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The Pen is Mightier than the Whiteboard



Last week, I had the pleasure of attending the TCEA conference (Texas Computer Education Association) in Austin. TCEA is the leading state organization committed to the use of technology in education.
Many of my fellow teachers who had attended previously gave me a forewarning, suggesting that I would be so overwhelmed with the amount of information that my brain will hit overload.

Well, they were right, but I found something I loved on my “brain overload” and couldn’t stop thinking about it. The Livescribe pen amazed me in a jaw dropping kind of way and I thought of a million ways I could use it. The livescribe pen is a tool for securing, manipulating, and broadcasting notes on the go. I thought of ways, not only in my classroom, but for my own children (even for myself). There are endless possibilities…

All week TCEA had drawings to win a class set.  I kept going back to the booth in the exhibition hall asking more questions and watching demos seeing how I would use it. I didn’t win but I filled out several entry slips as I kept thinking of more ways that I could use it: as an ESL learning tool, practicing writing and reading fluency, as a portfolio assessment, giving instructions (cloning myself) so I can be everywhere in the classroom, storytelling, letter writing…

The livescribe pen records what you write, and its microphone records what you’re hearing at the same time. It’s helpful in almost any setting that you want to record something for future reference…lectures, to-do lists, or interviews. The pen is a useful tool for all kinds of professions like lawyers, doctors, journalists, and executives. The field I can see benefiting the most is in education.

I can see older children and college students using the livescribe to record a lecture while taking notes at the same time…I guess you’d call it a pencast! A student can simply select a word by tapping on it and the pen plays back whatever audio it recorded at that point in your writing.

It’s easy to share these pencasts with other people using the Livescribe Web site and desktop software. My class has French pen pals and how amazing will it be to write/translate/and hear students from the other side of the world?

As an elementary teacher the livescribe pen will allow me to teach something once and then my students will be able to learn it anytime and anywhere: the classroom, a review at home, in centers…
Recording yourself with a smartpens is like cloning yourself. Teachers could use sound stickers and audio enhance every book and object in the room. Students not only see the written word but hear them as well.

The pen may well become a genius learning aid for ESL (English as a Second Language) students. For children who are trying to become successful in a new language, it can make a difference in how these students process knowledge. The ESL child can take the pen home and never be out of the loop with homework because they would get the teacher’s exact instructions and proper pronunciation (it’s like taking your teacher home)to help prevent them from falling behind.

When learning about this magical pen at TCEA, I kept thinking of the many benefits of fluency and dictation practice that I’ll be able to provide now. If a child can hear themselves reading, it will improve the student’s manner of speaking and they’ll be more likely to better edit their writing.

The pen has two main features: when you write notes the pen will actually save what you wrote and when you sync it to your computer, all your notes will appear just as they did when you wrote them. You see your handwriting appear on the computer screen in front of you as the audio plays back.  The second important feature is that while you are writing, you can record the audio…its killing two birds with one stone. It’s not a distraction but a learning tool to help you pay better attention.

I can look around my classroom of second graders at certain times and see that there are some students that don’t appear to be getting it. I can clone myself and they can have my lesson again. I have many children who need to hear things more than once. This also gives students more control because they become an active part of the learning process.


All of the notes you create with the pen will sync with your Evernote account so they can really be with you everywhere (like dropbox). Think about: grocery lists, to-do lists, notes, lectures…

We know of many examples in history that have shown us the power of the pen to exceed that of the sword. We may have thought that pens and whiteboards have enjoyed rather equal standing in analysis of educational methods. Now, however in the race of technology to aid education, we may well learn to believe that “the pen is mightier than the whiteboard!”
See these two video examples of livescribe in action here and here.
Ashley at TCEA with the popular robot Moby from Brain Pop giving a thumbs up to technology.

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