livescrib writing on paper and playing back sound

Livescribe in Action

Livescribe pens are one of my favourite tools. I love how they work, and I love how easy they are to use. They are a great tool for students who like or need to take notes using a pen, instead of using a computer.

Why are they so great?  As an AT, I used to recommend a lot of digital recorders.  Digital recorders record audio, and  good ones allow you to bookmark important points and organize your recordings into files.  I hardly recommend digital recorders anymore and instead I often recommend the Livescribe pen.  The advantage of the Livescribe pen is that it allows you to find, and listen to the exact part of the lecture you need to.  There is no wasting time searching through the recording.  You just have to click on the part of the note you need, and the audio you were listening to when you wrote the note starts to play.  Even my students who have challenges learning new technology quickly learn to use the Livescribe pen.

How does it work?

The pen has a camera by the ink, so it can see the page.  The special paper has tiny dots on it that the pen can see.  All the commands you need for the pen are located at the bottom of the paper.  To take notes you:

  1. Turn the Livescribe pen on.
  2. Open the notebook to the page you want to take notes on.
  3. Use the pen to tap record on the bottom of the paper.
  4. Take notes as usual.

When you wish to review your notes you simply need to press the pen tip to part of what you have written, and the Livescribe will play back what you were hearing when you wrote that part of the note.  The Livescribe goes one step further. If while you are listening to a recording you write more on the paper, the Livescribe will link that part of what you were writing to the recording.  In other words, you can still press the pen to the notes, and it will play back the part of the recording you were listening to when you took the notes.  If you have to leave the room for instance, you can leave yourself some space to take notes in later.  You can then listen to the recording later, and write notes.  Those notes will also be linked to the recording.  A lot of my students with pain issues that make them leave the lecture hall for breaks use this technique to make sure they do not miss things while they are out of the room.

One of Livescribe’s disadvantages is that you need to use special paper that you buy in notebooks from Livescribe, or that you print.  The paper is not overly expensive however, without the special paper, you can record audio, but you will not be able to link the audio notes to the written notes.   Another disadvantage is that there is no pencil option.  Some people find it hard to use if they feel the need to erase.  You cannot change the battery also, which means if you run out of battery in the middle of class you are stuck until you can recharge the pen.  It is also not a great tool for people who prefer to take notes on a laptop or other mobile device.  There are other tools that work better for those situations.

If you would like to see a demo of the pen working, Livescribe has a good series of videos on their website that start here.

If need to write notes on paper, but want to keep audio of your notes I recommend trying the Livescribe pen.  The pen has desktop software that is pretty good too.  I’ll save looking at that for a later post.



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6 Responses to Livescribe Pens

  1. Jay says:

    This pen is one of the coolest tools we have worked with in the last couple of years. I am still waiting for something to come along that tops it?
    Once you get used to using the Livescribe try using the Livescribe Desktop to organize your material and then play around with the keyword search tool in the top right corner of the Livescribe Desktop. You can scan your own writing to find the key words you are looking for and jump to them to hear what you recorded in class.
    I would also like to add that the Piano thingy is mildly amusing. 

  2. [...] Welcome to the AT Geeks Assistive Technology Blog Recording Audio in MS OneNote 2010 Livescribe Pens [...]

  3. Chris says:

    There are apps too. Having a dictionary in the pen or a translator is cool too. Oh yeah the guitar is also cool. We could start a Livescribe band!

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