There are so many options for technology in the classroom in our society. Since technology is constantly changing, companies are coming out with newer technology all of the time. From new SMART software to using Web 2.0 in the classroom, all of the technology is being used to move education forward. If students have many options and avenues to collaborate, find information, and ask questions of students and staff, it will really teach them more than content. This will also help move them toward furthering their social skills both in person and online. Towards the end of the school year, I became aware of a new technology. I was having a meeting about my concepts class with one of our reading specialists at Clayton High School. She told me about the Smartpen from Livescribe recommending I test it out for potential use in my classroom next year. After this conversation, I went to the Livescribe Smartpen website and read all about it. I purchased the pen and the special notebooks. The cost for the 2GB pen was $199.00.
The Livescribe Pulse Smartpen can be purchased online through their website at Livescribe. According to the Livescribe site, the Pulse Smartpen “records and links audio to what you write.” The pen works by infrared camera and the Pulse dot positioning system, DPS. This is why the special notebooks are required; the pages of these notebooks have “navigation buttons” to start and stop recording and navigate through the audio. One can also print their own dot paper off of the Livescribe website. Al the pen writes, the infrared camera tracks the dots and links the audio to the smartpen charges on the USB docking station and while it charges the user can also upload its contents to the Livescribe desktop. From the desktop, the user can upload the contents to the livescribe website and share it with anyone they choose, in addition to making it a completely public upload. From here, the students can listen to the presentation, print out a PDF copy of the notes, and take ownership of their own learning. The OLED display on the pen is great because you can really see the menu screen and it is easy to navigate the menus using the Navigation button at the bottom of the dot paper. The pen also comes with some fun too, such as a piano, movies, and a translator tool. When you write a word and tap it while in translator mode, it will translate that English word into any number of languages. The best news about the pen and its software is that it is both Mac and PC friendly!
I purchased this pen for multiple reasons. First of all, it is a great way for students all being responsible for taking good notes and putting the responsibility of the learning from the teacher onto the students. Each day’s notes are taken in class and a student is responsible for taking the notes with the pen and the Pulse notebook.
Afterwards, they can take the notebook copy and place it in their binder. This way, the student taking notes with the Smartpen does not miss out on their own copy of the notes for the day. After class, I will take the pen back and upload its contents to my computer. Once uploaded on the Livescribe desktop, I can then upload it to the Livescribe server. After entering all of the students’ email addresses, they all have access to my site on Livescribe online. Students can view a movie of the notes with audio or they can download and print a PDF copy of the notes taken that day. Another great reason for the pen is that since it links audio and what you write, it does not only just work with words, but you can draw diagrams and pictures too! You can label different parts of a picture and add your own audio that is recorded right along with the lesson. Since the audio and the writing go together, then one can draw a picture and the lecture describing the drawing will go right along with it. This adds a great way for a student to study for a quiz, test, or just better understand the knowledge imparted to them.
This type of access is great for numerous reasons. First and foremost, it improves accessibility to class notes and course information. I already use my website to update PDFs of worksheets and class information, but not notes. In my class, we take a great deal of notes and many times, success in chemistry is hard for students who have trouble taking notes or who do not take notes for whatever reason. When a student is gone or when someone needs to check their notes, it is hard to ensure that they got everything covered in class on a particular day without an actual recording. By posting my notes with the audio online, it makes it easier to access for students.
In conducting research about this technology, I did run into some cons. One of the obvious cons is that in order for the pen to link to audio, the pen needs to be used with the dot paper. But if you have your own color printer, you can print the dot paper for free. Another con that I have yet to solve is how to link the PDF to the audio file. The audio files can be converted into aac files, but I have yet to try to download the audio files from classes into iTunes as mp3 files. Even with these cons, the Smartpen is still a good investment into the classes that you teach!