The Benefits of a Using a Smartpen

What is a smartpen and is it worth getting one?

A smartpen is a high-tech writing tool that records spoken words and synchronizes them with notes written on special paper. The Echo from Livescribe is one of the most popular smartpens.

A student can record everything a teacher says and then replay any part of it later by tapping the pen's tip to the word on the paper. Though it looks and writes like an ordinary pen, the Echo is actually a multimodal computer. It has an ARM‐9 processor, OLED display, micro‐USB connector, headphone jack, and microphone. It's a publishing platform that supports third-party Java-based applications.

Livescribe smartpens are available in 2 GB, 4 GB, and 8 GB capacities, storing roughly 200, 400, and 800 hours of audio, respectively. You can buy pens, paper, apps, and accessories on the Livescribe website.

The Echo Smartpen records lectures and syncs audio with notes you write on special coded paper.
Livescribe, Inc.

The Benefits of a Smartpen

Smartpens make note-taking less stressful by eliminating the fear of missing details said during a class, lecture, or meeting. They also remove the time-consuming task of transcribing a complete lecture by enabling access to any part of a recording by tapping on words. Digitized notes are also easier to store, organize, search, and share.

How to Use a Smartpen

You'll hear a beep when you first turn on the Echo Smartpen. Set up the pen by tapping its tip on the information bubbles in the included interactive brochure. The pen uses text-to-speech to describe each step and function.

The information bubbles teach you how to use the pen, practice, record a lecture, or upload notes to a computer. You can also add a description of what all the buttons do. The Menu button, for example, lets you set the date, time, and audio quality, plus adjust playback speed and volume.

Once configured, you can turn the pen on at the beginning of a class or presentation and write as you would with any other pen.

What Type of Paper Do Smartpens Work On?

Smartpens require special paper that Livescribe sells in notebook form. Each sheet contains a grid of thousands of microdots that make the page interactive.

The smartpen's high-speed, infrared camera reads the dot patterns, digitizes handwritten notes, and syncs them with the corresponding audio. The bottom of each page displays interactive icons you tap to perform functions like record or pause audio or place bookmarks.

How Can Smartpens Help Students With Disabilities?

Students with dyslexia or other learning disabilities sometimes struggle to keep up with class lectures. In the time it takes to hear, process, and write down information, the instructor has often moved on to the next point.

With a smartpen, a student can outline key concepts by writing bullet points or symbols (for example, a leaf to represent photosynthesis). Providing easy access to any part of a lecture can enhance note-taking skills and build confidence and independence.

For college students with disabilities (including those who qualify to receive audio-recorded lectures), a smartpen can sometimes replace a personal note-taker—a solution that many disability services assign to students to make classes accessible.

Access What You've Written and Recorded

When a lecture ends, tap Stop. Later, you can choose Play to listen to the entire lecture, tap words, or jump between bookmarks to hear specific parts.

When you take 10 pages of notes and tap a bullet point on page six, the pen replays what you heard when you wrote the note.

The Echo smartpen has a headphone jack for listening in privacy. It also has a USB port to connect the pen to a computer to upload lectures. The Getting Started guide instructs users on how to download the free Livescribe software.

What Can You Do With the Software?

The software displays icons representing notebooks. When you click one, all the notes written within that notebook pop up. The software displays the same icon buttons that appear on each notebook page. You can navigate online with mouse clicks the same way you do tapping the pen on paper.

The program also has a search box for locating specific words from a lecture. You can also listen to only the audio.

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