SPCA|Resources|Education|Higher Education|Case Studies|Georgian College
SPCA|Resources|Education|Higher Education|Case Studies|Georgian College
Reader Pen:Opening Doors for Individuals with Literacy Difficulties By Fernanda Bianconi Learning & Adaptive Technology Facilitator and Faculty Member for the (CICE) Program at Georgian College
Summary: Paper has always been inherently inaccessible. Although traditional text-to-speech programs have allowed students to access the curriculum through the use of a personal computer, paper continues to persist as a reality in the world of communication. This article will discuss how the Reader Pen, a pocket-sized device that reads text aloud, has opened a new world for students in post-secondary with dyslexia and other literacy difficulties.
Students in the Community Integration through Co-Operative Education (CICE) Program at Georgian College in Barrie, Ontario, Canada have been utilizing the Reader Pen as a tool to ac- cess the curriculum and materials in the workplace and in their day-to-day lives. The CICE Program is designed specifically for adult learners with diverse learning challenges who require academic accommodations and modifications in order to be successful in accessing the curriculum. It is truly an access program which is opening doors for students who wouldn’t typically be able to consider a college education. Students work towards earning an Ontario College Certificate focusing on essential employability skills in order to find meaningful entry level work. CICE students have an opportunity to enhance their vocational skills through field-placements. Students are accompanied to integrated class by Learning Facilitators who modify integrated courses to students’ specific strengths and abilities, and provide accommodations, tutor and support sessions to ensure the work is challenging yet achievable.
Despite living in a digital world, print based text is every- where. Paper has always been inherently inaccessible for many students. Although traditional text-to-speech programs have allowed students to access the curriculum through the use of a personal computer, paper continues to persist as a reality in the world of communication. The Reader Pen, a pocket-sized device that reads text aloud, has opened up a new world for students in post-secondary who live with dyslexia and other literacy challenges.
Dyslexia Canada reports that “15-20% of the population has a language-based learning disability”.
A plain language definition from the Yale Centre for Dyslexia and Creativity:
“Dyslexia is defined as an unexpected difficulty in learning to read. Dyslexia takes away an individual’s ability to read quickly and automatically, and to retrieve spoken words easily, but it does not dampen their creativity and ingenuity.”
According to the International Dyslexia Association, “up to 15-20% of the population as a whole may have symptoms of dyslexia, including slow or inaccurate reading, weak spelling and poor writing”.
For many of our students, reading from traditional textbooks can be exhausting. Frustration with the physical act of reading often deters students from enjoying literature.
G.E., a student in the CICE program describes the device as a “game changer”. “As a mature student, and someone with a reading disability, I worried about going back to school at 39, with kids of my own at home. School was always a challenge for me growing up and college was out of the question. When I learned about the CICE Program, I thought this might be my chance. When I started at Georgian College, I learned about all kinds of technology to help me with my learning. The Reader Pen was by far the game changer for me. Not only does it help me with reading at school, but I use it at work and at home. For example, I love to cook. The Reader Pen lets me be able to read recipes in the kitchen without having to ask for help. If I get stuck on a word, I just scan it and then carry on with what I’m doing. The biggest thing for me though is that now I can help my kids with their homework. You have no idea how hard it is for a father to not be able to read a book to your kids. I used to get so frustrated and felt like such a failure, but now if I get to a word I don’t know, I just scan it with my Reader Pen. It helps my kids too be- cause sometimes they’ll ask to use it. So, like I said, it’s been a game changer for me”.
From day-to-day classroom work to test taking, the Reader Pen has transformed the way CICE students with dyslexia and other literacy difficulties learn. For Learning Facilitators, the de- vice has changed the way traditional classroom and test taking support is provided. Students are far more independent in their learning when using the Reader Pen. Where once they would rely on their Learning Facilitator to provide a digital copy of text, they now are able to be in control of their own education. The dictionary feature enhances and encourages students to independently look up the meaning of words increasing their knowledge of new concepts and ideas. In test taking situations, the Reader Pen has eliminated the need for human readers or traditional text-to-speech programs on computers.
Rebecca Dewar, Field Placement Officer in the CICE Program explains that, “often times students hesitate with using their adaptive technology in the workplace. There are fears around what the employer or co-workers might think. With the Reader Pen, students see it as a tool to get the job done. It’s amazing to see how it has changed their mindset”.
Not only have CICE faculty seen an increase in comprehension and test scores, they have also reported that the device has had a positive impact on students’ confidence and independence. The Reader Pen eliminates the anxiety and fear many students have around reading. The emotional benefits of this device have further reaching impact as students receive increased choice in what material they read, when they read it and the privacy it affords.
CICE Alumni, E.G. explains that “the Reader Pen has helped me both in and outside of school. I loved using the Reader Pen in class, and no one knew what it is because it looks just like a highlighter. It doesn’t look like a foreign device and I never felt like it made me stand out. I used the Reader Pen at my field placement to help me independently read words that were on paper without having to ask someone for help. I take my Reader Pen everywhere with me. I even took it on my family vacation and used it to help me read the itinerary, menu and other things. The ReaderPen has changed my life!”
The Reader Pen by Scanning Pens has a simple premise. Scan a line of printed text, and it will read the text aloud for you.
There are five main features of the device:
• Text Reading – Using optical character recognition (OCR) technology, the device will read most fonts size 6.5-22 point. As the individual scans a word, paragraph or full pages of text, words will appear on the OLED display. The Reader Pens features high quality naturally speaking English (American, Australian, British, Irish, Scottish or Indi- an accents), Spanish (regular or Latin accents) and French voices.
• Dictionary – Unsure of a word? The Reader Pen contains high quality electronic dictionaries. Individuals simply capture the word(s) with the device and use the dictionary to look up the meaning of that word. The device will remember the words that users have looked up and keep a history available for them to refer to. It comes preload- ed with the Collins English Dictionary or Oxford French & Spanish Dictionaries.
• Voice memos – The Reader Pen has a built-in microphone to record simple reminders about a reading in .mp3 or .wav format. The audio files are saved in the device so they can be retrieved and listened to any time. Students often use this feature to make notes of their readings and then transcribe the audio file using Dragon NaturallySpeaking on their personal computer.
• Scanning to File – The device has 8Gb of storage which allows students to scan text to file. This feature enables students to instantly capture and save the text onto the device so they can transfer it to their personal computer (Mac, PC, Linux & Chromebook) in a .txt file.
• Character Scanning – This feature allows students to scan text directly to the cursor on their computer. As they scan a word or line of text, it will instantly appear on the screen.
“I really don’t like when I have to get a Learning Facilitator or someone to read to me. I want to be able to do it on my own. A lot of the time I’ll just say that I don’t need help and can do it by my- self when really, I can’t. That just makes me get frustrated. With my Reader Pen, I can scan whatever it is and read by myself. If I don’t know what a word means, I just look it up by myself. Like, I can actually do my work alone!” ~ M.S. CICE Student
As much as the Reader Pen has many positive characteristics, I have become aware through utilization of the device that there are both benefits and drawbacks.
• Empowers students with dyslexia or other literacy difficulties
• Students are more engaged in their learning as they are no external distractions
• Eliminates the need for a human reader or digital copies
• Builds comprehension and enriches writing
• A professional “tool” as it eliminates the preconceived notion that someone who is using their computer or smart phone is not doing anything constructive
• Voice recorder allows students to record specific parts of a professor’s lesson or create voice memos of key points which can later be transcribed
• Portable device that works anywhere, anytime, in any lighting condition
• Scans text in English, French and Spanish
• built-in dictionaries allow students to look up any word they do not understand
• Customizable for left or right-handed users
• Compatible with Mac, PC, Linux & Chromebook devices
• Students need to have good dexterity in order to use the device effectively
• Unable to read fonts smaller than 6.5 point or larger than 22 point
• Font style, size and color cannot be customized to the user
• Only reads typed text
• Storage is limited to 1Gb
• Students must be patient and intentional when scanning
TIPS FOR USING THE READER PEN:
1. It is important to remember to hold the pen at a 75o an- gle for accurate scanning
2. When scanning text, hold the OK button to enlarge a specific word
3. Struggling with understanding the mean of definition? Switch to the Oxford Primary Definition.
4. Charge your Reader Pen each night to ensure it is ready to use the next day
In conclusion, the Reader Pen is an essential tool for students in the CICE Program at Georgian College. Students are able to keep their self-esteem intact as they can use the device to read information from a written page in a private manner. As well students can determine definitions of words, record voice memos or parts of lessons, and scans text in multiple languages. It is discreet and portable which makes it easy for students to carry anywhere they go. The device is a valuable tool that students can use as they transition from school, to the workplace, to life in general. The benefits can continue to be optimized in very practical ways with little effort and make such a positive difference in the lives of those who use it. The Reader Pen has revolutionized learning for many students at Georgian College.