Digital smartpen assistive technology in the classroom

013113_0348_Digitalsmar1.png “I know my weakness at school: a laptop. I get distracted by videogames.”

At least, that’s what the guy at Future Shop told me when I was looking into getting an echo smart pen.

And I believe him. I see it all the time with students in my classroom who use assistive technology. The computer can be a great learning tool and cloud-based services like Google Docs can really help students stay organized.

On the other hand, internet access can really be a distraction. Think about how often employees can be distracted by social media sites at work. Then multiply that by hundred to account for the teenage brain.

Livescribe sells digital smart pens that can record what the teacher says as the student take notes. Over the past few years, a few different parents and teachers have spoken to me about it, so I thought I would check it out.


  • You can record everything you write, hear or say.
  • You can transfer your digital handwritten notes to your computer and then touch different parts of your notes to jump to that part of the lecture.
  • You can search your handwritten notes. (I seem to recall reading on the internet that searching for handwritten words might be more accurate in the Livescribe desktop software as opposed to the Evernote search engine.)
  • They recently released a Wi-Fi version of their smart pen, which means that you recorded notes and audio are wirelessly sync with your Evernote account. (But you probably can’t access your Wi-Fi at school with the Livescribe sky pen. See below.)

How you could use the echo smart pen in the classroom

  • Teachers could upload pen casts of their lessons onto their class websites. You could ask a strong student to take notes using the Livescribe smart pen and then upload the notes so that students who miss the concept (or miss the class) could still access the information.
  • Students with learning disabilities could use this pen in class to record what the teacher says. That way, they could focus on just writing keywords or pictures, and later on they could tap on those words to jump to that part of the lesson.


  • The smart pen only works with their special paper. You can’t use it on regular paper.
  • They offer a Wi-Fi version, but the Livescribe sky Wi-Fi smart pen probably won’t work at your school if you have to login with username and password. This is pretty misleading because your Wi-Fi pen will probably work fine at home, but not at school or work. That’s because, right now, Livescribe sky will not work with many security protocols including WPS, WPA–enterprise, and WPA2-enterprise. You just get an error message saying that “login through a webpage is not directly supported.”
  • Privacy issues. The teacher is getting recorded. Student responses and side conversations will get recorded as well. 

What’s the big benefit of the Livescribe smart pen?

Well, it’s not a laptop. You still get a digital record of all your class notes. You get an audio recording of what the teacher said. But you don’t have to worry about getting distracted by the internet.

Something to think about.

Do you use a Livescribe smartpen in your classroom?

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