A-Z Tools & Technologies: Livescribe


Ever looked through your lecture notes and wanted to be able to recall exactly what was said at the time you wrote them? Livescribe is there to help you with exactly that.

What is it?

Livescribe is a paper-based computing platform that records what’s being said at the same time as you write; that means that, with the help of a smartpen and specially made paper, you can digitally record lectures synchronised with your notes.

This might not sound quite so special at first; why couldn’t you just use a Dictaphone and play it while reading back your notes? The Livescribe system eliminates the time you’d take to find the right place in the recording by allowing its users to play back the exact part of the recording which was taken at the time you wrote that specific word or sentence. And it doesn’t stop there! Combined with the use of Desktop software or a tablet or smart device, you can turn your handwriting into digital, editable text. No wonder they call it a smartpen.

How does it work?

Without going into much technical detail, a smartpen uses ordinary ink, but has a built-in digital camera, which records the shapes you write on Anoto digital paper. It works out what letters you’ve written and where, in relation to the other letters, you’ve written them. Then it turns it all into digital text, which you can copy, paste, edit and share, just like text you’d type directly on a computer or smart device.

If that wasn’t enough, the smartpen also acts as a digital audio recorder which can be started, paused or stopped at any time, at the simple tap of the corresponding box on the digital paper. Then it’s simply a case of tapping on your notes to play back what was said at the time of writing. Ingenious.

What are the implication for Teaching, Learning and Assessment?

As long as your lecturer is alright with you recording them, lecture notes can become more detailed and easier to revise from than ever before! You can easily start and stop recording at any time, which leaves you with the option to combine your writing with sound, or keep writing your notes so that you can transfer it into digital text – this can be great for transferring your quickly scrawled ideas and quotations into your essays, while including the exact context. Never lose a mid-lecture thought or idea again!

It might seem a pricey investment at first, with the Livescribe 3 Smartpen costing just over £100, but it’s time saving and dastardly clever; a tool well worth getting your hands on!

Have you ever used a Livscribe pen? Please share your experience with us in the comments section below.


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1 Response

  1. Phil Vincent says:

    Hi Arielle

    Great post, I remember being quite impressed when I first saw a demo of a Livescribe Pen but, despite the insistence of the presenter, I couldn’t really see it being the kind of technology students would turn up to class with!

    My first thought was “I bet there’s an app for that”, and I was right – AudioNote (https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/audionote-notepad-voice-recorder/id369820957?mt=8) does pretty much the same thing, and there are others too (SoundNote etc.).

    You touched upon an interesting thing in your post too – students recording lectures, and the notion of asking for permission! This is a tricky subject, students with learning difficulties may wish to record lectures, but might not want to have to identify themselves as having a disability, and lecturers themselves may not want to be recorded live (maybe our academic colleagues could comment on this – how would you react if you noticed a student with a Livescribe pen?).

    Our recommendation to staff is to take control of this situation by recording the lecture yourself, either live or otherwise. This way you can control what is being recorded, and how/where those recordings are shared. Not to mention that the recordings are also a great resource for students to watch back and revise from etc.


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