What Can Kino Do - Introduction to Screen Reading Software

Written by Oliver Whelton, Learning Support Tutor, UCC

Kino is a screen dimming tool that enables the user to select an area of the computer screen to be displayed in a viewing pane using a crosshair ‘cut’ while darkening the rest of the screen from full transparency to total black. This darkened area can be controlled with a slider control at the right side of the screen so that only the selected area you have chosen remains visible. The amount that is visible at any one time is resizable at the wish of the user. Controlling the ‘other’ screen when reading the information is unhindered as it would be normally as you scroll down the webpage or document. Kino (Isolator is the Mac equivalent) provides ease of use with a simple green symbol which allows the program to be minimised to the desktop toolbar at any time and can reappear onscreen whenever needed. It can also be closed completely by clicking the red X symbol.

The user can adjust the opacity from full transparency to dimmed grey to full black with a slider control at the right side of the screen. Its many uses include hiding desktop clutter and other distractions during on-screen activity such as tasks, presentations or video playback and Kino can be run from any USB memory stick or Flash drive making it a completely portable application.

Why use it?

With the growth of online reading material alongside the writing and submission of assignments, as well as class teaching via interactive whiteboards, the need for software which promotes better reading and comprehension, while reducing difficulties of concentration for most and visual stress for some, becomes essential.

Multi-modal teaching styles can result in unintentional overload of sensory information and reading concentration and comprehension difficulties often mean that not all students can embrace multi-sensory teaching/learning to its fullest. Authors such as Hanbury (2005) have highlighted the difficulties for those with autism who are susceptible to sensory overload inducing states of either high excitability or high anxiety, while students affected by visual stress syndrome and Irlen Syndrome can be assisted by freeware like Kino, especially when it is used in conjunction with associated screen masking software.

The ability to concentrate attention on a small amount of text or screen activity within a document, website or program onscreen at one time is of great value for children and adults with difficulty focusing and enhances comprehension. Onscreen content such as journal articles with side by side columns of text that must be read top down can be isolated and masked a column at a time by the use of the crosshairs reducing this difficulty.

Summary of benefits

Benefits How this can help
Concentrated focus Concentrates the minds of the students reading off or being taught via Smartboard or on a smaller screen e.g. monitor or laptop. This is particularly helpful for students with ADHD, autism, reading comprehension difficulties.
Taxiing before take-off Larger amounts of information can be placed onscreen but only revealed to the student as needed which reduces the effects of information overload.
Reduced disruption For teachers it can keep student(s) focused and up to speed on more concentration heavy tasks onscreen resulting in less frustration and potential disruption.
Improved screen reading An aid to students who are visually impaired as it allows for easier screen reading and also for completion of tasks related to onscreen activity
Step-by-step Assists teaching on a step-by-step basis, e.g. the teaching of music or a song can be done on the basis of isolating specific lyrics onscreen, followed by the pitch and melody notation above them in lines of music.
Student focused In one-to-one and Resource Teaching, it greatly reduces the need to have to point at the screen to keep a student on task while keeping a physical distance between teacher and student. This can be particularly important when working with students on the autistic spectrum.


The use of digital technology in the classroom and at home in our teaching and learning is only going to increase but it also presents us with opportunities to alter our teaching pedagogies and ways of learning which must change in line with this movement. Doing so without a cost implication has been the motivating factor in writing this and forthcoming articles in a time of ‘doing more with less’.

In terms of teaching pedagogy, Kino, when additionally used in conjunction with a wireless track pad, allows the teaching experience to fully embrace the 21st century by providing complete freedom of movement rather than trapping a teacher at the top of the classroom trying to click a mouse or a keyboard to move onto the next task or rewind/replay a task. It allows for greater supervision of individual students in the room and allows for better monitoring and involvement.

Alternatives for Mac users:

Similarly for the Apple Mac, Isolator is a small, simple application designed to enhance your productivity by reducing visual distractions. Isolator can blur, cover up, or hide all other application windows. You can set blur intensity, background colour, opacity and fade speed.


As with all ‘free’ software or freeware, care should be taken when downloading and installing from third party websites so to avoid ‘subtle’ changes being made to computer settings or unwanted additional software being unintentionally installed. As with all software the decline option remains the preferred choice while taking one’s time will ensure successful installation.

Contributor notes

Oliver Whelton works as a Learning Support Tutor at University College Cork. He has a research interest in technology in education and freeware in particular and provides information sessions both to the education sector and the public on a freelance basis.

For more information please email: teachingfreeware@gmail.com.

Download link: http://sourceforge.net/projects/pskino/


Fig 1: Viewing a document full screen without Kino

Viewing a document full screen without Kino

Fig 2: Using Kino to reduce screen to a more manageable amount of text

Using Kino to reduce screen to a more manageable amount of text

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