pJS0rs

·   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cE13xt0bHeI

·   Videos on the Australian website (Note: scroll down from the top)

·   Other resources include:

·   C-Pen User Guide – a very informative 10 x A4 page PDF document

·   C-Pen 3 User Guide

·   Academic Research

·   C-Pen Reader Pen: A useful aid for students and dyslexics

·   AT for Reading: Reading by Pen

·   Dyslexia Daily – a local resource in Victoria with world-wide contacts and rich content

·   AUSPELD Australia

·   LDA Australia


The User Guide

 

Note: The User Guide is an efficient and useful resource. It helps users who are learning to operate the C-Pens for the first time. It features essential necessary information such as:

 

•        How to hold the pen (left or right handed-users)

•        The location of the settings

•        Tips for whole-school allocation and implementation

•        Common questions and FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

•        Other useful background information

•        How audio feedback promotes literacy

•        The many benefits of Audio as compared to different modes of learning

•        The increased motivation when using a C-Pen ReaderPen by students in studying, research and reading for pleasure


 

Acknowledgements

 

I offer my thanks and gratitude to Scanning Pens Australia for the generous loan of the C-Pen Reader Pen for review purposes with special recognition to David Campbell who is the Head of Australia in Business Development. His email for further information and sales is david@scanningpens.com.

 

The C-Pen ReaderPen comes with a 31-page Reader Pen Quick Start Guide, accessible in English, French, and Spanish. The Guide is available online (which is ideal for vision impaired users who can access it using screen readers including JAWS, Windows Eyes or NVDA. Users of all ages can use text-to-speech programs, add-ins, or apps such as the free Balabolka (included in Call Scotland’s MyStudyBar) or the comprehensive and feature-rich literacy support programs ClaroRead for Windows or Mac, or Ghotit Real Writer and Reader – both available for MS Windows, MAC OS, and Chromebooks.

 

The online User Guide is available to be read online using software such as ATbar or Claro Software apps using various computer platforms such as MS Windows or MAC OS. Many people prefer to use their iPads; iPhones, or Android-based portable devices and Smartphones. The Guide can be voiced in various popular web browsers (Chrome, Firefox and Safari). Texthelp also provides free 30-day trial extensions and add-ons for commonly used web browsers.

 

My Wish List: It would be ideal if the C-Pen models could have Bluetooth connectivity. Deaf students could hear it through the Soundfield system(s) at their schools. The elderly or hard of hearing could listen to the text being read aloud via Bluetooth enabled headphones and earpieces. It would be a huge bonus for so many students with auditory processing difficulties, too. Teachers could ‘play back’ novels and storybooks via the scanning pen feature to the entire class!