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This is a detailed review of the C-Pen Reader. This is mostly the same as the C-Pen Exam Reader. We will compare it with the earlier version C-Pen TS1.

Note: I was given the C-Pen Reader to test by C-Pen’s UK distributor Scanning Pen Shop.

Next week, we will compare it with scanning apps.

What is the C-Pen Reader?

The C-Pen Reader is a standalone scanner pen or digital highlighter that converts text from a printed page to speech. It can be held in one hand and you simply drag it over a line of text as you would a highlighter or a pen.

You can plug in the included headphones or listen via the built in speaker.

The scanned text can be saved into a file with digital text. This can be copied to the computer via USB and edited.

Key functions

  • Convert text on a printed page into speech
  • Play speech to headphones or via built-in speaker
  • Save printed text into a text file for notes

Secondary functions

  • Provide dictionary definitions for highlighted words
  • Record audio notes
  • Scan text directly into the computer via USB
  • Play back music or podcasts

It is charged via USB and connects to the PC that way, as well.

Exam Pen differences

C-Pen Reader is also sold as Exam Pen which is exactly the same but does not allow to save files or the use of a dictionary. This meets the JCQ requirements and means that they can be used without seeking special arrangements approval.

They are also sold as bright orange to make sure they are not accidentally confused. I only tested the Reader Pen but most of the review applies.

Price

It is currently priced at £200 on the Scanning Pen Shop website. The price is the same both for the Exam Pen and the Reader Pen. You can also buy a pack of 10 for £1,900 (including a box).

How well does the C-Pen work?

In short, the C-Pen Reader works really well. Many teachers I have showed it to were sceptical because previous scanner pens were a bit hit or miss. The C-Pen is mostly hit. Let’s have a look at how it did.

Test materials

To test the C-Pen Reader, I used several types of documents:

Ease of Use

The C-Pen Reader is incredibly easy to use. You can start using it with 1 minute of training. There are only two things you need to know to get started:

  1. Select the Text Reader mode using the 4-way button
  2. Drag the pen lightly over text while holding it upright

You know the pen is scanning by seeing a light from the bottom part. This light also means that you don’t have to worry about lighting conditions in the room. In fact, the C-Pen works just as well in complete darkeness.

Another nice feature is that you can go fairly fast and your hand does not have to be very steady.

You only have to ensure that the pen is touching the paper strongly enough to depress a light switch at the bottom while you’re scanning. But the weight of the pen is enough for that. All you have to do is keep it upright and guide it along the text.

The only time, this could become a problem is when using a book which curves up and down. But even that is easily handled.

The pen also had problems when I tried to hold it at an angle, more like a pen. The quality would go down until it was almost unusable.

Quality of output

The scanning accuracy is really amazing. I would say that it is as good as would get from any OCR software. This means that it is not 100% but it is more than good enough for regular use. Let’s see how it did with my test files:

 Exam papers

 No problems, only occasional hiccups around text in  columns or in boxes.

 Book page

 Perfect, as long as I could keep my lines straight on a page  with a lot of text.

 Letter from the bank

 Almost no problems, occasionally struggled with  combinations of letters and numbers, e.g. reading 1st as  IST.

 Leaflet

 Could read even text on coloured background and the  small print. Could not deal with stylised and curved text.

 Business cards

 Decent but variable results. Struggled with stylised names  of companies. Was confused by text too near lines and  some small letters in addresses. In general, it would still be  useful to enter the data into a database but would need  correction.

 Box of lozenges and  instruction leaflet 

 It does reasonably well with text on the box except too  near the edges when both ends could not be on the box.  It was also thrown by the Braille indentation in some parts  of the box and more or less completely failed on those  parts.

 However, it did perfectly on the enclosed leaflet even  with tiny writing. However, it completely failed on  underlined text.

 

Note: The C-Pen is not intended for handwriting and will not recognise it at all.

It will do a decent job with writing in languages it does not support but may strip out accents. And it will, of course, not pronounce words from other languages correctly.

Other functionality?

Apart from the key functionality, the C-Pen has other features.

Dictionary

The C-Pen Reader comes with a built-in English dictionary. Instead of scanning a whole line, you just highlight a single word. The word is read out and you see a definition. You can also set the pen up so that the definition is also read out.

C-Pen also make a Dictionary Pen which can translate between English, French, German, Italian, Russian, Spanish. I did not test this version but it seems like this would be a great tool for intermediate learners of modern foreign languages.

Connecting to a computer

When you connect it to the computer by micro USB (cable included), you are given three options:

  1. Keyboard: For scanning text directly into computer
  2. U-Disk: Copying files to and from the C-Pen
  3. Charging

Keyboard

You can simply highlight any printed text and it will appear anywhere in the computer where you can enter text. I even used it to enter a long URL on the water company leafleft, directly into my browser.

I can see it being very useful for data entry into a database. It is much faster than typing and very accurate.

Recording audio notes

You can also record audio notes with the C-Pen Reader but the quality is just barely tolerable. You can listen to a sample I made and as you can hear, there is no noise cancellation or modulation of high volume. It will do at a pinch but any phone with an app will do a better job.

Playing back music or podcasts

Surprisingly, you can play back not just your recordings but also any music you copy onto the device. It does a decent job both over headphones and over the tiny speaker. I tried both some music files and a podcast and it works for both. The podcast can even skip within the file.

I don’t see anybody using this as their main player (the battery life would probably be quite low) but it is there.

C-Pen Reader vs C-Pen TS1

I also tested the TS1.  It is currently out of stock and they are expecting more in the summer.

The quality of the scanning of the C-Pen TS1 is the same as the Reader Pen. You must connect it to a PC through a USB cable and install drivers that will do scanning and read out the text with text-to-speech. The TS1 only sends images of text. Here are the main differences:

  • Requires a PC
  • A bit easier to hold in the hand
  • Cheaper (about half the price)

I tried it on all the same documents and got about the same results.

Conclusion: Who should buy?

The C-Pen Reader is great. It really does what it promises and more. But it is also really expensive. For the same price, you could buy 2-3 Android tablets or 1 iPad Mini. Next week, we will have a look at how these work with the same documents.

So why should you buy one?

Schools

I think every school should have a few of them and make sure the students use them in exams. They should probably also make them available in the school library.

Unlike an app and a tablet, they require almost no maintenance, minimal training and most importantly no additional exam access arrangements. Students who use them can also sit in exactly the same exam hall as everybody else.

I think a school would save money on readers and time for exam arrangements in the first year. And they can be used year after year for many students.

Individuals

The pen is a much more difficult proposition for individuals. A tablet with an app will be suitable for most people’s needs.

However, an elderly person with failing eyesight would probably find this much easier to use than an app as long as the default was set to reader and they wouldn’t have to fiddle with the settings which would benefit from audio feedback.

Another group who would greatly benefit are FE and HE students who often have to take notes from books in the library would definitely benefit. But for them, I recommend the TS1. It is much cheaper and a bit easier to handle for fine control.

In fact, I wish I’d had the TS1 when I was doing library research at university.

People who do a lot of data entry should also seriously consider the TS1. It could save them a lot of time and effort.

Dominik Lukes - Education and Technology Specialist

Next time

Next week, we will do a detailed comparison of several mobile scanning apps.

An early-intervention programme delivered collaboratively by literacy experts is achieving excellent results with pupils and teachers alike.

Thanks to £1/2million in Government funding, ‘Sound Check’ is improving Phonics Check results which were previously below the national average.

Developed by Dyslexia Action, the British Dyslexia Association, and Springboard, the initiative is also enhancing effective channels of communication between schools, families and the wider community.

Out of nine primary schools that participated this year; 90% achieved higher scores and a staff satisfaction survey on training achieved nearly 100% in most areas.

Sound Check, which includes segmenting words into sounds, supports children who have been failing the Year 1 Phonics Check by giving them another chance to master their letters and sounds in years 2 and 3. Specialist teachers, who deliver the twice-weekly intervention scheme, assess phonics difficulties that can be masked by good sight-word reading. Teachers and parents also receive training.

Dyslexia Action’s Director of Research Dr John Rack said: “Unless children can be helped to ‘crack the code’ of letters and sounds, learning will progress very slowly and unreliably.”

To-date the programme, now in its fourth year, has raised the literacy achievement of over 900 children and has been helping schools meet the new requirements of the Special Educational Needs and Disability Code of Practice (2014), which recognises the benefits of a whole school approach to responding to the most frequently encountered types of SEN as well as the importance of early identification and effective provision for improving long-term outcomes. It also meets the need to place high quality teaching for all children, including those with SEN, at the heart of any CPD programme for all teaching & support staff.

 

Literacy Leap

A further achievement of the Sound Check programme has been the development of a new three-tier award system called ‘Literacy Leap’, which celebrates and encourages successful good practice and high-quality provision for children with literacy difficulties. This year’s pilot of the award exceeded expectations with some 36 schools being awarded certificates: 22 Bronze; 11 Silver and 3 Gold.

In a post evaluation survey, completed by 26 schools, an overwhelming:

  • 96% felt the process had benefitted the school
  • 84% agreed or strongly agreed they would recommend taking part
  • 72% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed they were likely to progress to a higher level award
  • 100% agreed or strongly agreed that, as a result of working through the Bronze Level criteria, knowledge of Dyslexia and other SpLD had increased in their schools, while staff had increased confidence in: identifying pupils at risk of Dyslexia/SpLD; identifying the needs of pupils with Dyslexia/SpLD; and supporting pupils with Dyslexia/SpLD
  • 100% of respondents either agreed or strongly agreed with the appropriateness of the staff training and that it has raised staff awareness of Dyslexia/SpLD at Bronze level with 100% approval of the dyslexia checklist and 96% with the identification of dyslexia-friendly strategies
  • 92% said the quality of SEN provision in their school had improved as a result of the training.

Approval ratings for the Silver Level were also high with 100% of respondents agreeing or strongly agreeing that, as a result of working through the Silver Level criteria:

  • identification, including early identification, of Dyslexia and other SpLD, had improved
  • staff understanding of Dyslexia and other SpLD had increased
  • key members of staff had a greater knowledge of assessment tools and methodology.

BDA Project Director, Liz Horobin said: “We recruited more schools this year than we were expecting and the survey results indicate how pleased participants were with the training and the overall success of the programme.”

 

For further information about Literacy Leap and how your school can receive training or take part in the award scheme, see the Literacy Leap framework criteria at http://www.bdadyslexia.org.uk/about/projects/early-intervention-project-eip

Tags: 

National Animation Film Awards

Above in photo – From left – Andy Miles, Founder and CEO of ThinkMarble, Angelina Sun, animation student, Stephen Hall, Chief Exec of Dyslexia Action, Paula Whittle, Chair of Trustees of Dyslexia Action, Cllr Jane Rutter, Deputy Mayor of Winchester, Crispin Lilly, Chief Executive of Everyman Cinemas, Anand Hotwani and Jun-Lin Harries, animation students of winning BUties and the Beast team.

 

Last night Everyman Cinema in Winchester hosted Dyslexia Action’s National Animation Film Launch to mark the start of Everyman Cinemas across the UK playing an animation film about dyslexia at every film viewing. Leading literacy and dyslexia charity Dyslexia Action believes that this will help people to understand what it may feel like to have dyslexia. Dyslexia Action is greatly appreciative of this opportunity to raise public awareness around dyslexia and help build greater understanding and empathy of this learning difficulty.

 

The event, kindly sponsored by ThinkMarble, was attended by the Deputy Mayor and Mayoress of Eastleigh, Des and Veronica Scott , and the Deputy Mayor of Winchester, Cllr Jane Rutter, Crispin Lilly, Chief Executive of Everyman Cinemas and Dyslexia Action Ambassadors and Authors Ali Sparkes and Maria Farrer. Local businesses and educational establishments also attended, along with students of Bournemouth University who created the animation films as part of the Creative Vision Awards founded and sponsored by Kingston Smith.

 

At the event the winning film to be played across the UK was chosen from six entries. The great honour of having their animation film played across the UK was won by the creative team BUties and the Beast for their brilliant and emotional portrayal of what it feels like to have dyslexia. Team members include: Kyran Bishop, Anand Hotwani, Jun-Lin Harries, Joanne Wong and Angelina Sun.

Anand Hotwani, Jun-Lin Harries, and Angelina Sun were there to collect the award on behalf of the team. Angelina Sun commented: “We'd like to thank Dyslexia Action, Everyman Cinemas and the BFX Festival for giving us this opportunity to help spread awareness about dyslexia. The making of the film was intense but rewarding and we're glad that the response has been so positive and that the film has resonated with many people.”

 

Stephen Hall, Chief Executive of Dyslexia Action comments: “Dyslexia Action’s National Animation Film Launch was a great success. It was very exciting to see our animation film on the big screen for the first time at the event and we are thrilled that people all across the UK will be learning about how it can feel to have dyslexia through this beautiful animation. I congratulate the students on their creativity and hard work and thank ThinkMarble for their support of the event and Everyman Cinemas for both hosting and agreeing to play this film at their cinemas. Promoting understanding and awareness is key to enabling those with dyslexia to get the support and help that they need.”

 

Crispin Lilly, CEO of Everyman Cinemas, agrees: “The event at Everyman Winchester was a great success. Everyman Cinemas is very proud to be supporting Dyslexia Action by playing their animation film in our cinemas across the UK. I believe that this charity offers a very valuable service to the UK population and applaud their efforts in helping those who struggle daily with dyslexia. Our hope is that by showing our customers this film we can help build support and awareness to enable as many people as possible to get the help they need.”

 

Specialists from the Dyslexia Action Winchester Learning Centre were on hand at the event to answer any questions that attendees had about dyslexia. You can contact the Winchester centre on Winchester@dyslexiaaction.org.uk or call 01962 856195. They offer free 30-minute advice sessions for those affected by dyslexia or wanting to learn more. They offer assessment and tuition for children, young people and adults as well as offering tailored services for schools to cater for their Special Educational Needs and businesses to help support those affected in the workplace by dyslexia.

 

What are the Creative Vision Awards?

Dyslexia Action was chosen as one of two charities out of 180 to benefit from winning six custom-made animation films worth an estimated £150,000 each to convey the charity’s message.

 

Kingston Smith teamed up with Bournemouth University and The Arts University Bournemouth Film School’s BFX Festival to offer applying charities the chance to win an industry quality animation (worth an estimated £150,000) completely free of charge. The BFX Competition which was launched in 2012, consists of a 7 week residential for students and recent graduates of animation and VFX. Applicants, who represent the exceptional rising talent of the industry across the UK, endure a rigorous application process before being accepted into the competition. The chosen participants are mentored by industry professionals; MPC, Double Negative and Framestore to name a few.

 

The end product for the 2015 awards for Dyslexia Action was 6 high quality films about dyslexia, all of which Dyslexia Action got to keep. The winning charity(ies) are involved in all major steps throughout the process to ensure the final outcomes meet their needs and expectations.

 

You can see Dyslexia Action’s 6 animation films at: http://www.dyslexiaaction.org.uk/page/films-about-dyslexia

 

ENDS

 

For further details, high resolution images and interview opportunities contact:

Marketing and Communications Manager: Nicola Amoroso

E namoroso@dyslexiaaction.org.uk T 01784 222 353; Skype: da-namoroso


Notes to editors:

 

About dyslexia - Dyslexia affects 1 in 10 people in the UK. It primarily affects the ability to learn to read and spell, and sometimes maths is affected too. It comes from a difficulty in dealing with the sounds of words, which makes it especially hard to learn to read words using phonics (sounding out the letters in a word).

 

People with dyslexia often find it hard to remember lists of things they have heard, or to remember a name or a fact quickly, although they often have individual strengths in reasoning, visual and creative fields. It is important to remember dyslexia is not related to general intelligence and is not the same for everyone. It can be mild or severe; and it varies depending on other strengths, or difficulties, that the person may have. More importantly, it varies depending on the kind of support and encouragement from friends, family, teachers and colleagues.

 

About Dyslexia Action -  Dyslexia Action is a national charity with over 40 years’ experience in providing services and support to children, young people and adults with literacy and numeracy difficulties, dyslexia and other specific learning difficulties. We provide assessments and tuition through our national Learning Centres and in schools across the country, alongside supporting teachers and educators through the provision of teaching resources and training. We also undertake research and campaigning to improve the lives of those affected by dyslexia. www.dyslexiaaction.org.uk

 

www.dyslexiaaction.org.uk; Follow us on Facebook and Twitter

 

About ThinkMarble

ThinkMarble works extensively with SMEs to create robust defences that keep you ‘cyber safe’, in line with Government initiatives. Our team is made up of highly skilled digital security experts with additional specialisms in regulatory compliance, IT forensics (digital evidence gathering and recovery) and strategy.

 

Cyber-crime is rising at an alarming rate and it’s SMEs who are most at risk. According to the Home Office, those without effective cyber security measures in place are putting as much as a third of their revenue in jeopardy.

If you don’t want to be a target, it’s time to take action.

For a limited period only get your organisation’s cyber security assessed with a free mini audit.

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This is part 2 of a 3-part series on technologies that help with taking notes

  1. Notetaking apps and software
  2. Audio Notetaking
  3. Scanner pens

In this part, we will have a look at hardware and software for getting text from the printed page into your phone or computer.

Next week, I will do an in-depth review of the C-Pen Reader pen. This week, we will have an overview of:

  • Standalone scanner pens
  • Scanner pens connected to a computer or phone
  • Scanner apps for phone or tablet

Why use a scanner pen or a scanner app

Not all text is digital. Often people need to read text that is only available on paper:

  • Books in the library
  • Leaflets
  • Labels
  • Instruction brochures

You may struggle because of dyslexia or simply because the text is too small for your eyes.

The best solution is to scan the text into your computer, phone or tablet. With digital text, you can:

  • Save a note for later
  • Listen to the text
  • Change the size of the font

But most people don’t have a scanner. And scanning is time consuming and cumbersome. Enter scanner pens and scanner apps.

  • Scanner pens (sometimes called reader pens) are dedicated devices that have the shape of a pen. You just highlight a line of text and they will scan it in.
  • Scanner apps can be installed on your smartphone or a tablet with a camera. They will convert any printed text you can take a picture of into digital text.

What to look for in a scanner pen or app?

You want three things from your handheld scanner solution.

  1. Speed: You should not have to wait too long for the text you choose to become scanned and converted.
  2. Accuracy: Scanning itself is easy. What is hard is the OCR (Optical Character Recognition). OCR makes a picture of text into text you can edit or listen to. You want the OCR to make as few errors as possible. Ideally, only a few per page. Most lines you scan should contain no errors.
  3. Tolerance: To convert pictures of text into editable text, you need as sharp pictures as possible. But no one has a perfectly steady hand. A good scanner pen should make it possible to scan text quickly and without too much fine hand control.

Standalone scanner/reader pens

These are scanner pens that can work on their own. They don’t need to be connected to a computer or a mobile device. This means that they have to have their own processor inside and a battery. But good OCR requires a lot of computing power which is why in the past, these pens were not very accurate. But things are changing. There are two products on the market.

  • C-Pen Reader is a new device that hits all the criteria. Next week, I will do a detailed review. I have been very impressed with the quality and speed. But it is not cheap at £200.
  • Wizcom ReadingPen has been around for a long time. I have only tried it in short tests and did not find it to be very accurate without very fine hand control. This is also what many people I’ve spoken to describe. See a review here. But it is cheaper than the C-Pen.

Connected reader/scanner pen

If you can connect a scanner to a computer, it only has to send a picture of the text to the computer. The computer will do all the hard work of converting the picture into text you can edit. There are several devices to consider:

  • IRIS Scan Mouse works as a regular mouse but if you run it over text, it will scan it in. The IRIS software will then quickly convert it into digital text. I have tried it briefly and it works really well.
  • IRIS Pen Scanner works and looks just like the stand alone reader pens but is connected to a computer via a cable. This means that it is slimmer and does not require its own batteries.
  • C-Pen TS1 is a very good scanner pen that connects to a computer form C-Pen that I tested and have recommended for a long time. It is currently out of stock but I am told that it will be soon available again.
  • Penpower WorldPenScan X is a scanner pen that connects to a phone or a tablet via Bluetooth. It came out of a Kickstarter campaign two years ago. I have not tested it but it has decent reviews on Amazon. 

Scanner apps on phones or tablets

Most phones and tablets now have very high quality cameras. This means that they can take pictures of text and convert them into digital text. There are two apps I recommend:

Claro ScanPen (iPad/iPhone only)

Claro ScanPen (£5) takes a picture of a page. You can then drag your finger along the parts you want read out. It will simply read them out to you.

It is quick and accurate. But it requires a fairly steady hand to make the picture sharp enough. This is why it may be easier to use on the phone.

It does not let you save the text it converted, it only reads it out.

I know of one school who are trialling it with their students in exams.

Text Fairy (Android Only)

Text Fairy is completely free. It also takes a picture of the whole page. But unlike the Claro ScanPen, it then converts the whole page into digital text.

You can then have the text read out or save it into a document.

Text Fairy is very fast but because it has to convert the whole page first, there is more of a delay between taking the picture and hearing the text.

It also requires a fairly steady hand to take the picture but is relatively tolerant of a bit of imperfection.

Looking forward

At a recent conference, I tried out a demo of OrCam. It is a camera attached to your glasses. You then look at a piece of text in front of you, point a finger at it and it reads it out. It seemed to be fairly accurate but required a bit of training. It is not yet available for sale but hopefully, I will have a chance to review it more thoroughly later.

Dominik Lukes - Education and Technology Specialist

Next time

Next week, we will do a detailed review of the C-Pen.

 

 

Tags: 

Leading literacy and dyslexia charity, Dyslexia Action, is thrilled to announce that it will be holding its National Animation Film launch this Thursday 21st April at the Everyman Cinema in Winchester (event kindly sponsored by ThinkMarble).

 

The event celebrates Dyslexia Action’s partnership with Everyman Cinemas and their agreement to play the charity’s animation film at its cinemas across the UK. The animation film depicts what it is like to have dyslexia and how Dyslexia Action can help. Dyslexia Action is greatly appreciative of this opportunity to raise public awareness around dyslexia and help build greater understanding and empathy of this learning difficulty.

The launch event will be attended by local Mayors, businesses, schools and Ambassadors of the charity along with students of Bournemouth University who created the animation films as part of the Creative Vision Awards founded and sponsored by Kingston Smith. Dyslexia Action was chosen as one of two charities out of 180 to benefit from winning six custom -made animated films worth an estimated £150,000 each to convey the charity’s message. At the launch event, the winning film chosen to be played at Everyman Cinemas across the UK will be announced. Following the event the animation will be played at every film viewing at Everyman Cinemas throughout the UK.

 

Stephen Hall, Chief Executive of Dyslexia Action comments: “We really are so appreciative to all involved for this opportunity. We think that playing our animation film at all Everyman cinemas across the UK will help so many people to understand the challenges faced by those struggling with dyslexia. Roughly 1 in 10 people in the UK are affected by dyslexia and we often find that a lack of understanding causes great frustration to those affected and can hinder their progress at school, at work and in their everyday lives. Our hope is that by increasing understanding more people with dyslexia will get the vital help that they need to reach their full potential. Specialised learning strategies and coping mechanisms can make a huge difference to individuals’ lives and Dyslexia Action would like to ensure that as many people as possible are presented with that knowledge and opportunity.”

 

Crispin Lilly, CEO of Everyman Cinemas, agrees: “Everyman Cinemas is very proud to be supporting Dyslexia Action by playing their animation film in our cinemas across the UK. I believe that this charity offers a very valuable service to the UK population and applaud their efforts in helping those who struggle daily with dyslexia. Our hope is that by showing our customers this film we can help build support and awareness to enable as many people as possible to get the help they need.”

 

What are the Creative Vision Awards?

Kingston Smith teamed up with Bournemouth University and The Arts University Bournemouth Film School’s BFX Festival to offer applying charities the chance to win an industry quality animation (worth an estimated £150,000) completely free of charge. The BFX Competition which was launched in 2012, consists of a 7 week residential for students and recent graduates of animation and VFX. Applicants, who represent the exceptional rising talent of the industry across the UK, endure a rigorous application process before being accepted into the competition. The chosen participants are mentored by industry professionals; MPC, Double Negative and Framestore to name a few.

 

The end product for the 2015 awards for Dyslexia Action was 6 high quality films about dyslexia, all of which Dyslexia Action got to keep. The winning charity(ies) are involved in all major steps throughout the process to ensure the final outcomes meet their needs and expectations.

You can see Dyslexia Action’s animation films at: http://www.dyslexiaaction.org.uk/page/films-about-dyslexia

 

ENDS

 

For further details, high resolution images and interview opportunities contact:

Marketing and Communications Manager: Nicola Amoroso

E namoroso@dyslexiaaction.org.uk T 01784 222 353; Skype: da-namoroso


Notes to editors:

 

About dyslexia - Dyslexia affects 1 in 10 people in the UK. It primarily affects the ability to learn to read and spell, and sometimes maths is affected too. It comes from a difficulty in dealing with the sounds of words, which makes it especially hard to learn to read words using phonics (sounding out the letters in a word).

 

People with dyslexia often find it hard to remember lists of things they have heard, or to remember a name or a fact quickly, although they often have individual strengths in reasoning, visual and creative fields. It is important to remember dyslexia is not related to general intelligence and is not the same for everyone. It can be mild or severe; and it varies depending on other strengths, or difficulties, that the person may have. More importantly, it varies depending on the kind of support and encouragement from friends, family, teachers and colleagues.

 

About Dyslexia Action -  Dyslexia Action is a national charity with over 40 years’ experience in providing services and support to children, young people and adults with literacy and numeracy difficulties, dyslexia and other specific learning difficulties. We provide assessments and tuition through our national Learning Centres and in schools across the country, alongside supporting teachers and educators through the provision of teaching resources and training. We also undertake research and campaigning to improve the lives of those affected by dyslexia. www.dyslexiaaction.org.uk

 

www.dyslexiaaction.org.uk; Follow us on Facebook and Twitter

 

About ThinkMarble

ThinkMarble works extensively with SMEs to create robust defences that keep you ‘cyber safe’, in line with Government initiatives. Our team is made up of highly skilled digital security experts with additional specialisms in regulatory compliance, IT forensics (digital evidence gathering and recovery) and strategy.

 

Cyber-crime is rising at an alarming rate and it’s SMEs who are most at risk. According to the Home Office, those without effective cyber security measures in place are putting as much as a third of their revenue in jeopardy.

If you don’t want to be a target, it’s time to take action.

For a limited period only get your organisation’s cyber security assessed with a free mini audit.

Note taking mindmap

This is part 2 of a 3-part series on technologies that help with taking notes.

  1. Notetaking apps and software
  2. Audio Notetaking
  3. Scanner pens

In this part, we will have a look at the options for taking audio notes. We will do a quick summary of 4 apps and 1 hardware device:

Why audio notetaking?

For people who struggle to take written notes in lectures or meetings, recording the audio of what is happening is a great solution.

There are lots of apps that will record audio on your phone or on your computer. But then you may be left with very long recordings that are hard to navigate.

In this post, we will have a look at some options that solve this problem by letting you:

  • Record only the relevant parts
  • Mark the right parts of the recording
  • Link you with a transcription service
  • Make it easy to navigate audio
  • Make it easy to take notes from audio

Note: I usually try to look for solutions that are free or very cheap. But none of the best options for audio notetaking are cheap. My only free recommendation works great but has only a fraction of the features of the others.

Mindmap overview

Cogi

Cogi is a simple free app for your phone or tablet. Its solution to dealing with too much audio is that it does not record everything. It simply listens and when you hear something you want to note, just press a button. It always records the last 10-40 seconds (you can choose in settings) to make sure you don’t miss anything.

You can take photos and make notes while the recording is going on. But the photos and notes are not synced to the recording. So you cannot then click on a photo and jump to a place in the recording.

Cogi makes money by offering a cheap transcription service for your audio. Just push a button in the app and the audio will be sent to a real person to transcribe.

Cogi are now introducing a cloud option that will let you keep your notes online and review them in your browser. It is still in alpha but is fairly usable.

Audio Notetaker

Audio Notetaker by Sonocent is the grandfather of audio notetaking apps. For a long time, it was the only one. But it is not at all dated. Its latest version looks very modern and has all the features you expect of software in the age of cloud and mobile.

Its unique feature is that it automatically splits the voice into parts and lets you colour code them. It can also record your presentations and attach anything to your notes. It also allows playback at different speeds and even cleans up the audio a little.

It has apps for iPhone and Android that make it easy to record lectures on the go and a clever system for syncing them with your PC. The app is free but only allows for playback of 5 minutes of audio.  You need the full software to view the full recording.

Its main downside is price. It costs £129 to buy or £29 to license for 1 year. You can get a 30-day free trial after which you can still use the application to view your old recordings.

Notetalker

Notetalker by Conversor is a new application developed by a company known for making high quality recording hardware for assistive solutions.

It has software for PC, Mac and iPhone and Android. But its main feature is its connection with a high quality directional microphone. This means that you can get a good recording of a lecture even from a distance. And you can do this with your phone or your laptop. They even offer a remote microphone where the lecturer can wear the microphone but the recording is going to the student’s device.

The main software, Notetalker Edit is similar in basic functionality to Audio Notetaker.  It can do all the key things you expect: bookmark sections, colour code them, make note, insert images, etc. But the interface is not quite as polished and it does not have some of the advanced features such as highlighting of parts of the recordings, audio editing and high speed playback.

The mobile apps allow full recording and review but the full version is not free.

Notetalker are also planning to introduce a connection with a transcription service which should be available soon.

Notetalker Edit costs £80 which is cheaper than Audio Notetaker. If you buy Notetalker Pro, you will get a mobile app, a microphone and Notetalker Edit for £129.

 

AudioNote

AudioNote by Luminant software is ideally suited to people who are typing their notes but want the audio as a back up. The interface is almost exactly the same on tablets, phones and a laptop.

It presents you with a view of a lined paper where you take your notes and add pictures and even drawings. You can then click anywhere on the text you wrote and it will play back from the right place.

It offers multiple speed playback but does not adjust the pitch.

The mobile apps cost £5 and the desktop app costs £15. Both have free trial options.

Livescribe Smartpen

Livescribe Smartpen is a really neat idea, now in version 3. It is a regular handwriting pen that also records audio. If you are using a special paper, it will link your notes and the audio. This means that you can just scribble a quick note, like ‘Jim says’ or even make a drawing. And then when you switch to listening mode, you just tap on the note and it will play back the audio from when you made the drawing.

You can then sync the audio and the notes to your phone, tablet or computer.

It will also convert your handwriting into typed text.

There are three versions:

  1. Liverscribe Smartpen 3 – uses the microphone on your phone
  2. Echo Smartpen – has its own microphone
  3. Livescribe WiFi – has its own microphone and will sync the notes and audio over WiFi directly to Evernote.

Pencasts is a really nice feature of the Smartpens. They record a video of the whole writing process. They could be very useful for teachers reviewing students’ issues with handwriting.

The main downside is that you must purchase special paper from Livescribe which is more expensive than regular notebooks.

 

Alternatives

Quick voice notes with Google Keep, Evernote, OneNote

Do not forget that the three note taking systems we talked about last time will also let you take a voice note.

But these are only good for quick reminders, not recording lectures or meetings. They miss all the features you might need for taking lots of audio notes for study or work.

Recording apps for mobile platforms only

There are many apps that only work on phones and tablets. If you’d like to try some of them, you can explore these links.

 

Next time

Next week, we will look at scanner pens.

Dominik Lukes - Education and Technology Specialist

 

 

 

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This is part 1 of a 3-part series on technologies that help with taking notes.

  1. Notetaking apps and software
  2. Audio Notetaking
  3. Scanner pens

In this part, we will have a look at how to choose the best system for note taking and recommend three note taking apps:

  • Google Keep
  • Evernote
  • Onenote with Learning Tools
Recommendation

For people with dyslexia, I recommend:

Mindmap overview

How to choose a notetaking system

Necessary features

  • Available on every platform (Windows, Mac, Web, iPhone/iPad, Android)
  • Automatic sync between devices
  • Saving of photos and audio notes
  • Free option

Additional features to look for

  • To-do list option (see post on To Do lists)
  • Colour-coding of notes
  • Drawing and handwriting
  • Web clipper
  • Secure notes to protect some of your notes with a password
  • Smart watch

 

Google Keep

Google Keep is my favourite for quick notes I want to make sure I can access quickly and easily. If I need to write down an address or just down a phone number, I got to Keep.

I also take pictures of business cards to write down later using Keep.

It is also where I keep my shopping list. When I’m in the shop, it pops up on my smart watch and I tick off items as I buy them.

I can even just say to my phone ‘Ok, Google, add apples to my shopping list’ and they will appear.

But it’s not great for lots of long-form notes. There are no folders and it is impossible to format text.

Key features

  • Location based reminders
  • Web, iOS and Android apps
  • Take audio, photo and text notes
  • Draw or hand write notes
  • To do list option
  • Integration with Android Wear

Strengths

  • Simplicity
  • Speed
  • Ability to check off items from a list on a Watch

Weaknesses

  • No desktop software, web only
  • No rich formatting in notes
  • No folders for organising notes
  • Not suitable for longer notes

 

Evernote

I’ve been using Evernote since version 1. It is very straightforward and can keep thousands of notes in various Notebooks (or folders).

It used to be a bit slow but is now fairly fast. It has apps on all platforms and you can also edit your notes on the web.

I mostly use it to clip webpages I want to return to later and keep track of interesting podcasts I’ve listened to (I’m now at 839). I simply share the podcast show notes from within my podcast app on my phone into Evernote.

I also use the encryption feature to store copies of important documents, such as insurance and contracts.

The interface is simple and completely intuitive but not very dyslexia-friendly. The default font size is too small and there’s always too much information on screen at once. It is not ideal for writing long notes.

The free version covers all functionality but it won’t let you sync all your notes to your phone to be accessed without having an internet connection.

Key features

  • Apps on all platforms
  • Multimedia notes including file attachments
  • Screenshots
  • Web clipper
  • Sharing and collaboration features

Strengths

  • Presence on all platforms
  • Intuitive organisation
  • Quick search
  • Password-protected notes

Weaknesses

  • No distraction-free writing mode
  • No zoom
  • No outline features
  • No colour coding of notes
  • Can get slow with too many notes
  • Not all features free
OneNote

The main thing I’ve been using Microsoft’s OneNote for is copying text out of images. I take a picture of some text and want to convert it to plain text. Simply right-click on it and it will copy the text.

But I never clicked with the way OneNote organises the notes in three levels: Notebooks, Sections and Pages. I also like to take fairly linear notes and never took advantage of being able to click anywhere on the screen and write.

But recently, I’ve been giving OneNote another chance. It is much better for writing long notes, making outlines and drawing than Evernote.

Learning tools

Microsoft has also introduced Learning Tools which contain features aimed at Dyslexic users (they have to be downloaded separately). Note: as of writing, this feature is still in beta so may not always work.

The Learning Tools include:

  • Immersive Reader which will remove distractions and read text out with text-to-speech
  • Dictation which lets users dictate using speech recognition.

The dictation is really good. Even better than Google Voice typing. I particularly like that it will automatically make a sentence with a capital letter and a full stop when I stop speaking. But it does not have any advanced features such as deletion and voice navigation.

It will also highlight different parts of text to improve comprehension, including syllable division.

Key features

  • Multimedia notes
  • Drawing
  • Colour-coding of notes
  • Web clipper
  • Note layout templates

Strengths

  • Dyslexia-friendly features
    • Full screen notes
    • Distraction-free reading mode
    • Dictation
    • Highlighting parts of speech and syllables
  • Full support for Heading outlines
  • Visual editing
  • Copy text from images

Weaknesses

  • Confusing organisation of notes (for some people)
Other options

I use all of these three notetaking systems alongside each other for different purposes. But maybe you need another one or neither of them will suit you.

Two more popular apps that meet my key criteria of free and cross-platform are:

  • SimpleNote which is great if you only want to take plain text notes and not be distracted by any other features
  • SomNote which focuses on attractive and simple design

If you are happy with apps that only work on one platform you may want to read one of these blog posts:

 
 
Next time                        

Next week, we will look at software and hardware for audio notetaking.

Dominik Lukes - Education and Technology Specialist

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Readers are often drawn to books which transport them to worlds they have not or could not visit. It is also important for readers to read books in which they recognise themselves. This month’s book selection features characters with hidden disabilities. The titles aim to engage the reader by providing an enjoyable read, often with a mystery to solve. They also offer readers an insight into the challenges that someone with disabilities may face.

Destination Earth by Ali Sparks                Age 10 and above        

Lucy has spent 10 years travelling through space to reach Earth - life on her home planet was destroyed. When her cloaked ship lands on the Isle of Wight she meets Emma and Jay and they become friends. Emma has dyslexia and dyspraxia, Lucy helps Emma use the simulations in the recreation room on the ship to improve her co-ordination. This comes in very useful when the friends find that the creatures which destroyed Lucy’s life on her home planet have followed her to Earth! 

 

Tom’s special Talent by Kate Gaynor                    Age 4 and above

Tom enjoys school and has a lovely teacher called Mrs Jolly. The only part of going to school he doesn’t like is when he has to practise reading and writing as he finds it really difficult. When a competition to celebrate the school’s 50th birthday is announced Tom uses his artistic talents to showcase the talents of everyone else in the school.

A dog called Flow by Pippa Goodheart                 Age 7 and above

Oliver really wants a pet dog and when his parents say no for what seems like the hundredth time he decides to get a dog in secret. His family find out, of course, but when they do the dog quickly wins them over. Oliver’s dad helps him with his schoolwork over the summer but he becomes more positive about school on meeting his new teacher who, understands the challenges of dyslexia.

Will The Real Stanley Carrott Please Stand Up by Rob Stevens                 Age 11 and above

Stanley Harris was adopted as a baby. He loves his adoptive family but has always wanted to meet his birth mother. On his 13th birthday a card arrives and he makes an unusual decision. To make a good impression on his birth mother he decides to audition someone to pretend to be him! When the truth comes out, Stanley finds that he has many talents that make his mother proud and that they share many traits, including their dyslexia.

Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine                             Age 11 and above

Caitlin’s brother Devon helped her to understand the world.  Caitlin has Asperger’s Syndrome and when her brother is the victim of a High School shooting, finding closure becomes her focus.  This is a poignant book which increases the reader’s understanding of Asperger’s Syndrome using a compelling character who shares her view of the world honestly.

The London Eye Mystery by Siobhan O’Dowd    Age 9 and above

Ted and his sister Kat watch their cousin Salim board The London Eye then wait beside the Thames for him to finish his ride.  They are confused when he doesn’t reappear and when the police are not able to find him then Ted and Kat become sleuthing partners and aim to solve the mystery of their cousin’s disappearance.  Ted has always been aware that his Asperger’s means that he processes information differently to most other people.  Could Ted’s unique skill set help to solve the mystery and find his cousin?

A Flash of Blue by Maria Farrer                Age 12 and above

Amber’s brother died on the day she took his special necklace.  Since that day she has felt that she is to blame.  She thinks her brother’s friend Tyler will help her feel better.  Unfortunately she is not correct as Tyler has ended up as part of a group of individuals who are making bad choices and she is drawn into their world.  Tyler and Amber eventually find a way of creating a positive situation out of a negative one and Amber helps Tyler to face the challenges his dyslexia presents him with.

Car Wash Wish by Sita Brahmachari       Age 11 and above

Hudson’s family have been through a great deal of change recently with his grandfather’s illness and his parents’ separation.  We join Hudon’s family on the day of his grandfather’s funeral which proves to be a turning point for his family.  Hudson tells the story, his self-awareness of his Asperger’s and how it affects him and those around him gives the story a distinctive voice.

Something different about Dad:  How to Live With Your Asperger’s parent by John Swogger    Age 6 and above

Sophie introduces the reader to her family and particularly her dad who has Asperger’s Syndrome.  This warm, funny story emphasises how love within a family can overcome all difficulties.  The reader learns, along with the children, the ways in which their dad is different.  Sensitive issues are dealt with in a light hearted and reassuring way.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nightime by Mark Haddon                         Age 10 and above

Christopher Boone is fifteen years old and has Asperberger’s syndrome.  He relates well to animals but struggles with human relationships.  When he finds his neighbour’s murdered dog he sets out to solve the mystery.  

Enjoy!

Alison

Read, share, enjoy!

I hope that this monthly blog will give readers ideas about which books might appeal to those who are reluctant to read or have dyslexia. Dyslexia Action’s leaflet encouraging young reluctant readers is a good start for those who are looking to support young reluctant readers and readers with dyslexia. Dyslexia Action also offers tuition with specialist teachers to support those who may need extra help. Once needs have been identified, our specialist teachers can work with children, young people and adults to develop coping strategies that can assist with skills like reading and writing. For some, extra tuition can be a life-line.

The Book Blog is written by Alison Keeley who looks after Dyslexia Action’s Learning Centres in the South of England. Prior to joining Dyslexia Action Alison worked as a Deputy Head and for Booktrust. She has always read a wide range of children’s literature even though she technically stopped being a child some time ago. If you have any questions or suggestions about subjects for future blogs please do leave a comment below.

Reading hints and tips leaflet for young reluctant readers

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