Optical Character Recognition System – text scanning and decoding compensatory support
General Overview of Optical Character Recognition (OCR) System
An OCR system is a technology that allows a user to scan the printed text into a computer or handheld electronic device. Then, the scanned text is read aloud via a screen reading program. The scanned text is usually stored in an electronic form in a personal computer or portable storage device. OCR system is available as a stand-alone unit, computer software, and as a portable device. OCR technology was initially designed for blind and visually impaired persons but it can be used by other people who struggle with reading printed materials. Here is a link to the video showing the operation of OCR system: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BwalGlPW7OQ
The kinds of students who may benefit from OCR system
OCR system is beneficial to the following students:
- Students who are blind or visually impaired
- Students who are suffering from visual stress, also known as Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome, Irlen Syndrome, and Asfedia. Since this condition is related to the central nervous system and the eye sight, reading printed materials is very difficult for these students
- Students who have learning disabilities in reading (dyslexia) and prefer learning through audio (text read aloud by screen reading program of the OCR technology)
- Students who are not able to read printed materials independently
- Students who struggle with decoding printed materials
- Students who struggle with reading comprehension. Some OCR technologies like Read and Write Gold and ClaroRead Plus “offer features that are designed to meet the needs of people who struggle with reading comprehension” (Dell et al., 2012, p. 73)
- Students who are learning English as a second language (ESL learners)
- Students who have learning disabilities related to motor coordination (dyspraxia). These students may struggle with hand-eye coordination when reading printed materials
How the OCR system may support student learning
OCR system can support student learning in the following ways:
- OCR system can be conveniently accessed at any time since the software is installed on a computer. Portable OCR technology is also available to students at anytime and anywhere since it can be carried over to different learning environments
- It creates an inclusive learning environment by enabling students with visual impairments and students who struggle with reading tasks to participate in reading activities
- Providing access to printed learning materials to these struggling students via OCR technology creates learning opportunities where students can collaborate with their peers through classroom discussions and this can also make them feel more motivated in the learning process
- OCR technology also promotes students’ independence because scanned learning materials can be read aloud without the help of teachers or other educational staff
- OCR technology can also be very helpful during learning assessments. Students can perform well during tests since they would not have to worry about their struggles with reading (test content can be scanned and read aloud to students); hence, this can decrease their anxiety levels during assessments
Conditions in the learning environment that would support the effective use of OCR technology
In order to ensure the effective use of OCR compensatory support, printed learning materials should be available in the required format and size in order to successfully scan and convert the printed text into an electronic format. Moreover, in order to serve the needs of students with different reading levels, printed materials should be available and organized according to different reading levels.
Usage of technology in the classroom should be encouraged so that students who are using OCR technology are not seen as students with disabilities or students who are unable to learn without technology. Moreover, students struggling with reading should also have access to OCR system at home for continuous improvement in reading abilities. Lastly, technical support for this compensatory tool should be available at all times in order to ensure its continuous use by students.
The planning considerations for embedding the OCR technology in learning activities and/or teaching routines
The following should be considered for embedding the OCR technology in learning activities and/or teaching routines:
- All printed text should be compatible with OCR system in order to ensure successful scanning of the printed materials
- Appropriate OCR technology should be selected for embedding it in learning activities. The selection process should be a team effort involving teachers, parents, students, and AT specialists and SETT framework can be very helpful in matching the appropriate technology with students’ needs, strengths, and abilities
- Any selected OCR technology should be assessed during trial period before fully implementing it in the learning activities
- If OCR technology will be installed as a software on a computer, then computers and other accessories like headsets should be available
- Training for using OCR technology should be provided to students, teachers, and parents before embedding it in learning activities
- Cost of OCR technology, its installation, its software licenses, hardware and other equipment, technical support, and hardware maintenance should be planned before its implementation in learning activities
- Other students with learning disabilities and students who can also benefit from the OCR technology should be encouraged to use this technology in order to gain its wide acceptance in the learning activities and/or teaching routines
The types of learning activities (tasks) OCR technology would facilitate
OCR technology would facilitate the following types of learning activities (tasks):
- Reading activities where printed materials are scanned and read by the OCR technology. Reading activities can also be done independently at home
- In-class discussions after the reading activities
- For ESL learners, the screen reading program in the OCR technology will facilitate pronunciation exercise where students will recognize the spelling of the words and will learn to correctly pronounce each word
- For ESL students and students with difficulties in reading comprehension, the screen reading program in the OCR technology will also facilitate reading comprehension exercise by enabling students to comprehend each word as it is spoken aloud
Current Research (2-3 articles)
The following peer reviewed articles provide more information on OCR technology and how can this technology support students struggling with reading printed materials:
Higgins, E. L., & Raskind, M. H. (2005). The compensatory effectiveness of the Quicktionary Reading Pen II on the reading comprehension of students with learning disabilities. Journal Of Special Education Technology, 20(1), 31-40.
McCullough, C. S. (1995). Using computer technology to monitor student progress and remediate reading problems. School Psychology Review, 24(3), 426-439.
Pattillo, S. T., Heller, K. W., & Smith, M. (2004). The impact of a modified repeated-reading strategy paired with optical character recognition on the reading rates of students with visual impairments. Journal Of Visual Impairment And Blindness, 98(1), 28-46.
Dell, A. G., Newton, D. A., & Petroff, J. G. (2012). Assistive technology in the classroom: Enhancing the school experiences of students with disabilities, Second Edition. Pearson Merrill Prentice Hall.