Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Pens for the 21st Century

Teachers have a natural 'reflection' impulse at the end of the school year.  We look back over the road traveled in the academic calendar, reflect on our practices and begin to make an inventory of sorts.  What were you most proud of this year?  (Chances are it was something you helped and inspired your students to create.)  What really rocked and what needs improvement for next year?

This year I began using the Smartpen from Livescribe.  This cool pen records everything it hears and writes.  It uses a special paper with teeny dots.  There is a camera at the tip of the pen that takes continuous pictures of the dots (only .3mm apart) and a microphone that records what it hears.  So the audio is linked to the writing.  (Read here to learn more about how it works.)  Once the document is uploaded to the desktop application on your computer, it can be shared easily by email, to Google docs, to Facebook or embedded on a web page.

Initially, I used the pen to take notes and record lectures at conferences.  This enabled me to share the recorded keynote with my colleagues as I archived the documents (pdf files with audio) on our wiki.  But it wasn't until later on in the year that I really discovered the power of the pen!  I recorded my students' oral presentation (as I took notes) and their debates.  This allowed me to listen to their presentation again (and again!) as I finalized and confirmed my initial evaluation.  There are so many variables to juggle when assessing oral presentations that the Smartpen gave me the freedom to give full attention to one or two criteria (development of argument for example) and then return to the recording later to pay more attention to a minor criteria.

The Smartpen lets you jump to any part of the recording by simply tapping on the text.  Imagine using this as you evaluate a debate!  Set up your evaluation page in the Smartpen notebook so as to represent the order of the speakers and listen again to that rebuttal!

I encourage students about to embark on their Cegep careers and university programs to buy Livescribe's Smartpen.  The Echo pen has 8 gigabytes of memory and that should be more than enough.  Parents, this is a must by graduation gift for your kids!

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