The pen that reads out loud;Resources

Virginia Makins

One new gadget that attracted a lot of attention at this year's BETT educational technology show was the Quictionary Readingpen. It's a clever little thing, half the size of a mobile phone. Run it over a word and it will print it out on its screen and then speak it. At the touch of the button, a built-in dictionary comes up with a definition of the word and, if you can't read a word in the definition, you can highlight it and hear it read out loud. You can also scan in words letter by letter.

We tried it out with two teenagers with dyslexia, Beth Brinton, aged 13, and Benjy Taylor, aged 16. Beth liked it the best, but wasn't so keen on it that she desperately wanted it. She found it difficult to hear the American synthesised voice - though she wasn't using the earphone, which is clearer.

Benjy said it was "useless" -it was too slow for him (it takes about three seconds to print the word and another three to speak it), it didn't always select the word he wanted, and it failed to recognise some more specialist words. He did like the dictionary facility - "much quicker than looking things up in a real one" - but found it too American and limited to be really useful.

One adult with dyslexia said she found useful to be able to scan in words that puzzled her with such a portable tool. Another, doing a science course as a mature student, wished, like Benjy, that it was better at specialist vocaulary. For the right person, it may be worth considering. It needs some dexterity - you have to hold it just right and align it along the word for it to work.

Available from Iansyst. Tel: 01223 420101. Price pound;199.50 inc VAT

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Virginia Makins

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