The C-Pen is a pen that reads text and translates it into spoken words. It helps people with dyslexia or people who cannot read to understand texts by reading out the text.
It is designed to break down barriers for people with dyslexia and give them an equal playing field in exams and study.
But does it deliver on what it promises?
Check it out on Amazon.
(Amazon’s terms of service state that I can’t share the price here. But, just click the link / image above to see the current price on Amazon.)
This review will outline my pros and cons of the C-Pen reader. These are my experiences only – but my goal is to give you a good idea of whether this reader is right for you.
C-Pen Reader Review
What I liked…
What I didn’t like…
|1. Reduces Stress for Dyslexic Readers||1. Requires Dexterity and Patience|
|2. Can be very Empowering||2. Best with Clean Sans-Serif Printed Text|
|3. Reads Most Text Effectively||3. Mechanical Voice|
|4. Has British and American Accents||4. Speaks Quietly|
|5. Excellent Customer Service||5. Requires nightly Recharging|
What I liked…
1. Stress Reduction: See the Relief on the user’s Face
I love that you can actually see the relief on the user’s face the first time they use it correctly. They listen to the dictation of the words and look up excitedly! That’s the look of excitement we’re all looking for as educators.
I was fortunate enough to trial a C-Pen in my college classroom with a few students who had Education Access Plans that gave them access to the C-Pen. At their age, they were able to get a hang of how to use is very quickly. Just about every college student who’s been given one by our university continues to use it happily to study.
2. Empowerment: Gives users a Sense of Control over their Studies
For many of my students with learning disabilities, the greatest frustration is that they don’t have a level playing field.
For too long society has seen people with dyslexia as ‘less intelligent’.
Dyslexic students have the frustration of watching their peers read through the content with ease – and breeze ahead to the top of the class.
But they know they’re not any less intelligent. It’s just that they have a physical disadvantage that needs to be overcome.
Personally, I think the best thing about the C-Pen reader is that it helps people with dyslexia overcome a barrier that has disadvantaged them their whole lives.
And that’s empowering.
3. It Reads most Text Effectively
If you’re using it to read from a school textbook or even a novel, it should work just fine. It appears to work fine for anything printed in easy and clear written words.
For my purposes, I’m almost always asking my students to use it to read printed articles or textbooks. So for me it never really returns many errors.
There is a learning curve, and it struggles with some types of text (see later in this review), so I’m not saying it’s perfect. But I do think it works well for most school-related printed texts.
4. It has both British and American Accents
The C-Pen comes default in a British accent. This can be a little frustrating for some people, especially younger children who struggle a little more cognitively with different accents.
But there is the option to switch it over to a generic North American accent if you’re not a fan of the British one.
The voice isn’t perfect, as I outline below. It sounds a little like Stephen Hawking. But for my college students, that wasn’t a concern for them at all.
5. Scanning Pens Inc. has Excellent Customer Service
All my interactions with the company who produce the pen have been positive. I’ve had one faulty C-Pen (I’ve worked with a lot of them in my time) and they happily accepted a return.
You’ll also notice that they are prompt to respond to questions or review comments online, which I respect. It shows they care and are a customer-facing company. So I wanted to give them a shout-out for their customer service.
What I didn’t like…
Most of my ‘cons’ are more just warnings to manage your expectations – I still love the pen! But here are some thoughts on things that I think you should know before buying it…
1. It Requires Patience and Dexterity
Unfortunately you need to get the knack of how to use the pen for it to work effectively. There are three things that really require practice to get right:
- The angle you hold the pen
- The speed you move it
- How steady your hand is
If you angle the pen too much or too little it doesn’t read the text effectively. You really need to find a specific range of angle for it to work perfectly, and this takes a couple of tries.
If you move the pen too fast or too slow, it seems to falter. There’s a slow, steady and smooth pace to the scan that you really need to get right to get the best accuracy.
The pen isn’t very forgiving if you waver from the line of the text. You really need to scan a nice clean straight line across the text.
This combination of angle, speed and accuracy makes me worry that younger children won’t have the dexterity for this product. Before buying it, I’d recommend asking your child to draw a straight line through a line of text. Test if they can keep it relatively steady before making this investment.
2. Doesn’t work on some Text
Don’t expect to use the pen on handwritten text. In fact, don’t expect it to work on fancy printed text or even cursive printed text. It’ll work fine for simple text (like the text you’re reading now) and common fonts like Arial, Tahoma and Calibri.
It’s really only designed for clear, easy-to-read sans serif fonts that you’d find in a textbooks or printed article. I even find that sometimes it gets confused by quotation marks.
3. The Voice is Stilted
The best way I can describe it is that it sounds like Stephen Hawking. You’re not going to get smooth and perfect intonation of a natural human voice. There’s a long pause at periods or randomly in the middle of a sentence.
It sounds like I’m complaining here – so I’ll qualify: it reads the text just fine. It’s understandable, and I actually quite like listening to the slow steady voice rather than reading. It seems to be less cognitively draining for me.
But just be aware that you’re not going to get natural spoken words with natural intonation.
4. The Voice is Quiet
The pen is surprisingly quiet when it reads out loud. If you’re getting this pen for someone who’s hard of hearing, think twice.
I assume that it is quiet because it’s designed not to disturb the people around you. Which makes sense in classroom and exam situations.
The easy solution is to plug in your headphones (yes, there’s a normal headphone hack) and then the volume is just fine.
5. The Battery Drains Quickly
I did a little digging and the internal lithium-ion battery is actually really good quality. But the pen does a lot of energy intensive work. It’s a scanner, computer processor, and audio device. With all of these tasks, you’ll be expecting that the battery drains pretty quick.
Most of my students find that they have to recharge the pen nightly.
Overall, I like it. It can be a great tool for my students with dyslexia. I feel it’s best for middle / high school students and above. And it is definitely great for college students!
As a learning aid, I’d like to see it used more at colleges. It helps break down a barrier of disadvantage so intelligent people who just happen to have dyslexia have an equal playing field when reading and during exams.
There are several additional features to the C Pen. These include:
Roll the pen over a single word and a dictionary definition will appear on the display. It can also read the definition out loud to you. It uses the Collins Dictionary to find the definitions (but that’s all built-in, no need for Wifi!)
2. Voice Recorder
You can set it to record your voice if you’re interested in taking verbal notes while you study. Those notes can be replayed to you, our you can upload them to your computer for future reference.
3. Upload text to a Computer
The text you scan can be saved then uploaded to a computer via USB. I’ve actually had a few students simply scan the important phrases or paragraphs they need while studying, then upload them as study notes. I thought that was a cool and innovative use of the pen.
Frequently Asked Questions
Who should use a C Pen Reader?
A C Pen reader is most commonly used for students with dyslexia. It helps them to listen to rather than read written words so they can interpret them more clearly and effectively.
However, it can be used for other purposes, too. Here are a few types of people who could use it:
- Elderly people with faltering eyesight
- Adults and college students with dyslexia
- Middle and high school students with dyslexia
- People who prefer to listen rather than read
I’m sure there are more people who should use it too – can you think of any others? Let me know.
How does the C Pen work?
The C Pen works by scanning written text, processing it, and turning it into words. There is a built-in scanner that reads text as you roll the pen over it.
You can save the text to your computer, or just have it dictate the text in real-time to you. There are other great features, too, such as using it as a voice recorder and an English, French and Spanish dictionary (it can tell you the meanings of the words it scans).
What is a C Pen reader?
A C Pen reader is a pen that scans text and can turn it into written words. It is commonly used for people with reading difficulties such as students with dyslexia.
How do you use a Reader Pen?
Simply tun the pen on and slowly, smoothly and steadily run it across a line or paragraph of text. You can set it to read the text out loud to you so you can understand what is written without actually having to read it yourself. This ‘translation’ from written to spoken English can help people with reading difficulties understand texts and facilitate their learning.
I also think it’s great that there’s such good customer service and returns policies, meaning you can make the purchase and try it for yourself before committing.
If you’d like to buy the C Pen and try it for yourself or your child with Dyslexia, click here to get the C Pen on Amazon.
Thanks for reading my review, and good luck!
Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]