Friday, July 15, 2016

Friday "Appy" Hour: Claro ScanPen

Friday "Appy" Hour: Claro ScanPen App

This year I was introduced, through the ATIA conference, to a new text-to-speech app called Claro ScanPen, developed by Claro Software. Claro Software is a world reknowned company known best for their development of assistive software for students with learning disabilities such as dyslexia, visual processing issues, working memory deficiencies and other language-based delays and disabilities.
How it works...
ScanPen, is an app that is used in combination with the camera on your Apple device to scan a photo of printed text. Using the built in OCR (optical character recognition)tool, the scanned text is then read aloud using the built-in text-to-speech feature. The OCR tools of the app are impressive due largely in part to the top-quality ABBYY OCR engine. Another added perk of this app is that it does not require a Wi-Fi connection making it accessible virtually everywhere!

This app is simplistic in it's functionality making it easy for even the youngest users or those less adept to technology to learn quickly.

ScanPen_MP1ScanPen lets you snap a photo of a page of printed text and then reads it back to you using your chosen voice and swipe settings. When you first open the app, the camera is active and ready for taking a picture and there are just 3 buttons on the screen for clicking – super simple, right? The gear icon at the top right will take you to some of the settings and options (we’ll get to those later), the circle centered at the bottom takes the photo (as you’d expect), and the icon at the very bottom right will let you choose an existing photo from an album or gallery on your device.

ScanPen Selection Modes...

ScanPen_MP4Once you’ve taken or selected your picture, you just swipe your finger across the text to hear it read aloud in real time. The default voice is the standard iOS voice for your country (USA, UK, etc.) and the default swipe/read setting (labeled ‘selection modes’ in the settings) is to read by line. Reading by line means that when you swipe across a part of any line of text, ScanPen will read back any of the lines you’ve touched starting from the very left side of the page and continuing to the end of that line. Keep in mind though, ScanPen doesn’t care if that line contains whole sentences or not. It will read complete lines of text from left to right regardless of whether those points are the beginnings or ends of sentences.

The other selection modes are ‘All’ and ‘Words’. Choosing the ‘All‘ setting will tell ScanPen to read the entire page from beginning to end in response to any swipe anywhere on the screen of text. Choosing ‘Words‘ will tell ScanPen to read just those words that are specifically touched by your swipe. Again, please be aware that when you swipe by word, ScanPen does not disseminate if your swipe covers a full sentence or crosses down into multiple lines. The Words selection mode does exactly as it is designed to do.
Additionally, upon initially using the app, the voice and speaking rate will be set to a default. Both of these can be adjusted. To change the voice, you can purchase, through in-app purchase, additional voices that suit your needs.

Students more accustomed to text-to-speech technology will be able to start at a much faster speaking rate and probably even increase from there over time. In fact, people who use text-to-speech products really regularly will quite often listen at a rate that sounds almost indecipherable to those of us with less experience. This allows students using AT products to get through text at a speed similar to that which their non-disabled peers read naturally.

 Versatility Within the Classroom and Home Settings...

An app like ScanPen, which is a lightweight OCR and text-to-speech tool, means that students who might have shied away from higher education or loftier career goals in the past due to their disability now have the confidence to reach higher than ever before. Students who have learning disabilities that impact their ability to read with independence and confidence now are provided a "secret weapon". Not only can students who are below level in reading now read grade level materials presented, but they can also approach grade level word problems which cause great difficulty for many struggling readers.

In addition to being a great go-anywhere tool for people with reading difficulties, ScanPen can also be used by those with little to no vision at all. For example, a user who is blind could use VoiceOver, which is already built-into iOS devices, to snap a photo of a piece of text and then navigate the menus to set the highlight to “all” to trigger ScanPen to begin reading the scanned text.

OCR and text-to-speech tools like ScanPen are quickly becoming nearly indispensable to students with dyslexia and other reading disabilities – especially within the upper grade levels. The students, families and teachers I have shared and implemented this app with are sure to find a great value in this app as a diagnostic and everyday support tool.

To learn more about Claro ScanPen, visit the Claro App's website. If you already own this app and are looking for more information, watch the video below that demonstrates how to use this app in line mode.



  • The app costs $6.99 for a single license
  • For bulk purchases or purchases made through MDMs, you can purchase the app through their VPP!

You can download Claro ScanPen on the App Store now!

**Information from this post was adapted from the article "A Review of Claro ScanPen by Michelle  Paley.**

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