Product: Livescribe Echo Smartpen

Product: Livescribe Echo Smartpen

www.livescribe.comRetail price: starts at $199.95

By Gwen Solomon

The Echo smartpen is an electronic pen that captures audio and written notes (on their paper, purchased or printed out) and places them on a Livescribe Desktop for playback. It also plays back audio directly from the pen.

Quality and Effectiveness: Overall, the Echo smartpen is an effective tool for helping students take notes, helping teachers provide instructions, and helping students learn from those instructions. Along the way, the pen provides features such as a calculator, a spelling tool, and crib sheets on basic facts about states and presidents. Teachers can create an interactive Flash movie called a pencast and post the notes online, email them, or embed them on a Facebook page, a blog, or a class Web site. A student can plug in the pen and transmit these notes to the Livescribe Desktop on a computer. Another exciting feature is the voice-to-text capability. The related product MyScript for Livescribe turns handwriting into text for Word rather than for the Livescribe Desktop (provided the handwriting is clear). This add-on is available for a 30-day-free trial or purchase.

Ease of Use: The instructions are clear, and the pen and the Desktop are easy to use.

Creative Use of Technology: While it’s a relatively single-purpose device (write, draw, speak/record/play), that purpose lends itself to tasks that are important in teaching and learning. Students can take notes in class, teachers can create tutorials for students to use, and anyone can search for specific information they’ve saved and display or replay it.

Suitability for Use in a School Environment: Students can take notes as the teacher talks. The Livescribe Desktop allows them to save, search, and play back their notes and recordings on their computers. It lets teachers and students organize, manage, and export notes and audio. Students can find the notes they took on a specific topic and review them before a test. Teachers can find the tutorials they created on a topic. Even administrators can keep meeting notes to remind the staff of a decision that was made and the details of it.

Teachers can prepare pages with instructions: for example, how to solve a complicated math problem. They can draw the diagram or demonstrate how to solve the problem as they explain the process. Students can review or replay the page, or a portion of it, as many times as is necessary for them to grasp the concept. They can send or share notes and recordings by exporting notes as audio files or as pencasts. They can embed pencasts on a blog, a Web site, Facebook, or the Livescribe Community.

Overall Rating
This has such great potential to help solve challenges: for students, in note taking; and for teachers, in creating tutorials that include audio explanations and diagrams for students, who can play back the whole tutorial or part of it as needed.

Top Features
¦ The smartpen is priced low enough that every student can have one.
¦ The basic features, capturing audio and notes and saving them for replay, are amazing.
¦ Even if students don’t use a computer, this pen has advantages that will help them.