Nine of our students at The Manchester College who use a scanning pen as a normal way of working (NWW) used a ExamReader in the GCSE English exam. The cohort comprised of 3 male and 6 female students studying on main curriculum areas ranging from Health and Social Care, Animal Care, Child Care, Business Studies and Beauty. Interestingly, 7 of the students who volunteered to trial the pen were from the Care subjects, where there is a focus on the availability and take up of support.
The students knew that the ExamReader was currently the only support available, given that the JCQ regulations specify a human reader cannot be used in an exam testing reading.
8/9 of the students responded to a questionnaire.
All students found the pen either easy or very easy to use.
When commenting on how good they thought their own reading was, without using a pen, 2 said it was good, 3 said not bad and three described it as poor.
In terms of how much they used it in the English exam to read out the questions and extracts, 2 said they used it to read most of the exam.
When asked how much better they thought the pen had allowed them to perform, one said a lot better, four said quite a bit better and one said a little better.
6/9 of the students who said they did not use it much still maintained it helped them, indicating that the ability to access just short extracts or a few key words was sufficient to generate a sense of improved performance.
Four of the students used the pen to read single words only, one student read whole sentences / lines only and three used the pen for both methods.
7/8 students said they would recommend the pen and one said they might.
General positive comments about the pen’s performance are as follows:
“It’s good to use on set words because when you look at it and don’t know what it is and then the pen tells you what the word is, you can understand the text more.”
“It’s been really helpful to be able to know which words I don’t understand.”
“It made me feel more relaxed in lesson.”
“I liked the fact it read out loud words that I couldn’t recognise.”
“It helps me understand what is going on and gives me quite a good understanding”
“I didn’t have to ask for help”.
In terms of organisation, I charged the pens up prior to the exams and topped them up after each.
To conclude, for all students, the pen was viewed positively and is a particularly useful device for the students who are actively working towards greater independence. Students need to ensure they have practised well, appreciate the dexterity required and know how to change the voice speed.
It would seem that as long as it is correctly scrolled along the line, is correctly set up for a right-handed or left-handed person, is delivered on the day fully charged and the student has had sufficient practice, not much can go wrong.
Julie Davis, Assistive Technology Assistant, June 2019