This is a revolutionary new device; we purchased a 'Quicktionary Reading Pen'; the following review is therefore an impartial review of the product, untainted by connections or links with the manufacturer or retailer. This product is about the size of a small television remote control. When the user runs the head over a printed word, the device scans the word and then reads it aloud to the user.
The reading pen was initially given to a group of children aged between seven and ten years. The children were shown the video that comes with the pen and then left to play with the device and get used to it. All the children were good readers and had no noticeable difficulties with motor skills. The younger children in the group were a slightly reluctant to engage, however the ten year old children very quickly found out how to use the reading pen; becoming accomplished in its' use within an hour. They were very soon experimenting with it to see if it could recognise handwriting as well as printed text. There was great disappointment when the reading pen was taken back to the office; the children had grown quite fond of it.
We were fortunate enough to have an educational psychologist in training working with us. She took the pen into schools and lent it to a number of children within the top primary to secondary age range. These children were again encouraged to watch the video and learn how to use the pen by playing with it. The children then began to use it in lessons. We anticipated that the children would find the device slightly slow to use, however this was not the case.
A child who cannot read a word on a work sheet or in a book has a problem; the reading pen provided a solution. It did not have the emotional attachments that asking for help does, and the children did not perceive it to be slow. We hypothesised that the pen was no doubt quicker than asking the teacher, less embarrassing than asking a peer, and allowed the student a greater measure of independent learning. On the whole all the children who used it found it useful and were enthusiastic to have one of their own.
At £100 each this is a substantial investment. The tip used for scanning looks well built but would need to be looked after, as it could be vulnerable to damage. Age ten seems to be around the right age to start using this device, but some children may be able to engage with it earlier. Children selected to use it will need to have reasonable motor skills. The general feeling was that it was too fragile and easily lost or damaged to be provided by the local authority. If provided by parents it will likely be better looked after. If well maintained, we see no reason why this device couldn’t provide a long and reliable service.
On the whole the reading pen looks to be a valuable addition to the technological solutions available to help children who have difficulty with reading. As with any technological aid, it would be best to try out the device first. Experience has shown that however appropriate a parent or educator may feel a technological solution is for a child, it is only by offering children an array of aids and solutions to try, that they will be able to decide upon the best solution for them. It would probably be useful for schools to buy one of these pens to enable children to try it out. If they found it of use, then it is likely a personal reading pen were bought by the parents for the child.