During my sophomore year of high school, teachers constantly were forgetting to enlarge my assignments, leaving me to figure out how to make them accessible myself. I normally would leave class to go ask a paraprofessional to enlarge the assignments, but I disliked missing class time. Other solutions I came up with included having friends read me assignments, receiving items digitally whenever possible, and even bringing a portable scanner to school to scan in assignments myself. Fast forward almost five years, and I have found a device that would have been perfect for me in school called the ScanMarker Air. Here are some of my favorite features about it, and why I wish I had this in high school.
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About the ScanMarker Air
The ScanMarker Air is a portable OCR scanner that allows the user to scan information directly into a word processing application. From there, the content can be shared anywhere. The device can be used with either hand and does not require an internet connection, only a Bluetooth connected device. There’s also an option to plug it into a microUSB cable. The ScanMarker Air costs $99 and can be purchased on Amazon.
Super portable device
One of the things that blew me away about the device is how lightweight it is- only 60 grams! I have had many bulky technology devices, so was pleasantly surprised to see how small this was. No worries about it not fitting on a desk- or worse, falling off the desk. Even if it does fall off the desk, it has a plastic outer shell which I have found to be very durable. It feels very similar to a highlighter and does not hurt my wrist after prolonged use.
Lots of devices supported
The device can be used with Windows and Mac computers, as well as iOS and Android products. I appreciate the cross platform support, as I alternate between three different devices fairly frequently. I tested this pen using a Windows 10 desktop computer, Windows 10 laptop, Android phone, and iPad, all with fantastic results. The ScanMarker app must be downloaded before it can be used, and can be found on the app store, as well as the manufacturer website.
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- How To Make iPad Accessible for Low Vision
- Low Vision Accessibility Settings For Android Phones
It can scan a lot of information, fast
A traditional scanner can take several minutes to scan information. With ScanMarker, an entire page of text can be scanned in about ninety seconds. The device scans 3,000 characters a minute, or about one line every second. It can scan in text from over thirty languages, as well as simple black and white images. Font sizes must be between 6 pt and 24 pt. I found that the device scanned in Chinese characters flawlessly. However, when I tried scanning in handwriting, it was scanned in as a picture, and not editable text. Sheet music for clarinet scanned in well, though some symbols were out of place.
A talking pen
While the pen itself does not talk, the ScanMarker apps allow text to be read out loud in real time, as the user scans information. Just add headphones and the device can be used in the classroom without any distractions. This is absolutely amazing for people who have print disabilities and have problems reading small font. I tested this out by having it read text from a book, and while it didn’t always get punctuation correctly (a problem with OCR in general), I was able to easily understand the text. This works best with sans serif fonts like Arial, but Times New Roman also worked well.
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Is there a learning curve?
It took a bit of practice to scan in a straight line from a book. This is because I had to balance the book with my left hand and scan with my right. Because of this, some of the punctuation looked a bit off and I cut off the last two letters of each line at first. When I tried scanning in a worksheet that was sitting on my desk, I had much more success and very few, if any, errors. It helps to practice gliding the pen in a straight line, checking to see that the line of text is inside the clear tip of the pen. It took me probably fifteen minutes to master this.
Use it with other apps
Users can share text within several different apps. Some examples include:
- Google Drive
- Microsoft Word
The user can also use copy and paste to have the text displayed in any app they want. Alternatively, the user can store the text in the ScanMarker app. I found that the display text in the app is a bit small, so I prefer to copy and paste it somewhere else.
This may not seem like a benefit at first, since the ScanMarker Air must be used alongside another device. However, having the pen scan information directly into another app, without storing information on the device itself, is actually a great feature. This is part of why the device is so lightweight, but another benefit is that it can be a testing accommodation. This is true whether it’s a test in the classroom, the SAT, the ACT, or a state standardized test. The ScanMarker is a high-tech assistive technology device, for accommodations purposes.
- SAT Accommodations for Low Vision
- ACT Accommodations For Low Vision
- State Standardized Tests/ SOL Accommodations For Low Vision
Long battery life
According to the manufacturer, the device’s battery life is about a week with normal use. I estimate this to be anywhere from 8-12 hours, so it can get through a school day. It did take five hours to charge the first time, but it can still be used when plugged into a computer charging.
How it can be used
Example uses of the ScanMarker include:
- Scanning in equations in math class
- Reading along in a book
- Taking notes
- Complex chemistry equations
- Scanning barcodes at the store
- Reading menus at a restaurant
- Interpreting foreign languages
- And more
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I would highly recommend this device to people with print disabilities such as low vision and dyslexia, as well as people with dysgraphia who may have trouble taking notes. This is also great for people who frequently have to copy large amounts of information, or who need to quickly scan in documents. I know my experiences in school would have been different if I had this device back then.