The ultimate guide to scanning pens and reviews

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    Scanning pens are underutilized reading assistance tools you must check out. Learn how to make the most of them in our ultimate guide to scanning pens.

    The ultimate guide to scanning pens and reviews

    Scanning pens are hefty but rather underutilized assistive technology that deserves to make a breakthrough in special education classrooms and independent learning sessions. Let’s explore everything you need to know about these gadgets and which options are the best pen scanners on the market.

    What is a scanning pen, and what do they do?

    A scanning pen is a compact handheld device with a tiny optical character recognition (OCR) sensor that can scan text and individual words. Once you’ve scanned or highlighted a piece of text, the pen will read it out loud for you and even save the recording as an audio file if you’ve got a more premium smartpen.

    Just like other kinds of text readers, portable scanners and scanning pens are used primarily by those suffering from reading difficulties. They’re also quite handy when you need to digitize printed text quickly.

    In addition, you can use scanning pens as real-time voice translators when reading in foreign languages. And since they’re so small and their battery usually lasts a long time, they’re the perfect reading tool to bring with you on a trip.

    Unique features and learning functionalities of reading pens

    What sets digital highlighters and handheld scanners apart from other, older kinds of assistive technology? In short, they offer:

    • Text to speech (TTS) features: Modern scanner pens rely on sophisticated TTS tech to read lines of text out loud in humanlike voices, allowing those with disadvantages like dyslexia to cover more text faster.

    • Translation and dictionary capabilities: Translation pens can translate scanned text in real-time thanks to their dictionary features.

    • File storage: You can use a reader pen to record audio files and transfer them to other devices using a micro USB cable, WiFi, or Bluetooth. That allows for easier revision.

    • OCR: Thanks to state-of-the-art OCR features, reader pens can scan images and printed text and digitize it in no time.

    • Parts of speech recognition: Sometimes, understanding a new word is not enough, and we want to know what part of speech to which it belongs. That is especially important when learning foreign languages.

    • Sync options: You can sync and connect reading pens with smartphones, computers, and tablets and share your files online.

    Accessibility rights for learners, understanding OCR, and how it impacts Dyslexics and other learning disabilities

    Accessibility rights for learners are not universal, and they vary by region. However, they generally promise some kind of accommodations and ease of access to those with learning difficulties.

    Those accommodations might include additional time during tests, larger print, the possibility of taking the exam orally, etc. In addition, they make the student eligible for assistive tools that will help them become more efficient and independent in their studies.

    In the U.S., the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act protect students with dyslexia in all academic institutions. However, it is still important to spread awareness in every school district as much as possible to create a welcoming environment and spread awareness of dyslexia and other reading difficulties.

    OCR and TTS

    Some accommodations we typically see in the classroom include OCR tools (in addition to scanner pens) and other tools, for example, text to speech and speech to text programs. OCR is the technology responsible for scanning text and images and converting them into audio files, and text to speech and speech to text software can help you edit them and hear them read out loud.

    Combining these two types of tech, we can mitigate many of the challenges struggling readers face. Speechify, for example, is a premium tool featuring both OCR and TTS features. You can use it to convert anything into audio files, and its high-quality AI voices will make listening to them a joy, thanks to all the customizable features of the app.

    The top 3 scanning pens of 2023

    If you’re looking to get a scanning pen, we’ve got a list of our top three picks.

    C-Pen Reader

    The C-Pen Reader is a classic. It’s pretty much what most people think of when they hear the word reading pen. It can scan, highlight, and save text for future revision.

    It’s also got a built-in dictionary, so you can use it to look up words quickly. The number of supported languages will vary on the model, but you can look forward to English, Spanish, Italian, German, etc.

    You can get a C-Pen reader pen from the manufacturer’s website or any digital distributor like Amazon or eBay.

    Scanmarker Air Pen Scanner

    The Scanmarker Air Pen Scanner features a fantastic camera that can scan and recognize text at lightning speeds. It also works with numbers and has downright ridiculous language support (it supports over forty languages, to be exact!).

    You can use Scanmarker Air on Windows and Mac, and it can be synced with programs like Word to allow for quick text editing. You can get it on the manufacturer’s website and various shopping platforms.

    IRISPen Air 7

    The IRISPen Air 7 can scan text, numbers, and barcodes, but it shines when scanning handwritten text. It supports even more languages than the Scanmarker Air (over seventy, to be precise).

    The IRISPen is cordless and lightweight, and it comes with additional adjustable features that can help you enjoy any text at your own pace.

    You can get the pen from the manufacturer’s website and all online retailers.

    Alternatives to reading pens

    If reading pens are not your thing, or if you can’t use them for whatever reason, you can rely on some alternatives such as the following.

    Text to speech

    If you struggle with reading difficulties, you can always use a TTS tool. Speechify, for example, has built-in OCR features, so it can replace most scanning pans. Since it’s primarily a TTS tool, though, it also comes with way more customizable settings than a scanner pen. You can use it to practice pronunciation, you can turn it into a language translator, and you can even use it to create voiceovers for your lessons. It works on Apple iOS, Android, Microsoft Windows, Mac, and Linux.

    Smart readers

    Smart readers are similar to TTS programs, but they can give you audio feedback, not just on text but everything that’s going on on your screen. They are great for the visually impaired and those who can’t use and navigate touchscreen devices and computers without audio feedback. Some smart readers allow the user to control the device using their voice, too. You can find plenty of open-source screen readers, so there is no reason not to give them a shot.

    Text to Braille converters

    Those with severe visual impairments can use text to Braille converters. You can sync them with mobile devices and computers, and they will convert any digital text into Braille on paper. There are also portable Braille note-taking devices with refreshable displays that you can use to read and reply to messages, take notes on the go, and listen to your reading material.

    Cliff Weitzman

    Cliff Weitzman

    Cliff Weitzman is a dyslexia advocate and the CEO and founder of Speechify, the #1 text-to-speech app in the world, totaling over 100,000 5-star reviews and ranking first place in the App Store for the News & Magazines category. In 2017, Weitzman was named to the Forbes 30 under 30 list for his work making the internet more accessible to people with learning disabilities. Cliff Weitzman has been featured in EdSurge, Inc., PC Mag, Entrepreneur, Mashable, among other leading outlets.

    Dyslexia & Accessibility Advocate, CEO/Founder of Speechify Dyslexia & Accessibility Advocate, CEO/Founder of Speechify

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