Handheld Technology Eases Note Taking

The In (Genius) Pen

The Livescribe Smart Pen serves simultaneously as a stylus, writing implement and voice recorder.

Courtesy Livescribe

A pen that operates like a computer sounds too good to be true, but it’s not!  The Livescribe Smart Pen is an interactive notebook and digital recorder. With its various applications and features, the Smart Pen will fascinate even the most sophisticated gadget freak. It’s perfect for students because it helps make learning fun, and because it captures voices, it’s like bringing the teacher home with you.

The three models of the Smart Pen, while each having different specs and features, work about the same in terms of how they record sound. The Echo is the base model and connects using a USB cable; the Sky is similar to the Echo but connects using Wi-Fi; and the Livescribe 3 incorporates Bluetooth technology.

All models rely on the pen, itself, interacting with special paper, which is printed with thousands of tiny dots spread out over the page. At the bottom of each sheet are “record,” “play” and “stop” buttons. Once you turn on the pen, a display screen will light up and show you the battery life, time, date and recording time. If you turn the pen so you are looking at the tip, you can see the infrared camera that tracks the “dots” on the paper, so the pen knows what you’re writing and what buttons you’re pressing.

Using the pen is really easy. Once you turn the pen on, tap the record button at the bottom of the page and you’re ready to go. The pen will link what you write to what simultaneously is recorded. This creates what Livescribe calls a “Pencast.”  There are two playback options.

One is to tap the play button at the bottom of the page and the recording starts from the beginning. Or you can tap a word in your notes and the playback will start at that point, giving you an interactive notebook. Then load your Pencasts onto your computer and use the digital notebook in a similar fashion; click the play button or click a word to review your Pencasts. 

This powerful but easily mastered technology is great for students who find that they fail to capture important information in their lecture notes. (Be sure you have the teacher’s permission to use the device.) The student can take basic notes while remaining focused on what the instructor is saying.

For example, if a teacher is going over the parts of a cell — We all remember gogi bodies and membranes, don’t we? — the student can draw a diagram and label the parts as they are described by the teacher. Then, when studying, the student taps each part of the cell to retrieve and listen to information about it. With the recordings, they can’t miss a thing!  

The best aspect of this pen is its versatility; it is easy for anyone to use. All you have to do is tap and write and you are on your way. The Echo is $119.95, and a pack of four one-subject dot paper notebooks is $24.95. You can also download and print dot paper for free on many printers; consult livescribe.com/en-us/support.

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